Sun Sentinel – Jul 9, 2007 – Jeff Zbar – For years, psychologist John F. Murray has sent an electronic newsletter to hundreds of subscribers. And he has been the subject of scores of television interviews, and has presented at countless seminars and programs on sports performance and executive training.

So this spring, Murray decided to create his own videos using his in-office webcam. He uses the camera to shoot video e-mails, a video blog, and is working on a variety “webinars” â€â€? all shot from his PC monitor-mounted camera.

“This makes sense and is the next logical step from one-dimensional e-mails or expensive video productions,” said Murray, a clinical and sports performance psychologist in private practice in Palm Beach. He even posts a video blog for a weight-loss group he runs. Using video for small business outreach “allows for much more communication. You get all the gestures, facial expressions and emphasis of a video, and can package it to suit your needs.”

Videography is finding its place in the small business market. With the combination of inexpensive Web cameras and consumer broadband Internet services, businesses are able to produce and distribute videos to a wide audience.

What device is best? Whether a desktop or laptop camera, look for features designed to improve the video and audio result. A high-quality lens will produce sharp, clear images, and auto focus functions can keep the subject sharp, even in dimly-lit settings. Color-enhancement capabilities optimize color and reduce image “wash out,” and adjust for various settings and lighting. Cameras with a built-in, noise-canceling microphone reduce echoes and outside noise, and eliminate the need for a headset or stand-alone microphone to record the content.

While greater megapixels often translate to improved image quality, the combination of lens and image processing is important to creating a better video, said Andrew Heymann, senior worldwide product manager for Web cameras for Logitech. The company’s new Pro 9000 desktop and QuickCam Pro for Notebooks both feature Carl Zeiss lenses, 76 degrees of video viewing width, USB 2.0 compatibility and a resolution of eight megapixels, he said. But don’t let megapixels fool you, he said.

“Digital still cameras are caught in the megapixel race,” he said. “This isn’t just about megapixels. It’s about a combination of quality performance and components that create a better video and sound.”

To improve desktop videography, Heymann suggested using a webcam with automatic focus and face tracking that follows the subject as he or she moves around. Most camera software can be set to shoot the video according to specific needs, from lower resolution for e-mail distribution, to greater resolution for high-definition, Heymann said. Many cameras include video editing or effects software to improve the finished product. Heymann recommended beginners use Windows Movie Maker (included with Windows operating systems) to edit the video before posting or distributing.

Setting is important. When JoAnna Brandi began recording videos for e-mail and seminars, she brought in soft lighting, a potted plant and a Japanese shoji room divider to create a backdrop. Well lit and casually dressed, with makeup and a smile, Brandi appears warm and confident in an introductory video about her new video services.

“I have a studio right at my desk,” said the owner of JoAnna Brandi & Company, a Boca Raton customer care consulting firm. Brandi conducts virtual training from her desk, and is writing a seven-part video course to be produced, in part, using her webcam. “I can do broadcasts, seminars, webinars, podcasts, a video blog and social networking. As a small business owner, this gives me the tools that I ordinarily wouldn’t have.”

Jeff Zbar is a freelance writer.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.