Tips for Shooting a Holiday Video

Videoguys’ Tips for Shooting
Family/Home/Holiday Video

Here are some Holiday shooting tips to make your family videos more enjoyable to watch.

Shooting a holiday family home video can be a fun activity and something to treasure for years to come. Holiday home videos are great to send to family members who are not able to visit the actual event. And today you can shoot video on not just a camcorder, but your iPhone or cell phone, still camera, webcam, or pocket size solid-state digital video cameras. No matter what you shoot with, you’ll find the tips in this guide helpful. After reading it you will be able to make more interesting and enjoyable videos for your friends and family to watch. So have a great holiday, enjoy your Holiday meals and be thankful for all the things you have. Shoot some great video, do a little editing (or a lot ;-), then post your video on YouTube, Facebook or your favorite video sharing website for all to see!

If you’re like me, you shoot tons of video of your family. I’ve got hours and hours of videotape of my kids. Over the past 16 years I’ve learned a thing or two about getting the best possible footage. No matter how cool your NLE system is and how many awesome special effects you can add, the bottom line is this:

The video is only as good as the video you shoot!

If the quality of the video is poor, then no amount of editing is going to make it look better. By shooting better and getting more cinematic, your videos will look better and the editing will be easier! So here are a bunch of really useful tips and tricks hat will help you shoot better video and capture the moments.

When shooting the kids, get down to their level.
Especially the really young ones. The video will look so much better from their perspective. It’s kind of silly to watch video of the tops of your kids heads. But if you are 6 feet tall and they are under 4 feet, that’s exactly what you get. Another added benefit of getting down low is that you will also get their little voices better. Here are some great examples of kids eye view technique.

We like to pile the boxes of gifts around the kids. When you get the camcorder down low and straight on, you really get the magnitude of just how cool it is for them. It’s even better when they go to grab the biggest present they can carry!!

My son had a little stool/bench in his room. I would put the camera on the bench and then get down on the floor and play with him. One day I got what to this day is in my best video moment. There I was banging on a basketball and Max would giggle every time I hit it. He started laughing so hard that at one point, both Max and the ball roll over!! It’s a classic video moment. If an adult had been standing and shooting, you would never have gotten to see how he gradually lost his balance.

We have our kids birthday parties at these special gyms or party centers. They have all kinds of cool activities for the kids. One of the things they do is play with a parachute. Most people just point down and shoot. The result is lots of parachute and very little kids. Not very interesting. Next time try getting down low. If the room is bright enough, get under the parachute with the kids. Or go high! I climbed up on top of one of the gym sets and shot some great footage of all the kids playing around the gym. Don’t zoom – use these high up shots for wide angles that get you a large group of children.

Last time went to Disney World I took my camcorder and held it underhand at the eye level of my 5 year old daughter. I followed about 10 feet behind her and my wife as they traveled throught he crowds. What a cool perspective. It really lets you appreciate how grand it all is to see it from their perspective – especially when they ran into Mickey and some of his friends.

If you shoot with an iPhone or you have one of those super cool GoPro Hero sports cameras, check out the Tiffen Steadicam Smoothee. It’s a small, compact, light weight solution for shooting super smooth videos with sexy camera moves!

Small kids have small voices
Keep in mind that these small voices can easily get drowned out by background noise, adults talking and bigger children playing. Get as close as possible to them – this will give you the best results with your on camera mic. If you have small children of your own, consider investing in one of our Azden shotgun mics. The SGMX shotgun mic is only $99.95. Use it and you will get much better audio quality in these situations.

Speaking of kids – here’s a great family project – Make a DVD Yearbook to give to friends and family!
We did this last year and we plan to do it again every year. I put together a 1 hour DVD highlighting the year we had. I went through the years worth of footage and picked out the stuff I liked best. I also had my older kids “write” their own script for the holiday greeting and introduction. We spent a few days rehearsing it and 4 takes later we had a really adorable first play for the DVD. This year I’m adding special “Bonus” material to the DVD. I let the kids create a few ‘outtake’ scenes in addition to some of the moments I caught on tape over the year. Now that this has become an annual project and event, it’s getting easier to do. I make sure to log my footage over the course of the year that I plan on using.

Get some family history on tape.
This is a great time to get the older generation to pass along great stories to the new generations. Don’t make it a formal interview. Just set the camcorder up (a tripod is great) and have the kids ask grandma about what it was like when she was a kid. If you can, get some shots of the kids as they hear these stories. Their reactions can be priceless. Once again adding an Azden wireless microphone or shotgun mic can greatly improve your audio quality.

Shoot to edit.
That means leave the camera rolling. I can’t even begin to tell you how much great footage is lost because you hit pause too early. Life isn’t scripted or staged. Things happen when they happen.
Shooting to edit also means thinking about your final production while you shoot. I try to shoot a lot of very wide angle shots and close-ups. I find that these shots make great cut-aways when I have some long footage that needs to be broken up for pacing. As an example, at certain gatherings you may have a family member who likes to make a toast or tell some stories around the dinner table. I set up my shot and then let the camera roll. When he is done I shoot a few wide angle shots from various angles and some close-ups of people just talking and reacting. When I get to editing, I’ll use these shots to break up the monotony of a talking head for 5 minutes. The result is much more enjoyable to watch.

Get some establishing shots before the crowds arrive
These shots are great for transitions, title backgrounds and cut aways. I recommend shooting 5 to 10 second clips. Get the decorations, the table settings, the presents piled high. If you are lucky enough to be having a white Christmas, don’t forget to shoot the snow from both the outside of the house and from a couple of the windows looking out.

There’s a ton of great video going on in the kitchen.
All the hustle and bustle. The potential for spills, thrills and chills. Don’t get in the way, but find a spot where you can just leave the cam going for 5 or 10 minutes. You’ll edit it all down, but you may get some really great gems.

A burning candle and flickering lights make great transitions.
End a scene by panning onto a candle or lights. Rather then just a cut, de-focus (ie make the image blurry). Stop shooting. Now go to a new scene. Begin with a blurry shot and then focus. Great for transitioning from the dinner table to the tree (or Menorah).

Here’s one of my favorites tips for travel video.
Most points of interest have a sign or monument. I like to frame a wide angle shot that include the sign in a corner of the video. Then I zoom all the way into the sign. I roll for about 5 seconds, then slowly zoom out and pan. It takes some practice to get it fluid, but once you master the technique you can use it over and over.