Last month, my amazing dad turned 70 years old. And for those of you who don’t know him or our family, my dad (pictured below, in the middle with my mom) is the incredible father to all eight of us kids and “Pop Pop” to all his grandchildren. hudson-family-portrait-2014-1-med

Our family wanted to do something special for his birthday as a surprise to him – a video tribute of some sort – and I volunteered to put it together through editing. As long as everyone else sent me the photos and videos we would include. :) Sounded simple enough.

NOTE: If you just want to watch the video, scroll down… It’s at the bottom of this post.

Welp, as a total rookie to the art of videography, I learned a lot in the process to say the least. And since this is a design blog… I thought I’d share my 8 biggest take-aways from a creative standpoint, for anyone who might be interested in getting their feet wet with video.

8 Things To Know about Video Editing, from One Amateur to Another

1. iMovie is GREAT for entry-level editors.

iMovie is great for making movies and editing photos and videos, and there are loads of awesome tutorials and articles out there to help you learn it.

Also, side note: until I was “done” with my iMovie project and tried to burn it to a DVD, I didn’t know that you could only make a “movie project” with iMovie. That you could export it to YouTube, Google, etc. directly but if you want to burn an actual DVD to play on an actual DVD player, you’ll need a program like iDVD to convert your project into the right sort of file that will play like a DVD. iDVD basically adds the landing pages to your project, just like the ones we see when we insert a DVD into our DVD players – you have “links” like: Play Movie, Scenes, Play All, Bonus Features, etc. You can label these in iMovie wherever you want them, but you still need a program like iDVD to write them to a disc. Otherwise, you just have a file you can watch on your computer or on YouTube maybe, because your computer and YouTube can recognize the iMovie file, but most DVD players can’t.

2. Video editing is an art and takes a LOT of time to get it right.

Together, my family and I rounded up hundreds of photos of my dad from his childhood to recent months, and together we contributed about 40 minutes of video between us all. I spent 50 hours on this project, easily, trimming it all down to a 23-minute tribute. 50 hours for 23 minutes of video sounds insane but I totally get it, now that I’ve done it. It was worth every minute.

Collecting images. Collecting video. Organizing images. Arranging clips. Importing everything. Listening, over and over and over to what you have. Categorizing. Scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing…. scrubbing more video to find the right clip to use. Scrubbing again and again to set the volume level right, so it pairs up with all the other clips. Pairing it with music. Selecting the music. Selecting other music that’s better. Rearranging existing clips and photos to match the new music. Transitions. Timing everything juuuuust right. Going back and doing it all over again. And again, and again.

It is SUCH a process! But to me, it was fascinating and something I almost couldn’t stop doing…. It became addicting, I loved it. I have a whole new respect for videographers, that’s for sure!!! What they do is an art form, to say the least.

3. “Sound engineers have the most underrated job in the industry.”

My friend Mitch, a Video Editor at ORA TV and ABC News, said that to me after I told him all about this project and how long it took me to do. And he is absolutely right from what I can tell. Like umpires in baseball: the better a job they do, the more they go unnoticed, and therefore underrated. I didn’t even think about this when my family’s videos started trickling in, how different all of the recorded sounds would be. My husband Ryan and I shot our videos on a digital camera, which was WAY more sensitive to our environment/louder by default than say the iPhone videos, which I had to bump up like crazy in iMovie. Getting these videos aligned, on top of pairing them with the background music throughout, was a task I completely underrated and learned a lot about! I think I spent about 20 hours on adjusting sound alone, mostly towards the end of this project, and I’m really glad I did. Otherwise, like a bad umpire, I think up-and-down audio would have really distracted from the final outcome.

4. When recording video on an iPhone, or any mobile device really, do it horizontally, not vertically.

IF you absolutely have to use a phone. Otherwise, on a project like this, take the time to…

5. Use an HD camera, from no more than about 5′ away.

For a couple reasons:
1. So the person’s face is clear and audio is heard easily, with no background audio… or as little as possible anyway. Indoors is best;
2. 5-ish feet in HD gives you some editing room to “zoom in” on their face for more intimate clips, or just to mix up the visual – without losing quality. I couldn’t do this easily with the phone videos, or the ones with the person sitting far away from the camera;
3. HD is just always better on a big(ger) screen. We might have gotten away with the lower quality videos if we showed my dad this video on a phone or device, but come on! Of course we were going to show him on the TV and watch as a family. So in editing, I would recommend to always plan on watching on as big a screen as possible, doing everything you can to make the quality as high-def as possible, starting with what you use to record the video.

