Need help getting started with making home movies

Discussion in 'Amateur Video Production' started by Michelle Cox, Nov 9, 2004.

  1. Michelle Cox

    Michelle Cox Guest

    Sorry for the vague topic, but I have a lot of different questions and
    didn't want to flood the newsgroup with posts. I've been doing as much
    research on my own as I can, but I keep getting stuck. Too many things I
    Google on just bring up page after page of people selling products and not
    the info I'm looking for. So I'd appreciate any pointers in the right

    1) Shooting the video

    I'm not looking to become a professional filmmaker, but I would like to be
    able to make home movies that won't make people groan when I pull them out.
    :) I checked out some books from the library that give pointers on
    filmmaking, but they're all from the '80s or older. While much of it is
    still useful, I'd love to find some modern sources as well. Websites would
    be especially helpful, but I'm open to buying a couple of books if there's
    some really good ones out there.

    2) Workflow

    I have a lot of footage that I shot last Christmas when I got my camcorder
    that I'm finally getting around to doing something with. When I initially
    jumped in, I just captured the entire tape and worked off that in MM2. But
    then I started thinking about how I'm going to archive this and it seems to
    make more sense to archive only the footage that I want to keep and in
    logical groupings, not just whatever happened to land on the same tape. But
    if I split it up now to archive it, the MM2 project will become invalid
    should I ever want to use it again. Since I've moved on from MM2, it's a
    moot point on stuff I've already done, but I'd like to do things right in
    the future. So I'm wondering how others do it? Do you bring in the
    footage, delete the crap, and break it up into logical groupings, and
    archive that before doing any sort of movie making on it? That's what I was
    thinking would be the best plan, but I'd like to hear from people with
    experience on that.

    3) Editing the video

    I started out using Movie Maker which is a nice program but a bit limiting
    in what you can do. Since then I've been looking to see what else I can get
    for the under $100 range. Pinnacle 9 looked good but I found I didn't like
    it much when I ran the trial. Then I downloaded the trial of Sony Vegas
    Movie Studio (Used to be Screenblast, I guess) and really liked it. For the
    most part, it's pretty intuitive but there's some things I'm not quite
    getting and don't know where to turn for help. Movie Maker has its own
    newsgroup and Papa John's wonderful pages but I can find nothing similar for
    SVMS. The couple of forums I found were really inactive. Anyone know of
    any good websites / forums for this software?

    Also, today I came across a link to Video Explosion Deluxe
    which looks identical to SVMS in interface (a review said they use the same
    technology) but comes with more effects and is a bit cheaper. I haven't
    been able to find anything that does a feature comparison between the two.
    Is there any disadvantage to getting VED over SVMS? Seems like you get more
    for less, which always makes me wonder what the catch is. :) Unfortunately,
    it doesn't seem possible to get a trial of VED or I'd just try it out for

    4) Archiving and outputting movies

    All the posts I've found say it's best to archive in the original DV format.
    But this only fits 20 minutes on a DVD. 3 DVDs are cheaper than one DV
    tape, but more hassle. Since a lot of the posts that are coming up are
    older, I'm wondering if there's anything new on this? Any new
    recommendations for fitting an hour of video on a DVD and still have it good
    for editing? Or is keeping it in DV still the recommended practice?

    As far as making the DVDs, SVMS comes with DVD Architect and VED comes with
    MyDVD. Are these ok for making home movies? I'm not expecting professional
    quality results with bundled software but I also don't want to spend hours
    making a movie only to burn it with something that will do a horrible job at
    compression and make the whole thing look crappy.

    Ok, I think I'm done with my book. :) I'd love to hear about any resources
    for beginners you have, even if it doesn't specifically answer one of these
    questions. I may only be making home video, but I want to do the best job I
    can within my budget, so I'm willing to do lots of reading on the subject.
    I just need some help finding the nuggets of information under the sea of
    ads that come up whenever I Google a question.


