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Category: Homemade Videos

How to Make a Bar Mitzvah Video

Here’s an outtake from the video I created to celebrate our son’s bar mitzvah. I followed a process that prioritized keeping it simple. Here’s how I did that.

Over the years, I think I’ve recorded hundreds (thousands?) of little family video clips. So if you’re wondering, yes, of course I created a video to celebrate our son’s bar mitzvah.

It was a highlights reel of sorts, containing some of his greatest hits to date… at least the ones that I happened to capture on video.

Fortunately, I’ve been diligent over these past thirteen years to label each of my family video clips and organize them into folders by month and year. (That’s a lot of folders!)

Over time, I’ve also created a variety of little ‘finished’ family videos that reflected different moments in our family’s story (birthday parties, vacation trips). These particular videos were especially useful to identify the clips I needed for the bar mitzvah video.

Not a Documentary
So years of good digital organization set me up nicely to begin my project. (I’ve got all of my video files stored in an external G-RAID drive.)

But really, any way I looked at my task, it was still absolutely overwhelming. (And I wasn’t even considering using any photos.)

So instead of trying to accomplish the impossible and somehow jam in every perfect clip to tell the ‘total’ story, I decided instead to enjoy my trip into the past and simply use what I uncovered in my digital archives over the course of several hours during three separate research sessions.

Capture the Spirit
Sure, there were a few video moments that I had specifically remembered and searched for. (My wife also had a few clip requests.) But for the most part, my process of rediscovery organically led me to the clips I used. If I had repeated my exercise the following month, I could have easily collected an entirely different grouping of clips that were just as delightful.

I realized as I went along that the video would mostly reflect these three factors:

  • Our son’s growth across the years
  • His family and friends
  • Some fun moments

It would never be a complete reflection on his life to date. And that was fine.

Keep a Simple Structure
This understanding freed me to focus on creating a video that was simply enjoyable to watch. And it was ‘relatively’ simple to make.

It ran seven and a half minutes. Each clip was 10 to 15 seconds long. And I organized them chronologically (using Final Cut Pro on my iMac) with a date stamp graphic in the bottom of the frame. I think the dates were useful to show the passage of time. I used a couple of his favorite pieces of music to support sections that were more visually oriented. And I popped in a title at the top and a ‘congratulations’ graphic at the back.

Finally, my wife and I recorded a short video message to our son that I included towards the end of the video.

Make a Few Drafts
That was it. I made three drafts before locking the final cut.

The first draft was a just a long string of clips in the right order. The second draft was a shorter version. (Everything can’t make it in. Always remember that less is more.) The third draft added a few more clips that my wife had remembered. (Don’t forget to collaborate!) And the final cut was where I polished it all up.

There are any number of ways to make a bar mitzvah video. This was the path I took.

A Video for the Past and the Future
We showed my finished video to our son, and I think he enjoyed it. He did smile a few times. To be fair, I can understand how he may not be as excited to see his toddler clips as we were. (My wife and I were delighted with the trip down memory lane.)

But beyond celebrating an important milestone for our son, I also see this video as a piece of family history that reflects our son’s first thirteen years. And I hope it’s something he can return to years into the future and enjoy.

My wife and I certainly will!

How my Mother Influenced my Parenting Style

My mom was always there for me. It’s a high bar to match as a parent today. And one might ask if it’s actually too much. Here’s my parenting story for the day. You decide…

I have this memory from when I was a child. I don’t know why it’s lasted. I was twelve years old, and I needed to finish a seemingly insurmountable school project. It was a research paper, and I had left way too much of it to the last night. I was overwhelmed, and I guess I didn’t have the skills to plan it out better.

My Mom Saved the Day
What I remember from this sliver of my past is that my mother stayed up with me past midnight to help me get it all done. She sat at my desk while I did my work on my bed with numerous books surrounding me.

I think my mom was there mostly for moral support, but I do retain wisps of a moment of her going through a particular book, looking for some key information for me to use, and then writing it down on a yellow note pad.

I think I successfully turned in my project the next day, but that’s not what I really remember. It’s my mom helping me out in the middle of the night, when I couldn’t help myself.

Was that good parenting? Was it the right move to create a study group fueled by the organizational power of an adult? Wouldn’t the lesson of failure due to poor time management taught me more at that early age?

But that’s not how my mom was wired. And for better or worse, my wiring is based on that.

Role Reversal
This memory is particularly present, because I recently found myself in a similar situation with our twelve-year-old son. And now I’m the parent.

Our son had a history research project to complete. It was a group video project that he was working on with two other students. And yes, they fell behind. (And I knew with my own understanding of video production what technical challenges they might encounter.)

Fast forward to the night of the deadline… Their video needed to be finished and uploaded by midnight. The three were furiously working together virtually, and they were completely focused. There’s nothing like a looming deadline to keep you going.

