The jiggling images that dance across a wall from a projector are the only memories some campers may have of the early years of video at camp. And gone are the tedious hours of splicing film to get those images.
Last month, we looked at making photographs work on your Web site. This time, we will discuss the hows and whys of using video images.
Why Use Video?
You already have plenty of pictures on your site and lots of copy that explains how great your camp is. Why add video? The simplest reasons are to make your Web site exciting, dynamic and interesting. Good video content can give your visitors a reason to stay at the site longer. And convincing browsers not to click away to another site is what it’s all about online. Web developers refer to it as adding “stickiness” to a site. The right kind of content will keep visitors glued to their monitors.
Video also has become a wonderful advertising tool. Many camps include a DVD as part of the promotional package mailed to families each season. Now, thanks to emerging technologies, that entire DVD can be played directly from your camp’s Web site. Instead of campers requesting information and waiting for the promotional package to arrive in the mail (where it may be lost in a pile of similar promotional packages from other camps), you can show them everything about your camp right there, at your site, in your video. And you’ll have the chance to do it without a cacophony of distractions from competing camps. Smart use of video can pre-empt competing messages and make a strong, lasting impression on a visitor. Online video can compress the time it takes to get a site visitor interested and excited about your camp.
Using Online Video There are many ways you can make your Web site more interesting for your visitor:
•Welcome message from the director. Now the head honcho no longer has to be just a face in a brochure. Video allows you to come directly into a family’s home, where you can speak to them in your own words about your camp. This makes the director a real person and someone visitors will trust.
•Safety videos. Show visitors all the precautions taken to ensure campers are safe and secure. Visit the infirmary and talk with the camp nurse. Show counselor safety training, especially if your camp has a lake or pool. This can go a long way in developing trust for your camp.
•Counselor training. Post a series of videos available for staff only. These videos can be for re-orientation for the upcoming season, or as a way to introduce new counselors to what is expected of them as members of your staff. You can also use video to recruit new staffers each season.
•Comments from campers. Imagine how exciting it would be for a young viewer who visits your Web site to see and hear real kids having fun at your camp, talking with exuberance and excitement about the time they are having--while they are actually having it. Kids like to see other kids, and they relate to them in a way they simply can’t with adults. Video is a great tool for building bonds among potential campers.
Technology Makes It Easy
In the old days (ten years ago), video was mostly shot on tape. Today, digital video cameras are everywhere--and they are easier to use and increasingly more affordable. And all computers--whether you’re working with a Mac or a PC--come equipped with a video editing system already installed (i.e., I-Movie and Windows Movie-Maker). Having personally used Apple’s I-Movie, I found once I got used to the controls, the tools available made editing fairly simple. Those who have used Movie-Maker from Microsoft tell me that it is equally easy and accessible.
Challenges Of Video On The Web
There are certain problems to consider when working with video on your Web site, and understanding what they are can help you determine if including video is right for your camp. For instance, the capacity of the server where your Web site is currently hosted needs to be examined. There is a major difference in the size required for a simple Web site and that for uploading and delivering a video. Fortunately, hosting packages have become so flexible and affordable that upgrading your account to accommodate a larger video can be easily accomplished.
The second issue is bandwidth capacity. Bandwidth refers to the amount of information that can be delivered on another’s computer vs. that through a dial-up connection. The wider the band width, the faster information can be delivered. This is important to know before you dive into video. If your camp draws campers from an area that gets its online service primarily through dial-up, persuading them to download a video that will require much wider bandwidth is going to prove frustrating at best, and inconvenient and inconsiderate at worst.
Download Or Stream?
What does that even mean? There are two basic ways to enjoy video on the Web--downloading and streaming. Downloadable video means your visitor will download the entire video file to his or her computer to view at their convenience. Streaming video, as the name implies, streams across the Internet and plays on your visitor’s computer practically in real time. It is a more engaging and engrossing way to present your video because it keeps the visitor at your site.
From Camera To Web Site--The Process
By now you’re getting the picture about the uses of video on your Web site. But what do you have to do to go from camera to Web site?
Step One--Capture The image
These days, almost all video cameras sold are digital, which makes things easy for the amateur videographer. I have seen some wonderful videos produced by campers who were simply given digital cameras and told to shoot the most exciting material they could find during their normal day. Counselors also can be a great source of video input, so don’t hesitate to ask them to help with production. And if your camp offers video production as one of its activities, you have built-in enthusiasts right there.
Step Two--Conversion And Compression
Once you have raw footage (as it is called in film school), you have to get it onto your computer. Since the original information in the camera is already digital--not on tape--the video does not have to be converted from tape into a digital signal that your computer can understand. Often, you can simply plug the camera into the computer and download the video images.
In order for the footage to work on the Web, it has to be compressed into a size the site can handle. If it isn’t, even a two-minute video might take hours to download, and nobody is going to wait around that long. On the Web, speed is paramount, so converting and compressing the original video signal is incredibly important. And it makes it much easier to edit on the computer.
Although it may sound complicated, the video program that comes with the computer has a built-in wizard to walk you through the process of compressing video and optimizing it for the Web.
Step Three--Editing The Video
Making the video into something visitors will enjoy involves editing. Good editing can make the content more dynamic and engaging; bad editing can make a video boring or even incomprehensible. If you are not comfortable with cutting your own video, and you do not know someone who will enjoy doing it for you, it is time to hire a professional for the project. A professional video editor can take what you shoot and turn it into a work of art--or at least something you will be proud to put your name on. And it can be done relatively quickly. An editor can often help with post-production duplication of the final DVD. But shop around. Like anything, costs for editing services can vary.
So there you have it in a nutshell. While it may not be for all camp Web sites, video on the Web can be exciting, dynamic and highly engrossing for your visitors. And the more you can engage people as Web visitors, the more likely you are to engage them as campers later.
Tim Diering is vice president of marketing at Summer Camp Design, a full-service marketing and design firm dedicated to creating cost-effective marketing and design solutions for summer camps. He can be reached at (800) 957-7175, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.summercampdesign.com.