Quickly share home video via iChat

Have you ever taken a video of something (your child’s first steps, wildlife wandering in the backyard, etc.) that you’d like to share with family and friends? If you’re like me, the task usually requires a process somewhat akin to producing a Hollywood blockbuster. Connect your camera, start a new iMovie project, import the clips, organize the production, add effects and titles, export the finished clip to iDVD, add chapters, folders, some still images, music, and finally, burn the whole thing to DVDs and mail them out. Whew.

The alternative is to import the video, skip all the production and editing steps, and just save it out as a QuickTime movie. Next, either upload the video to a web server you have access to, or email it directly to your contacts. But this option still requires a fair bit of work on your part—you need to decide how large of a video you have time to upload, and/or how large of an emailed file your contacts can accept. And to reduce file sizes, you’ll probably end up exporting your video quite a few times, given the tradeoffs between quality and file size. Whew again.

Here’s a simpler way to share short videos, at least with your iChat-enabled friends. Skip all the setup steps described above. Instead, just make sure the tape is positioned at the video you wish to share, and connect your camera to your Mac. Make sure the camera is powered on and in the “VTR” (playback) mode—this is the same mode you use to import video into iMovie.

Now launch iChat, control-click on the contact with whom you’d like to share the video, and choose Invite to Video Chat from the pop-up menu. (If they don’t have a camera themselves, you can use Invite to One-Way Video Chat instead). Once the connection is established, just press Play on your camera, and your pre-recorded video will start playing in the video conference. You won’t have to muck with editing, uploading, guesstimating file sizes, etc. Just shoot the video, connect the camera, and share the results.

There are a couple of downsides to this method, of course. The first is that it all happens in real time, so both you and your iChat contacts need to be online and available to view the video. Second, the viewer won’t wind up with their own copy of the video—but you could still do your editing in the future and send them the finished product. Finally, since you’re using your camera in playback mode, you can’t use its microphone—so while your friends can talk to you, and they can hear the video, they can’t hear you. To communicate, you’ll need to open an iChat window for an old-fashioned text-based exchange.

Still, if you’ve got a video you’d like to share with a minimum of work, this is a nice timesaver for short little video snippets. For instance, I’ve used it a number of times to share our daughter’s latest humorous behavior with my mother!

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