    Michelle Cox, Nov 9, 2004
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  2. Michelle Cox

    Kevin Guest

    Hi Michelle! I used to be a regular here (more or less) but I've mostly been
    lurking lately, but I'll give you what insights I do have...
    Websites and books are always a good resource, but I think a lot of it just
    comes with practice too. You should ask yourself, when playing back your
    footage, WHY would people groan when watching this? I bet you can narrow
    it down to a few things like:

    -shots way too LOOOONG and boring, or conversely too short and choppy
    -shaky shots (very obvious to detect.. where's the dramamine??)
    -overuse of the zoom lens
    -little or no thought to composition, or "firehosing" everything in sight
    -too dark, too light, too quiet, too noisy, ...

    My personal pet peeve is people who talk too much from behind the viewfinder.
    Your voice sounds very unnatural compared to everyone else, and usually
    people who do that make lame jokes or tell their kids to do cute things or
    whatever. It's my personal opinion that if you're behind the camera, then
    as far as what I see in the video, you don't exist. That's the way it should
    be. If you want to be in the video, use a tripod or get someone else to tape
    for a while.

    Actually that's probably a philosophy that would help you get better shots.
    "You don't exist." Tape in such a way to be unobtrusive, so that when I
    watch your tape, I see the birthday party or vacation but am not aware of the
    person behind the camera. Shaky shots, overuse of zoom, stuff like that, all
    jar me out of the "story" and remind me that someone was operating the camera.

    I also like to watch TV or movies with an eye for new and interesting camera
    angles and stuff like that.
    I bring it in, split it out into individual video files for scenes (using
    tools like Scenalyzer, or iMovie on the Mac) and delete the junk. Then,
    yes, I will think about moving the remaining files into separate folders
    for different types of shots (lake shots, food shots, people shots, etc.)
    I think if you're serious about this (even as a serious hobby) you want to
    look into a good editor like Premiere (Elements?) or Media Studio Pro or
    Vegas Video. Pinnacle is quite decent too. I would personally stay away
    from the "no name" video editors.
    I keep all my DV tape originals in a drawer. The finished, edited videos
    I burn onto a DVD and also archive onto another DV tape.
    This won't help you in the slightest, but I should point out that after a
    number of years of working with Media Studio Pro on my Windows machines (and
    the DVD MovieFactory software that it comes with) I have since switched to
    Apple, running on a Powerbook with Final Cut Express and iDVD. I must say
    that iDVD makes the nicest looking DVDs (with motion menus, etc.) I've seen
    out of Pinnacle, Ulead, etc.

    Hope that helps and/or inspires..

    Kevin, Nov 9, 2004
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  3. Michelle Cox

    sgordon Guest

    : I'm not looking to become a professional filmmaker, but I would like to be
    : able to make home movies that won't make people groan when I pull them out.

    I can offer some observations here. Both of my grandfathers took lots of
    home movies back in the 1940s and 1950s, which I now have. One, who I'll
    call Grandfather "A", took movies that we all love to watch, and the other,
    who I'll call Grandfather "B", took movies that we all, as you say, groan
    at the thought of watching.

    The difference was simple. Grandfather "A" took movies of him and his family
    members doing ordinary, daily activities. The kids skating down the street,
    mom cooking dinner, him washing his bread truck, that sort of thing. They
    are now fascinating and nostalgic images of the past the everyone loves
    to remember. Grandfather "B" took pictures of the ocean, long scans of
    trees, vacation pictures, hours of pictures of the grand canyon, etc.
    Basically, "B" took pictures that nobody cares about because, while they
    might have seemed significant at the time, have nothing to do with our
    family... another bad picture of the grand canyon, or yet another long
    scan of the lake, just isn't worth watching. But seeing the front yard
    before the trees got big, or grandma using the old washing machine, or
    the kids fighting over the hose, just gets more fun to watch every year.

