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Preserve those memories: 5 tips to make better home movies

You had a baby, and you have a cell phone, and you’ve taken a million video clips of your child doing everything—from crying to crawling, to eating spaghetti. How do you take these clips from taking up space on your phone, to something that you can share with your family and not feel like you’re forcing them to watch that “cute thing your baby did”?

Here are 5 tips to creating home movie memories your family will watch and re-watch for years and years to come.

1. Talk to the camera

That’s right, address the future viewer. Contrary to your belief while filming, the moment is as much about your emotional response as it is the thing your child is doing.

This will feel terribly awkward at first. Talk about where you are, what day it is, what time it is. Talk about what you’re feeling. You woke up tired and the baby was crying, but after you changed the diaper and sat him back down he gave you an earth shaking “love you” and you caught it on camera! Talk about how this feels for you.

Speak to the future version of your child, because after all, that’s who we are truly capturing these memories for, right? Talk to your child and tell them all the things that you are feeling in that moment. So that years from now, your children can get a perspective into who you are/were as a person.

2. Don’t shoot at the sun

If your subject is between you and the sun...move. Adjust yourself so that you’re shooting away from the sun.

Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, but be aware of where the sun is in relationship to you and your subject. This helps so that the viewer can see faces. Action is great, but the viewer truly desires facial interaction. That’s why close up shots in movies are so impactful. It allows the viewer to read subtle cues portrayed by the subject. Let the viewer in!

3. Move the camera around

Don’t just roll camera from your place in the chair. Get up close, then step back for a wide shot. Then move around the subject a little. Set the scene with your shots. Give us a wide to tell us where we are, then give us a close up to give us the emotional reaction. Then move to mediums. All of these different shots will help with the next step.

4. Trim the fat

Even if you have no experience with editing video together at all, there are mobile apps that can help you through the process.

iMovie for your iPhone or iPad is a great place to start. This will allow you to import the clips you’ve shot and arrange them in a way that feels interesting to you. Cut out the fat of the footage. There will always be fat in your footage. Your thumb in the first three seconds? The long wait for Jimmy to open his present? Just show me the good stuff.

Don’t get too attached. If you feel like you don’t need it—cut it. Add some music to set the mood or tell us what time period we’re in and add titles if you need to explain where you are or what you’re doing.

5. Share it

Export this newly created masterpiece out of your phone or other software and consider this your final piece describing the day’s events. For me, this even means getting rid of the original footage. Leaving me with a tangible final home movie for me to consume over and over again. Use YouTube to save it forever, (you can set it to private if you’d like) and enjoy your home movies over and over again as bite-sized “episodes” rather than clips.

Think of the moments of life as episodic stories. Yes, they may only be interesting to you and your immediate family but an episode called Christmas 2016 is much easier to watch over and over again than 48 individual clips of your children opening presents. It’s very easy, and it takes minimal extra effort, and you’ll have a legacy of memories to look back on.


John is a father of two young boys, a dedicated coffee drinker, a habitual storyteller and a commercial editor. He lives and works in Los Angeles with his wife, his boys and his neurotic dog.

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