Capture the perfect video

In this feature, we’ll help you produce something that’s a cut above the average home video. We’ll achieve this partly through deft use of editing software, but just as important is your choice of shots and camera settings. We’ll be using our A-Listed editing package, Adobe Premiere Elements 8. If you don’t already own this, you can download a trial version from the Adobe site.


The key to classy home videos isn’t which effects and transitions you use; it’s all about the shots you capture and how you sequence them together in your editing software. Video is all about telling a story.

There are two tricks that professional film-makers use to help them shape the narrative of their productions. One is the establishing shot.

Each time a new location or time – in other words, a scene – is introduced, the first shot tells the viewer about the location, the time of day, the people in the scene or any other useful information. Look out for establishing shots and you’ll find them everywhere from Hollywood blockbusters to TV news reports. Cut straight to an action shot and viewers will have too much to take in at once, leaving them feeling bombarded with information.

A shot of the birthday cake surrounded with presents and the sun streaming across the room tells viewers that it’s early in the morning, for example. Similarly, a shot of the dinner table laid with all the trimmings indicates the time of day for the proceeding shots.

Establishing shots often don’t feature people to keep them simple, but if the people are what differentiates one scene from another, by all means include them. You might go for a wide-angle shot of the living room with everyone opening presents, or the arrival and departure of guests as they’re welcomed and sent packing.

Getting technical

Another technique that can breathe life into home videos is continuity editing. This is when a series of two or more shots are edited to give the impression that they’re following the action in real-time. This may be genuinely true, as in the case of live-action sports coverage, or it may be an illusion, as with Hollywood action sequences that take months to film. Either way, videos that are edited in continuity style are easier to follow because viewers already know the time and location from the previous shot.

The problem for home-video makers is that it’s impossible to shoot the same thing from multiple directions with a single camera. It’s also unlikely that you can convince family members to rewrap a birthday present and open it again while you shoot a close-up. As such, home-video producers have to show a touch of ingenuity by creating an illusion of continuity.

One useful trick is to capture other people’s reactions to the main point of interest. If a toddler spends two minutes unpeeling the wrapping from a present, you might start with a shot of them being given the present, cut to mum’s expectant face and then back to the present finally being opened.

This lets you cut the total time right down without interrupting the sense of continuity. It doesn’t matter if the shot of mum was recorded an hour later under completely different circumstances, as long as the viewer doesn’t notice the white lie.

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