Show Notes: In this video, Lisa Louise Cooke demonstrates 5 ways to improve your old family home movies so that they are more enjoyable to watch. See how you can transform a short home movie into an integral part of family history. She will demonstrate editing techniques in Camtasia software, but these strategies can also be applied in many other video editing software programs.
Watch the Video Lesson
Family History comes in many forms. But one of the most exciting is old home movies. I’m going to show you the five best ways to polish them up and make them shine so that your family can enjoy them for generations to come. (Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members.)
Video Digitization and Editors
Larsen Digital: I got my family video and audio tapes digitized at Larsen Digital, a family-owned business that cares about family history. Click here to get 15% off on your Larsen Digital order when you use our exclusive coupon code GenGem.
Camtasia: Use this link to Camtasia and our coupon code GENE15 to get 15% off for a limited time. Be sure to scroll down the page to find the Buy Now buttons for Camtasia and Snagit. (Note: Maintenance and asset add-ons are optional and can be opted out of if desired during checkout. Discount applies to Snagit as well!)
1. Correctly Size Your Video
The first way to improve your home movies is to get the size right. That’s one of the most challenging parts and probably the most overlooked item when it comes to video production. You need to determine the original video size. Chances are you have already gotten your old home movies digitized. But if you haven’t done that, first, you need to send them into a reputable company. I use Larsen Digital.
Or perhaps somebody in your family has sent you a video and you’re not sure what the size is. We can take a look at that in the file manager on our computer. Right-click on the video file and go to Properties. You will see what size of the file is in MB. Click on Details, and there you can see the frame width expressed in pixels. The example video I worked on is 480 px by 360 px. This is quite small when you consider that an HD video is more in the range of 1920 x 1080. Because my video was so small it means it’s probably better suited for sharing on social media or on a website; something that can take a smaller video and display it properly. The large HD size would play better on YouTube or a big screen.
Now that we know the size of our video, we’re going to set the canvas size to match in our video editing software. That’s the key. When you see a video that’s blurry or doesn’t look quite right, it may be because the canvas was set improperly, or the video is not large enough for the place where it is being displayed. If edits were made but the video size wasn’t taken into account it can cause problems. You can’t take a really small video and make it really big and expect it not to get blurry or distorted.
I use Camtasia as my video editing software, and the first thing I do is go in and set the canvas size so that it matches up with the size of my original video. To do this in Camtasia, go to the top of the canvas and you may see a percentage size, such as 50%. That means the canvas we see as we edit is actually about ½ the size of what the produced video will be. That just has to do with video editing, so don’t worry about it. Click the down arrow and go to Project Settings. Camtasia provides preset standard sizes to make it easy. You can see that 1920 by 1080 is HD. My video was much smaller, so I can either pick from a smaller preset size or select Custom. I like to use Custom and enter the exact size I want. In this case I will enter the size of the digitized video I will be working on which is 480 by 360.
Next, import the video by clicking the Plus sign in the Media Bin and locating the file on your computer. You can then click it in the Media Bin and drag it and drop it on to the timeline at the bottom of the screen. It should fit the canvas perfectly.
I’m working on editing a short little home movie that one of my viewers, Kate, sent me. It’s a wonderful little video of her with her siblings and her parents when she was a child. The original video was pretty small, but there were some other issues with it as well. And that leads us into our next best practice.
2. Correct the Video Speed
Often times old home movies may appear speeded-up. That was certainly the case in Kate’s home movie. Things are moving very quickly making it really hard to figure out who’s who and just get a chance to look at their sweet faces. There are several things that we can do to correct this in Camtasia.
Speeded-up movies can happen due to issues with the little sprockets on the sides of the original film, or missing frames – there are a number of reasons why this might happen. Also, the person filming may have made many cuts, starting and stopping repeatedly in an effort to try and capture the action. Unfortunately, the end result can be the film moves far too quickly and appears jerky. When you’re in the middle of filming, that doesn’t seem so bad. But the final resulting film can seem jumpy as if you’re jumping from one thing to the next. We can slow this down and create some pauses so we can really see the people in the film.
Start by clicking the video clip to select it. Right-click the clip to reveal the menu and select Add Clip Speed. On the right-hand side of the screen, you will now see the Properties of Clip Speed. Here you can see the size of our video. Clip Speed will default at 1.00 which means we’re using the exact same speed of the original video. It is 100%. But we want to slow this down. Change the minutes and seconds to adjust the speed. Going from 1 minute to 2 minutes will make it twice as long, thereby slowing the video down accordingly. You can speed the video up by shortening the length of time.
Review your adjustments. You can drag the playhead to any location (this is called scrubbing) to review that portion of the video.
There are also opportunities to do additional things with speed to improve the viewing experience. One of the things we can do is Extend a Frame. If you have a spot on the video where you’d like to take a pause and be able to see someone in the film a little longer (such as a child running by the camera) you can select that moment and make it longer. Place the playhead at the exact spot where you want the moment to last longer, and right-click on the video clip. Select Extend a Frame. Select the seconds to the desired length. Review your work and make adjustments as needed.
You can Undo at any time by clicking Control Z or in the menu under Edit > Undo.
Another way that you can extend a frame is to click on the clip and split it by clicking the Split button. Then you can slide the section on the right down the timeline. With your playhead on the end of the first section, right-click and select Extend a Frame. Then you can click and drag the end of the extended frame to the desired length. (You can see how long it is by that little text box that’s showing up just down below.) Once you’re happy with it, drag the split off section back up against the first clip so that it will run smoothly when played.
