10 tips for making the perfect holiday video

Whether you are looking at how to best capture and share a video of baby’s first Christmas or the excitement of a marriage proposal this holiday season, cell phone, digital camera or camcorder often isn't enough. Some editing is required to tell a compelling and concise story.

I've prepared a list of 10 tips based on frequently asked questions from the more than two million consumers on CyberLink's DirectorZone social media site. Please add your own in comments, or sharing story about successful video-editing project.

1. In pictures or dialog, a good story makes all the difference. Whether you’re producing a blockbuster feature film or a home video to share with family and friends, a great story is the basis for any well-constructed video. Take the time to plan ahead, brainstorm, get inspired, discuss with others, share ideas, write out your thoughts and watch as it all comes together during the editing process. Having a strong idea of the story you want to tell ahead of time makes the editing process a lot easier.

2. Get Organized: Keep your files and folders sorted on your hard drive. Don’t get caught up spending hours of your time looking for a misplaced file or a specific scene by digging through 30 hours of raw footage. Take the time at the beginning to create a folder structure that is easy for you to understand. Keep your files named for easy recognition.  For instance, a clip named “arrival-at-canyon.avi” is easier to recognize that “clip01.avi”. Keep a notebook to record time points in your footage to locate the specific scenes you’d like to use later.

3. Set the Pace: A video is like a song, it needs rhythm. Editing isn’t just about cutting whenever you feel like it. It’s about creating a tempo that matches the tone and mood of your video project. Most editing software has beat markers, which automatically ensure that your cuts are timed with a rhythm and that there is a flow of picture and sound together.

4. Save Your Progress: Save, save, save and save again. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked and most under-practiced unwritten rules of video editing. Nothing is worse than losing your last two hours of work because of a power outage or system crash. Make sure to get in the habit of saving your project every five minutes or so. Another good idea is to save alternate versions from time to time as you progress through your project, just in case you change your mind and want to revert to a previous save point. Then you don’t have to go back and make duplicate edits or cuts.

5. Be Precise: Make professional edits with precise keyframe controls and the trim tool. You want your project to be perfect. To achieve the desired result, take the time to get familiar with the keyframe control and the trim tool -- they help to make very precise edits. Keyframing creates visual effects and synchronizes them along the timeline, such as a fade from full color to black and white, or movement of an object along a path. It helps to make a scene more complete. Trim tools allow you to select the exact sections of your clip on a frame-by-frame basis for precise accuracy throughout the entire editing process. It helps to eliminate the amateur look that many first-time editors struggle with in the video creation process.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Cut: A good idea in principle might not fit the final mold. Sometimes a scene might look great on paper, but could end up detracting from the final result if it doesn’t fit the tone or story. Even if it happens to be your favorite scene, don’t hesitate to cut what doesn’t fit with the rest of the video. You can always keep the clip to use as a “Director’s Cut Bonus” on the DVD, either as an outtake or worked into the extended version.

7. Keep It Simple: Don’t overdo effects. “Less is more” is always a good rule of thumb.  Everything you use -- effects, titles, dissolves -- needs to have a purpose that compliments your production. Going overboard with effects rarely ends in art. In most instances, a simple cut or dissolve will do the trick and will add quality to the appearance of your video.

8. Spend Time on Your Soundtrack: Complement your production with music and sound effects. Have you ever watched a movie or section of a movie with the sound turned off? In many cases, you can quickly determine the quality of the video editing by doing so. But even in the case of Hollywood productions, a simple sound effect or music cue can get you through an awkward edit. Try cutting on the sound of a door slamming, a dog barking, a car zooming by. Mask background noise in your scene with light music. Determine the right microphone setup for recording your own sound effects, or download and share sound effects.

9. Be Creative: Apply the final touches with creative Blu-ray and DVD menus. Once you’ve cut together the perfect project that you plan to burn to disc to save as a memory or share around for others to watch, make it really stand out by adding a creative DVD menu. The first impression is important, and the menu will be the first thing people see when they fire up your DVD.

10. Get Social: Upload your videos to social video websites including YouTube. With all the social sharing options available, and the billions of videos being watched daily, upload your video productions to YouTube, Vimeo or other popular video sharing websites. First, you’ll get some exposure. Second, you’ll get feedback from the comments, which may have some good insight on ways to improve your future projects.

Photo Credit:  Alex Kosev/Shutterstock

Louis Chen is senior product marketing manager at CyberLink.

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