    I learned a lot just comparing the two sets of films. Ironically,
    grandfather "B" was highly educated, and grandfather "A" drove a bread
    truck. Yet "A" had a natural insight into what was worth capturing and
    what was not. The secret was capturing peoples' ordinary lives.

    sgordon, Nov 9, 2004
  4. Michelle,

    First I think that Kevin and sgordon gave you some excellent comments.

    I may have some additional comments further down inside your post:

    First I usually decide on which kind of viewers I am aiming at. You cannot
    satisfy all and if you aime at everybody most viewers will be bored. You
    have to make a choice here.
    A tripod and avoiding zooming all the time are of major importance! Stop
    recording, use the zoom and then start recording again. There are exceptions
    from this though but not so often.
    Shooting scenes long enough too make editing easier is also essential. You
    need several seconds on each side for editing. However, it is essential that
    the edited scene length is just long enough to keep viewer interest.
    Also - when shooting - never stop recording when there is some essential
    sound. It could for instance be a break in somebodys comment. You may want
    to use this audio track while using several adequate video clips along with
    I normally capture all my source clips for the current project. Takes a lot
    of disk space. (Have 700 Gb for that)

    I use Canopus Edius and Adobe Premiere Pro (started with Premiere 4.2). Both
    editors are highly competent. I prefer Edius but then it is preferable to
    use Canopus hardware as well. This gives a significant boost to RT.
    Edius is very stable and Premiere Pro (a completely rewritten version of the
    previous versions 6.5) is also fairly stable. Earlier versions than Premiere
    Pro had stability problems.
    My DVD is ok for making a DVD but does not allow much authoring. Adobe
    Encore is my favorite but there are other competent authoring programs.

    I keep my source material on DV cassettes. Also I keep my movies on DV
    cassettes as masters.
    I also keep track of all my source clips in Excel where each cassette is
    numbered and each clip is noted with its timecode. It takes a while to
    organize this but you only do it once and it certainly helps when searching
    for a source clip in the furture. I keep most of my recorded video - you
    never know what demand might pop up some time in the future.

    Finally, I think Videomaker might be a good source for tips about making
    home videos. They have monthly views on various aspects of making video
    movies as well as reviews of new equipment in this field.

    Good Luck!


    Skanor, Sweden
    Peter O Sjostrand, Nov 10, 2004
  5. Michelle Cox

    Michelle Cox Guest

    Thanks :)
    Hehe... I've found those out already with just the little bit of shooting
    I've done. Especially the shakey part. Walking and taping is bad, very
    bad. :) What I'm looking for is more tips on how to tell a story with the
    video. Not totally scripted movie type stuff because this is just video of
    family, but I still would like it to be interesting. The book I got at the
    library talks about setting the scene with using a long shot, then a medium
    shot, then a close up and things like that.

    Yeah, found that one out, too. I've been editing some footage I shot of my
    grandfather discussing his carvings. He's good at talking without prompting,
    so there's not a _lot_ of me, but every once and a while I make a "yes I'm
    listening" type of noise and it's really loud. I've been trying to edit
    those out as much as I can.
    That's a good idea.
    That Sceneanalyzer looks interesting, but I I still need to buy an NLE
    program, so extra programs aren't in the budget right now. I found a
    freeware program called WinDV that does a pretty good job of chopping things
    up using time stamps, though.

    Unfortunately, those aren't in my budget right now. I need something less
    than $100. Sony's Vegas Movie Studio is at the top of my list and I'm using
    the trial right now. It seems like a pretty capable program for the beginer
    and I can always move to Vegas Video in the future if finances allow.
    With DV tapes running $5 each and only holding an hour, I'm thinking only
    stuff that I absolutely can't lose is going to go back onto tape. The rest
    is going to be on DVD and I'll just have to hope for the best.
    Yeah, buying a Mac isn't an option for me. :) They've got some wonderful
    stuff for video and photos, but buying a new computer is _definitely_ not in
    the budget right now. LOL!
    It does. Thank you.