6. Have a game plan going in.

If you’re anything like me, and you care a LOT about the end result of a project and that’s probably why you took it on yourself…. :) have a game plan for the FLOW of your video and stick with it. In other words know, What’s the point of this video??? before you start anything.

This project was so much fun from start to finish for me, I think because I started with a game plan. And it wasn’t even much. It was literally, Life story, in chapters, sappy video, end on a fun/uplifting note. That’s it, that’s all I had planned. And things just fell in place after that! Without that simple plan though, I think this easily could have turned into what felt like a never-ending project. Especially because I didn’t know what I was doing, technically. I got stuck SO many times in iMovie, trying to figure out how to do things within the program… Had I been without a game plan to constantly keep my focus on, I probably would’ve felt overwhelmed, like I didn’t know what I was doing technically OR at all with the project, and I might have wanted to quit at that point. But it was always about the plan and sticking with it, so the only question was “how long will it take me to figure this out?” (See: #2)

7. If you’re really proud of what you’re creating, don’t show others and open it up to their review until you’re REALLY close to being done, if not completely done.

I know this sounds closed-minded but I’ll say it again because I think it’s really important for beginners: If you’re really proud of what you’re creating, don’t open it up to others’ comments until you’re almost done, or totally done in your mind. (If you’re not-so-proud of what you’re creating, definitely be open to critique; Maybe it’s what you need to get back on the right track.

Video is so unique though, in that no videographer, given the exact same content to begin with, will create the same result as another videographer would. How awesome is that??

So let yourself develop your vision before others give you theirs.

I made this decision early on, not to show anyone until my dad’s party, and I don’t even know why I did really. I knew I wanted to see peoples’ gut reactions, but I think part of me was also scared to show something on which I knew I’d work really hard. Especially being a total rookie with it at the same time. BUT! half-way through editing, I knew I had something I was proud of. I could feel it coming together, and I wanted to keep my vision going strong. So I kept quiet, kept working, and it totally paid off.

8. Nothing beats seeing your family’s or loved ones’ reaction to something you put your heart into making.

I became a graphic designer because I liked art and I wanted to create things for other people, hopefully making their lives a little easier or better. This project was that, ten-fold. I can’t explain how rewarding the process was, and the impact its had on me to see my dad’s and my family’s reaction. I know they appreciated it so much and I can’t describe how grateful I am to have had the chance to play a part in honoring my dad this way. He deserved every bit of it. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget.

Not a major take-away but worth mentioning: If you know you’re going to make a video that involves multiple people/interviews, ask them the same questions, or give them the same prompts. That way, when it comes to editing, you’ll have common threads to intertwine and build upon, versus having to figure out if and how you can connect everything people say.

I found it to be much easier, integrating all the different video clips, after I had some sort of baseline. In my case, I split all the video I got into 2 categories, or scenes: “What we love about you” and “favorite memories”. Once these were in place, editing and decision-making was a lot faster. AND, I think it kept the flow of things moving nicely.

Welp, that’s it! Here’s the final video if you’re interested:

Celebrating 70: Dad’s 70th Birthday Tribute

0:08 Chapter 1: Happy Birthday
Jessica, my sister-in-law, promised my Dad 2 years ago she would put her fear aside of singing in public and sing Happy Birthday to my Dad on his 70th – in front of everyone. Well, she kept her word and I thought it was the perfect entrance to his tribute. Muahaha…. Love you, Jess! :)

0:45 Chapter 2: William Allan Hudson
Pictures from his birth on November 15th, 1944 through his college years

3:04 Chapter 3: Billy and Ellie
True Love Ways: When my parents met up to before they started having all of us kids (this section is very short!!!)

3:45 Chapter 4: Oh, Baby!
What’s it’s like to lovingly father EIGHT kids, all born within 15 years (Hint: it’s crazytown.)

5:56 Chapter 5: Oh, Grand-Baby!
Becoming and being “Pop Pop”

8:05 Chapter 6: Video Tributes
All of us kids with our spouses and [some of us with] little ones secretly put together videos telling Dad what we love most about him.

16:39 Chapter 7: Favorite Memories
Some of our favorite memories of Dad, also shared in our video tributes.

[22:20 Bonus: Quick nod to Dad’s party days] Apparently this was the song he played when he wanted everyone to go home. Thanks for the tip, Mom!