If you’re like my cousin who has a very large extended family, then you likely have lots of kids, lots of birthdays, lots of family functions and lots of really bad home videos.
He loves his family and wants to make better video mementos, but YouTube “how-to” videos can only get you so far.
It’s not like you can say something about it. Insulting someone’s home video is like telling them they have an ugly baby – you just can’t do it.
So you just sit there and watch all two and a half hours of the birthday party, waiting for a merciful ending.
Having been trapped into seeing these things more often than I care to admit got me to thinking.
By doing just a few simple things, a home video can be a joy to watch, not an obligation.
He knows I have a video production company, and I have an extensive guide to actually making a film…
So the question does come up every Thanksgiving —
First, it’s best to call the professionals to get the best job.
But if budget is tight, then I tell him to focus on the following things to make better DIY, home videos:
Nothing renders a home video more difficult to watch than Shaky Cam. With Shaky Cam, the camera twitches around like someone with a nervous tic.
It’s a great technique if used properly, like in the movies:
However, these “amateurish style” is staged by a team of professionals so it works. But not so much when it’s just you, yourself and your camera making home videos.
In the hands of the non-pro, the shaky cam style becomes a huge distraction.
As you try to watch whatever is being shot, you start to develop one too. The person being photographed moves ever so slightly around the screen, as the camera operator constantly makes tiny little adjustments.
The end result resembles earthquake footage.
To fix this, try to steady your hand against something stable. Rest your elbow on the back of a chair.
Lean against a door jam or a wall to try to stabilize the camera.
If these aren’t available, hold the camera close to your body and try not to move around.
Remember: If you have the camera zoomed all the way in, it is next to impossible to keep the image steady.
Even the slightest movement will show up on the screen. In cases like this, use a tripod or try to move closer so you can minimize the zoom.
Ever watch a cat track something? Its head rapidly twitches to whatever it’s looking at. That’s Eye of the Tiger.
This technique involves rapidly following any action by whipping the camera around to whatever it is that caught the camera operator’s attention.
The effect on the viewer is like being thrown around the room.
To remedy this, pause the previous shot, turn to the new subject, and hit record.
The effect is like a cut rather than a swish pan.
If you do need to pan the camera, turn with your hips and then with your hands.
This will smooth out the camera movement and save us all that nauseating swirl effect that comes with so many home videos.
It’s hard to watch a video in which you can hear the camera operator breathing, the lens cap rattling, and all the associated muffled sounds of the person running the camera.
To avoid these, just remember that every sound near the microphone is magnified a hundred-fold. This includes talking.
Moving with the camera usually combines the best of Shaky Cam, Eye of the Tiger and Deep Breathing.
It’s very difficult to walk around with the camera and keep the image steady. It’s best to avoid this altogether.
If you have to move, just shut off the camera, move, then restart.
Chances are you’re not going to miss anything
While zooming is a wonderful capability, in the wrong hand it’s positively evil. Nothing is more intrusive than zooms. What they do is take the viewer out of the video.
Excessive zooming distracts the viewer away from the subject they are viewing.
Try to keep these to a minimum. If you must zoom, pause the camera, zoom, then resume shooting.
One of the simplest ways to improve a home video is to cut the camera. Most people just shoot everything and let the camera run.
One of the reasons for this is that many people are afraid they will miss something, or they are concerned that a cut will disrupt the flow of the video.
The reality is just the opposite. Pausing the camera and changing the shot makes the video much more interesting.
Imagine watching a regular movie that never cut away to different compositions or different characters. It would be boring.
Home videos are the same.
When cutting the between shots remember to vary the angle and the size of the subject.
Shots that cut between similar sizes and angles are much more jarring than cuts that alter these two dimensions.
When composing a shot, using the rule of thirds is a great way to make a beautiful composition.
This technique, used by professional photographers, involves dividing the frame into thirds.
To understand the rule of thirds picture taking a long shot of beach and the ocean behind.
The bottom third would be the beach. The middle third would be the ocean. The top third would be the sky.
Dividing the screen into thirds helps create a well-balanced shot, and makes your video more aesthetically pleasing.
When shooting your video is to just take your audience into consideration.
Not only will you be happier with the final result, but it will capture the excitement and fun of the event you are filming better than simply letting the camera run.
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