Vittle’s 720p HD Letterboxing

by qrayon 12. May 2013 16:25

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Vittle produces letterboxed (actually pillar-boxed) 720p HD videos, with black bars on the sides. There's an interesting reason for this: It turns out that YouTube and other services will only enable the HD option if your video is 720p (1280x720 pixels) or higher. 720p is also a 16:9 ratio, and of course the iPad's screen has a 4:3 ratio.

YouTube 720p Letterbox

In designing Vittle, we considered the following options:
1. Stretch the visible canvas from 4:3 to fill 16:9. This will cause distortion.
2. Letterbox the 4:3 content with black bars
3. Fit a 16:9 canvas in 4:3, which would lead to a smaller (20% shorter) effective canvas for writing on.
4. Only show 4:3 on the iPad, but actually record more of the canvas for 16:9 (making the viewport harder to control).
5. Record in the iPad's native aspect ratio, but then HD won't work in YouTube.

We picked option 2 as the one we think most people will prefer. This allows a perfect 1:1 mapping of the image you see on your iPad and the pixels in the generated video, so there are no surprises. This also enables fast native recording, avoiding a lengthy video processing step.

What do you guys think of the pillar-boxes? Is there another option you would much prefer? Please let us know. If enough folks need it, we’ll consider adding an option for other output sizes.

Cropping with iMovie

In the meantime, if you absolutely must remove the black bars or wish to stretch your video to fill the screen, iMovie for the Mac does have a handy crop feature. This Apple support document describes how. Your favorite movie editing tool on other platforms probably has a similar feature.


Thanks for your feedback! Hope you guys are enjoying Vittle!

Three Simple Ways to Practice Video Storytelling

by qrayon 4. May 2013 16:59

Video is fast becoming an important medium for our business and everyday communication. You can describe things more clearly and in a more engaging way using video and simple drawings than with just text.

This is a short guide to help you get started using video and leveraging it in your own work.

I'm going to be working through the three exercises using Vittle on my iPad (you can download the free edition from the App Store here), but you can use any recording device you want, even your iPad or iPhone's camera.

You can also start practicing by recording audio-only first, then add the visuals later.


1. Exercise 1: Describe a Recent Trip
Pick one photo from a recent vacation or trip and pretend you are describing being there to a close friend or family member.

Here's one from a trip we made to the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. last Fall:


If you are like me, you are probably going to find yourself getting some points out of order when you try this for the first time. That's ok. Remembering a scene from the past tends to be non-linear. You are trying to put your memories into a coherent structure. As you speak, you will likely remember additional details that you want to add in.

What's nice about video is you can easily record multiple takes, and that's the first secret to making great videos: Multiple takes. Your audience doesn't care how many takes you did, since they only see the last one.


2. Exercise 2: Your Living Room Layout
For this exercise, you are going to sketch out the layout of your living room, and describe it to someone such as an interior designer.

Here's my description:

In this exercise, we had to be a little more exact, to combine facts like sizes with subjective descriptions. Notice how even a crude and simple drawing helps convey the information more accurately. Imagine how difficult it would be to have to describe that same room using only text.


3. Exercise 3: Refueling a Car
Now, for something a little more complex: Pretend you are describing how to fill up a car to someone who has never done that before, as if to a teenager. This lets you practice describing something you are probably very familiar with already.

Here's the description I came up with:

Notice that this was a little more involved than describing the static layout of your living room. The quality of the sketch is not important here. The goal is to convey a piece of complex information quickly and efficiently.

Simple drawings help a lot to convey the relative locations of things and their operation. Certain elements are easier to show with a quick sketch, while other points are easier to simply narrate.

Next Steps

Ok, hopefully these three simple exercises have helped you warm up your video-storytelling skills. You can easily apply these techniques the next time you need to explain your business to a customer, or get a point across to your colleagues.

Please let us know what you think. You can send us feedback through our website.

Happy video-making!

Five Reasons Why Video Is the Future of Communication

by qrayon 4. May 2013 16:49

You may prefer to watch the video of this post instead of just reading it:


Humans are naturally audio-visual creatures. We are born with an instinct to parse our world through sight and sound. Yet it takes years of training to learn written language, which are essentially shortcuts to our visual vocabulary.

Writing is a marvelous invention, but its role is destined to become more narrow and specialized in the future. At the same time, the role of video in everyday communication is going to dramatically increase. Here are five reasons why:

1. Video is Far More Engaging than Text

We much prefer to consume video over text. Just compare the number of movies you’ve watched over the last year to the number of books you’ve read. The reason is simple: A well crafted video can concentrate the experience of reading a long book into a much shorter amount of time. Video can also deliver a level of impact that a book cannot, simply because it engages more of our senses at once.

