New ways to inflict videos on relatives
OK, so you've just finished making a digital video of your kid playing the piano or your cat in the dryer (or vice versa), and though you admit you're no Steven Speilberg, you've watched it 37 times, and it keeps getting better every time.
Clearly, it's time to distribute this masterpiece to your alternatively time-zoned, technologically unliberated relatives. What are your options?
The best bet is to lure them to an all-inclusive family reunion -- complete with an open bar -- and then initiate a sneaky timeshare-style salespitch lockdown.
But chances are you already did that last year when you filmed your kid completing potty training or your mouse-chasing cat getting stuck behind the fridge (or vice versa) -- few fall for this maneuver twice.
Unfortunately, other options are more complicated.
Digital video is so easy to record (punch either the big button or the red button, hold the camera still, then punch either the big button or the red button again). But transferring it through your extended family's various de-digitalized zones can be harder than getting a Playboy magazine into 1982 East Berlin.
Here then are some get-it-to-them strategies, in descending order of your relatives' relative level of tech-preparedness:
Do they have TiVo? Though still viewed as a household's most unnecessary necessity, millions have mind-melded into the DVR-lifestyle, timeshifting their TV-viewing habits. And many TiVo users don't realize that the box atop their TV is actually a computer -- this gives it even more special powers.
One is its new Home Movie Sharing service. Anyone (even someone without a TiVo) can now upload videos online YouTube-style and create a "channel" that can be accessed by any TiVo user anywhere.
Just think, for an extra $4 a month, long-distance Granddad can casually yell expletives at your kid's Little League umpire from the same comfy chair he uses to curse the World Series.
Do they have a DVD player? Sure, trips to the post office can be aptly compared to certain darker passages in the Old Testament, but if you want long-distance Grandma to watch your toddler giggle, a burned, snail-mailed DVD could be the simplest delivery system. Try using the $80 Toast 8, one of the easiest programs around for turning any video format into a DVD.
Do they have a VHS player? Devolving digital video all the way back to VHS feels ridiculous -- like reinterpreting a laser light show through a series of cave drawings -- but there are simple, affordable ways to do it if that's what it takes. One way is the Lite-On LVC-9016G VCR/DVD Recorder. Among other things, the $100 device can convert DVDs to VHS with the touch of a single button, and thus a minimum of head-scratching.
Do they live anywhere near the 21st century? If so, Gmail now allows you to send e-mails as large as 20MB -- big enough for a medium quality, 5-minute clip of anything domestic. Have your relatives drive to an Internet cafe and ask for assistance.
If they later lament that is wasn't worth all the trouble, tell them that's because they need to watch it 36 more times.