In the era of YouTube, home videos are as popular as family photos. Even if all you have is a video camera on your phone or digital camera, you still can create good videos. However, a dedicated video camcorder, such as a Flip Camcorder is a much better option.
No matter which video camera you have, these 10 simple tips on how to record home videos and make home videos look professional.
#1: Plan Your Production
No matter what event you videotape, have a plan. Write down or make a mental list of shots you will want to include. For example, if you’re videotaping a birthday party, your list might include:
- Decoration of the cake
- Guests arriving at the party
- Guests being welcomed
- The presentation of the birthday cake
- Blowing out the candles and reactions from guests
- Cake cutting
- Shots of presents being opened
- Interviews of guests
- Entertainment and dancing
- Guests leaving
If there’s an agenda for the event, you can use it to prepare you shot list. The more you know about what is going to occur in the event, the easier it will be shoot your production.
#2: Use a Tripod
Whenever possible, make use of a tripod. I realize it’s a hassle to set up a tripod, but using one makes a big difference in your video production. If you’re not going to be moving around, hand-holding your camcorder, using a tripod will help you keep your shots steady and clean. There’s nothing more distracting than to view videos in which the camcorder is constantly shaking and moving in and out of focus. Using a tripod, you can easily pan your shots for smoother recording.
Opening Establishing Shot
Nearly all movies and scenes in them begin with what is called an establishing shot. It’s a shot of the location where the action is going to take place. In the case of the party, it might be a panning shot of the party setup, or an outdoor shot of where the house or place where the birthday party is being held.
Just as with photography, you should typically shoot close on your subjects. Fill the LCD monitor of your camcorder with the main subject being shot. The more background distractions you have in your shots, the less appealing it will be. Typically, there are four types of shots used in videography: wide, medium, close-up and extreme close-up. You can recognize these type of shots in well done movies you watch.
Shoot Cutaway Shots
All good videos and movies use what is called cutaway shots. A cutaway shot is usually a related shot to the main action. For example, when shooting a birthday party, you will have a shot of the birthday girl blowing out her candles and cutting her cake. But you will also want to include cutaway shots of the guest singing the birthday song or clapping after the candles are blown out.
Another example: when the birthday girl is opening her presents, you might cutaway to a shot of the person from whom a presents was given. Here’s a goodthat explains cutaways.
Shoot Wide then Close
Similar to cutaway shots, you will want get in the habit of shooting medium to close range shots. For example, you start with a medium shot of the birthday girl opening her presents. Then you shoot in close on her hands as she opens the present, adding to the dramatic effect.
Change angles and positions
Get in the habit of shooting from different angles and positions. If you shoot every shot from the same position or angle, your viewers will easily get bored. You don’t need to change your position with every shot, but you also don’t want to be stuck in the same place for the entire recording.
Shoot to Edit
Whether or not you edit your movie after it is recorded, try to do what is called in-camera editing. For example, your camcorder may have a built-in fade-in and fade-out feature which means that each time you start and stop a recording, the shot will automatically fade in and fade out. That can help make for cleaner and more appealing shots.
If you don’t plan to do post-editing, you will want to keep in mind the timing of your shots. Before the event, determine how long you will want your video production to be. If you’re shooting a birthday party, your production might only be 15 to 30 minutes long, even though the party itself might be a couple of hours. Remember, Hollywood movies are typically no more than 90 minutes. Viewers will not want to watch a two-hour video of a birthday party. So plan your shots and make them purposeful. When capturing guest arrival shots, for example, each of your shots might be about 10 seconds long for recording each guest. Your camcorder should include a timer that you can monitor for the length of time of each shot.
Check Sound and Recording
Shooting video is not like shooting with a still camera. It’s quite easy to have your camcorder on and see action in the LCD screen, but that doesn’t mean you’re making a recording. Learn to recognize when your camcorder is actually recording and when it’s not. Also check the sound level. If your camera has a way to manually monitor and adjust the level of audio coming into the camera, be sure to constantly check that audio level to make sure it’s not too high or low. If possible, use a set of closed-headphones to monitor the audio levels coming into your camera.
Edit Your Production
Editing your video shots using what is called a nonlinear editor, such as Apple”˜s iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, or Adobe Premiere Elements, is simply the best way to make better video productions. The process is not as difficult as you think, but it does require extra time. With a movie editor, you can get rid of poor shots, tighten the editing; add smooth transitions, background music, and titles to make your production worth watching. There’s also a website called Jaycut.com that allows you to edit movies online. I have not used Jacycut yet, so I can’t vouch for how good it is, but it is a free option you might give a try, especially for say five-minute videos. You could also take a look at other video editors MakeUseOf has covered in the past.
I will be sharing some more tips on video productions in future articles. If you have questions about this topic, be sure ask them in the comment section.