Review: Star in your favorite films with Yoostar

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The Yoostar system uses the same movie magic the big studios use, shrunk down for the every day consumer. And yes, that means the price has shrunk as well. Yoostar made a big splash when it debuted at this years' CES (Consumer Electronics Show), but will it live up to the hype?

The Yoostar system:[image-1]

A High-Resolution Camera.

A camera stand and multiple camera clips.

Green Screen Stand.

Green Screen


How’s the quality of the hardware?

Anyone who has been actively using computers for the past decade has undoubtedly come across webcams of varying quality. A webcam may be expensive, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get crystal clear quality. It just means you paid $60 for the equivalent of looking through stained glass. We’ve all had those webcams and the frustrations that come with them.

Thankfully, this isn’t the case with the camera included in the Yoostar bundle. Besides having a somewhat uncanny resemblance to [image-2]a famous hollywood extraterrestrial, the Yoostar video camera puts out crisp, high-resolution video. Although the video quality suffers when uploaded online, the original copies left for playback on your computer easily beat what most webcams produce. The camera also has no trouble picking up voices with a built-in microphones. In fact, you may find yourself turning down your mic volume when you speak louder than those who co-star with you. (I’m looking at you John Belushi).

Despite the high quality of the camera, it does have one major downside: The Yoostar camera can only be used with the Yoostar software. We tested it with Skype on two different Windows-based machines and on a Mac, but Skype refused to recognize the camera. It may only need additional drivers (which may come in the future), but at this point it's frustrating to have a high-resolution webcam that's not compatible with any other software.

The bundle also comes with a sturdy remote to record your scenes … well, remotely. The camera, camera stand and remote all have a rubberized coating which always feels good on electronics. I’ve never been sure why, but I have an attraction to rubberized electronics. (Let me know in the comments if you have a theory as to why!)

Recording Scenes

[image-3]Anyone who has ever worked or attempted to work with green screens knows it’s one of the hardest things in film to get right — especially if you're an film amateur like myself. As far as the hardware goes, Yoostar has a great green-screen setup. The screen itself is light, made of sturdy material and big enough for your Yoostar filming exploits.

[image-4]After several failed green-screen attempts of my own in years past that involved college textbooks as weights to hold it down, the Yoostar green-screen stand makes things enormously easier. Just set up its spider-like form and hang the green screen using the red, arrow-shaped corners. And there you have it: A respectable green screen that's not too unruly to set up in a college dorm room!

[image-5]Everyone from film aficionados to Uncle Mike who shoots your holiday parties knows that the most crucial thing in every green-screen set up is lighting. Without the proper lighting, every green-screen adventure will surely turn into a misadventure of epic proportions. This may be the thing that impressed me the most about Yoostar, as lighting usually commits green-screen setups to success or failure. For the most part, Yoostar nails it.

With one window open to let in some light, and a floor lamp to light the room up evenly, I set off to reprise the role of Elwood Blues from The Blues Brothers. While I botched my first performance (I didn’t have the timing down), the green screen and software worked surprisingly well for a consumer-grade product. There may be a slight outline around the actor or actress, and a bit of green showing up now and again when fast movements are made, but the Yoostar software performs commendably considering it is a consumer product adapting to different light situations and set ups. Not to mention that at the time I was running the firmware and software they were still in beta.

[image-6]Simply place your laptop on your desk or table with the green screen behind you and position the camera according to the scene. Step into the scene to see if your camera is placed correctly. Step out of the cameras view and hit record. Hit the record button once more to confirm that you are off screen and get back to your position in front of the screen. When you’re ready for your close up, hit record again.

Sample Recordings

Yours truly playing Elwood Blues.

Yes, that's Snoop Dogg.

A pretty spot-on Forrest Gump.

How do I remember my lines?! You can either memorize your lines the old fashion way by printing them out or you can read them off your computer screen like a teleprompter. Once you’re done recording, you can upload the scene to the Yoostar site, and share it with your friends on Facebook and other social networking sites using the provided, embeddable flash player.

[image-7]The Yoostar system comes bundled with 14 scenes, but there are hundreds available for download on the website. Scenes range in price from $.99 to $3.99 and come in a variety of flavors. Everything from Sesame Street to plain backgrounds such as a beach or a night sky.

