Did you know that you could fix shaky video with simple software? I didn’t, but I hadn’t thought of it much, either. On the occasions that I wound up with video that shook all over the place, I just brushed it off. Looking back, I could have hunted down some video stabilization software and now that I know about Mercalli Easy Video Stabilizer for Windows, I see shaky video in a whole new way.
What is it and how does it work?
Video stabilization software takes a video file as input, analyzes it for motion imperfections, and does its best to output a video with those imperfections corrected as much as possible. In the case of Mercalli Easy Video Stabilizer, this entry-level solution makes stabilizing video as easy as drag-and-drop, wait, save. Mercalli also makes filters, effects, transitions, and software for more professional needs, but this is the solution for quick video correction at a low price.
How well did it perform?
For my tests, I dragged a kitten video into Mercalli Easy, watched it do its thing for a bit, and saved the results to my computer. My 15 second video took about 5 minutes to correct and save and my tests were performed on a 2.2GHz Pentium Dual-Core with 3GB of ram, which is somewhere between the minimum and recommended requirements. In my initial testing, I found some artifacts on the corrected video, but a quick email to support led me to some additional video codecs that eliminated those flaws from the subsequent test videos. The side effect of the video stabilization is the slight motion blur that appears as the video is moved around to off-set your shaky hand. This is, however, minimal and I’m not sure hoe much I would have noticed it if I was casually using the software for home videos. Regardless, it’s still a step up from the video I began with. Below is a short video showing my original video, the processing, and the final result.
The biggest feature here may be the ease of use. I don’t need to know all the technical details about what it’s doing any more than I need to know how my printer gets the ink onto the paper in the right shapes. With Mercalli Easy, the interface is simple and inviting, with a process to match, hiding most of the technical prowess under the hood. The $14.95 price tag and easy interface make it a great fit for occasional projects or general home use.
If you’re just throwing video on Facebook or sharing via email, don’t worry about shaky video. When you move up to more valued output, that’s when you want to look to software like this for stabilization whenever needed. For me, it’s anything I care enough about to take the time to edit. For about 15 bucks, it definitely beats a lot of video editor pricing, and did I mention the simplicity? Definitely a good buy for any frequent video editing, but for professional projects, don’t be afraid to spend a little more.
This is a sponsored review. As always, all opinions are honest.
Most people have heard of Napster and perhaps you’ve even heard of Limewire and other peer-to-peer file sharing networks. What doesn’t get as much press is the fact that peer-to-peer networks were and are used for perfectly legal file sharing as well. And file transfers can be pretty fast. The problem with sharing files on these networks is that someone on the other end has to be online and sharing that file, and if they decide to shut down for the night, you’re just out of luck. The alternative is Usenet and software like Binverse.com.
With software from Binverse, anyone can connect easily to newsgroups on Usenet and download files from servers. You know, the computers that stay on all night, even if John in Massachusetts has a big test tomorrow and needs to go to bed. Perhaps, I should take a step back, though, and introduce Usenet to the uninitiated.
What Is Usenet?
Because it hasn’t had the same media attention as some of the peer-to-peer networks, you may be wondering, “What is Usenet?” Usenet doesn’t have a hip name like Limewire or Napster because it’s been around far longer, like 15+ years longer. Binverse has a pretty decent explanation of Usenet.
Usenet is a global network of servers hosting discussion groups called “newsgroups”. Each discussion group is dedicated to a specific topic. Members post and download messages to newsgroups just like many other forms of Internet discussion groups.
Unlike traditional Internet discussion groups, newsgroups allow members to post and download messages containing discussions or messages with attached files such as pictures, videos, or any other type of file.
If you’re not exploring Usenet newsgroups already, you’ll want to get up and running quickly. Sadly, that’s easier said than done with newsgroups. There’s way too many to sift through and once you’ve found a file you’d like to download, it’s split across sometimes hundreds of messages. If you wanted to download a 3GB file, for example, you would need to download each part from all of the 200 or more messages, put them all back together, unzip the files, etc. This is where Binverse comes in. The software dumbs down the process while offering some pretty handy tools. In the previous example, Binverse would download, rebuild, unzip, and organize everything for me. I’ve spent about a week downloading files with Binverse and I’ve come up with a some of my favorite features.
