Creating a birthday video is one of the most precious memories that you can have. To help you capture a truly professional video of your child's party, I have teamed up with Ewan Cambell MacDougall who has written a really useful article on how to get the best out of your filming.
For a children's party to run smoothly it always helps to have a little bit of a plan beforehand. An important first step is to make sure you know all the guests parents are happy to have their children videoed, with most people it is unlikely to cause a problem, but with any parents you just don't know so it could be prudent to ask.
Decide who is going to do the filming of the birthday video. It is not always possible to both film a Birthday party and adequately supervise it so you may need to delegate one of these responsibilities.
Once the party gets started it is not always easy to find the best filming spots or to add any extra lighting needed, so you should do some birthday video test shots in advance to decide where the camera will go and where to put any extra lamps. On the day of the party a lot can be going on, so it's often sensible to make sure you've prepared all the camcorder accessories you need in advance. Charged all the batteries, cleared all the memory cards / videos and other basic tasks.
Videoing can be a big distraction for some kids which can be good and bad. Sometimes the distraction for the child is the desire to make sure that they too will be immortalized on film and be made equally as famous as everyone else. Or conversely it could be that the presence of the camera makes them a little shy.
One way to help them get past this is to have each child individually record their Birthday video message for the host as they arrive. This helps to get them used to the camera from the beginning and also makes sure they know they have defiantly been caught on film. These mini interviews can also be useful in 20 years time when you're watching the video again trying to remember exactly who everyone was.
If the camera is an exciting part of the party for your child and many of the guests why not incorporate this. Most cameras can be connected to televisions, maybe fill some time in between activities by placing the camera on top of the TV and let the children watch themselves play in front of it. This can be really fun for young children, and capture some great birthday video footage. Just make sure they are supervised well enough not to push into the camera or television set.
Use discretion here as with some children this might not be the best idea. However if you think the children are sensible and calm enough, and you're using a tripod this can be a great activity. If the camera is mounted on a tripod (lowered to their level) all the child will really be doing is looking through the view finder and panning the camera. To further ensure the camera's safety impose a time limit and insist that only one child at a time uses the camera so that there can't be any fighting over it.
Many children may wish to look at what you're filming or to see you play back footage of the last event. This however could distract from the planned birthday activities so it might be a good idea to discourage this. Instead you could promise to send all the guests copies of the birthday video film. Something that is not actually particularly expensive if you use video CD's. These CD's can be sent with your child's thank you notes.
If you want to do something a little unique, have your child record a birthday video thank you message onto the CD. This is bound to be more fun for both your child and the notes recipients.
The technical aspect of video making is a subject that has many websites dedicated to just that so it certainly can't be covered exhaustively in this article. However here are few of the most important tips for filming a children's birthday party video:
Smooth videos look far more professional and are much easier to watch. Modern cameras may have image stabilization but this is not a replacement for a tripod.
Although there is room to be creative with the occasional camera pan or zoom, generally it's best to keep the camera still. Film something for 9 or 10 seconds and then cut to another angle or activity. This will help to keep the video interesting and professional looking.
Videos should be edited. In the future you are more likely to want to watch 20 minutes of highlights rather than attempt to relive the entire party again. You can always keep the footage you cut on a separate DVD.
In your edit try to keep shots short. In most professional productions the shot will change within 10 seconds. If you are planning to add any special effects to your birthday video it is best to do this in the editing stage as in-camera special effects are normally permanent meaning you can't change your mind later.
The filming you do of the actual party is your A-Roll. The B-Roll is shots you take separately of things that are not part of the action.
If you make a B-Roll you can put footage from this in between cuts from your A-Roll. For example as people are arriving at the party you can cut in shots of the outside of the party location and close-ups of party decorations to let people know where it is. If you are filming party food being served you can put in close-up footage of the food sitting in the kitchen waiting to be bought in. You can break up long sequences of the children playing with close-up footage of birthday cards or gifts. This all helps to keep the birthday video interesting and professional looking whilst helping you to remember any decorations or food you made.
If you let the children record their own personal messages for the birthday child you should treat this as B-Roll and use them to break up long scenes when you edit.
The more practice you get making and watching your videos the better they will become. And even if you struggle at first, remember in 20 years time you won't be watching how smooth your cuts were, you will be watching how small, unbelievably small, your child used to be.
Author Bio: Ewan Cambell MacDougall now works in Internet marketing with companies such as Sony camcorders. Before that however he worked with children in summer camps for a number of years, a field he hopes to return to soon.
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