2. Our Attention Spans are Getting Shorter

It’s not our fault, there is simply so much more media to consume these days. As a result, video’s ability to deliver more information in a shorter amount of time is going to win out in the long run.

The other interesting feature of video is that it is easier to consume passively. You can watch a video lecture or news program while eating dinner, and easily absorb most of the content without and trouble. With a smartphone, you can also consume video from pretty much anywhere.

This passive nature also means that people are more likely to consume your information through video when they are tired after a long day's work.

3. Video Production is Now Free, Actually it's Better than Free

If you bought a smartphone anytime in the last 3 years, you already have an entire video production studio right in your pocket. Couple that with free online services like YouTube and Vimeo, and you now have the broadcast capability that rivals even the biggest movie studios.

These days, you can even earn a portion of advertising revenue from the videos you post online. What was once inconceivable is now trivial. Just ask all the folks who make cat videos.

4. Your Customers and Colleagues are Going to Expect Video

Look at the example of video lectures. They once used to be a backup in case you missed the actual class. They are now fast becoming commonplace and actually preferred over live lectures. The idea of “flipping” a classroom is quickly catching on in schools across the globe: Where students watch their lectures at home, and spend their valuable time in class working on problems with their teacher’s personal supervision.

In business, we are right now crossing a tipping point where video is going to become the norm. Once enough websites have a video introduction, all websites are going to have them, just to stay competitive. Once someone in the office realizes they can more effectively spread their great idea with a video instead of another long email, everyone is going to expect it.

So why wait? You can be the one to lead your organization through this transition, instead of having to play catch up later.

5. Video is More Human

None of us have any trouble engaging in a conversation with a friend or colleague. This is after all, the core of what it means to be human. So why do many of us struggle with so called “formal” writing? Try reading a typical business email or website out loud. Why do they sound so impersonal and even somewhat alien?

The reason is that it’s hard to convey your exact meaning or mood in writing. As a result, we are forced to err on the side of caution. We don’t want to give the wrong impression or accidentally alienate someone. So we avoid being too casual, or appearing uncertain about things, of being too human in our writing.

Video changes this. We can now communicate in our natural way again. This is not only more authentic, which our audience already expects, but it can be far more accurate and precise.

What Can You Do Today?

Start by practicing recordings of everyday topics you are already familiar with. Here are three simple exercises you can try, check them out. I'm sure that before long you will be connecting with your audience in a more meaningful way. The extra bonus is that recording videos can also be a lot of fun, and even liberating.

I hope you found this post useful. Please send us any comments or feedback you might have through our website. We really love hearing from you guys.

Thanks a lot.

Introducing Vittle: Write a Video as Easily as Email

by qrayon 4. May 2013 16:24

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Ever since the iPad came out, we have been busy trying to figure out what the Killer App for it is.

We think we’ve finally found it.

When you look at in person communication, at the office or at school, a lot of it is done in front of a whiteboard. A whiteboard lets you draw and speak at the same time. This is both more engaging, and much more flexible than doing either alone. When you explain something to someone on a whiteboard, it comes across as more free-flowing and natural. It doesn’t feel as scripted and rigid as using slides.

Vittle captures that same experience on your iPad, and makes it even better.

It lets your record anything you write and say into a video that you can instantly share with anyone. Here’s a 1-minute video describing Vittle, made with Vittle:


Download Vittle here.

Communicate Naturally

Vittle is built on our proprietary Inkflow Engine and gives you a large canvas to write and draw on. Zoom and pan anytime with two fingers. Unlike a real whiteboard, you can resize and move anything on the page. Don’t worry about running out of space. You can also drop in photos, and import PDF documents, including PDF slide decks from Keynote or PowerPoint.

Vittle is great for both quick, impromptu communications as well as for more formal presentations. Have you ever wanted to describe a quick sketch for someone when they weren’t in their office? Well, you can now email them a Vittle right from your iPad. E.g. annotate a screenshot of your website and show exactly what changes you want done.

Have you noticed the proliferation of those whiteboard-style introductions on websites? With Vittle, you can now create your own to promote your own product or idea. If you are a teacher, you can now easily create a library of video lessons that you can reuse year-after-year. Even create your own YouTube channel to share your expertise with the world.

Vittle can also be used just for fun. Create simple stop-motion animations; tell stories with comic characters and photos; storyboard your next movie production, in video. This is a medium that’s bound to spur new art forms.


Welcome to the Age of Digital Video

We are now approaching a tipping point where video communication is going to become ubiquitous. Bandwidth is now cheap and fast enough to handle video with no problem, even on mobile devices. Free services such as YouTube and Vimeo give you the broadcast reach that rivals any major movie studio.

As a result, we can now communicate in ways that are more natural and authentic to us as humans, rather than ways that are optimized for computers from the last century.

