A little over a year ago I wrote an article for Lou and the DisneyWorldTrivia.com website on using your camcorder in Walt Disney World. Iâ€™ve thought a lot about what I wrote since then, and Iâ€™ve decided to revisit the topic.
This article, the first in a series of three, is about what I think is probably the most important philosophy you can have when you are filming a home video: your goal when you film should be to tell a story. Images and video clips are nice to have, but if you use them properly and your story contains a beginning, a middle, and an end, your final film will be much more powerful and enjoyable to watch for your audience.
Using your camcorder to tell a storyâ€“in this case the story of your visit to Walt Disney Worldâ€“is the way to use your camcorder most successfully. I guarantee that your favorite movies, regardless of the time period or genre, has audio and video mistakes in it, most of which you have never noticed because you were more focused on the story than on the technical glitches in the film. Your home video does not have to be perfect, but it does have to document your experience effectively if you are going to watch it and enjoy it.
Letâ€™s start thinking about this topic by remembering Walt Disney himself. Walt Disney was an incredible storyteller, and this talent permeates and inspires the Disney culture. I think this is what makes Walt Disney World so wonderful, and is what makes all the Disney theme parks stand out from other entertainment offerings. Employees have been renamed cast members. Every building, every attraction, every costume, has a theme and is part of a larger whole. They all tell stories. Think about Splash Mountain for instance. The reason it is different than every other log flume ride out there is because it compellingly tells the story of Brerâ€™ Rabbit during the course of the ride. It is the story that makes the ride transcend every other ride like it. You need to bring the same storytelling to your home movies.
While it is wonderful to take home different â€œclipsâ€ of your experience at WDW, your video will be much more compelling if you tell a story with it. Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your videos will also tell a story if you give them a beginning, a middle, and an end, and this is actually easy to do. It is as easy as 1-2-3, and I call doing so the 1-2-3 method of filming.
For the purposes of this article, I think there are two basic types of story that you want to capture:
The Short Story – Your visit to WDW is made up of many short stories. Every ride, every meal, every character meet-and-greet, is a short story. You can tell a story on video in less than a minute. Let me give you an example. Imagine your family getting ready to go on the Haunted Mansionâ€¦.
1. On your way into the ride, you capture 10-15 seconds of your family walking the walkway, towards the Haunted Mansion.
2. At the doorway into the ride, you capture another 10 seconds of your daughter talking about how she is scared of ghosts and her anticipation about what she is going to see.
3. After the attraction, you capture 25 seconds of your daughter talking about which ghosts scared her and what were her favorite parts of the ride.
Would a short, standalone clip of the Haunted Mansion exterior been interesting? Absolutely! A video clip on its own is better than no video clip, but you can make your video more interesting to your audience if you focus on the story that is happening around you. In the video story example I spelled out, the story of your daughterâ€™s experience is what is interesting to me, not the Haunted Mansion on its own.
The Big Story – otherwise known as the theme. While your visit to WDW is a series of short stories, there are also larger themes that run through your visit. For instance. Why are you visiting WDW? Are you there with your immediate family for a family vacation, holiday, or milestone? Are you there for a certain event such as Star Wars Weekends? These are some of examples of big themes that bind together your short stories into something cohesive. Telling the â€œbigâ€ story can be a very powerful way of making a video, but it requires some planning. You can make this part of the story very clear and powerful if you are editing your video.
Here is an example of how I might tell a larger story with all the smaller stories. The last time my family and I went to WDW was the first time my daughters visited. Here is how I pulled my footage (short stories) togetherâ€¦.
1. The beginning of my video is clips of my family: in the airport, at the hotel, riding on the bus to WDW after breakfast, all talking about what they are doing and what they are seeing. They talked about their anticipation and excitement about visiting the Magic Kingdom.
2. The middle of my video, and bulk of the video itself, is made up of all the things we did while at WDW. The attractions, the meals, the character meet-and-greets, and on and on. This is where I used my series of â€œshortâ€ stories.
3. The end of the video sums of the experience of our visit. This is a good time to have â€œexit interviewsâ€ with family members talking about their favorite experiences at WDW, or a video out the window of the airplane as the you take off from the airport. I finished my home video with credits, that talk about how wonderful the experience was.
Pre-planning is vital to a compelling home video. However, there will always be surprises. Sometimes themes donâ€™t present themselves until after your trip when you are reviewing your clips and short stories. If you are editing your video, you can compile series of clips (related or even unrelated) into an order that again tells a story. When we got home from our trip, I realized that about a third of my total video was of my daughters getting character autographs. This was a part of their trip that they really enjoyed, and was a special part of their visit. I got some wonderful footage of the characters, who all have their own â€œshtickâ€. Have you ever seen Pluto sign an autograph book? He balances it on his nose. Have you ever heard the Princesses banter with the kids while they are signing? They make remarks about their movies. Princess Aurora asked about my daughtersâ€™ personal fairies, Mulan asked if they had ridden in on a horse, and Snow White talked about Dopey blowing water out his ears. My daughters were entranced. This collection of clips, as an organized group, documents all the autographs and pulls together into a solid section of the video. In putting the clips together, I was able to compile an interesting montage of both the autographs and the little details that Disney is famous for. My daughters are thrilled with it.
Probably the best thing you can do before you go to WDW is to practice a little. Pull out your camcorder and spend some time making a video that tells a story. It doesnâ€™t matter what that story is, I encourage you to just do it. A little practice goes a long way. Whether your camera records to tape, DVD, SD card, or hard drive, the media you record to is the least expensive part of your video equipment. You will learn a great deal if you designate a practice tape and spend some time playing around. Annoy your wife, collect some footage you can later use to embarrass your kids, have some fun! Keep in mind the 1-2-3 method of shooting, which will push you to give your story a beginning, a middle, and an end. With these elements in place, your video will be much more interesting to both you and your audience.
When you do home video at home or in the parks, keep in mind your overall goal of telling a story, and this will inspire your filming. I actually find that pre-planning makes my home videos better but that I actually film a lot less. I donâ€™t live my experience through a viewfinder this way, and I have an end product that my entire family enjoys. Iâ€™m sure that you and your family will enjoy your own home videos more as well. Good luck with your filming!