Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Why Home Video?

I have this theory that most of us bought a camcorder so we'd have a quasi-documentary of our lives (especially the good parts.)

In 20-years, DisneyLand or Mount McKinley will just be "a place we visited." What will always be more interesting is why we went to McKinley, how we got there, what we looked like, and what else was going on during the time we traveled to McKinley.

With that in mind I always chop-out more than I keep.

Some simple rules about what I keep:

1. TELL THE STORY - tell it visually, and only allow the dialog if it adds to the story. Its not a travelogue and its not just "Vacation Video;" its the story of your time and your life. Get the images of those people/things/places close to you!

Mount McKinley will still be there 10/15/20 years from now. You could go back or you can always buy postcards. What you'll really want 10/15/20 years from now is 'the Story of Us' planning, getting ready for, packing, driving/flying, getting lost, the hotel we stayed in (with that awful green swimming pool), Suzy after getting stung by the bee, having to dial 14 digits to get an outside line, the music we listened to (and the songs we sang), those interesting paddle boats/ski lodges/fireplaces, getting homesick (then not wanting to leave when it was time to go), the turtle we found, the trip home (and getting lost again), unpacking the car, etc.

In 10/15/20 years, you'll want a visual reminder of the old VW bus or yellow-AstroVan, and you'll laugh about that awful green swimming pool. The way baby Olivia's hair went into tight curls whenever the humidity went up will be a pleasant discussion for almost everyone except Ollie (as she likes to be called now.) That strange purple hairdo worn by little Johnny (who will be 6'3" by then) will be funny and might even invoke a, "What was I thinking!?!"

The painful bee sting will have become a darling piece of nostalgia, or maybe even a family legend. And Little Suzy will be married and have a Suzy Jr by then, who can't imagine how many freckles mom used to have.

2. Maximum Seat-time is 20-minutes - The preacher used to say he'd have trouble saving souls if his sermon lasted more than 20-minutes. It's unlikely your video will be of greater importance or interest. By keeping it short, you'll have to cut out the junk. Look at the Travel Channel, or MTV for some examples of how to hit the highlights in a short time. 20-seconds of screeching and gasping by Aunt Jeanne (after she fell into the pond) will be funny - two minutes would get tedious. But a few seconds of 'audience reaction' might be fun to look at, over-and-over. Remember the travelogue is really secondary to the people and "The Story of Us."

3. LONG-SHOT, MEDIUM-SHOT, CLOSE-UPs, CLOSE-UPs, CLOSE-UPs - Television tends to be an intimate medium and you're really trying to capture personalities. The cinematic practice of an establishing shot (long-shot) to provide the setting; a medium-shot to transition; then some close-ups is a simple and fool-resistant technique. My personal thinking is that you really can't have too many closeups.

4. Embarassing? Maybe, but NO REAL PUT-DOWNs - Editing is a judgement call about rewriting history. That strange girl with Goth makeup that cousin Tom dated really was at Thanksgiving dinner, even if they had a fight later that week and he never saw her again. Whether to show "Uncle Charlie's Mooning Incident," will depend on the circumstances of the accident and how Charlie really feels about it. (Even if he can't ever go back to that same church.)

If it is likely cause real pain, its better left 'on the cutting room floor.'

Oh, and did I mention lots of closeups.....

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