The iPad is ideally suited for this form of communication.


Vittle Snaps Right Into Your Workflow

Vittle produces native 720p HD video files that you own. We don’t force you to upload them to any online service, but you can easily share them on the service of your choice, email them just to the folks you want, or save them securely to your company servers. Videos are ready to share the moment you stop recording.

Vittle includes everything you need to record and share videos, and can even handle multiple scenes/recordings. However, you can also easily import the videos you create in Vittle into the editor of your choice. Use iMovie on your iPad to add themes and music, or pull the files onto your PC to compose your weekly video podcast. These days, a lot of basic editing can be done online. E.g. both YouTube and Vimeo let you add theme music to your videos.


Ok, Go Check Out Vittle Now

Download the Free Edition of Vittle if you want to try it out first. When you are ready for more, upgrade to the Full Edition. You can find out more about the two editions on the Vittle homepage.


Please Tell Us What You Think!

We are just at the beginning of discovering whole new ways of expressing ourselves using the medium of digital video. Let us know what you are doing with Vittle. If you post your videos online, just add the hash tag #vittle in your video description to make it easier for us and others to discover.

Feel free to drop us a line anytime, via our feedback page or through Twitter.

We can’t wait to see what you’ll do with Vittle.

Have fun!

Book Review: The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde

by qrayon 4. May 2013 11:33

Sketchnote Handbook

Sketchnotes are notes taken in real time while listening to a lecture, talk, or presentation. They incorporate both typography/words and pictures to capture the speaker’s main points. Sketchnotes can help you stay more engaged during a lecture, and are more fun than just taking written notes. The completed sketchnote also serves as a visual map of the talk for later.

The Sketchnote Handbook is easy to read, and is full of inspiring examples of different styles of sketchnotes. The book mainly covers techniques using pen and paper, but they can also be applied to digital tools. For example, the tip on different writing patterns to fill a page is useful, although if you are using Inkflow you can easily change patterns mid-stream. There’s a section at the end with exercises to practice drawing people, objects, and lettering.

Make sure to pick up the Video Edition of the book. This includes a unique code to access over an hour of additional video content online (yes, you can watch them on your iPad too). It’s sure to give you new ideas on how to take better notes and communicate visually.

Mike Rohde did the illustrations for the book Rework (another excellent read). He also started a website called Sketchnote Army, which has tons more examples of Sketchnotes. Well worth checking out.

Using Icons in Your Visual Vocabulary

by qrayon 3. May 2013 17:32

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One of the benefits of freeform digital note-taking tools such as Inkflow is that they allow you to easily mix left-brain thinking (words) with right-brain thinking (pictures). Pictures have actually been a part of written language for a long time. Billions of people write using languages derived from pictographs (e.g. Chinese or Korean); what we would call icons today.

The benefit of icons is that they allow you to compress a lot of meaning and even emotion into a simple picture. You don’t need any artistic skill to use icons effectively.

Building your own Icon Alphabet

By developing a set of icons to use in your own notes, you can more quickly capture and combine key ideas. The trick is to come up with icons for concepts that you use frequently. Here’s how to get started and build your icon vocabulary over time:


1. Look at your general shorthand

Guess what, you already use icons everyday: Think of all the shorthand you use, such as checkmarks, stars, and arrows. The cool thing is that these icons are re-usable. E.g. a star can represent a favorite item, or an important point, or well, a star.

You can easily customize these icons with your own special meaning. For example, you might draw a circle around a checkmark, and use that icon to represent important new ideas that you learned.

Common glyphs


2. Think about common concepts

The next set of icons that you might look at developing are for common, everyday concepts. Things like “Home”, “The World”, times of day, or places such as “cities” or “schools”:

Common concepts

You’ll find that using these simple icons in place of words much more evocative. They are especially useful as titles or to headline groups of ideas.


3. Create domain-specific icons

Finally, think about the major concepts that you frequently use in your field of work, especially the more complex ones. For example, you could represent “The Environment” with a tree. You can also reuse your icons. E.g. Use the city icon to also represent a business or corporation:

Domain specific concepts

When you iconize concepts this way, you’ll find that it’s easier to think of them as distinct entities or actors. This makes mapping out the relations between entities easier and more engaging. For example, you could use a set of icons to map out the interplay between governments, businesses, and the environment. This is useful both when brainstorming, and for communicating complex concepts to others.


Whole Brain Thinking

Icons not only help you capture ideas faster, but think better too, because you are working with a richer set of meaning, and engaging both sides of your brain at the same time. You will notice a difference in how your brain processes concepts represented by icons vs. just words. The thing is, you don’t need to pick one over the other. You can combine both to think more effectively.

What other ways have you found to leverage icons effectively? Love to hear your comments. Feel free to leave them below or send feedback.

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