Articles & Notes — December 27, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Tips for making the best ending Year compilation video

This is an interesting article I discovered couple of hours ago on Videomaker website, and decided to share it here, as it might be of use to the readers – how to make the best New Year compilation video.

The article is quite long, but useful, so take a slow read here, and I hope you will find the tips listed below helpful. So, here are your tips for the best New Year end compilation video:
TIP 1: Organize. To compile a year-ender, you need to start obviously in January, but don’t fret, if you’re just now planning there’s still hope for a good compilation video, and you better prepared for the more intensive one next year. First thing that needs to be done, after every shoot, file all the video to an external drive then copy the “best of” and “highlights” right away to another folder.

This will be your Working Folder. Don’t touch the Original Folder. Now, if you are shooting on video-tape, you can delete all of the files you won’t be using for that year-ender after you’ve copied to your Working Folder, because your tape is a good archive medium – for now. Protecting your work by backing up your projects is important – try not skipping this important step.

If your camcorder shoots to an internal hard drive or memory card, well, the first thing you have to do is make sure you have a good external drive for storage – you’re going to need all the space you can get. Now, If you’re shooting to tape, one thing to learn if you don’t already know is “Batch Recording”. Don’t be lazy and dub an entire 60-minute tape. Batch Recording gives you three advantages: You can name individual clips [instead of just “All the December footage”], you can bypass stuff you don’t need [thus saving hard drive space] and you are also logging as you go along, [thus getting that step out of the way.]

You’re also more familiar with the footage when you log it as opposed to just dumping the entire tape and trying to remember where a shot was nine months later. If you’re doing a decades long This is Your Life” video, you’re going to be working with a lot of other mediums from film to VHS tape. It’s best to get these converted as soon as possible, whether too DVD or some other usable medium.

The next thing about organizing is getting a good log and file name system. The point is – keeping it simple. When it comes to file naming, you want to be able to read it when it’s laid out on a path. Usually, if it’s a year-ender, the entire folder is going to be the “Year of 2011”, then the clip file path or file name won’t need the year, but use the months as numbers, so they’ll file in numerical order.

Then create a system sort of like this: follow the month date with a person’s name, [shortened] and event, if needed. Keep each of these short, so you can find them easily.

TIP 2: Start early. A year-ender or a compilation of any kind can’t be done in a day – or even a week. It takes some time, so start early.

TIP 3: Sound Full or Sound Under?  Many scenes can work with just a music bed, but in many cases, you want to bring sound from your events in, but where was it again? When you’re organizing your clips for the first time – add simple notes in the filepath. One thing I do when I’m organizing my clips for the first time is to add simple notes in the filepath. SOT is an old TV term that means “sound on tape”, and, of course, most all video will have sound on it, but in TV terminology, SOT usually means you want THIS clip to be sound full.

Another way to organize video with sound clips, if you want to show video clips only or audio clips only, you can set the SOT in the beginning: SOT_11-nov-… or VID_11-nov….

When you sort them, all the clips with audio that you want to use would be lined up, and all the clips that you only want to use the video [VID] would be lined up. A third way is to make copies of the ones you know you want to use with sound full and place them is a SOUND folder, while another folder called VIDS has all video-only clips. Again, be organized up front. At the end of each month, take all the files from that month’s folder and log, sort and copy or delete what you need/don’t need.

TIP 4: Have a plan. Are you going to do this compilation in Chronological Order? Or by Subject? That is: by the calendar: “First we celebrated the New Year with noise-makers, then Valentine’s day came, followed by Sammy’s birthday in March, etc.” Or by subject matter? “Our Vacations“, “The Family Birthdays“, “All About Jenny“, “School Fun“, “Sports“, etc.

Sometimes it’s easier to do it one way or the other, other times it might feel like one subject has too much coverage, while the other too little. That is, 10 minutes on sports, and only 1 minute on school. Calendar order is the easiest to do, but don’t be stuck on the chronological order.

The music you use can drive your theme, too (aside from this tip, choice of music completely relies on your own tastes). You can try mixing different music. I would suggest using some instrumental music, maybe some New Age or Enigmatic melodies as well.

TIP 5: Tie your theme together. We’ve organized our clips – now time for some fun. Compilations usually have a running theme, but they also need to follow traditional storytelling techniques. Consider a classic story arc, it has a beginning, middle and an end. Just because this is following a calendar or specialized subject doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tied around a common theme and follow good storytelling rules.

