Making Movie Magic: How to Film Professional-Quality Movies with Your Kids

Tap into that movie magic by following this guide to making your home videos look polished, sleek, and professional - just like Hollywood!

In a recent study, it was estimated approximately 10% of the Internet contains text; the other 90% is images.  With the explosion of social media and all the different ways we take and use pictures now, it is no surprise that everyone wants to be the next YouTube star.  However, just like there is a difference between Dad with his old camcorder and Steven Spielberg, your highly viewed YouTube videos are all professionally done with top-notch equipment.  But that does not mean your child can’t make a good quality video.

The three key pieces of equipment is a good digital camera, a voice recorder, and directed lighting.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking a well-lit room will do the trick.  Natural lighting is always good with the sun directly behind the camera.  Otherwise, a room with lots of windows and an afternoon sun is your second choice.  If you need to go with artificial lighting, use a minimum three halogen floodlights or reflective material around fluorescent lighting.  Make sure they are up high when they shine down on the studio.

Most people will shoot their videos with their phone or a tablet.  It doesn’t take long to figure out who has done that.  The resolution will be low, the sound will have an echo, and the orientation will be confusing.  With a standard digital camera and tripod, you will get good resolution and orientation.  Finally, a voice recorder is a must.  Put it in the person’s pocket or behind the backdrop and record the entire thing.  With a proper movie editing program, you will get the audio you need to make a truly great movie.  Of course, you can always just create a slideshow and add some music to get the same effect.

As to the type of movie you make, most videos fall into a few categories.  You have your live action movies, slideshows, animation, stop motion, green screen, performance, and lecture.  Most children seem to like making live action, stop motion, and green screen movies.  One of the exciting things with these types of movies is the assortment of characters you can use.  A really neat movie I recently saw with my son involved a Dad and two boys with a bunch of Nerf guns.  To my 10 year old son, they are the coolest characters around.  Not the people though, but rather the guns.  He loves the variety of guns and names them all when he sees them in Walmart.  

The key thing to remember though is to be prepared to shoot a lot of video.  Like anything else, practice makes perfect.  Your child will inevitably get too close to the action with the camera and will need to learn angles and lighting.  I normally go through the camera every month or so and delete out the weak videos with my children after talking about what makes it good or not.  Otherwise, you will use up your memory pretty quickly.

Once you have a few good movie clips, it is time to start putting them together.  Every big operating system has its own movie editing program, and while I prefer Windows Moviemaker with YouTube music, it is primarily due to just being used to it.  Apple has iMovie, YouTube has its own program, and Google has Wevideo.  Each program has its own quirks and takes a little bit of work.  Ultimately though, I prefer storing the videos on YouTube versus any other place.  Set up an account and you can put any length movie on there.  I have posted up to 60 minute videos on there.  Just make sure you respect the copyright laws associated with it.  For your personal videos, upload them into your channel and set it to private or unlisted.  Upload the video, and then from video manager, change it to private or unlisted.  I prefer unlisted because I can then still email the link of the video to any person.

While it is important to remember that it is only the top 1% of professionals who actually become YouTube sensations or movie/TV stars, there is lots of benefit in participating in digital cinematology.  I am convinced going forward, storytellers will be telling their stories in film, not print.  My grandparents used speeches to tell stories, my parents used letter writing, I use my computer, but my children will be using their cameras to tell their stories.  

Rob More is the lead instructor for Beckwith Tech Camp and maintains a blog at Morehaven Makerspace Camp. He was named a Capital Region Educator Finalist last year for having a paperless classroom.  He is also a contributor to the CEMC Grade 5/6 POTW resource and MathFrog and serves as an advocate for people impacted by FASD.

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