A Truly Priceless Gift for Your Child – DIY 1st Year Baby Video

by MyDadBlog on November 27, 2009

in Advice,Holidays

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With our kids off from school today, my wife put on a movie for the boys (5 and 3), but it wasn’t Disney and it wasn’t the usual cartoon fair.  She put one of the 1-year birthday videos I made for each sons just prior to their first birthday.  Even after seeing it several times, the kids still love watching their videos (and each other) and there’s just something “authentic” or heartwarming about watching them reminisce about being smaller and how silly we were with them and what it was like being a baby.  Without patting myself on the back too much (because I’m totally deficient in so many other facets of fatherhood and husbandry), I’m really glad I took the time and energy to put together these videos for the kids and I’ll have to do the same for our daughters as well, now 7 months.

Background: Throughout each of our kids’ first year, like many families, the video camera was on all the time and we took plenty of snapshots.  Now, that’s normally where it stops.  Most families have countless hours of video of their child’s first feeding, first roll, first steps, first word, etc., but it never gets put to good use – perhaps a YouTube vid forwarded to family members if anything.  Well, for whatever reason, leading up to our son’s first birthday, I was inspired enough to hunker down and spend probably 20-30 hours total split across a few weeks uploading and editing about 15 hours of video I had captured from his first year.  I figured out how to use some standard video editing software rather quickly and easily, tried out a few digital tricks, and I was on my way!  I’ve used Pinnacle and the Microsoft Movie Editing software for videos now.
I added several of our best shots and then envisioned a theme for the video.  I basically went through each major holiday and milestone, inserted video and pics, made sure to include all the family members I could muster up, and put music to the different sections.  These days, with massive archives of personal music and iTunes, it’s easy to get say, Christmas music for a winter section or a scary song for Halloween, etc.

At each first birthday party, with the whole family there, we put the video on and watched it together for the first time.  People were completely blown away and loved it.  Many, including my wife, cried at the end when I cycled back through the first year and said, “Kev’s growing up”.  I had one wedding planner ask me if I wanted to start doing videos for weddings.  It’s not that I had any great talent at all, nor did I have any prior experience.  It’s just that nobody takes the time to do this.  But, since this will be something our kids (and us) have forever, the grueling weeks of 1-2 hours a night in the basement toiling away at uploads and editing were well worth it.

Lessons Learned

Now that I’m about to start editing my third one, I’ve learned some important lessons I’d like to impart:

  • Don’t get so wrapped up in perfectionism and editing each frame to perfectly coincide with a musical queue, digital tricks, etc.  This will end up taking up 80% of your time for only marginal benefit.  I learned this the hard way on my first video.
  • Don’t keep watching your partial video hundreds of times throughout the editing process.  This wastes valuable time and drains your energy/creativity along the way.
  • Do batch processing.  Download ALL the video at once, just let the tape run, record on your hard drive and go in and edit later.  This is much quicker than what I did the first time, which was to watch little bits and pieces on the camera and then decide to upload little snippets for inclusion in the video.
  • DON’T MAKE YOUR VIDEO TOO LONG!!!…Especially if you want anyone else to watch it.  My first one was probably 30 minutes, second one 25.  I might make the next one 20 or so.  When you pop on a video for a party or perhaps another couple who’s thinking of doing the same thing, they don’t want to sit through a 3 hour compilation of every little thing you’ve captured.  I was at one party where someone put on a video which was practically an unedited running stream of 45 minutes of less than gripping video.  Everyone felt imprisoned and couldn’t just get up and leave but you could tell everyone was annoyed.  It’s much more effective for both immediate effect and subsequent viewing to have a nice story to tell – break up themes, and keep it relatively watchable.

Most Importantly – Just Do It!  Upon reading this, you may be one of the millions of moms or dads out there with hours and hours of footage and thousands of beautiful pictures just sitting on a hard drive or tapes somewhere.  Take the time and effort to chip away at this in a methodical fashion and your kids will love you for it.

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