Aren’t all those videos we take of our families on our cameras and phones so cute?
We take them, watch them a few times and then seem to lose them in cyberspace (or in my case, they just consume all the memory on my phone…).
I love finally getting around to doing something with the videos, my favorite project of which is turning all those videos into fun montages.
When I first decided to pull together our videos, I didn’t have a clue where to start. How to keep everything organized? What programs to use? How much work is involved and where to find the time? It all seemed overwhelming.
I knew the Apple enthusiasts used iMovie, but we have a PC. I know I know. Almost blasphemy. From someone with a creative passion, I’m a PC fan through and through. Don’t forget, I’m also an accountant, which explains the PC affinity.
We used to have a Mac. And I still have an iPhone. But Microsoft Office on a Mac is horrendous, and I actually enjoy using Excel and Word for certain personal things. I also use a PC at work, so I like the continuity from work to home. But I digress…
If you’re interested in turning all those various clips and videos into more substantial movies, rest assured you can definitely do it. It takes a small time commitment, but it’s totally doable and something you can fly through in a couple of hours (I like to do it during nap time on the weekends).
I’ve got all the details below to help you pull together the pieces to make your own family videos shine.
And if you happen to be a blogger or business owner, this all applies to making videos for blogs and social media as well!
A wide array of options are available for recording videos. You can use something as simple as your smart phone. I use my DSLR camera (a Canon 70D) and this 50mm lens. The DSLR, as you might expect, provides better quality than a smart phone, but it also comes at a higher price. No matter what tool you use to record the videos, just be sure you can save the videos to your computer and you’re set to go.
Saving and Organizing Videos
I find it’s helpful to take photos and videos off my camera or phone once a month or once every other month. Depending on how often you take photos and videos, this might be more and less frequent.
To keep them all organized, there are plenty of options that can work. As one idea, I save all my photos and videos by year and then by month. For January 2016, for example, I have a folder called “16 01 Life Misc”. Within this folder, I have a folder for videos and a folder for photos. When I have a significant event with lots of photos, like a big trip or family function, I make a special folder called “16 02 Los Angeles” for our trip to Los Angeles in February 2016, for example. Naming the folders by year and then by month ensures they automatically save in chronological order, which works for me.
You can save your photos and videos on your computer hard drive, an external drive (like this flash drive I use) or a cloud storage system like iCloud or Dropbox. I prefer Dropbox over something like iCloud because it’s not tied to a specific operating system, and I can access it from any kind of computer. None of these options are free beyond a limited amount of storage, but any method (hard drive, cloud, etc…) will cost a minimum fee of some sort. I pay a small annual fee for our Dropbox space and like that I can also access it from my phone.
Movie Making Software
Most often, iMovie is the default movie making software recreational movie makers like to use. I haven’t used it but I hear it’s great and easy to use. As I mentioned earlier, though, I’m a fan of PCs and don’t have a Mac.
Turns out, Windows offers a free program called Windows Movie Maker (at least it came “free” with our paid Windows operating system). Low and behold, it’s quite good. Although it hasn’t been as touted as I might expect, Microsoft seems to be catching up to our good old friend, The Fruit, in certain areas where it has traditionally lagged, like recreational movie making for Joe Schmoes like me.
On the toolbar below, you can see that you can change the video volume, modify the speed and trim the length of the clips with relative ease.
Windows Movie Maker is really intuitive and easy to use. My videos aren’t going to be winning the Cannes film festival anytime soon, but I finished my very first video montage (music and everything) in about three hours. That included some Googling and Help section searches to figure out how to use the program, searching for the right song in iTunes, and pulling together all the pieces in Movie Maker. Since then, I’ve made several in under an hour (including saving the videos from my camera, organizing the videos, picking out music, etc…)
Whether you use a Mac or a PC, iMovie and Movie Maker are both really intuitive and easy to use. Don’t let the software trip you up out of fear it’s too complicated to use.
What About Sound
Sometimes the original sound from the video is relevant to maintaining the memories. Other times, a montage with music overlay creates a fun cohesive story for the whole event.
