Craft a Movie out of Memories
(In short: this guide shows you how to take a large, unedited video file, cut it into clips and arrange those clips by category. It’s geared towards those who have plenty of tapes or DVDs of their own filming, but don’t know quite what to do with them.)
To see the short video series which I created using the following method, visit http://schreibendepot.wordpress.com/2008/08/23/jofvc/ .
I would take an educated guess and say that 70 percent of American families have some sort of video recording device that they bring along on vacations and use around the home. Of those, I’d say that 70 percent do next to nothing with the stacks of tape that they create.
Capturing video is easy enough; taking those hour-long movies of beach trips and birthday parties to the next level is not. I used to be content to leave my recordings sitting on a shelf or compressed into DVDs, telling myself, “I’ll come back to them, some day.” I never did, of course. Watching uncut, unedited video is a little like poking around in a landfill for diamonds. You have to sit through a lot of lackluster footage before getting to the actual memories.
The good news in all of this is that editing and saving your movies onto a computer is rather simple, if a little time-consuming. The following is a general guide for creating a structured, abridged tape out of an hour’s worth of raw footage.
Step 1: Connect camera to computer
This first task gets easier every year as camcorders turn more and more computer friendly. If you’re using an analog VCR (in other words, one that does not use digital tapes), you’ll need to get some sort of adapter. Otherwise, the following instructions should be more or less comprehensive:
Hard disk cameras—since your video is already saved into an internal hard drive, you should have no trouble getting your precious memories onto your computer. A USB connector or Firewire cable should do the job.
Digital video cameras—this is the category that my camcorder falls into. If your computer supports Firewire, consider buying a linking cable for fast, simple data transfer. Otherwise, a USB port or an SD card (should there be a slot in your devices) should function just as well.
DVD video cameras—if your machine saves video directly onto a DVD, you’ve either got the easiest setup or the hardest. It all depends on whether your computer has a functioning DVD reader, which would allow it to save the data on your disk to your hard drive. If not, check your instruction manual to see if the information can be transferred by means of a cable. Consider purchasing an external or internal DVD drive for your machine; their simplification of the uploading process more than makes up for the cost.
Step 2: Import the video
In any case, you’ll want to import your tape, DVD or digital media into some sort of program. Most amateur filmographers (like me) will find Windows Movie Maker to be an acceptable entry level program; it should have come installed with your computer. (Mac users, I hear, will be pleasantly surprised by iMovie.)
Since I’m one of the brainwashed millions who uses Microsoft, I’ll supply the directions for uploading a video to Movie Maker. Once you’ve gone into your Programs > Accessories folder and started up the software, go to File > Import or locate the prompt at the left of the window. If your camera is turned on, set to playback mode and successfully connected, you should see your device listed as a source for imported footage. Follow the wizard until your video has been saved onto the program.
(I’ve circled the Windows Movie Maker “import from Digital Video Camera” prompt in red on the neighboring picture. This will probably be the easiest way to import footage.)
Step 3: Beginning the editing process
In the interests of length, I’m not going to list directions for cutting, splicing and merging video. Those are skills that you should spend a little time with the software to master. Instead, I’m going to provide a brief template for sorting out your video. Feel free to follow these directions as liberally as you wish.
First, you’ll want to think about the categories your footage might comprise. I’m coming back from Tokyo as I write this, armed with a few hours of film. My categories included things like “People/Crowds,” “Shops,” “Temples,” “Nature” and “Cutesy Japan.”
Once you have a list, go to your movie editing program and create a title clip for each category. (Windows Movie Maker users: See Tools > Titles and Credits.) Label each with its corresponding category name so that, when the clip is played, the category appears as the title.
This seems like a nice touch for the audience, but it’s even more beneficial for you. These little clips will act as “video bookends” with which you can sort all of your footage.
Step 4: The sorting begins
(Note: if any of the following confuses you (I got a little mixed up just reading over it), see the caption for the picture at the bottom of this step. It offers a visual representation of what I’m trying to say.)
Here’s where the steps begin to get a little more concrete. You have your title clips that display the various categories of your film, along with the raw footage itself. The following step is both the simplest and the longest: chop! Split your continuous film into a series of small clips, each of which corresponds with one of the categories. If there’s filler in between (e.g. you adjusting the camera or your son videotaping a block of wood), delete it. Condense the unabridged movie into a series of little clips, thus making the movie denser and easier to sort.
Now take each piece of film and drag it to the immediate right of its corresponding category title. (This is done, not surprisingly, by clicking and dragging things around on the “Timeline” near the bottom of the screen, assuming that you’re using Movie Maker.) Continue this process until every single clip on the timeline has been positioned right of the category that it falls into. This is what I mean by “sorting.”
(The picture near this text should make things a little clearer. I’ve circled what I mean by a “category title” or a “title clip” in black; it’s also circled in green on the timeline. Next to that green circle are the clips which correspond with that category (e.g. my temple clips), which are circled in yellow. Note how they’re just to the right of the title. You can also see how all the clips on the timeline are divided up and sorted.)
Step 5: Your choice!
There are a few roads you can take from here. The first, and simplest, would be to save the movie as is. Your final product would be a nice sequence of title clips and their corresponding themes, all in order.
That’s just the tip of the prodigal iceberg, though. You could copy and paste every category’s worth of clips into its own separate movie, then save all the movies individually. You could outright delete an entire category if it seems bland or miniscule compared to the others. If you know your way around your video editing program, why not create a table of contents at the beginning that lists the start time in the video for each category, thereby allowing the audience to…
There really isn’t any way to go wrong. After all, you’ve already taken a clump of video camera footage and turned it into a categorized, abridged, digitized production. In today’s world of shoot-and-forget filming, that’s a giant step to take.