    Michelle Cox, Nov 10, 2004
  6. Michelle Cox

    Michelle Cox Guest

    The one advantage of shooting landscapes is they don't run and hide from the
    camcorder. :) Seriously, though, I know what you mean. I look back at old
    photos I've taken and the insane amount of scenic ones are all boring and I
    wonder why I kept them. This was before I got into photography as a hobby,
    so not only are they boring, they aren't even good scenics. LOL! The ones
    with people, no matter how badly composed, exposed, etc, are much more
    precious. Good thing to remember now that I've embarked on video. Thanks
    for the reminder.

    Michelle Cox, Nov 10, 2004
  7. Michelle Cox

    Michelle Cox Guest

    Yes, they were quite helpful.
    Well, the viewers will be family. I'm strictly doing home movies, not
    trying to make amateur films or anything like that. I just want to make
    _good_ home movies. :)
    Yeah, I discovered shaky and too zoomy video the first time I looked at my
    footage and quickly put a stop to that. :)
    This is the sort of thing I'm not too sure about. How long is too long?
    When I'm looking at the video over and over working on editing it, I'm
    already bored with it. So it's hard to judge. Do you find you get better at
    judging with practice, or is it better to call someone over to watch it and
    ask what they think?
    This is one of the biggies I need help on. I often have interesting audio
    paired with bad video and vice versa. I'm not very clear on how to go about
    the editing process so that everything is mixed together nicely like you see
    in, for example, a news program. Any suggestions on where I could go to get
    some tips on this?
    Yikes, that's quite a bit. Nearly to a terabyte there. LOL! I've got about
    150GB for video editing, so I have to shuffle stuff around more.
    Those are out of my budget, unfortunately. It's looking like Sony Vegas
    Movie Studio is what I'll go with unless I can find out more about Video
    I'm still not clear on all the terminology. What is it lacking with
    "authoring"? Is that where you build the menus? If so, I'm not too worried
    about that. I don't need really fancy menus for home video. I've played
    around a bit with the software that came with my burner (Easy Media Creator)
    and it does a good enough job of that for my needs. So if MyDVD is worse, I
    can always fall back to that.
    I found their website. Looks interesting.

    Michelle Cox, Nov 10, 2004
  8. Michelle Cox

    Kevin Guest

    I like reality-TV style (not much for the content, though) and I like watching
    documentaries like the civil-war shows they always have on PBS. They give me
    ideas for what types of shots to include when I'm out taping on vacation or
    Sounds good. Scenalyzer was only $33 when I bought it, and it had so many
    darned good uses that I still consider it the best $33 I ever spent on video
    editing software. It was a capture program, a time-lapse capture program
    (lock down the camera on the front dash of your car and go for a long drive
    on a long stretch of highway, and then capture it at 50x the original speed...
    what a rush!), a scene splitter, a scene previewer (to choose what to keep
    and what to trash), and a playback utility for exporting my finished,
    rendered DV file back out to tape.

    When I first started, my computer was evidently marginal for real-time
    video capture, and I found that there would be glitches in my video output
    when I played back the video from Pinnacle or from Media Studio Pro. With
    SCLive, though, there was never any glitch, so this soon became my default
    Not even Pinnacle Studio? I recall buying the "Studio DV" package which
    came with a firewire card as well as the Studio software for less than $99.
    Things may well be different now though.

    Oh well. Use what you like, as long as it works. My only concern would be
    (and maybe this doesn't bother you at all) that in a few years if those
    programs become defunct, or when you do move on to a "pro" NLE, will you
    still be able to access your old projects if you ever need to?
    I can understand that. In that case, DVD might well be your best bet,
    especially now with dual-layer burners and discs that will hold almost 9 gigs
    available. I think those discs are still too expensive, but like DVD-R's did
    they will drop in price rapidly.

