Making Home Videos Not Suck

Over Spring Winter Break, I took it upon myself to make sure my brother’s archery physics project video didn’t suck. Or at the very least give him some usable footage. I’ve always hated video projects in the high school and younger school regimes because they always tended to make for painful viewing. Here are my three biggest gripes:

1) Audio: If you have a video clip that you’re using, and nothing’s really happening in it, get rid of the audio track. Mute it, discard it, duck it. Whatever. Get rid of it. Unless you’re using an external microphone (which you probably not), all you’re going to add to the finished product is wind noise, electrical buzzing, and other random noises that will be glaringly discontinuous when you switch to a different shot.

2) Poorly Framed Shots: I know you’re not shooting national geographic documentaries, but can you please consider for 2 seconds what your camera is seeing? If you’re trying to focus on a single subject and you have a cluttered background, nothing will stick out. You can improve your odds of conveying your intended message by using a shallow depth of field, or by just picking a different angle. In archery, shooting a small, fast subject from the side at 30 FPS will results in poor visibility of the arrow. By shooting from in front (dumb) or behind (safer), the apparent motion of the arrow is reduced. Also, always get multiple shots from multiple angles. Watching people trying to make home movies in one take is like pulling teeth. And it won’t work. And it gets boring fast.

3) Mr. Unsteady Cam: Use a tripod. Even if you have to walk around, use a tripod. It’ll act like a counterweight, and help dampen out jerky motion. It also lets you setup shots with a fair amount of zoom, which are typically more exciting, focus attention on the subject, and enable great depth of field.

If I had my way, everybody would film and edit in the style of Top Gear. The number of shots they take, and their willingness to blend generic footage with actual action footage as filler, with complete disregard for realism or chronological accuracy, allows them to make 10 minute videos that keep you thrilled the entire time.

But since we live in a rather bland world… just please use a tripod… and a good microphone.

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