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December 22, 2008

Home Movie: Finger Lakes

For Christmas this year I gave a "home movie" to my brother Pete. It's not your average home movie, here's the story and a clip of the movie.

Two years ago our families went on a vacation together to the Finger Lakes region of New York state. I came home with a a bunch of footage but hadn't done anything with it in more than 2 years. We were assigned Pete (and family) in the family Christmas exchange rotation this year, which was the perfect excuse to spend a week of long nights going through the footage, organizing shots, making decisions on transitions, titling, etc, until it all came together.

Most of the footage was shot on a 3CCD Panasonic MiniDV handheld, but some chunks of the trip were only documented with small video clips from digital point and shoot cameras. Those chunks of the film aren't great, but they are short and manageable.

I use Apple's Final Cut Express HD for capturing and editing. It's a complex piece of software, but better for where I'm at than the default on Mac, iMovie. I started on iMovie, and it's still a great choice for some things, but after doing a few movies with it I moved to something more professional grade because sometimes you just want to take a little more control than iMovie will give you. Final Cut comes with LiveType, a separate program with limitless control over text and movement. All of the titling for this movie is done in LiveType.

The timeline isn't the most complex thing I've ever done, but I always like looking at a film when it is compacted down into a single screenshot. I think of the many days we spent on vacation, the hours and hours of footage, even more hours of editing time, compacted into a single screenshot. And sometimes I like to look at the number of layers it takes to make an idea come to life and marvel. The "opening scene" of this movie has 13 layers of video and audio. Small beans by some comparisons, but for a home movie?

The process of getting to a "final" version is a bit tedious. I probably watched the movie 50 times, first just on my machine taking notes of inconsistencies and things that needed tweaked. After making numerous adjustments to tighten things up, I burn to DVD and watch on the bigscreen many times, eventually inviting my family to watch. I tend to pick up on many more things when someone else is watching it with me, even if they don't say anything critical.

In conclusion, I love having time to work in film. It's my second favorite artistic outlet (first being music). I've yet to have a moment where it feels like a chore, even if I'm up for several nights until 2 or 3 in the morning trying to get something in my head out into Final Cut. Definitely something I need to prioritize.

The opening title and first sequence (made low quality via YouTube):

Posted by mike at December 22, 2008 8:43 PM