How to Create Better Home Movies


Just because your digital camera or tablet can capture HD video doesn’t mean you’re the next Akira Kurosawa or Spike Jonze.  But there are steps you can take to make your films more enjoyable to watch so they’re not only enjoyable for you and your family to view again, but they might even be bearable for others to watch as well. Here’s how to create better home movies on the fly:

Don’t skimp– Sure, smartphones make it easy to take videos on the fly, and even tablets can take HD video, but there’s a reason you don’t often see news crews around town holding up their phones or iPads – they’re not best-suited for the job.  If you’re going to be taking lots of videos, invest in a camera that suits your needs that’s designed to be a camera first and foremost.  Then figure out if you need additional features such as external mics, tripods or accessories, and how you will best want to store and edit your creations.

Experiment with your equipment – Spend some time taking videos and learning all your camera’s settings and nuances, so by the time you are ready to film important events, using the equipment is second nature and you can focus on getting the shots you want.

Let There Be Light – Don’t forget the light situation, whether you’re shooting with natural sun, indoors or even providing supplemental lights.  Lighting is the difference between a good shot and a great shot, and also between a great shot and a poor shot.  Don’t backlight your subjects, and even in broad daylight consider using your own light source to enhance foreground and background colors.

Notice Your Surroundings – You may be pleased as punch that you’ve got a great family moment captured at Disneyland, but you may have missed that it was happening right in front of a row of trash cans.  Wherever possible, be aware of your backgrounds and the people in them, and try and best frame your shots, or coordinate the action to take place somewhere that captures the feeling of the location.

Sound Advice – Consider that more than likely, you’ll want to hear the action as well as see it, so make sure you’re recording at a close distance to your subject matter, or that you can pick up the noise you’re looking for.  And be aware of unwanted sounds as well, there’s many a sporting event video with footage of the big play that has nothing but parental encouragement as the audio.

Go Easy On The Zoom and Pans – Nothing ruins a perfectly good video like an ill-timed zoom.  Just when your daughter scores a goal, you decide to zoom in, causing blurry, rapid-fire motion that would make even the Blair Witch sick to her stomach and will help ensure you miss the shot.  If pros zoom at all, it’s very slow and calculated, and most will zoom all the way in and ensure proper focus before even starting to record, then after they pull out and begin taping they slowly zoom into their subject.  You can see how that’s not best –suited for fast-paced action.  Go easy on the panning, too, and if you must move from one focus to another continuously, go as slow as you think you can, and then go a little bit slower.

Learn How to Edit – Most PCs these days come with some standard editing software, and for a couple hundred bucks you can get more serious programs with even greater effects and audio mixing.  When filming, focusing on getting the shots and angles you want, but don’t just post the raw footage to YouTube.  Spend a few minutes in an editing program bringing it all together, and the result will be a video that’s much more pleasant for everyone to watch.

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About author

Johner Riehl

Johner Riehl is a freelance writer focusing on families, technology and online safety. As founder and editorial director for and, sites that provide reviews and recommendations geared towards families, he examines hundreds of family-friendly games and apps every year. He’s also host of Parent Savers, a podcast aimed at helping parents of newborns, infants and toddlers. TWITTER: @FamilyTechDad

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