The movie making software makes it easy to choose one song to play during the whole connected movie of videos and clips. When you want the sound from the original video, however, it’s easy to fade out the music during that particular section to hear the words in the video and then fade the music back in if and when you want it to overlay the videos. (I did this toward the end of the DIY Confetti video at the bottom of this post.)
When making these montages, I generally prefer to add a music overlay to string together the disparate videos. For the movies I have made, the music helped to make the string of videos feel more cohesive. But it’s certainly a matter of preference and context.
Here are two great options for music, depending on your needs.
The Fruit still wins the battle of providing music. When I wanted a particular song, I downloaded it from iTunes. You can then upload it from your computer into Movie Maker and you’re good to go.
Due to copyright laws, you can’t make money off of these videos when using iTunes. The iTunes download doesn’t buy the proper type of rights. But for purposes of fun, non-commercial family videos, go nuts.
If you want more wordless options or you’d like videos that you can use for commercial purposes, check out AudioBlocks. They have all sorts of music and sound effects that are easy to scan, find what you’re looking for, categorize for later use and download to your computer. With a membership, all downloads are royalty-free. I really like it a lot.
It’s not crazy expensive, but certainly not cheap and definitely not targeted toward sporadic personal use. I use Audioblocks to create videos for the blog (did you know I have a baby YouTube Channel?). It’s easy to use and has tons of sound options.
If you make lots of family movies and videos or are using the videos for a blog or other commercial purpose, definitely check it out. If, on the other hand, you’re only creating personal movies every once in a while, I’d recommend sticking with iTunes downloads.
Share on YouTube
Once you’ve made the video montage, share it with family and friends (of course)!
YouTube offers both public and private channels. I think this is the best option given the simplicity and price (whopping zero dollars). Google owns YouTube so you connect your personal channel with an existing Google/Gmail account. If you don’t already have one, they’re easy enough to create.
In addition to my Honestly Modern YouTube channel, I have a separate private YouTube channel for personal videos that I share with friends and family. It’s been really fun for us to share these with our families that all live far away.
Easy Tips for Better Movies and Montages
As I’ve made a handful of videos over the last several months, I’ve picked up a few easy tricks that make the movies smoother and better.
Record All Videos Horizontally
While you can record vertical videos on your phone, nearly all recreational video and movie making software and applications assume horizontal orientation. If you’re planning to make a movie from your videos, be sure to film all the videos horizontally. While I assume more advanced videographers can crop and modify orientation of videos, it’s not particularly simple in beginning movie making software.
Fade Frames Between Videos
Using the fade option in the edit function creates a more seamless transition between clips as you piece together videos from various parts of the event, trip or occasion you’re highlighting in the video.
Add a Title Page and Ending Credits
Opening and closing pages with text help give context to the video when you’re watching it down the road. Windows Movie Maker automatically adds the extra slides at the beginning and end when you set the frames to fade during transition. Adding text is also quite simple.
Text Overlays During the Movie
When it makes sense, you can also add text overlays over the video to describe important parts or areas where you want to give context to the memory. In the video below, I added several text overlays to help with instructions. You won’t likely have instructions on personal family movies, but I thought this could help illustrate simple edit options.
Most likely, the beginning and ending of the music you choose won’t perfectly align with the length of your video. Fading the music volume in at the beginning of the video and out at the end of the video enhances the finished feel of the movie. It also gives the viewer audible indications of the beginning and end of the video so these portions don’t feel unexpectedly cutoff or incomplete. To me, this very small change made a really big difference.
Below, you can see the Music Edit functions have a simple and straightforward tool bar to make the changes easy.
You Can Definitely Do This
Before taking an hour or two to figure out how to make these videos, it completely intimidated me. I remember sitting in a blog conference about a year ago listening to a speaker talk about the growth of video. I barely listened, writing it off as something outside of my comfort zone. I’ll never do that, I thought…
Making just a few movies taught me I how wrong I was. The software companies have made movie making intuitive and easy for all of us.
If you’re curious about video or have been thinking about trying it out, definitely give it a shot. Be sure to give yourself a good window of uninterrupted time the first time you try it out. But you can definitely do it!
If you give it a go, let me know how it works and if you have any questions.
Good Luck and Happy Filming!
Here’s the most recent DIY Confetti video I made for the blog that I mentioned above!