Mini movie
November 9, 2013 7:38 AM   Subscribe

My sister's birthday is coming up and I want to ask her friends and other family to send me short videos of them saying happy birthday or whatever for me to compile into one full video to present to her on her birthday. What is the EASIEST way to go about this that a techophobe can handle?

My sister's birthday is Christmas Day so she never has had the opportunity to have a real birthday party on or near the day with all her friends, and considering she's about to turn 40, most of her friends have families of their own and can't attend a party. So I thought that this year I would contact her closest friends and have them record a little video of them saying happy birthday and why they love her, etc. I hope to them have them send me the videos and compile them for her to present to her on her birthday.

Ideally, I would have 10-15 clips of maybe 15 seconds or however long, I would put them together and do some simple fading/editing to make them flow and then maybe have a song playing over it all and then I would put it on youtube. It doesn't need to be even remotely fancy looking because she'll be much more impressed with the sentiment than with its artistic value.

What is the easiest way for me to do this knowing zilch about video editing? My questions:

1) I was hoping to have people just record a video using their computer cameras or smartphone cameras then emailing them to me. Is there a particular format or formats (is there are standard format in these cases?) I should ask for to make it less complicated for me (and for them)?

2) I have a 2011 Mac Book with iMovie and all the current operating system updates (including Maverick). Can I just use iMovie to do this? If so, do you know of a good tutorial I can follow? If iMovie won't cut it, can you recommend a free or super cheap (because I will probably only use it the once) application to download?

3) What final format should I have it in to upload it to youtube? (I've never uploaded anything to youtube).

4) Any basics that I should know that might be obvious to the seasoned amateur editor that a total noob won't be familiar with? Hacks or shortcuts?

Basically I need someone to walk me through this holding my hand. Any help is appreciated!
posted by greta simone to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How tech savvy are the people filming? I would get them to record on their phones, give them the login to your YouTube account and ask them to each upload their own, leaving it private.
When they're all in you can use YouTube editor to pull them all into one video, drop transitions (eg fades) between them and put some rights-free music over the top.

Doing it this way saves you from a lot of dealing with and uploading many large files yourself, which can take a looong time.

There are plenty of YouTube editor tutorials on YouTube.
posted by penguin pie at 7:48 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

4) Make sure you ask the people making the clips to give you a leader and a tail so you can have some time to work with when editing the clips together. They should turn on the camera, wait a 3- or 4-count (one deep breath, say), then send their wishes, then wait another deep breath before turning off the camera. Then when you're doing fancy fade transitions between clips you're not cutting anyone off.
posted by carsonb at 8:27 AM on November 9, 2013

We just did this for a friend of mine - but we did it with audio only. People recorded their birthday messages and emailed them to the organizer, who dropped everything into an iTunes playlist. The playlist was loaded onto the littlest iPod and given to the birthday boy. Not video - but this just couldn't have been easier.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:51 AM on November 9, 2013

I would recommend that you instruct all the folks shooting clips on their phones to shoot in a landscape orientation - turn the phone sideways to shoot - rather than portrait, shooting with the phone held vertically. Otherwise you are likely to end up with people doing it randomly one way or the other and your final movie will be jumping back and forth in a distracting way. You could have them all shoot portrait-style but the landscape is obviously the traditional video screen shape and will make better use of the viewing area in your final piece.
posted by zoinks at 10:02 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

1. I'm afraid it might be tough to get a standard format from them. Cameras, webcams and phones will have different frame rates, dimensions and "codecs" (the computer language the video was created in), so unless you can get them all to conform to one standard, you might have to do this yourself. If you don't want to deal with "transcoding" the footage to a standard format yourself, probably YouTube Editor would be your best bet.

2. I could talk you through the process on iMovie. I think this would be the most fun way of doing things. I could also talk you through the "transcode" process if you're interested. Perhaps you'll do more of this in the future. If this is definitely just a one-off, though, again, go with YouTube Editor.

3. I could write the specifics here, but I don't think it'll help you much. "mp4" is the format, "h.264" is the codec, probably 720p should be the frame size, and limit the data rate to 5,000kbps. Again, happy to talk you through it. However, I'm pretty sure that YouTube will handle anything you throw at it.

4. Repeating Carsonb for a lead/tail. Make sure they all hold their phones sideways so you can edit the clips together easily. Also, the better lit your family members are when they're recording, the better the footage will look when it gets to you.

Feel free to message me, and let's chat on Skype (I'm in the UK). If you don't want to Skype, you can also call me. I won't do it via email because there's WAY too much to talk about! :)
posted by omnigut at 10:06 AM on November 9, 2013

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