Earlier, I mentioned that there are far too many news groups to be able to sift through them all. With Binverse, you can search through all of their news groups for what you seek. Better still, if you have found better results in certain news groups, you can limit to just those. In the screen shot I used for this post, you can see some adult files that were a result of my search. With the search customization, I can filter those out to more quickly get to the content I’m looking for. To make it even faster, you can sort the search results, too.
File Genius is pretty awesome. There are newsreaders that are designed to help you read newsgroups and do a fair job of putting attachments back together for you and downloading. When I downloaded the first few files, without File Genius, it felt familiar. Then I tried with File Genius and I found that it did a much better job. On top of showing me all the included files, it gave me a single download button and when it was done, it extracted my files neatly into a folder named after the archive. I never sat around wishing for File Genius, but now that I’ve used it, I wouldn’t want to download from Usenet without it. It’s just plain convenient. On the other side of the coin, I had a hard time dealing with how Binverse stored files that I downloaded without File Genius. They were sorted based on the news group name. For some people, that might be convenient, but for my downloads, it just made things hard to find.
With Binverse, you can preview photo, audio, or video files directly in the newsreader. Photos don’t take all that long to download, but videos can be another story. With the preview feature, you can get a sneak peek at part of the video long before downloading the whole thing. Anything that saves me time is a blessing.
It can be pretty frustrating to recognize the need for a file, find it online, and then spend three days downloading it. I’ve used BitComet pretty regularly in the past to download torrents and would often find that I had to wait days for the last 5% of a file or it would just download slow through the whole file. With Usenet, download speeds are only limited by the server and your own connection speed. Unlike other newsgroup services, Binverse doesn’t seem to throttle the speed at all.
You don’t always want people to know your business and what you’re downloading. Binverse protects your privacy by offering free SSL encryption with every account. It’s more secure from prying eyes, and even though ISPs say they don’t throttle your account for heavy downloading, a lot of them do. Let them guess if you’re downloading files or just watching Hulu.
For all that’s offered, the pricing is pretty decent and the service and software are bundled, making this the easiest Usenet solution I’ve found.
Win A Binverse Account
I mentioned pricing, but you have a pretty good chance of winning a Premium Binverse account right here in a couple easy steps. To try the service, Binverse gave me an account with unlimited features and a 50 GB cap. I can take as long as I want to eat up that 50GB and the three additional accounts they’re letting me give away are the same as mine. I’ve downloaded a lot in the last week and I still have 37 GB left for high speed downloads.
All you have to do to enter is share this post on Facebook. To let me know about your entry, you can add me on Facebook and tag me in your post or you can just send me a link to your post. As long as I can see it, it’ll count. I’ll pick three winners via a random draw on Friday, October 14, 2011 at 8:00 AM MST.
Here’s the fine print we all know and love: I must be aware of your entry for it to count. Only one entry per person for this contest. Nobody in my immediate family can enter (sorry Dad). Winners will be contacted via Facebook and will have to provide an email address to get an account set up. I reserve the right to disqualify any entries from Facebook accounts I deem to be fake.
Enter now and with any luck, you’ll be oohing and aahing at File Genius next weekend.
I spend a lot of time online. I think it’s somewhere around 16-18 hours a day, really. Because of this, I also spend a lot of time looking things up, from directions to music lyrics to how to fix a computer. Today, I thought I’d share some of my favorite resources. While this list certainly isn’t complete, I think it represents some of the most useful sites on the Internet when it comes to finding things online.
