While excavating my basement recently, I discovered a carton of ancient home movies my father shot, with my mother’s spidery handwriting identifying the subjects of the brittle and faded 8 and 16 mm reels.
Digging through the carton, I caught the ineffable whiff of the old film, evoking memories of our movie nights growing up. When we heard Dad in the basement making popcorn, my brother and I would run upstairs, change into our pajamas, and settle down on the sofa with our favorite treat.
Fifteen minutes in, Dad was cursing broken film or a burned-out bulb. A lot of the movies were scenes of holidays at home, my brother and I growing up, or family trips.
Amateur video has come a long way in the 60-plus years since he made those home movies. Anyone with a smartphone can shoot a video, and moments later, there it is on Facebook: family reunions, vacations, babies’ milestones, kids’ soccer games – and, of course, cats. Most of them (like my dad’s home movies) are interesting only to those who were there and, of course, grandparents. And the quality screams “amateur!”
When I was invited to lead Great Escape’s Travel Workshop in the Netherlands, I figured I’d just use the opportunity to take lots of photos. Videography, I thought, was not in my wheelhouse; in fact, I’d never even used the video setting on my DSLR.
But by the time Tom Reissmann had given our class the first lesson, I was hooked. Here’s some of what we learned in just six days:
- A reliable technique for taking smooth, 20-second clips
- How to pan, with and without a tripod
- Using iMovie or Microsoft MovieMaker to edit and stitch clips together, eliminating the boring bits
- Inserting titles, transitions and music
- The right equipment (not as much as you might think) to create high-quality professional travel videos that can put money in your pocket
- A 10-day plan for getting started
By week’s end, each of us had created a two-minute travel highlight video, and it was fun to see each person’s unique angle on what we had seen. Because we were a group of only 12, we had plenty of time for individual help and group critique.
Armed with our new skills, we put them to use right away back at home, and we continue to share our work on our private Facebook page.
The mutual support that developed during our time together has continued even as we have pursued our individual paths. For me, that means incorporating video into my blog, which adds richness and variety to my posts.
The beauty of learning these techniques is that there are so many ways to use them: travel videos, sure, but a whole lot more.
I loved my dad, but his home movies were pretty dull. Thanks to Tom, my video travelogues have a lot more sizzle, and I know they’ll just get better with time.