Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Dos and Don'ts of Home Videos

Ok, internet.  It's time to have a conversation about home movies.

I have recently been converting tapes of my family, friends, and neighbors from VHS to DVD.  This has been a great learning process for me because I get to play their tapes in real time, edit them, watch them etc.  I have noticed a few things about home movies that the first generation home-movie-ers didn't know about what makes a good home movie.  I have seen the good, bad, and horribly shaky and I think I need to share this with the world.  I have compiled a list of "dos and don'ts" for when YOU are taking home videos so you might avoid the pitfalls of your parents and/or grandparents.

Lets start with the DON'TS.  Some of these will seem obvious or snarky.  I apologize for nothing.

DON'T TAPE THE SCENERY.  I know, the ocean/canyon/jungle/mountains are sobeautifulandyouneverwanttoforgetthisviewinyourentirelife! So take a picture, because frankly video with no people and no talking is BORING. No one wants to watch the ocean waves for 20 minutes, I promise.  And in the future if you find yourself regretting that you didn't take video of those ocean waves, I will fly you to Mexico.  Seriously. Or just look it up on youtube and realize how boring it is. If you must tape the scenery, have someone in the frame tell where you are at the very least.

DON'T TAPE PEOPLE IF YOU CAN'T SEE THEIR FACE/RECOGNIZE WHO IT IS.  In the moment, it seems like a good idea to film someone water skiing, or rock climbing, or parasailing.  However, twenty years later you will not know who you are watching and will fast forward through this precious memory you worked so hard to capture.  So, use that zoom button or skip the long distance filming.

Which reminds me..

DON'T TAPE WATER SPORTS FOR MORE THAN 1 MINUTE.  Again, it is really boring to watch someone cross the wake back and forth for 5 minutes.  But we all want to see how awesome we look on that glassy water, or remember grandpa beach starting, or little sister's first time up on the wakeboard- so just be reasonable when taking these shots.  Take one clip (we don't need to see the same person water skiing five or six times throughout the trip) for one minute and move on, no matter how skilled the person is.  Have you ever been to a wedding and watched the Bride and Groom during their first dance?  Its precious for about a minute and then you get really tired of seeing two people sway back and forth.  Same concept.  Short and sweet.  

DON'T WORRY ABOUT HOW YOU LOOK OR SOUND ON CAMERA.  I can't tell you how many shots we have of my mom ducking her head, covering her face, running out of the frame, or rolling her eyes and holding up a hand to the lens.  And it makes me sad because one day my mom is not going to be here anymore and the only footage we have of her is her trying to avoid being filmed. This past week, I found some video footage of an uncle that passed away.  I posted the video on facebook for his family to see, and my little heart broke when they told me it was the first time they had heard their Dad's voice since he died.  Pretty much all he said on the video was "not yet" and "look at this."  So let yourself be a part of the video, even if you feel fat and ugly and have an annoying voice just like everyone else.

DON'T TAPE THE SAME EVENT MULTIPLE TIMES.  This really applies to babies.  Now I am not a parent, so take this with a grain of salt.  We don't need to see a kid splashing in the bath at the age of 6 months for five minutes more than once, no matter how cute it is.  Once will suffice, I promise.  I know your two-year-old's dance moves are adorable.  Catch them dancing on film once or twice, but not multiple times for 30 minutes at a time.  It can be a bit excessive.  However, if the video is for your own personal enjoyment-I can understand why you would tape it.  But think about twenty years down the road when you pull out the home movies to watch on Christmas Eve and everyone is bored out of their mind watching your first born dance for hours.  A few minutes will suffice, and just once.

Ok, now that that is out of the way lets get some Dos out in the open.

DO HAVE SOMEONE STATE THE DATE AND PLACE OF WHERE YOU ARE TAPING.  My dad was really good at this.  Here is how he did it..."Ok, Patty!  Tell us where we are!"..."We are at grandma and grampa's house in MEXICO!"  "That's right!  and its June 18, 1997!"....and the video continues.   Its a really simple way to keep track of events.  Not everyone rocked at writing down the date and content of their tapes on that little white label, and I am glad my dad did this so I can keep things organized AND its easy to figure out how old everyone is!

DO CONDUCT INTERVIEWS.  Remember how I said not to tape people when they are far away or doing sports?  A great way to document the trip without recording every activity is to interview!  So, at the end of the day you would get everyone together and say something like this "Ok everyone, what did we do today? .....What was your favorite thing, Michael?"  This is great, because videos of people talking ROCK.  When we watch home videos, we want to see what Mikey was like when he was 5, or what kind of teenager John was.  Little interviews like this give everyone a chance to talk on the tape and you get a little snippet of everyone's personality. 

DO NARRATE WHAT IS HAPPENING.  This is similar to the date/place suggestion.  If you are filming all your kids going down a slide at the park, say who is going down the slide, who is waiting in line, who just face planted in the mud.  This is a bit of my own personal preference.  I think it makes the video more interesting and fun.  Of course, you shouldn't state every single thing that is happening.  Just the occasional commentary is nice to liven things up and help the flow of the video. 

DO LET YOUR TEENAGERS HAVE OCCASIONAL ACCESS TO THE CAMCORDER.  This is a little different now a days, since pretty much every cell phone has a camera on it.  But I include this because we have some great footage of us kids as teenagers recording ourselves in a monologue.  Although it is embarrassing, it is also hilarious!  We have footage of my brother at 13-14 begging my parents for a go-ped, myself talking about how there is not enough footage of me, etc.  This suggestion comes with a caution.  I have seen tapes that are dominated by teenagers, and they are ridiculous and not fun to watch.  Like when they take it on a scout camp and record their friends doing blue darts.  Maybe you are into that, but I was not amused. Or multiple clay-mation stop motion movies.

DO TAPE REACTIONS TO EVENTS, AND NOT THE ACTUAL EVENT.  The best example is the Fourth of July fireworks shows.  I know you probably spent hundreds of dollars on those fireworks, but it' guessed it... boring to watch on video.  It is more fun to see your five year old son so excited to hold a sparkler, or your ten year old light a firework for the first time.  When at Sea World, tape your kids watching the dolphin show and not the actual dolphin show.  Zoom in on your kid in their school program, and don't feel like you have to tape the entire program!  You can have video of them singing the songs or performing their part in your living room, and I bet you will enjoy watching that way more than trying to find your kids pin head in a sea of pin heads wearing santa hats.

That's it for now!  Hope these help you!