So you've shot some video ...

Make it tell a story

Make it tell a story

January 03, 2006|by ALAN SOKOL

During the holiday season, many people break out their video cameras and start making home movies of kids ripping open presents and visiting relatives appearing at the door. However, most people don't like to sit through hours of a Christmas video that's been randomly taped throughout the day.

But fortunately for them, help is available. Affordable and easy-to-use editing programs and digital cameras can be used to make those family moments tell a story and be worth viewing again and again.

Expert advice

Mike Sokol, a professional audio and video editor and my dad, says making family videos is similar to making movies in Hollywood. A movie is not raw footage. A movie tells a story. Editing creates that story from raw footage.

"Raw footage is all video and audio that has been recorded for a particular project," Sokol says. "It's most likely not been recorded in chronological order, and there may be multiple takes of each scene to get the best take or to correct a mispronunciation or other cinematic error."


Many home videos are shot to record an event - a child's performance or family holiday - but can be reassembled using video-editing software to tell the story of the event.

"Editing is the process of deciding which scenes to use in your production, and in what order," he says.

One key, Sokol says, is not to use all raw footage. Plan and prioritize. Make a list of all scenes. Note things that need special attention: mistakes or embarrassing moments; bad lighting; extraneous noises; events that need explanation or narration.

"During the editing process, mistakes can be corrected ... with special effects added as desired," Sokol says. "All of these decisions are assembled into an edit decision list, or EDL, where the chosen scenes are put together in such a way that the movie makes sense."

The final thing to remember is to have fun while shooting and editing your video. That's what should show through to your viewers.

Video-editing software

In the past, video editing was limited to the rich and famous, costing many thousands of dollars in hardware. But nowadays, you can edit your videos on your own laptop computer. Some affordable and easy-to-use editing programs include:

iMovie: Comes standard with a Mac computer. Has options to automatically make most of the movie at the press of a button. A good free program if you are just starting out, and more powerful than one might expect for a freebie. You can add professional titles and effects such as slow-motion to your movies.

Windows Movie Maker: Drag-and-drop features make this program easy to use. It is also free and can be downloaded from

Sony Vegas 6: A very high-end program that some professional companies use, with the drag-and-drop system. You could make Hollywood-quality movies with this if you wanted to. But it costs almost $500, so it might not be on your shopping list for a while.

Final Cut Pro: A professional program from Apple that's actually being used to make real movies you might see in the theater. Cost is in excess of $1,000, but it has every movie making option known to man - or at least known to my dad. He has seen professional movie editors on airplane trips using this to edit their soon-to-be-released movie while in-flight.

Video cameras

Here are a few video cameras that aren't horribly expensive but get the job done nicely:

Sony Handycam: Small enough to fit in one's purse but with the capabilities of a full-size camcorder. The battery also has a fairly good lifespan for lots of recording without a recharge. Price range is $320 to $500.

Canon Mini DV: This is another small camcorder, but this one offers 16:9 widescreen image - the proportions of a movie screen, not a TV screen. It has a nice bright screen, and is a good camera for novice users. However, there is the issue of a rather short battery life. Price ranges from $300 to $500.

JVC Everio Digital Camcorder: No need for tapes or DVD discs with this camera. With 30 gigabytes of electronic memory you can record up to seven hours of video. The battery lasts only about 50 minutes, but the movies it takes can be very high quality, depending on the compression selected. Ranges from $750 to $950.

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