Newsletter #136 - Feb 3, 2006
Travel Videos and Trip Advisor

YouTube made a major mark on the world of online video, a real positive one for us who make movies. I use it's playlist feature to nest my videos there into my website pages.
That's great if your target audience is limited to family, friends, and the millions of users of Movie Maker and Photo Story. I'm not out for widespread viewing beyond those.
I've used my friend Chuck Bentley a number of times in newsletters, and I'll use him again here. His goals are different. With his work having been shown regularly over the years on cable access TV in Kalamazoo, Manhattan (New York City), and Boston, his interest in moving the material online is to get it to as wide an audience as possible. YouTube might have the biggest audience today, but once there, it's like any other thing that competes for viewers... how you get the word out to get them looking at your material?  
For some of my work, and some of Chuck's, other websites may offer a better place... one of them being tripadvisor which now accepts videos. We got to know it last year when we used it for lots of trip planning for our Europe301 vacation. At that time the site didn't host videos... but taking a cue from YouTube, they recently added the feature.
The internet seems like the perfect place to plan trips, and what better way to help check things out than to see online videos from other travelers. The narrow focus of a video about a particular hotel or attraction is often more of interest here than a broad-based one of general interest. Show me one about the Hotel Ungherese in Florence made by a visitor rather than a website with hundreds of virtual animation tours made by a commercial venture.
It's the hotel in Florence currently in 10th place on tripadvisor, the one we stayed in, and the online video today showing it is the one I recently made as a gift to the hotel owners. 
Trip Advisor

Here are some compelling facts, stats and info.
For some early info about a case study, let's use 'Living in Venice' video, in 8 parts to meet the 10 minute maximum duration of YouTube.
The suite has been on YouTube since January 4th, with one of my website pages embedding the playlist. Over the first 27 days there's been 193 views (adding the views up for each of the 8), a daily average of 7. 
As I started to write this newsletter, we put the same suite on TripAdvisor, which doesn't have a playlist feature, nor does it provide code for an embedded viewer in a website. Over the first 2 days there's been 465 views, a daily average of 232. 
Why? the focus of videos about Venice align much more with the interests of those planning trips than they do with those seeking entertainment. And there's the dilution factor... Chuck has 8 of the 10 videos about Venice on TripAdvisor today, while a search of YouTube shows 731 (37 pages... I never did find those of Chuck's when going in the front door of YouTube and looking around. Why do that when I have the playlist on my website page. The playlist makes it easy for Movie Maker users, but do for the masses of viewers seeking entertainment.

I have a group of 11 video 'style' pages on my website, one of them being about 'Travel'. It's been there for about 1-1/2 years, with nothing more on it than a promise to add content someday... the time is now, as TripAdvisor's interest in adding videos meets my interest in helping users of Movie Maker and Photo Story make and distribute their videos.
Kalamazoo AttractionsTravel is such a natural topic... almost too obvious to encourage anyone to make videos about their trips. Less obvious is the making and submitting of videos about the things right around you, about your home town. Between the big trips to exotic places, put together your local experiences. Seems that if you live in Florence or Venice, you have more opportunities to do videos about them than those who have to travel there.
When you submit your video, you can tag it directly to a local attraction. When I saw the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in the list of local attractions, I thought of the 'Mission to Mars' video I made last year, showing one of the specialty areas in it. It's now the only Kalamazoo related video on TripAdvisor.
The TripAdvisor website is expanding, adding new features such as video, 'TripAdvisor Inside' a wiki-approach for helpful info about a city or attraction. Their staff is friendly, quick, responsive, witty and helpful.... and there's a high quality dimension to the overall site that reflects well on why they are successful.  
The rest of this issue is a tutorial about posting your movies and stories to TripAdvisor.
... pause for a few notes...

Vista Corner... 
It's out there... I saw it on sale at Sam's Club last night. I've been browsing the comments on the newsgroups to get a feel for the pulse of community acceptance, and issues relating to Movie Maker. What I see seems fairly normal... I'd go so far as to call it positive. And I'm not picking up any Movie Maker or Photo Story issues.
For Geeks and Hackers...
If you like using Task Manager to see what's going on with CPU and memory usage, there's a utility on steroids available from Microsoft named Process Explorer. Search for it.
No installation is needed. I put it on a thumb drive and run it from there. It offers you the option of replacing Task Manager with it.... I didn't go that far.
And it runs on Vista.
.... back to the main topic...

tutorial for using TripAdvisor
Here it is in 8 steps
Step 1... setup an account and log in
You can use the site without registering, but you can't upload videos. Click this image and then the link to register... it takes only an email address, password and screen name (not your real one), location, country, and zip/postal code. You're instantly on... no confirmatory email or other verification steps.
Once logged in, the link is replaced by 'My Trip Advisor'... your personal corner.

Step 2... go to your Contributions
ContributionsAssuming you're ready to submit a video... saved to a WMV file (the Video for LAN - 768 Kbps setting works fine). This and higher quality ones will get downsized as it's converted to a flash file. Just keep the total length to a max of 10 minutes.
I'll illustrate the process with our account. It remembers your email and password... if you want it to.
Select 'My Contributions'.

Step 3... opt for Videos
Select one of the 6 tabs to review your past contributions or add a new one... so far we have the two reviews shown, 6 photos of our hotel in Florence, and 8 videos.

