My 2-year-old daughter got her first climbing harness and I captured it all with my GoPro camera. The moments were special for us, but documentary style of the video might be boring for other viewers. I wanted to create something different – a powerful story.
In this post, I want to break down all the steps and help you to create your own storytelling video.
Let’s see this video first:
I reversed the right order how the video with intention is supposed to be made. First should be the decision what message I want to send to our audience. Then I should go to shoot it according to the previous decision. But I already had my video captured. Actually, this might be quite usual situation with regards to a family video. It is hard to plan the video where small kids are involved. They just want to have fun. They don’t want to go “here and there” or tell something because mommy needs a shot 🙂 If you can’t get the shots as planned you can adjust the story later as I did.
I was thinking several days about the message and how to fit it on my captured shots. Then I got the first idea. When I was young I had a totally different climbing start. I wanted to show the two parallels – my climbing beginning and how it is different today, for my baby girls.
Then even stronger idea hit me.
I wanted to use this idea in my video as an inspiration for other parents.
As you can see, the main idea evolved over the time. Don’t stress out if you don’t get the right idea immediately. Just think about it, make notes, discuss it with family, friends and your audience until it comes.
Every story needs one main hero. I chose my younger daughter because she played a key role in the story – got her first climbing harness which made her even more passionate. However, I needed to include myself to show how the desire was passed from me to the kids. I made a brief intro in the beginning of the story and then quickly shifted the attention to the kids, primarily to my younger baby. The rest of the video is focused on her. Notice that most of the shots include all family members but I carefully chose the shots where my main hero is closest to the camera.
The story must go hand in hand with the intention. When browsing my video archives and choosing the right shots I constantly asked myself:
This helps to keep focus and eliminate the shots which are “cute” but don’t serve the intention. I had to hold myself on the given path.
Beginning of the story explains how the climbing passion evolved in me, from an early age. How to do this if I don’t have any video from that time? I used a couple of old photographs from my childhood and made a zooming and panning effect on them in post-processing. This dynamic effect gives a viewer the feeling like he is almost watching a video, not a photo.
Notice that I used a narration at the beginning. Think how poor the story would be without this narration. The story wouldn’t make sense, right? Just a few words might help to raise curiosity in a viewer:
What dream did she have? And what will happen next?
Then comes the main part of the story – the journey of my little hero. I chose the shots from several trips where we were “on rocks”. You can see the tiny baby who is at mommy’s carrier backpack while she “climbs the rocks”. I picked this scene to show that the desire was built from an early age.
Time goes forward, the baby started to walk and immediately explores the rocks. Desire about climbing grows in her mind and I demonstrated it by a couple of scenes where she tries to climb on rocks. I picked specific scenes where a parent is involved, helping and teaching her how to do it. In one shot, her dad is climbing and she tries to follow his steps. These shots helped to support the intention of the video – kids naturally following parents’ desire.
Then comes the main action – my daughter got her first climbing harness and made the first climbing attempt on a rope. Notice that I included also the scenes where my daughter struggled. She fell off the small rock, fought to climb up the wall and again fell when going down. This is a good practice to show hero struggling on her journey before she reaches the goal. You can see this in most of the movies, right? Use it in your home video and it will make your story more powerful.
I was thinking how to end this story. My daughter successfully got on the ground. I chose the scene with her happy face where she gives me high five. Hero reached the goal. That was the perfect end of the video. But then I got even better idea – saying the influential message while showing the whole family at the beloved mountains:
Show kids your passion, they will follow…
Great end of the story and call-to-action for the viewer.
As you can see, I carefully chose the scenes which are not only nice but each one of them helps to create the story and supports the intention of the video. Keeping focus the entire video is very important.
Filming the Video
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The camera was set to 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second for most of the outdoor shots. This is useful for action scenes and slow motion. In low light conditions (indoor gym), I used 24 frames per second. But as you can see, the image quality is significantly worse because there was too bad light. I tried to fix that in post (read below).
Be aware of filming angles. When shooting the hero, it is always important to capture her emotions. Which means I had to film at her eyes’ level (not mine) and get close enough. I also added a slow motion at some of the scenes, for example, when she started to walk. This helped to see the emotions much better (you wouldn’t notice them at normal speed). Another reason why to use slow motion is that it might look more cinematic. Try it on some shots and you will see.