    You might consider buying your DV tapes in bulk from places like, I think they'll work out to quite a bit less than
    $5 each.
    Hey, you never know. If you'd asked me a year ago if I'd ever consider
    giving up Windows to be on a Mac, I'd probably laugh in your face. But here
    I am... and I'm loving it. :)

    Anyway. Good luck.. and be careful, this hobby will draw you in, until
    soon you're wanting to buy a nicer video camera, maybe even a second camera,
    and then a nicer computer and nicer software and maybe a nicer tripod and
    microphone and.....
    Kevin, Nov 10, 2004
  9. Michelle Cox

    Kevin Guest

    I would say, yeah, ask for others' opinions. You're right, you do get bored
    with your own stuff. It gets tricky too as you're building up a video
    that's more than several minutes long. More than once I've started a video,
    used what I thought were a good clip length, and then, 5 or 6 minutes into
    the video, I decide to play back everything I have so far, and.. WHOA! Boring!
    Or maybe things started off too slow at the beginning and started to speed

    What I do a lot is edit to music. When I think about a video I think of the
    type of music I want to be underlaying it. Sometimes I will hear songs
    on radio or CD and the music will evoke scenes in my head. That will even
    help me to know what sort of scenes to shoot. And then when editing, the
    music will tell you how long a shot should be, and whether there should be
    a nice slow fade between shots, or not. Stuff like that.

    For personal use only, you can use any songs you want.. if you intend to
    give them away, that's a whole new world of royalty free stock music, etc.

    But when recording -- always err on the side of too long. You can always
    chop out bits later.
    You'll want a video editor capable of doing more than just splicing clips
    from end-to-end. The news videos and such make liberal use of edits in which
    the video is coming from one clip and the audio from another. There are lots
    of names for these sorts of edits -- insert edits, playing "B-roll", L-cuts
    and J-cuts, audio-leads-video and so on.

    I won't try to go into details -- someone else can, or you can read up on
    it in books or on the web -- but I think this is a subtle but powerful way
    to make your videos look nicer and have a polish to them.
    Whaaaaa? My first machine had 20 gigs for video storage, which I quickly
    upgraded to 60... then I started editing on laptops with 40 gig drives,
    including this Powerbook I'm typing on now... only last month did I finally
    give in and buy a new 160 gig drive.

    So don't feel bad ;)
    Yes, they have lots of great tips in their magazine, about lighting, editing,
    sound, and so on. I find that things start to repeat themselves after a
    while (how many articles do I really need telling me how to do a 3-point
    lighting setup for an interview?) so I would suggest that a one-year
    subscription will probably cover all the bases :)

    Good luck!
    Kevin, Nov 10, 2004
  10. Michelle Cox

    Michelle Cox Guest

    Hmm... A reason to watch reality TV... Never occured to me that it could be
    useful for something. ;)

    It does sound like a useful program. I'll put it on my wish list.
    I've got a P4 2.26, which seems to do fine on the capturing end of things.
    My 512MB of memory really bogs down at times, though. Unfortunately, Rambus
    is so damn expensive it's cheaper for me to upgrade my mobo than to add more
    memory to it.
    I tried Pinnacle Studio's trial and didn't care for it. I've also seen a lot
    of posts of people complaining about it.
    Well, Vegas Movie Studio is just a light version of Vegas Video, so I'm not
    too worried about it becoming defunct and I certainly hope they have a
    project upgrade path. That's something I need to look into, but they're
    stupid if they don't.
    Yeah, dual layer disks are still around $10 each. Hopefully they'll drop
    soon. I got a dual layer burner so I can use them when the prices are
    I'll check that out. Thanks.
    If you'd asked me a year ago if I'd consider a Mac, I'd have said hell no.
    Now my answer is sure, but I can't afford it. I wouldn't give up Windows...
    I'd just run one of each. Mac's are really nice for photo and video work,
    but there's stuff I like about PCs as well.
    Hehe. I can't afford to be putting too much money into video. My first
    love is still photography and that's where my spare cash goes. Video is
    strictly a family history / memories recording method for me. I'm just
    trying to get the basics that I need to make family videos that people won't
    dread watching. If I can do that, I'll be happy.


