Saturday, November 7, 2015

Tips for shooting and editing family videos - November 6, 2015

Last week, we talked about interviewing family members with a story to tell. This week, let’s talk about how to make a good video of the interview. Surprisingly, we can do a good job with just our smartphone.

Even if you do not want to record a family member’s memories, there might be times you will want to shoot a short video interview. Whenever I watch a reality show about a family, I always enjoy the interviews with the small children, and their unfiltered answers.

What a delight it will be for the parents long after the show goes off the air to have these memories. How fun it will be to show some of them at their wedding reception one day. We can interview our own children at different points of their lives or after major events. Talk to them a week after a vacation to find out what memories stuck. After a major family event, such as a wedding, interview them about their understanding and feelings about the event.

One of the favorite things I do when I video a wedding, is a pre-wedding interview done separately with the bride and groom.

The first thing to know about shooting a video with your camera is to hold the phone horizontally. Vertical videos look odd, while horizontal videos look more like the aspect ratio we are used to from television.

Also, a horizontal format lets you shoot two people side by side easier and more naturally.

While you can hold the camera, it is best if the camera were steady. You can mount your phone on a small tripod for stability.

In this week’s Link Post at, I link a number of tabletop tripods for cell phones. Most are under $10. And there are cell phone holders that will mount on a traditional tripod you might already own.

You can use the StoryCorp app we talked about last week or you can use the camera app on your phone, set to video to shoot the video.

You can set the camera a little out of the subject’s line of sight so they are not constantly reminded they are being videoed.

If your subject worries about rambling, assume them you can edit the account later if needed.

Your camera should pick up the sound adequately. A quiet room is essential. Go off to a private room or wait until the house is empty to conduct the interview.

It is important to test your setup before the person you want to interview arrives. Setup the camera as you’d like it and hold a practice interview with another person. When you play it back, check lighting, focus, composition and the sound to make sure it will be adequate. You would hate to shoot a compelling interview with horrible production values detracting from the story you are telling.

The interviewer should be willing to ask follow-up questions, but needs to concentrate on listening closely first.

Editing the video afterwards can take out awkward moments, interruptions, off topic discussions and just tighten up the interview. Also, some graphics can help with the storytelling. Perhaps photos found on the web in the public domain that show what the place and period was like that the subject is talking about.

Also, introductory titles are always useful.

There are free video-editing programs available that are easy to use. Mac users have iMovie included with their Macs. Microsoft Movie Maker is good for Windows 7 and 8. It is a little trickier for Windows 10 users. Movie Maker is not supported for Windows 10 and Microsoft has yet to release a free editor for it. is an online video editor that will work for this purpose.

Once you are done shooting the video, you can broach the subject of sharing it, if you haven’t already. Assure the subject their name does not have to be associated with the upload. Interviewers can be careful during the interview to make sure the person’s name is not used or can edit it out later.

Once the video is complete, you can upload it directly using the StoryCorp app. Or you can edit it on your computer and upload it to StoryCorp via their website. Or to Youtube if you want to share with the world or only those people you designate.

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