3. Correct the Color
The next way you can improve your old home movie is by applying color correction. If the video is black and white (as in my example) there may be minimal work to do, but small adjustments can make a nice improvement.
You can also use color correction to be creative and distort things, but generally speaking, the goal will be to improve the overall look and make it as natural as possible.
If you’ve split your frames during the editing process, you’ll want to be sure to apply color correction to all of them. You can do that by dragging your cursor across all of the clips to highlight them. You can tell they’re highlighted because they have yellow outlines.
Next, go to Visual Effects in the menu on the left side of the screen. There are several from which to choose. Click Color adjustment which gives you several options and it’s fun to play with the various properties. You can colorize things make them interesting. You can change the frame of the entire video, such as rounding the corners, or making it look like the video is playing on a computer.
To apply Color Adjustment, drag and drop it onto the highlighted clips. You can bring the settings back to the original colors by setting everything to zero. Then you can play with brightness, contrast and saturation to get exactly the look you want. Small adjustments can even improve black and white home movies. You can also make spot correction by just selecting portions of the film that need correction. You can isolate those portions by splitting the clip into sections.
4. Add Annotations
Have you got any old photo albums at home where nobody wrote down the names or the places or the dates. It drives you crazy, particularly if you love family history, and you’re trying to get things right. Well, we don’t have to leave our home movies unlabeled either. You can add context to this historical video document through annotations. We can’t assume that everybody’s going to know who everybody is in this old home movie. There are things that we can do to add that context to the film, so that no matter how far into the future, anybody watching this video will know who they’re looking at and what was important about it to the people who were involved.
Adding context is particularly important for older home movies that are silent. So, let’s put on our Cecil B DeMille or John Ford hat and do what they would have done to their silent movies: add titles. We will do this with Annotations in Camtasia.
How to Add Annotations / Callouts in Camtasia
Click Annotations in the left-hand menu to display your options. There are some nice basic annotations that come with Camtasia. You can also create your own custom library and themes. Select the desired style. (You can also get more of these types of assets over the TechSmith website.)
Since we’ve extended frames to highlight certain people and actions, these are great places to add annotations. Go to the extended frame and place the playhead there. Click the annotation style you want and drag it onto the canvas. I like to use the Callout that has text on a background which works well as a label on the screen. It’s very easy to read. Double-click on the text of the Callout and type the name or context information.
You may see that you have extra whitespace at the top and the bottom of the label. Click on the little handles around the label (Callout) and pull to resize.
You can also change the properties and the spacing in the Call Out Properties on the right side of the screen. You can change the label outline color and background color. Use the color picker to pick a coordinating color from the video or select from the color palette. You can also change the thickness of the border. Text can also be formatted to suit your needs.
Reposition annotations by clicking on it and dragging it to the desired location.
Speed up the process by copying annotations, pasting them at the desired location on the timeline, and then updating the text. If you don’t see the pasted annotation, it might be on top of the one you copied. Also, check the position of the playhead on the timeline. If the playhead isn’t on the annotation, it will not appear on the canvas.
You can extend each annotation to the exact desired length by grabbing the edge and dragging it on the timeline.
Another way to create a pleasant viewing experience is to add Fade Transitions at the beginning and end of annotations.
5. Cite Your Source: End Titles
We’ve added annotations to tell more about who is in the film along the way. However, the source of the overall package of this video needs to be cited as well, just like any good genealogy record. A great place to do is by adding a title card at the beginning and / or end of the home movie video.
I particularly like to add the source citation at the end so that when they finish watching the video, they will see how it came to fruition, where it originally came from, who did the editing, and notes about the improvements applied.
If you’ve made changes such as color correction it’s important to mention that at the end in the source citation. This end title can explain what you did that alters it from the original piece. We do this with photos, and the same thing holds true here for home movies. We want to make sure that people know the difference between what was original and real and what was added in post-production.
You can create a simple custom title card at the end by using an annotation. Place the playhead at the desired location on the timeline and go back to the Callouts under Annotations. I like to use the simple text only callout. Drag and drop it onto the canvas or the timeline. Highlight the text to select it and type your text. I recommend small amounts of information on multiple callouts, separated by Fade Transitions. Review your work carefully to ensure that the viewer has enough time to read through each title card you create. You can drag the edges of each callout to shorten or lengthen them, but keep in mind you might need to move the callouts that follow the one you’re working on further down the timeline to make room.
Bonus: How to Add Music
One last little thing you can do to your video is music. Import that mp3 music file into your Media bin, and then drag and drop it onto the timeline. If the music isn’t long enough, add a second copy. Trim blank space at the end of the first piece of music and then butt the second piece up against it.
If your music is longer than your video, shorten the music to match. Then, go to Audio Properties on the left side of the screen (it may be under More) and drag and drop Fade Out to the end of the music.
Share Your Home Movies
I love old home movies, and I love getting them into tip top shape so that they can be enjoyed for many years to come by countless people. There are so many different ways you can share your home movies. You might want to upload it to YouTube. If you do, add some family information in the video description so that other people can find them. You can also share videos on social media, by text or email, etc. There are so many different ways to share your family history, and I think that moving pictures is one of the most exciting. Your family will appreciate the extra effort you put into improving them and making them more enjoyable to watch.
- Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members.
- Watch and read How to Edit Home Movies by Lisa Louise Cooke.
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Absolutely fantastic! I have very recently had my home videos digitized and they need a lot of work. Now I know where to start!! Thanks so much.