    Michelle Cox, Nov 10, 2004
  11. Michelle Cox

    Michelle Cox Guest

    Hmmm... Gonna have to volunteer my hubby, I guess :)
    Yeah, I'm trying to avoid using music in these. I don't plan on having them
    go outside the family, especially since I can't see anyone outside the
    family being interested in our home movies. :) But I'd rather not lock
    myself into something with copyrighted material on it, just in case.
    Heh... I think I have the too long bit covered. *Eyes hour long tape of
    brother in law learning to ski*
    Vegas MS has three audio tracks to put stuff on, so it should be able to
    handle it. I just need to figure out the best way of doing it. It's not so
    much the technical end I need help with as the more creative composition
    Any place in particular on the web? That's what I've been trying to get
    info on. I don't expect anyone to explain composition and editing to me in
    a post. I was trying to get people to point me to websites for that since I
    was having no luck on Google.
    I can't imagine doing this on 20GB... One DV tape is 13GB right there!
    I'll check first if the library has it.


    Michelle Cox, Nov 10, 2004
  12. Michelle Cox

    Mike Kujbida Guest

    Don't worry. Sony's not stupid. There is an upgrade path.
    Upgrade Vegas Movie Studio+DVD to Vegas 5 – $399.95
    Upgrade any version of Vegas Movie Studio+DVD, Screenblast Movie Studio, or
    VideoFactory software to Vegas software.
    Upgrade Vegas Movie Studio+DVD to Vegas+DVD – $599.95
    Upgrade any version of Vegas Movie Studio+DVD, Screenblast Movie Studio or
    VideoFactory software to Vegas+DVD software.

    BTW, there's a Movie Studio forum on the Sony site at

    Mike Kujbida, Nov 11, 2004
  13. Michelle Cox

    Mike Kujbida Guest

    In no particular order, here are a number of sites that I've found to be
    very useful as teaching/learning/resource sites. You might also want to
    start hanging around the newsgroup.

    Mike Kujbida, Nov 11, 2004
  14. Michelle Cox

    Michelle Cox Guest

    I bookmarked the lot of them and am checking them out. Thanks much!

    Michelle Cox, Nov 11, 2004
  15. Michelle Cox

    Michelle Cox Guest

    Actually, I was meaning upgrading the projects themselves to the full
    version of the software, but this is good to know, too. I'm currently
    debating between Sony Vegas Movie Studio and Adobe Premiere Elements. From
    what I'm hearing, with Adobe the projects are _not_ upgradable. That's a
    bit of a downside but, realistically, I'm probably never going to be able to
    go to the pro version anyway, so I guess it's not a terribly big deal.
    I've been there, but it doesn't seem to be very active. Not a lot of posts.


    Michelle Cox, Nov 11, 2004
  16. Michelle Cox

    Mike Kujbida Guest

    If by "upgrading the projects themselves to the full version of the
    software" you mean importing a Screenblast Movie Studio or VideoFactory
    project into Vegas, I'm not certain. I'd ask this question on the Sony
    Vegas forum as I know there are several users who have made the upgrade that
    you're considering and would be capab;le of answering this question.
    As far as Movie Studio vs Premiere Elements, I'm biased so I'd d say go with
    Movie Studio :)
    Download the trial versions and play with them though before you make a
    What I do find interesting is that the "Comparison Chart" at only
    compares Elements against Pinnacle Studio Plus 9 and Ulead VideoStudio 8.
    Is Adobe afraid of Sony's product?

    Mike Kujbida, Nov 11, 2004
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