A guide to making your family videos even more awesome

June 29 | Guest post by Georgia Brizuela
Beautiful Camera
Photo by Evil Erin, used with Creative Commons license.

If parenting was based on one’s ability to document life’s events in the digital age, I am pretty sure we’d all be winning. I, like you, am there at every special event (and even some not-so-special, just-pooped-on-the-toilet-for-the-first-time events) with my digital camera or video camera (or both) in hand and waving like a lunatic yelling, “Look at the camera, honey, look at the camera, baby!”

I don’t feel bad admitting this to you because I see you all there doing it, too. At the park you’re crouching down chasing your poor toddler with a lens in his face cooing at how adorable it is that he’s eating the bark chips and thanking the heavens that you’ve got this special moment saved forever in digital format. You’ve got dozens more at home. The video your partner took at his birth, the video of his first birthday cake, the hours of footage just waiting for him to do that super cute thing again. Yep. You’ve got it all there saved and waiting to bring out when he’s all grown and you’re clutching at memories and his old t-shirts he left behind.

Except if you’re anything like me you’ve probably realised that while you’re great at capturing all those special moments, you are now realizing that you have no idea what you are going to do with the gigabytes and gigabytes of memories you have piling up on your hard drives.

You might lay awake and wonder how on earth you will ever get time to sit down and relive all those memories because, let's face it — you’re almost matching a second childhood just in digital files!

Perhaps you find this thought a little alarming and wonder how you can preserve all this precious data when you’re accumulating at a worrisome rate (but not so nearly as worrying as the rate technology keeps changing). You might lay awake and wonder how on earth you will ever get time to sit down and relive all those memories because, let's face it — you’re almost matching a second childhood just in digital files!

I’d like to share with you the how-to of a fun project I’ve been working on that has simultaneously been cutting down on my massive files of footage, letting me vent some creativity, and making sure all our family memories aren’t lost into the ether.

What you need

Family videos
Editing software (Ed. note: you can use everything from the free Windows Live Movie Maker to the oh-so-pricey Adobe After Effects.)

Preparation

I won’t get too technical on the actual hows of editing your film (mostly because I have no idea what the heck I’m doing and it’s a miracle every time I complete an episode) but also because we all have different video software at home. We’ll be talking more about the process involved.

Me personally, I am using Final Cut Pro. All my footage is currently shot on the Panasonic Lumix GF1 which I highly recommend.

What you’ll need to do first is see how much film you have and decide on how you want to break it down. If you take a lot of footage you might consider an episode for each fortnight or month –– if you’re not that active behind the lens — perhaps one for every six months.

We take a lot of footage so it seemed practical to break it into monthly categories. I have been producing a three-to-five minute episode for each month of all the random clips that I had taken during that time. During a month, I would on average have 30 gigabytes of raw footage (!!). Once I’ve edited it down I save only less than 1 GB, so this is a great way to minimize your files.

Once you have selected the time frame you are working with, import all the footage from that time (or event) into your editing software. I just import any footage taken during the month/dates I am working on. You might be surprised at the amount of footage this equates to. The key is that you want to cut it down to the bare minimum. For each of these episodes I’ve made I have started with well over three hours of footage (in some cases over 10 hours!) and I want to keep every episode under five minutes — so that is a lot to cut.

The first time you do this it might be hard.

The steps

  • First, I’d recommend you put all the clips on the timeline in chronological order. Then you’ll want to go through and cut/delete any clips that are obviously bad (out of focus, blurry, have your husband in the background saying “DO I HAVE TO!?!”). This will be your first cut.

SAVE YOUR PROJECT.

  • Now, go through again and cut out anything that is a too long. This includes any clips that have something being done again and again. If my daughter is dancing for five minutes I will find the best 30 seconds of her doing so and cut the rest. I know, I know — this is hard. I am her mum and EVERYTHING she does is adorable, even after the 30th time. But my ultimate goal in making these short episodes is to only keep the best and ditch the rest. If you want to share them with your friends and family, shorter is better.

This is your second cut. SAVE

  • Once you have a good idea of the clips you are working with, choose a song to set them to. I try in my "Life" series to pick a song that we listened to frequently during the month that I am editing because that appeals to my sense of nostalgia. Once you have the clips set out you might be prompted by what’s happening in the footage to find the song that fits just right. Song choice completely changes the mood and direction your film will go in so take some time to find the right song.

