10 ways to produce better home movies

10 ways to produce better home movies

From shooting raw footage to sharing your completed project with friends and family, our top ten tips can give your home videos that professional edge

We can’t all be a Hitchcock or a Spielberg, but we can drastically improve our home movies by following a few simple steps. Here are our top tips for shooting, transferring and editing your videos to give them that professional polish.

Shooting raw footage 

1. Steady yourself – Steady pictures generally look better than wobbly ones. If possible, mount your camera on a tripod for a rock-steady image. If you don’t have a tripod, try putting the camera on a wall or other solid object or lock your elbows to your chest when filming.

2. Avoid over-zooming – One thing that stands out like a sore thumb in many amateur videos is a lot of zooming in and out. Frame your shot so your subject is evenly lit and clearly visible. Only zoom in or out if you’ve planned to create a specific effect.

3. Fix your sound – Built-in microphones aren’t great for capturing good quality sound. Consider getting an external mic if your camera supports it, especially if you want to pick up clear speech. Use a muffler to shield it from wind noise.

Transferring video

4. Converting video

Use the online Media Converter if you only have a few short clips to convert.

If you find you have video that Windows Live Movie Maker can’t read, try converting it to the Windows Media Video format (WMV). The simplest way to do this is by uploading it to Media Converter, selecting the format you want it converted to (in this case WMV) and then clicking Start Conversion. Once converted, you can download the file, which will now import into Windows Live Movie Maker.

5. Offline conversion – If you haven't got a great broadband connection, you may prefer to convert files offline on your PC. One of the simplest tools for the job is the Freemake Video Converter, which supports a wide range of video files. Just load your files and click To WMV to convert them.

Editing tips and tricks

6. Use a cutaway

Split a clip and insert a cutaway shot to cover up a glitch in filming.

Sometimes you’ll have a shot that’s not quite right. Maybe something (or someone) got in the way of your perfect shot. You can cover up such unwanted intrusions by cutting briefly to a shot of something else, then cutting back in. In Windows Live Movie Maker, select the point at which the problem occurs and then choose Edit > Split. Tidy up the ends of the shots and add the cutaway in between.

7. Crossfade

Crossfading enables you to soften a jerky cut in similar footage.

The crossfade dissolve transition is useful if you have to cut from one shot to a similar one without a cutaway. It eases the move and covers up a jerky cut. To apply it to a transition, select the second shot and choose Animations. Scroll down to Dissolves and select Crossfade.

8. Replace sound – If there’s a lot of distracting noise on your video recording, you can replace it. Choose Home > Add music and browse to the sound file that you want to use instead, which doesn’t have to be music. Now go to the Edit tab and choose Video volume. Reduce it to zero, so your new track completely masks the video’s original soundtrack.

9. Soften audio transitions

Use audio fades to cover sudden changes in background sound.

Sudden changes in sound can be more unsettling than changes in the picture. Use fades to soften the difference in background noise between scenes. With your cut point selected, switch to the Edit tab and select Fade In > Slow, medium or fast before doing the same for Fade Out.

Sharing your video

10. DVD menus

Customise your DVD menu in Windows DVD Maker to give it the best possible look.

Make your DVD menu look swish in Windows DVD Maker. This program launches automatically when you opt to burn a DVD in Windows Live Movie Maker. Once you’ve clicked Next, take the time to set up a professional-looking menu for your audience. Choose Menu text, select the font you want and enter the title and button text. Click Change text and then choose Customise menu to select the video clips you want to use.