Step 4... Select 'Upload More Videos'
Note there isn't a chance to rename the items, so do it right the first time. I double-checked the spelling of 'Ungherese'.
Press the Upload More Videos button when your wmv file is ready... It can be a movie from Movie Maker or a story from PS3. The criteria is the same as You Tube.... 100 MB maximum file size, and 10 minute maximum duration. It'll take your file in wmv format and convert it to a Flash file for viewing.
Videos Tab

Step 5... provide some info about the video
Here's one I hadn't uploaded yet, the Grand Canyon flick I used to illustrate the Picture-in-Picture effects of Movie Maker for one of my first newsletters. How will it look small size on TripAdvisor? We'll see.
Is the 'Grand Canyon' a destination or attraction? Search for it and the tabs will tally the number of hits in each category.
Pick one that best aligns.
I picked the first of the 27 choices in the list of attractions.
All 3 steps are on the page and you can scroll back up to change or review anything before pressing the 'UPLOAD MY VIDEO' button. It's not too late to fix a typo or change your mind.
Step 3

Video Uploading
Step 6... Upload it
Heed the caution about not closing or refreshing the page. That's common practice for any online hosting service.
The row of 10 lights under the owl is the progress meter... blinking in turn, but not indicating a percentage.
It works fine... just give it the time it needs, which is always a bit more than you think it needs.
When it's done, you'll get a 'Thank you'
It's 1:30 am on Thursday, Feb 1... let's see if there's anyone interested in a flick about the Grand Canyon... and view it before this newsletter hits the street tomorrow night.

Step 7... Select the 2nd choice, back to My Profile to see if it's been added.
OOPS... a first for my uploads, as luck has it, only when I'm taking screenshots and writing the newsletter. Actually a good thing, as I wouldn't have this opportunity if it didn't happen.
Maybe taking screenshots and writing the newsletter in parallel with the uploading did me in. The screenshots made it easier to start over.. but I got the same error message the second time.
emailEven when being rejected or running into such issues, the website is being run by some very helpful people, who seem to have lots of fun doing what they do... and their process is good.
Two automated emails came within seconds after getting the error. Having tried it twice, I opted to respond to the email and tell them it's a 5 minute wmv file of 19 MB... and that my first 8 uploads had worked fine.
----- follow-up note ----
about 8 hours later
email from tripadvisor
Problem With Database
It reached generic thumbnail status on Thursday, but not real thumbnail status until Friday morning

Step 8... After a Successful upload
Your profile list of your videos includes links to play them.
After a successful upload/conversion to flash... it kind of happens together, so it appears in your list pretty quickly.
Grand Canyon Online
There's an interim period, which can be hours or a day or more when the newly uploaded video gets a generic play button and is playable for your, but not yet available to those doing trip planning. For them it needs a custom thumbnail.
During that period it's being screened by real people at tripadvisor to be sure it aligns with their rules... is tagged right... maybe chuckled about over lunch... things like that. Without the traffic of a YouTube, they currently have the luxury of personally checking each submittal.

While I waited for the Grand Canyon, I switched to my previously uploaded 'Overview of Florence', the high quality Photo Story from last week. It's been on the site for a few days and has more info, including the number of views and an average viewer rating.
It's a widescreen story and the player shows it well, but butted to the top of the monitor... I sent them a note about splitting the black band in the middle as usual for letterboxing.... but on the other hand I sent them a follow-up note about their current way of showing it being best when using the zoom feature of IE7 to see it larger.
Here's a full-size snapshot of the story playing. You can hit the little magnifying glass at the lower right of the browser window (I'm using IE7) and watch it at 400% if you want... it'll be bigger but extremely pixilated, and it's the whole window that gets enlarged, not the video itself. The 150% size is a good choice for me.
5 days after submittal, it's been viewed 203 times. It shows the kind of traffic you can get from 10 million visitors a week, without having sent out 'it's online' notices to anyone... of course, when you have the first of only two videos of Florence there so far, they'll get noticed a bit easier.
4.0 is as high a score as I have... a low score doesn't mean it's a poor video, just that it doesn't satisfy the needs of those trying to plan a trip rather than sitting there and watching entertaining footage. You can compare your YouTube entertaining value to your TripAdvisor usefulness value... but we really don't know why viewers pick one rating over another.
The bottom link to the top-rated and newest videos will show yours in the list of new ones, if you hurry to see if move down the list as others flow in, and maybe none of yours in the top-rated list... unless you go through the pages looking for them.

Trip Planning
From the perspective of someone planning a trip.... and seeing your videos. 
Search Florence - 1
On the main page of tripadvisor, there's a search feature. If I was thinking of Florence, I'd enter it and say GO!
On the next screen I'd see a list of the 155 places in the world with that name. They know the most popular one in Italy is the one I'm thinking of, so it's first on the list.
Search Florence
The overview tab for Florence, Italy includes this 'See Florence' inset... with links to my two videos and someone else's set of pictures. That would be the main entry point for those planning a trip.

Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
YouTube made the world sit up and acknowledge the appeal and reality of hosting free unlimited submittals of online videos.
Entertainment is a national priority... but sometimes you go online with a different purpose, like planning a trip. TripAdvisor is best for that. 
If you want to impress the staff of TripAdvisor, they're in Boston, Massachusetts, and there are no videos posted yet about Boston. Do one! Find out where they eat lunch and do a candid one. Be careful though, I'll be sending a copy of this newsletter issue to them.
There are other interesting possibilities where the interests of websites align perfectly with your video making and showing desires. Let me know if you find any.... 
I almost forgot... one last check of the Grand Canyon video... online now for a few hours for regular viewing. 12 views with an average rating of 3.5 based on 7 votes... that's in a matter of hours since being there. Talk about a timeless travel destination.
Have a great week!!