Movie Making Tips for Kids

The child who begs to use your camcorder to shoot a backyard movie may turn out to be tomorrow's big-name director or producer. When your kids want to go beyond still images on your digital camera or short films on a smartphone, equip them with the digital tools they need to explore their creativity in a new medium. Before they start filling memory cards with their first cinematic masterpiece, teach them some basics and help them get set up.

Testing

To familiarize your kids with using your camcorder, let them shoot some test footage to help them get the hang of holding still, applying judicious use of the zoom lens, panning, ending a shot and reviewing it. If they have experience using a camcorder but you've recently acquired a new device, this experimental period helps them get used to unfamiliar equipment. Connect the camcorder to your HDTV or stream the test footage through Wi-Fi® to a smart set equipped with a home theater setup and let them see how their work looks to the viewer. Watching their experiments also may help them decide the type of movie they want to make, show them how their scenes look under various lighting conditions and teach them that touching built-in microphones creates a noisy soundtrack. Even if you use a sports camcorder that can withstand rain, dust and falls, establish basic rules for when and how the children use your gear and keep plenty of memory cards on hand to cover runaway productions.

Scripted or Improvised

Some kids want to shoot footage without a preconceived idea of the finished project. Others want to start with a script, cast siblings and friends and pre-plan their entire production. If you're concerned that type of project won't hold their interest, offer some gentle hints about types of stories they might want to pursue. Unless the project fits into a school assignment however, the less you intrude, the more it remains fun. As a way of helping them stay on track, ask them to tell you about their storyline and offer them computer time to work on a script.

Setups

Tripod mounting your camcorder can help your kids shoot clear, vibration-free footage that gets their point across without camera shake. If your camcorder includes an optical stabilization system that adjusts the lens to counteract inadvertent camera movement, it can produce clear footage under many handheld conditions. But for night scenes, long shots and situations in which your cinematographer wants to pan slowly across a wide view, a tripod helps maintain a stable shooting platform. Before you choose a tripod, test its leg-height flexibility to assure that you can set it up at a low enough viewing level to accommodate not-so-tall children.

Editing & Playback

Depending on the ages of your kids and the sophistication of your editing software, you may need to insert yourself into the editing process to assure that it doesn't exceed their capabilities. Set up the kids at the computer and show them how the program works. If they're old enough to catch on quickly, let them work unattended and enlist your help only to answer questions or solve problems.

Look on the Web for open-source sound effects and for free-to-use music they can insert into their productions without violating copyright law by trying to use popular songs as background scoring. When the finished production emerges from their editing sessions, schedule an all-family, all-cast premiere on the big HDTV in your living room, complete with microwave popcorn.

Photo Credits: Anne Dale/Demand Media

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