8 Tips for Making Great Home Movies

One of my favorite things to do is make home movies. (Is “home movies” an antiquated term now? Is it “home videos” at this point?) Some are meant to document while others are meant to entertain. Some are shot at the beach while others are shot in the mountains. Some are about the kids while others are more about me. Some are made for just fun while others will soon be made professionally! (More on that last one within a week or two…)

But no matter what the motivation, regardless of the subject, no matter where it’s shot, or what the intent is, every movie I make does have one thing in common — I consider it to be art. Which is exactly why I try to go the extra mile with each and every one.

No. That doesn’t make me Scorsese. Far from it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t take pride in my modest endeavors — I can. And if you’re one who hasn’t made a lot of videos, but would like to — I have some tips for you that I’ve found useful. Eight of them, in fact. And here they are:

  • Select a good video camera 1 of 8
    Select a good video camera
    To make great home movies, you need a great video camera. Period. This post is sponsored by Sony, but even if it weren't, I'd throw out the following recommendation: the Sony Handycam. As you can see from this photo, I've owned more than one, and there's a reason for that. Regardless, if you select a video camera you love as much as I love the Sony Handycam, then you're halfway home.
  • Know your camera’s features 2 of 8
    Know your camera's features
    Another key is to get to know that camera intimately. I can't tell you how useful some of the features are. Nor can I stress enough how intimate familiarity of your camera will save a ton of time in the editing process.
  • Get the editing software that works for YOU 3 of 8
    Get the editing software that works for YOU
    I've used a bunch of software and, for the most part, they're all great. I've been on iMovies forever and ever, but I think I'm about to make the leap to Final Cut. Not because I don't like iMovies, but instead because I think Final Cut can and will take my production quality to the next level -- something which might not be important to someone who is just trying to create some simple but great movies the whole family can enjoy. Point? Get the software that works for YOU.
  • Know the goal 4 of 8
    Know the goal
    Okay. You've got your camera. You're all set on the software. Now it's time to yell ACTION. But before you do, understand what you're trying to accomplish with the movie you're about to make. Are you trying to evoke nostalgia? Or laughter? Filming with your end goal in mind, I've found, tends to render clips that are just what the doctor ordered.
    Photo Credit
  • Short clips are better 5 of 8
    Short clips are better
    You know what the number-one mistake people make is? Constantly filming long-ass clips. Video files are space hogs, people. So why in the world would you compound matters by shooting one 4-minute clip after another? But even if space weren't an issue, how long can you watch a baby crawl on the beach before it's time to get on with it? And if those aren't good enough reasons to compel you to take shorter shots, maybe this one will: when it comes to editing, short clips are WAY easier to work with than long clips. The vast majority of what I film is 8 seconds or less. And unless you're recording something remarkably unusual / riotously funny that can be uploaded in its entirety and is certain to make you an overnight YouTube sensation, I recommend you follow suit and stick to shorter clips.
    Photo Credit
  • Stills make any movie POP 6 of 8
    Stills make any movie POP
    Still photos do something that motion pictures cannot -- emphasize but one singular point in time and THAT'S the kinda thing that will make your movie POP. Which is exactly why I sprinkle stills into each and every movie I make. Because not only does my Handycam take stills as it films, but you can also create your own stills from any moment of any clip it records (assuming you took the time to get to know your camera, that is!). Like this shot of Sammy and me at the beach. He'd just helped me reel in that redfish and although we didn't have a camera on us, we were still able to capture this classic moment of him sizing up his haul thanks to our video camera. It's worth noting that the quality of the Handycam stills are fantastic, too. But that doesn't mean I'll only use stills created by my video camera. Because that'd just be silly. Use any and all wonderful still photographs in your home movie, especially the ones that capture the essence of whatever it is you're documenting.
  • Voice overs can be golden 7 of 8
    Voice overs can be golden
    Not for everyone, I realize, but don't underestimate what a voice over here and there can do for your videos. Of my very favorite home movies, all but one features me breaking down the action at some point via a voice over. They're easy to do and can add quite a lot.
    Photo Credit
  • Music’s good, too 8 of 8
    Music's good, too
    Music is something else that can add a lot. But it's not quite as simple as opening up iTunes, so be careful. Not only could you inadvertently be breaking licensing / copyright laws if you put certain (read most) music in your movie, such practice can also get that movie or, in extreme cases, the person who made it, banned from YouTube. So you have two choices -- the stock music that comes with most editing software OR the creative commons music site known as Jamendo. There you can use any number of combinations of dozens of "tags" to find music that will be perfect for your movie.
    Photo Credit

A big thanks to Sony for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.

Want a chance to win weekly prizes like a Sony Handycam or a $200 Disney shopping card?  Enter to win here!

Want to capture your own family memories on video? We’re giving away two Sony Handycams! To enter for a chance to win, simply comment on any Sony-sponsored post (including this one) with an answer to the following question: what’s your favorite family memory? Contest runs through 11:59 p.m. EDT on September 30th, 2012, and you may enter once per post. Contest is open to U.S. residents only.


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