I kept my shots short, usually under 5 seconds. In reality, I filmed a little longer but I cut them during post. Short shots keep your audience focused on the story and don’t allow to get bored. The same thing is the overall length of the video. Nobody would watch till the end of this video if it has 5 minutes.
Less is more!
One more thing, but very important – the light! When possible, I chose the shots where the light wasn’t too harsh. It is always better to shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon (golden hour) rather than in the middle of the day. I also capture my hero nicely lit by the sun whenever possible.
But sometimes there is no other option and you can immediately see the difference, for example, the shots from the poorly lit indoor gym. Normally, I would avoid choosing those shots but this was obviously once-in-a-lifetime event – my daughter climbing on a rope for the first time ever. I just hope that the story catches the viewer’s attention, not the image quality.
I perform color correcting every time I edit my videos. Some of the outdoor shots needed a slight increase of a contrast and saturation and decrease of shadows. I played with a white balance a bit. Shots captured indoor in low light condition were heavily edited (exposure, contrast, colors etc.).
I needed to reduce a shakiness of the footage. I used Warp stabilizer effect. Unfortunately, some of the shots looked weird after applying this effect so I rather kept them shaky. Did you notice that?
If you plan to use stabilization effect in post you should be aware that software has to crop the image slightly. Also, Premiere Pro doesn’t allow to stabilize the shots which are in slow mo.
Next was choosing a music and synchronizing it with the video. This is a story itself. Read further about my mistake which cost me.
Music is such an integral part of the story. Wrong music would make the audience feel differently and the message might not be taken as you wanted. Music affects the whole story heavily and that’s why I pay special attention to it.
I always choose music when I have almost the whole video finished. I have all the shots needed to tell a story. Cuts are done. The main criteria for picking the right music is the mood and pace of the song. For this particular video, I needed something positive, epic, euphoric and cinematic. I wanted the music evolving from a slow pace and graduating when my daughter starts to climb in her first climbing harness. I needed sudden strong end when she hits my palm to give me high five. Yeah, there were a lot of things which I wanted to fit.
Of course, you probably will not find the song to exactly match all of these things. Then I do these minor adjustments in video editing software to fit:
- moving music to avoid interference of peaks and my voice
- moving music to fit graduating points with the image (approximately)
- the second adjustment is to delete or add shots to fit better
- the third adjustment is shortening or lengthening shots to fit exactly the image and graduating music
I did all of that. I found absolutely amazing music which was the ONE for my story, with strong epic peak. I made all these adjustments to fit the key moments in the video. I even deleted some shots which I originally wanted in order to fit music to a video. I finally finished the video and was very happy with the result.
But wait… It is not the end of this story. Let me share my mistake. I found the music on Soundcloud, it was available as a free download. I have seen it also in other monetized videos on YouTube. Automatically, I thought that the music is free to use in YouTube videos which are monetized. When I finished the video, after I made all those final touches to exactly fit the video and music, I just wanted to verify the license of the song. If it is really free for monetized videos. Yes, I know, stupid, I should have done this FIRST.
I couldn’t find any information about license or potential free use on YouTube. That’s why I contacted the artist – creator of that particular music I wanted to use. He was very kind but couldn’t tell me if I can use his track or not. Instead, he forwarded my request to his representative – a music agency. I explained again that my video is not made for commercial purpose but primarily for family and friends. However, I do run ads on my YouTube channel and potentially it can earn a few bucks.
The representative from the music agency was also very kind but pointed out that if I run ads it actually IS commercial use. It doesn’t matter if it earns a dollar or a million, both are monetization. License for that purpose is expensive ($199), way too much for a family video. But the representative understood that this is a family video and generously offered me an exception for my particular case. I was allowed to purchase Home video license ($69) which is also a high cost for me. But I already loved the music and how it fits my story. I made an exception and bought this track. But next time I will do the homework and look for the license first.
If you look for free music for your videos, you might find this blog post useful.
Tell Your Story with Video
Can you imagine how different this video would be if I just put together couple shots from my daughter’s climbing? No story, no powerful message – not fun to watch!
Think about your story and how you want to show it in your video. It takes some effort but the result will be so much better.
I hope you got some inspiration from this post. Please share your stories with us in the comments below!
Thanks for reading, we appreciate you.