Research says that we capture on average seven videos a month on our smartphones. But with hours of rough footage gathering dust in your storage, what can the budding film-maker in all of us do to create something people will actually enjoy watching?
I’m Jamie, a professional video editor with eight years of experience making everything from broadcast documentaries to music videos and branded content. It comes with the territory to be asked by family, friends (and even friends of friends) to create professional-looking videos to mark their wedding, child’s bar mitzvah, engagement or a cat’s birthday party on the cheap. Therefore I’m always thinking about how to get the best out of the footage I have at my disposal using everyday tech.
Whether you’re a complete novice or have limited experience, here are my top tips for producing and editing a home video content.
1/ SHOOT RIGHT
Smartphones these days now allow you to shoot excellent quality video boasting fantastic detail, features and colour. Small enough for you to be agile capturing every moment and perfect for editing into something great. But it’ll only be great if the footage you take is shot with a little bit of finesse. As a starter, the following basic rules need apply;
– Make sure you always shoot landscape – this will mean it can be viewed optimally on TV, desktop and mobile screens.
– The best light is natural light, so where possible try and get your shots in daylight. If you can, avoid using the flash as the quality of footage will be compromised.
– Stay still and don’t follow your subject around – the end result will give the viewer sea sickness. For example, if you’re filming a wedding, don’t use the camera to follow the bride down the aisle, but position yourself near the front of the walkway, with your arm still, to capture her walking towards you like the graceful swan that she is (we hope).
– Be aware of your surroundings! Whilst the camera is rolling, always keep your eyes and ears open to spot the next interesting scene to carefully move your focus to.
– Get a load of cutaways! Don’t forget to shoot the little things that can be cut into the edit to add emotion and atmosphere…as well as being handy to paper over your heavily edits bits of sync. People laughing at a joke, kids ruining their suits as they skid on their knees across the dance floor, champagne bubbles popping in uncle Clive’s hand. The more the better as it’ll give you lots to play with in the edit.
2/ TOOL UP WISELY
Gone are the days of edits taking place exclusively in Avid edit suites equipped with thousands of pounds worth of equipment. There are now countless pieces of editing software available to download at either an affordable price, or completely free, making end results slicker than ever.
If you’re a complete beginner, download VideoPad Video Editor for free. With it’s simple usability, it’s perfect for home video editing and an ideal playground for the someone new to editing software. It also comes with plenty of effects and transitions that will add value to any type of video you’re looking to create.
At Green Rock, we edit exclusively on Adobe’s Creative Cloud, which is a great package of applications, including Premiere Pro, Audition and After Effects, all of which I use on pretty much every project I work on. Although it’s not free, Adobe Premiere is a great investment if you plan to use it a lot and plan get a good amount of use out of it.
Another great free piece of kit that has been recommended to me by TV editors in the past is Lightworks; which has even been used to cut an array Hollywood feature films. But don’t let that intimidate you, use it to create professional looking projects on a decent Mac or PC.
3/ WHAT’S THE STORY?
So you’ve picked your software and have imported your footage to stitch together into a masterpiece. Before you start hacking away, have a think about what you’re actually trying to achieve. It can be very easy to get carried away with an idea midway through an edit and lose sight of what your main goal was for the video.
If it’s a video of you skydiving, you probably want to get to the moment you jump as quickly as possible, rather than featuring the hour of you sitting in the plane for the majority of the video, no matter how good the (probably inaudible) pre-jump bants was between you and the pilot!
4/ THINK ABOUT THE AUDIENCE… AND THEIR TIME
When I’m faced with a project for broadcast, the producer’s brief of who we’re aiming the content at is vital. This still applies when creating something personal. Ask yourself, who are you making this for? It may sound obvious, but it’s worth remembering that no matter how personal your project may be, it will at some point have someone other than the subject watch it. For example, if it’s a wedding video for your cousin, it’s not just her and her husband that will be watching, She’s likely to show it to EVERYONE SHE KNOWS and share it on Facebook. So leave uncle Clive’s impromptu speech on the cutting room floor, keeping it broad, interesting and accessible for all audiences.
When it comes to length, there is nothing worse than sitting down to watch someone’s home video and realising it’s a 45min epic. Unless you’re cutting a short film or you’re Thelma Schoonmaker…which is unlikely if you’re reading this, then there is absolutely no need for your video to be over 10mins long. This could be extended to 15mins if it’s a wedding video, but I promise you that the best ones are always under 10mins and the bride will thank you for it.
Generally good, shareable digital content is about 2-3mins. So if you’re capturing a kids party or holiday, keep it short to hold people’s attention. The more you watch it, the more you’ll come to realise that even your super punchy 10min video could still be trimmed here and there. Don’t cut the really great footage completely, just be ruthless and lose the fat.
5/ PICK THE RIGHT MUSIC
Music can make or break a video. That’s why in this business a good Music Supervisor can make a handsome day rate in return for their expertise. Obviously the tune you choose will depend on what you’re making, but picking a track that fits the tone and pace of your video is vital.
My advice is to get your rough timeline of shots assembled before putting music to it. This gives you a visual idea of what you’re cutting, whilst also proving that the edit works and isn’t relying on music. From there you can test different pieces of music under the rough timeline to see which gives it the right vibe and impact.
I try and use tracks that have a good amount of instrumental in them so that I can loop bars if I don’t want vocals to clash with an up-sound in the video. Ultimately I usually end up using a track that makes me smile when I put it to the pictures, and it becomes a case of ‘when I know, I know’.
Finally, if the video is for someone else, ask them for a list of at least 10 tracks that they like and then you can make the ultimate decision on which one gets used, safe in the knowledge that they’ll like whatever you use.
Jamie Tucker. Senior Editor