Don’t forget that if you’re doing a year-ender it doesn’t HAVE to be all about 2011. Some scenes from the year before can be used to get you started – especially the stuff in December. No one is going to know that the close up shots on last year’s tree aren’t from this year. Using stuff like that can help you expedite the process.

TIP 6: Be creative. Segues in a compilation video can be just as important as the video itself. Segues – that bit that ties one event to another, can be as simple as a calendar-changing month to month using a page-curl wipe. But you can add more depth to the calendar by having special dates marked on the calendar, with even a photo or moving video of that person or event on that date. Dissolves and straight-cuts are more professional – you could use wipes in a compilation, but use them sparingly.

For instance, if you’re tying a Star Wars theme, it might be fun to use a similar infinity opening graphic as Star Wars, and follow events using the top-to-bottom or left-to-right wipes that Star Wars used. But don’t over do it, and don’t add more wipes, like star wipes, page curls, window blinds, etc. Cheesy wipes aren’t what your audience is coming to your showing for – it’s the story, so tell it well, and use creative dissolves. A long dissolve or fade to black work very well in this type of video. Usually one would limit a dissolve to 15 to 30 frames, or longer for 1 to 2 seconds. Here you can use a 4 to 5 second dissolve easily. With purpose.

Are you planning a look at your family history? Maybe make a family tree for an opening graphic. Are you going to have people talk about their life? Put them in a comfortable setting without a busy distracting background. remove nick-knacks from walls and tables that are in view, unless they pertain to the interviews.

TIP 7: Incorporating Stills. Many people want to bring still photos into a video compilation for many reasons: sometimes a still photo is all you have, other times a still shot illustrates an event well. Keep this tip in mind, though: using still photos in a video requires them to have some sort of movement, however subtle it is, because viewers expect to see movement. Going from a video to a still shot is jarring, so slow move ins, pans, etc, connect that movement that the still photo lacks.

For an even more creative way of incorporating still shots into your video, try doing a fly-over on a “Tableau” to add even more movement, depth and interest.

Create a unique way to add depth by setting up a scene with physical photos in frames along with interesting artifacts from that person’s life… a flag for a veteran, baby shoes, ballet shoes, flowers, etc. Then shoot the scene, using tricks like pans, dissolves and fly-overs for movement, instead of the usual pan-and-scan techniques.

To make the tableau, throw a nice soft wrinkle-resistant fabric over a table – a blanket or table cloth would do, even un-trimmed fabric, as long as it doesn’t have much of a pattern, which can be distracting. Stagger framed photos along a horizontal plane, about a foot apart, some to the left, others to the right of the plane. Staggering the distance between the pictures allows you to add depth of field between them. This adds texture and depth to the tableau.

To add staggered levels, you can prop up some photos by placing various boxes of varying levels under the cloth. You can rack focus between the photos… or do a fly-over between the shots… or dissolve from a pan… then pan from the photo to “nothing” [like a blank out of focus wall], then dissolve from the wall back to another shot. Lots of choices – just be subtle, remember, elegance is key to these tricks.

All of this will give more depth and dimension to your still pictures. Follow this tableau as your opening scenes, then dissolve to the scanned photos and continue with your traditional “pan and scan” imaging. A 20-t0-30 second sequence is all you need, and if you plan to use this technique for the end of your video, you can slowly de-focus the last shot and hold it, which will give you a nice background to add end titles.

TIP 8: Let it Go! The hardest part of putting a compilation together is letting go of shots you love but can’t fit in anywhere, or shots you love but that aren’t up to par and are lacking in quality. The worst, though, is knowing when enough is enough. Remember – this is about an entire length of time – whether it’s for someone’s 30th birthday, a 50th anniversary or a “Year in the Life”, and any shot longer than 20 seconds is going to be too long.

So what you can do, if you’re making a DVD, is have an “Extras” DVD where viewers can see the ENTIRE opening of presents at a party, or a sporting game from beginning to end. In some cases, you can just have an Extras page on the DVD you’re compiling, in other cases you’ll need to make it a 2-disc set.

TIP: 9 – Start planning for next year already. With a new year comes new ideas and new beginnings. It’s never too late to begin planning for next year’s compilation video, and who knows – you might just enjoy it enough to want to do one every year or for every event!

Although we can put videos on Vimeo, YouTube and anywhere else nowadays, sometimes you really want to illustrate your hard work and extremely time-processing project wrapped in a nice presentation.

Happy Holidays, Everyone! Good luck with your own compilation videos – it’s extremely rewarding, despite the agonizing hours in takes!

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