Over the years, consumer electronics have plunged in price yet increased in value. 10 megapixel digital cameras can be had for less than a Franklin, and 1080p high definition camcorders less than $250, sometimes less than $149. With “Black Friday” coming, those deals are only going to be better. Yet today, our adventure only begins with the purchase of these digital media devices.
Affordable Digital Devices are Only the Beginning!
Once you have the device, there a lot of free value added services and software that work with them! Look at YouTube, FlickR, Facebook, MySpace, and Live Spaces. Want to share your video or photos with your family? No need to print or even email them this year – you can use free software to very easily upload those movies and stills to the services of your choosing, even Facebook. With so much competition for online eyeballs, free utilities from companies like Microsoft, Google, and many others have sprung up, giving you incredible power at zero cost.
Take a look at these fine tools to make your holiday media experience even brighter, and yes they will work with slick new Windows 7, Vista, and even old XP:
- Windows Live Photo Gallery: Transfer photos from your digital camera, organize them in an easy interface, create panoramics just by clicking, upload videos and photos directly to Facebook, YouTube, and even Live Spaces. Simple editing capabilities and photo fixing, like red-eye reduction and automatic photo straightening. You can even tag people in photos.
- Live Upload for Facebook: A free plug-in for Windows Live Photo Gallery that seamlessly uploads your photos to Facebook. Very well made.
- Windows Live Movie Maker: Take videos from almost anything and make movies that look great with this easy to use program. Select a bunch of photos and make a slide show. Export it all to DVD, YouTube, and other services.
- Google Picasa: Powerful and free photo editing and organizing, Picasa has been an amazing free program for photo manipulation for years. Just make sure you want to install any other Google services and applications it wants to put on your system.
- Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor): A more powerful version of the panoramic functionality in Windows Live Photo Gallery, provided to you free by Microsoft Research. Photographers will love the ability for this application to seamlessly stitch images together, and then export them at incredibly high resolutions. No longer is a panoramic lens necessary! (well, basically, let’s be fair :))
- Microsoft PhotoSynth: Take lots and lots of photos of any environment, and PhotoSynth will create a 360 degree “synth” of the environment. Take a look at the site and see what people just like you have done, it’s amazing. Here are some example synths I made: Example 1 Example 2
- YouTube: Upload your videos for free and share them with your friends. You can keep prying eyes off your uploads, too, just by making them private.
- Facebook: Upload your photos and videos for free and share them with your friends on this fantastic social site. You can even tag your friends, and they’ll be notified that they’re in photos you’ve taken, so they can share those photos as well. If you only want friends to see your photos, make sure you only share to the “Friends” group – Friends of Friends still basically opens you up to everybody.
Getting More Value Out of Subscription Services
Subscription services like Netflix have been expanding their “Value Added” free services as of late. Netflix can now stream movies to you almost instantly not only on your PC, but your XBox 360, Playstation 3, and even some BluRay and and Moxi players! All you need is a high-speed Internet connection.
And what about Hulu? Watch your shows anytime you want, but only on your PC? Well, with the $30 program PlayOn, you can stream Netflix, Hulu, and more right to a Playstation 3, and many other devices. It’s the modern times – we no longer cuddle on the couch and see what’s on – we decide what’s to be watched.
Enjoy your digital holidays everyone!