SAVE YOUR PROJECT. Srsly guys, SAVE IT.

  • Now that you have a song and the clips you are using, play around with the order. For the most part, for me, they stay in chronological order (simply because I am lazy) but I will change some around to be the intro clip or to match the lyrics of the music as I need. This is actually really fun to do so take your time and get creative.

I cannot stress this enough: SAVE!

  • Now your project is coming together. Go through and tighten all the clips. I make sure they are as tight as they can be. This involves cutting off the beginning and end so the clip is as neat as possible. I will cut and cut and cut a clip until I have just what I want included. This took me some time to get good at being brutal. It turns out those adorable moments leading up to my son taking his first steps were actually really boring and I had to be real about the amount of footage we really need.

Save.

  • Once you’ve done all this you’re almost done. Play it through a few times, fiddle a bit, and voilà: you’re done. I add titles, but that’s up to you. Immediately after doing this I save and export. I have lost several episodes and it killed me. I export a quicktime copy and export my Final Cut Pro project (along with all the original files) to an external hard drive.

I hope this encourages you all to give it a go. I would love to see any finished products. Once you have a hang of your editing software this becomes a really fun project and I promise you it’s very rewarding. For fun, here are a few mini episodes I’ve created with our footage. These are great to share on your blog, email to friends and family, and save your memories in neat little packages.

  1. Don't forget to include still shots also. Regualr digital camera pics can make a great slide show through your movie.

  2. Aw these are great! My 1 year old daughter especially loved the first video! She was dancing with the music and waving to the little baby! Hehe. Now she's happily singing. Thank you for putting her in such a good mood!!! : )

    What kind of camera do you use? It's so clear! Do you have any suggestions?

    Also, when can we expect your processing photos tutorial?

    • Aw, thank you. I am glad you enjoyed them! I use a Panasonic Lumix GF1 for my filming. It is a great little compact camera that fits in my purse or handbag. It's also not too expensive 😉

      I am NO expert on processing photos, I'd feel cheeky writing a tutorial on it!

  3. So, uh, I know this is probably way off-hand but only because I'm Laotian and my husband is Caucasian but what is the half-ethnicity of your beaut-emous kids?! I noticed immediately because my son has the same almond-shaped eyes but has 50-brown coloring and 50-not-so-brown coloring. 😉 I dare to not guess because I know from personal experience how 'ignorant' albeit unintentionally malicious when asked, "Sooo, what are you— Uh, I mean where're you from?" I answer, "I'm from America; my parents are from Laos."

    So, where is your children's father from? 😀

    • Haha, I know exactly that feeling. I am often wanting to ask where children's fathers/mothers are from. My husband is Filipino 😉

  4. Swoon!

    Reading your tips I was thinking to myself, "no way could I possibly do that!" But the result simply speaks for itself. Truly gorgeous.

  5. Wow! Those are amazing!

    I take WAY more still photos than video, but this definitely made me think about making more slideshows/ movies! Thanks tor the inspiration!

  6. Very inspiring! I've done one video montage with my flip cam so far. Thanks for sharing – the videos are beautiful!

  7. Oh My GOD! ITS YOU! Your birth video inspired me to have a home water birth, i found it on youtube when i first found out i was pregnant and was totally swayed towards water birth after watching your video. I'm only 4 months pregnant but am so looking forward to expanding my family and loved watching your beautiful family in your videos. Thank you for sharing xxx

    • Aw, I am SO happy to hear that my birth video was able to inspire you to want to take that route yourself. That was my main motive for putting my birth video online – I so wanted other people to be able to experience a birth so beautiful and lovely like that! I really hope your birth is everything you're planning for.

  8. Great idea! This inspires me to make more videos of our new little one. Also, I love the song in the second video–could you tell me what it is?

  9. "I would love to see any finished products."

    Well it's obviously not as amazing as yours, but here's my first go! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fB1vsv5iQ4c

    I'm more of a happy snapper than a film/photography buff so all the footage was taken on my cameraphone and I used windows movie maker to edit. I had so much fun doing it I'm thinking about purchasing adobe premier so I can get a bit more fancy 🙂

    Hope you don't mind I "borrowed" the Brother Ali song you used. Fell in love with it first time I heard it!

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