Information Google – As a developer, I’m constantly looking up functions, code examples, error messages, etc. and Google is the number one source for finding what I need quickly, be it code examples, recipes, what time it is in London, etc. Tips: Try the advanced search and then watch what it puts in the search box when you submit. You’ll learn a lot of useful tips to refine your searches. Also, note the links at the bottom of the advanced search. When looking for a song you heard but only know some words to, type in a lyric phrase (in quotes) that includes a unique word for more precise results.
Bing – I’m a fan of Google and Microsoft is the company everybody loves to hate, but MS seems to have come out of the gate with a pretty solid offering this time around. There’s things I’d change about it, but Bing is definitely worth a look. Tips: ToThePC.com has written 10 Bing Search tips & features for better searching.
Wolfram Alpha – WA was hyped for months because of it’s intelligent search features. Instead of a flexible, yet broad, search, they offer specific information presented in a report-like fashion. If you’re looking for a grouping of information about a person or company, this is a good place to start. It’s a bit like a mix of Google and Wikipedia Tips: Try searching for a gadget by name or just type in a mathematical equation. Try entering a few stock symbols and see the comparisons.
Yahoo Answers – Yahoo has lost a lot of ground in search, but they’ve come out on top when it comes to the answers game. Yahoo Answers is a great source for personalized answers when you can’t find what you need at the above sites. Ask a question and people answer and even help you choose the best answer. Great system. Tips: Be patient. You’ll need to wait for human interaction, unlike a Google search. See if your question already has an answer. Answer questions from others. It helps your karma and earns site points, too.
Music GEMM – Over the years, I’ve had a few drinks bought for me because I found some obscure album hiding away in a small shop in the Netherlands for a friend. Every time, it was a result of searching GEMM. If it’s rare and you need it badly, this is the place to look. Tips: If cost isn’t a factor but getting it now is, just search and buy, but you can also wait for another seller to have your item cheaper. Either way, be aware of seller feedback. I’ve never had a problem, but the feedback might be why.
CD Universe – CDU was the second site I ever found selling a wide variety of music online. Now offering movies and games, too, they are a great resource when you want the physical item and not just a digital download. Tips: Watch for weekly deals and releases. Also watch for pre-orders so you can be assured to get that newest album as soon as it drops.
Software Download.com – Usually, if I need commercial software, I run to Best Buy for it, but most times, I just need a video converter, chat program, or some other utility that can be found often for free or a low price at Download.com Tips: Filter by your operating system from the start to save time. Sort by user rating and if you have to have free only, filter by license before you download something just to find it’ll cost $100 after 10 days.
Images Google Image Search – I use Google to help me find images several times a week. It’s fast and (mostly) reliable for finding what I need. Tips: Use advanced searching like web search. Filter by size to find wallpapers or icons.
Flickr – Flickr is a great way to quickly find more photos from the concert you went to or even royalty free images for your blog posts. Just last week, I searched for “Woodstock 94″ and found lots of great photos that other people took. It was like I was there again. Tips: Search groups or images and use the sorting options. You can refine your search by showing images where your search words match the tags only.
Directions Google Maps – Always my favorite for any geographic search, Google Maps shows me as little or as much detail as I want. I can even use street view to see what a place looks like so I’ll recognize it when visiting for the first time. Tips: Zoom in to the area you want to find a business in and then search to see all results in just that area. As mentioned above, use street view to see what you’re friend’s house looks like before dropping by for the first time. Wander around in street view some time. There’s some interesting things to see.
BONUS: Products eBay – I was all set with my list of 10 sites, when I realize I couldn’t dare leave out my favorite product resource. eBay is my first stop when I want to find a product. Many times, I want something very specific and eBay seems to have the largest selection at varrying prices. If I’m looking to buy something, I can usually find it on eBay. Tips: If there’s a lot of an item but also a lot of buyers driving the price up, look for it outside of the expected category or look for a misspelling in the title. You can often find something with little to no bidding competition this way and get in cheap.
I’m sure some of you, at this point, are thinking “What about… ?” If you have a good site in mind that you think should have made this list, please add it in the comments and don’t be shy about including tips. What sites do you used to find things online?