84 Capture Life's Little Moments with Camera-Phone Video

Capture Life's Little Moments with Camera-Phone Video

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No, you're not going to record camera-phone video of your son's entire graduation ceremony. But you might catch him receiving his diploma.

Some camera phones can record video as well as still images. However, various hardware factors often limit the video segments to just a few seconds. Here are some of the limitations of recording video with camera phones:

  • Not all video camera phones can record sound with the video.

  • The visible frame size is small.

  • The video clips are considerably more grainy and pixelated than video clips taken with still digital cameras that have video-recording capability.

  • The 3GPP (Third-Generation Partnership Project) file-storage format can be viewed but not readily edited by common video-editing applications. You can find more information about 3GPP at http://www.3gpp.org.

  • The maximum recording time for a video segment is usually measured in seconds. For example, the Nokia 3650 can record a maximum of 95 KB (about 15 seconds) of video with sound. My experience is that 10 seconds is the maximum clip duration.

A lot can happen in 10 seconds. The world's fastest human can run 100 meters, with a fraction of second to spare. Your child can scamper through a good portion of your home or yard. And don't forget that you can edit multiple clips together [Hack #56] to create several minutes of memorable video.

You can view 3GPP video natively using a number of desktop applications. Apple QuickTime (http://www.apple.com/quicktime/), Nokia Multimedia Player (http://www.nokia.com), and Real Video (http://www.real.com) are all capable of playing 3GPP video files.

Although viewing 3GPP files on a desktop is not a problem, you have to do a little preparation before you edit and splice the video files. Many video editors don't work with 3GPP files. However, you can work directly in QuickTime or convert the 3GPP video files to a more familiar format, such as Audio Video Interleaved (AVI). Let's cover the conversion process first and then touch on QuickTime.

First, you can use the free 3gpToRawAvi application for Microsoft Windows to convert 3GPP camera-phone video files to the Raw AVI format. You can find 3gpToRawAvi at http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/downloads/3gpToRawAvi.zip.

The files should be unzipped and installed in a dedicated folder. The filenames for the folder and any of its parent folders cannot contain any spaces. 3gpToRawAvi does not have any installation routine. You use the application by launching Convert3gp.vbs (a VBScript file) from its installation folder or, more conveniently, by placing a shortcut in the Windows Start menu. After you've launched the application, you'll be greeted with the interface shown in Figure.

The 3gpToRawAvi user interface

Import the converted AVI video files into Windows Movie Maker (bundled with Windows XP) to turn several 10-second video segments into a single video, as shown in Figure.

Editing AVI video files in Microsoft Windows Movie Maker

The resulting Windows Media Video (WMV) file can be played on platforms supported by Windows Media Player: Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP, Macintosh OS 9 and OS X, and Pocket PC. Of course, you could produce MPEG video files for use with other video editors.

As mentioned earlier, you can also edit your video files in QuickTime Pro [Hack #56] and export your completed movie as a QuickTime .mov file that can be played on any Windows or Macintosh computer. You can add scrolling titles [Hack #58], a music soundtrack [Hack #59], and even a voiceover track [Hack #60] . As you can see, if you have the right tools in place, you can do much with those 10-second video clips from your phone.

It's also possible to send video files directly from your phone to some moblog sites [Hack #83] . This lets you create a series of camera-phone videos (with sound) that can be viewed by friends, family, and the general public on a public web site.

Todd Ogasawara

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