Learning Visual Storytelling at an Early Age
A quick aside… I’d like to call out the fact that these seventh graders were editing a 10-minute video, complete with a script, b-roll, VO and music. They had collaborated mostly virtually and built their video project using an online platform.

This blows my mind, because these kids had to figure out how to line up all of the necessary workflows and proper collaboration to get a complex video finished by a challenging deadline. Plus, they needed to lock a narrative and find collective creative alignment.

That’s what I do for a living!!

So yes, I think this was a particularly big lift. These boys were still building their plane as they flew towards midnight.

Finding the Right Level of Parental Support
When our son announced at dinner six hours before the deadline that he would have to work through the night to try to get it all done with his schoolmates, it prompted my flashback to my own homework gauntlet when my mother came to my rescue.

So I told my son that I would stay up with him to help as I could. (No, I didn’t take over the video edit, though a part of me really wanted to offer!) He had his own team to work with. He wasn’t alone, like I was all those years ago.

I was simply there for moral support, and I prepared some late night snacks to help him feel fueled as he burned the midnight oil.

Perfection not Required
I’m happy to report that the team did complete their video, and I was pleased to see my son celebrate their accomplishment, bleary-eyed as he was.

Yes, it was an entirely imperfect process, and the sprint to the finish line contributed to that hard reality. I hope it was a good lesson that will contribute to future improvements in how he tackles these types of challenges.

Flexing a Growing Skillset
The next morning, he premiered his video for me and my wife, and he separately displayed his complex video editing timeline with pride.
His ability to align appropriate imagery and photos to his VO track seemed almost effortless and entirely organic.

I can claim some genetic talent that I’ve passed down, but it’s just my son getting it done using his own talents. Plus, I think it’s an example of his generation growing up with digital technologies. It’s simply second nature to them. Amazing.

No Need to Come to the Rescue
Our son didn’t require our last-minute help. He just needed our support. And I think someone to stay up late in a nearby room.

I camped out on the couch in the family room. And after I brought him his snacks, I actually may have dozed off for a bit. (I had set the alarm on my Apple Watch to ensure I didn’t miss his deadline.)

Remembering my Mother
Sorry, Mom. I know I didn’t have your endurance in this moment. But your grandson, who you never met, didn’t need it. He was just fine as he approached his own finish line.

Thank you for being there for me all of those years ago, because that’s what I needed.

Though I’m thinking a lot about Dad these days, I’ve been thinking about you too.

I miss you.

My Timelapse Videos from National Parks in Arizona and Utah

My goal was to capture sunrise and sunset timelapses from our Southwest vacation to three amazing national parks. Here’s what I saw.

I’m not proud to admit that I carried four cameras throughout our Southwest vacation to be prepared for whatever wonders awaited us. I packed my Panasonic Lumix GH5 II, my smaller Panasonic Lumix LX10, my tiny GoPro and my little DJI Osmo Pocket gimbal. Plus I had my iPhone. So that actually makes five cameras.

Good Things do Come in Small Packages
The good news is with the exception of my larger Micro Four Thirds GH5 II, the rest had small profiles and were easy to pack or throw in a pocket. I’m also happy to report that I did find moments to put all of my gear to good use.

That said, besides my iPhone which was always there for me in my front right pocket, my most useful camera proved to be my tiny but mighty Osmo Pocket with its magical timelapse creation abilities… perfect for sunrises and sunsets.

I popped it on top of my Manfrotto Befree Live travel tripod, set up the timelapse for 20 or 40 minutes and let it run while I took photos with my other cameras.

My Osmo Pocket captured some really satisfying timelapse videos.
Timelapse from 3 Southwest National Parks
This edited timelapse video contains my shots from Zion Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon… all amazing places. (Here’s our itinerary.)

Deconstructing my Shots
I took the first Grand Canyon sunset timelapse at the overlook near the Yavapai Geology Museum at the South Rim. This is not the most popular place to go for sunsets, which meant there were fewer people packed into the good spots and more room for me to spread out with my gear.

I positioned the second Grand Canyon sunset timelapse steps away from our room at the Bright Angel Lodge. It was already too dark to start the timelapse and really see inside the canyon, but the cloud movement was magnificent.

I think the second Bryce Canyon timelapse really works because you can see tiny, ant-like hikers moving around in the bottom left corner. It give the perspective the shot needs.

Plan your Timelapse Shoots into your Family’s Vacation Schedule
When you’re traveling with your family, plopping yourself in a space for 30 minutes to capture your next timelapse can be disruptive.

A word of advice: Don’t be spontaneous. Plan ahead and announce your intentions. And don’t do too many across a vacation.

It’s all about balancing your family’s vacation time so that everyone gets an opportunity to do what’s special to them!

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