Home movies have a bad reputation, don’t they? An invitation to watch home movies often provokes the response: “Sorry, but I have to re-lace all of my shoes that day!” It needn’t be that way.
I have been making short videos for approximately two years now. I was reluctant to purchase a video camera because I was affraid I would make craptastic home movies that no one would watch. As an avid amateur still photographer, moreover, I thought nothing could replace the power of a still image. I eventually bought a small Canon camcorder, primarily because I wanted to experiment using video as an instructional tool. One evening, while watching Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel, I saw acommercial for their video bootcamp, the Travel Channel Academy (more info). The premise is simple: over the course of three days they teach you how to produce a short video, covering everything from story development, camera handling and non-linear editing. The course brought me up to speed on how to shoot and edit and provided enormous confidence that my productions need not be boring “home movies.”
Sometimes, however, a home movie is just what the doctor ordered. There isn’t always time to storyboard and plan out your shots. Sometimes you just cannot get good audio. Often the subject is uncooperative. Rather then surrender, why not make a home movie? For example, I love filming my twins but since they are only twleve months old they rarely take direction. My natural impulse is not to make something awful that will be painful to watch but, by the same token, I do not want to miss the opportunity to record something that will only happen once in their lives. So I have to blend my training with reality and make a better-quality home movie. Here’s how you can too:
- Keep it short. No one (probably not even you) wants to watch ninety minutes of feeding time. Three minutes is plenty.
- Have background music. Music adds dimension to video. Consider having nothing but music if the natural sound in the scene is distracting. Give credit to whomever produced the music.
- Use natural sound. Record some sound with your camera’s built-in microphone. Use it judiciously to tell the story.
- Move yourself around. Try different shots and perspectives. A close-up on the face for more than a few moments becomes boring.
- Hold the camera still. Do not move the camera! It makes the viewer sea-sick.
- No zooming. Try not to zoom the lens in the middle of the shot. See number 5, above. If you must “zoom” try moving your self closer to the subject
Today’s pocket cameras take pretty decent video, so there’s no reason not to give this a try. Inexpensive software like iMovie can be used to cut and edit your masterpiece and output it for the web. David Pogue’s book (here) for iMovie users is wonderful and he has more tips on how to produce better quality home movies. The piece below was shot on a Sony EX-1 HD video camera and color graded with Magic Bullet Looks to produce its “different” look. Although I used expensive hardware to produce it, it’s still a home movie.
Go forth and produce.