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9 Tips To Get Started With Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Video


9 tips to get started with do it yourself (DIY) video


Stories can bridge generations in seconds. I think of how my son recovered from a horrible first date at age 14, after sharing the story with his grandpa. Grandpa commiserated with a 70-year-old story of his first date…a blind date with a Sally Frankenstein. They laughed so hard as they comforted each other.

That’s the power of stories to connect with each other. Whether it’s a first date, the day you got your first bicycle or a story of family lore. Stories of shared experiences build bonds.

More and more people are consuming stories on video. In fact if you are thinking of writing down your memories, According to Wordstream, “59% of executives say they would rather watch a video than read text.”  And that’s the adults. For teens, according to the American Psychological Association, in recent years 20% reported reading a book for pleasure, while 80% turned to video and social media.

Meet your grandchildren where they are, by recording your stories on video.

What are the stories that you want to share?

Of course the ideal scenario is sharing stories every chance that you get, in person. But it doesn’t always happen. Maybe no one has asked you about your special memories. Or there’s just no time when family is finally together because of sports or plays or other activities. Big gatherings might not be well-suited to intimate storytelling.

Video may seem intimidating. But with your love and authenticity and a cell phone camera, you can create a story video that is not only good enough, but great!

Why wait for the perfect opportunity when you can practice and film a great story right now?  All you need is a smart phone–your own or make it fun by getting together with friends and filming each other.

video9 tips to get started with do it yourself (DIY) video


1.       Film in “selfie” and landscape mode.

Turn your phone sideways (landscape mode) and hit the selfie button. This way you can see yourself as you film. The camera quality is not quite as good on the selfie side, but you also will not accidentally cut off your head (I do this all the time).

2.      Stabilize your camera.

Do not hold your camera while you film (unless you’re going for the Blair Witch look). Here’s a quick set up: Pile a stack of books to eye height. Set up another stack of books right behind it about 5” taller. Place your camera on the shorter stack and lean it against the taller stack and voila — the perfect DIY tripod.

3.      Lights. Lights. Lights.

Try to film with as much natural light as possible. Film during the daytime, but don’t sit with a window behind you (you will be completely blacked out). If you have reading lamps, put two of them in front of you at 10:00 and 2:00 and angle them to shine in a crisscross across you. (Think Broadway debut.)

4.      Plan your background.

Not too deep, not too busy, and definitely nothing weird (like a light switch growing out of your head.). Try a plain wall with a plant or organized bookshelf. Take a snapshot and examine it before filming to see what your backdrop will look like.

5.      Project your voice (and beware of ambient sound).

Set your camera up within 3 to 5 feet from you and project your voice. Farther away and the sound quality will diminish. Anticipate possible sound interruptions (will your dog bark? Might arguing kids—or adults—barge into your space?). And, yes, if an ambulance drives by, you should start over. Sorry!

6.      Be animated!

Express yourself a little livelier than usual to exude more energy. It’s okay to use your hands to make a point, but be sure to always bring them back to center. That said, do check nervous moving (like shifting back and forth in a swivel chair or superfluous fidgeting).

7.      Sit at an angle.

For framing, situate yourself just off to the right or left of center, and then angle yourself slightly toward the center. This will help you avoid the “deer in the headlights” look. For top to bottom, your eyes should line up with the top third of your frame. Leave a little space at the top (so your head is not cut off) and the bottom cutoff should be about mid-chest. Look into the camera from here.

8.      Draft your content as if it was for your most kind and caring friend.

Only you know if you need to write out every word, or if you’ll be fine with just an outline. Whichever way, practice what you will say. If you need notes, print them in BIG type (18-20 point) and tape it below your camera, so you can see them while still looking ahead. Pretend like you are talking to a trusting, caring person who is savoring every word. You have something that your family needs to know! (And relax. You can always delete and start over!)

9.      Share. Share. Share.

Now that your video is done, how will you share it with family? You might post to Facebook or send it by email. There’s also dropbox.com, where you can set up a free account and upload your video for others to see.  Perhaps you can work jointly with your grandchild to set up a YouTube channel—where videos can be public or private, just for family.

Start somewhere.

Video may seem intimidating. But with your love and authenticity and a cell phone camera, you can create a story video that is not only good enough, but great!

Click here for a “Video Cheat Sheet” for you–a printable version of this DIY beginner’s guide to making video. Or, speaking of the power of video, watch the video version here, to get started recording those great stories that are part of your family lore.


artificial IntelligenceDeanna Shoss is a marketer, writer, interculturalist in Chicago. As President and CEO of Intercultural Talk, Inc. she provides digital, intercultural and real life marketing for entrepreneurs and people following their passions post age 50, who need strategy and know-how to adapt to new communication technologies. She speaks Portuguese, Spanish and French and is a certified Body Pump and group fitness instructor.


Read more from Deanna Shoss



Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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