And now comes the part of the review where the loyal Mac user like myself reads through only to find out that Macs aren’t supported — yet. Thankfully, Yoostar hasn’t forgotten the Apple crowd and will be releasing a Mac version of the software in November.

The other flaw in the Yoostar system lies in the software package. The system comes with one registration code that can only be used with one computer. That’s right, if you wish to use the software on another computer, you’re all out of luck. Although you would already have a Yoostar account, the software requires users to register a new registration code with each new installation.

We understand registration systems like these are utilized by developers to protect themselves from piracy, but we would have appreciated some more forward-thinking from a company who already thinks out of the box. Other developers have fixed this problem by allowing the same registration code to be used 3-5 times so the user can install it on their machines.


We’re not pirates. We can deal with installation limits as long as they’re reasonable. At least let users install software on two or three computers to allow for real needs. And thanks to Murphy’s Law, I did have a valid reason to reinstall the Yoostar software on another computer: Long story short, my only competent Windows-based machine decided it would be a great time to buy the farm and publish it’s obituary in the local paper. The motherboard was fried.

After trying to install the software on a Windows Virtual Machine on my Mac, Crossover for Mac and on my netbook it was clear to me that the registration code system could pose a genuine problem for users.

Yoostar is definitely something to be played with when friends are over. There’s nothing quite as fun, or funny, as seeing your friends and relatives try their hand at the classic Brando character, Don Corleone. Yoostar is going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.

Unlike many other games that strive for that communal experience, Yoostar is even fun to use when you’re alone. Yoostar enhances the community aspect through the ability to upload performances and post them on your own website or to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Even though your friends and family may not be there to witness in person your spot on, wacky or just plain awful rendition of Kirk Douglas in Spartacus, they’ll get to see it on Facebook or wherever else you may post it. Except YouTube. Unfortunately, due to contract restrictions with film studios, the scenes you create cannot be uploaded to third party video sites, such as YouTube or Vimeo.

The mileage you get from starring in scenes will vary with each individual, even when taking the downloadable content available through the online store into account. There's only so many scenes and so many times you can do that killer Eddie Murphy impression before the activity starts to lose its luster. The Yoostar system can improve it’s longevity and appeal by incorporating “augmented reality” games like those of the PlayStation 2’s Eye Toy or of Cannon Ballz.

Above, you can see Sony's foray into augmented reality games with the PlayStation Eye for the PlayStation 3. Given, the graphics on Yoostar augmented reality games wouldn't be so detailed, but the video does give an idea of what to expect from similar games.

With a few pack-in games and a relatively large roster of downloadable, bite-sized games priced similarly to the scenes, Yoostar would be a smash-hit — especially at this price point. Although games like these may not have the accuracy of Microsoft’s Project Natal, they would be entertaining in their own right and would be cheaper than buying an Xbox 360 with add-on peripherals. More importantly, Yoostar could capitalize on the time before Natal's release. Since it seems the Yoostar system has everything it needs for augmented reality games, it would probably need a small software update to be ready to conquer the Wii-loving masses. But as it stands, the Yoostar system contains quality hardware and a fun experience whether you’re alone or with your friends and family — even without additonal games.

The Verdict:

The price is the breaking point for many. At $169.99 the Yoostar system isn’t exactly cheap, but the hardware is definitely worth the price. The quality green screen, stand and camera alone are worth $169.99. Sadly, since the camera isn't able to be used with other programs, there's a lot of wasted potential. If you think you’ll get lots of mileage out of the Yoostar systems capabilities, don’t think twice about purchasing it. On the other hand, if you think your mileage may vary and aren’t sure about making the jump, just keep in mind that it does bring a great green screen set-up that can be used for your own home movies. At $169.99, the Yoostar system isn’t cheap, but it’s still making you an offer that's tough to refuse.

One last question: Why isn't Ozzy Osbourne endorsing this? Seeing Hearing him do a scene would be AMAZING.


System: YooStar

MSRP: $169.99

Launch Date(s):

Available at Bloomingdale's on 8/24/09

Available at Best Buy on 9/8/09

If you haven’t said it before, at least your friends have: “I could’ve made that movie!” “I could’ve played that part better!” Some movie industry veterans got together to give you the chance to star in famous film scenes and see if you can do a better job. Film geeks, meet Yoostar.

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