Making Movies With Kids
When my children were young I filmed them on Super 8. I cut and edited the resulting footage so that it was not too disgusting. Now that they are grown up they find it a source of endless amusement. For me, a source of nostalgia.
If you have children you have a built in excuse for using a camcorder and using it often. Building up a small library of videos of your children will, I assure you, be like storing riches in heaven.
Points to note about shooting, in the nicest possible sense, children:
? Children love acting, love make believe, love dressing up, love showing off. Video gives free rein to all of these talents.
? Get down to their level. Filming from your level will almost always make them look smaller than they are and somewhat intimidated. Get down to their level and you will see the world as they see it, and they will feel part of the video-making process.
? Let them direct the video. Children love the idea of being creative, of making movies. As long as you keep their ideas within the discipline of videos, within the grammar of film making, you will end up with exciting material. But DO NOT let them, on your life, operate the camcorder. It is London to a brick they will drop it and there will be tears before tea-time.
? Be patient. Sometimes you will have to wait a long while to get the right shot. That's fine. It will be well worth the effort.
? Give the children something to dress up in. They enjoy dressing up, and as they do so, many of them lose their initial shyness. Children act towards the camera far more naturally when they have been allowed to don another costume.
? Give them something to do, to play with. Children get engrossed in an activity and then become perfect camcorder subjects. Even finishing a jigsaw will do as long as it is something that holds their complete attention.
? Never prompt them what to do and never let their stage-struck parents prompt them either. Children do not respond well to stage direction.
? Find some way to put a date on the material as you take it. You will be amazed to find how soon you forget what was shot when. Some camcorders let you, as it were, date stamp the video. Another way is to use a cutaway shot of a newspaper in the first few frames. Anything so that at a later date you can positively date it.
? Take lots of close-ups showing facial expressions. The face is the personality of the child, and you simply cannot have too much of it.
? More than in most videos the sound is vital. You need their laughter, their rudery, their tantrums and you need it recorded.
? Mind the glare. If you have to use artificial lighting make sure that it does not glare in their sensitive eyes. Bounce it off the ceiling or use a reflector card instead.
From my experience, children as they enter their teens often become camera conscious. In this case you will have to use subterfuge shooting with telephoto shots, getting them absorbed in something else while you shoot, shooting from a point of vantage like an upstairs window.
The deceits, subterfuges and stratagems you have to go through to get them recorded permanently on video tape sometimes makes one feel like a member of the paparazzi. It is, I promise you, worth all the effort.
About the Author: Gareth Powell, author of several travel books, has a travel website - www.travelhopefully.com, a non-blog web site - www.bloggeroff.com and a digital image web site - www.pixelates.com. He lists free software on www.freewareaid.com. This article can be edited, cut, localized.