Better Disney Vacation Home Movies in 3 Steps!

Olivier S. (NDD#263) (27 Posts)

Born in France (and still living there) I discovered WDW in the mid 1970's when I was 10 during a trip to Florida with my parents. Since then, I am a Disney fan, but also a WDW fan with EPCOT as the prefered park. The Contemporary is my "mythic" hotel even if I never stayed there: it´s because of its futurist look. By the way, I also encountered space exploration during the same trip by visiting KSC. And I am today working as the chief editor of a space news website for a scientific park in France. Guess you can see the importance of this Florida trip and the others after...


Photo courtesy of Oliver S.
Photo courtesy of Oliver S.

With today technology, it’s easy to film your Disney vacation to watch on TV and share  with friends. It is part of the Disney Lifestyle! But, too many times, vacation movies are either too long, badly filmed or poorly (or even not) edited. I confess that having a professional corporate video background doesn’t make me the easiest client to watch such movies…

However, you do not need any professional training to create a good Disney park vacation movie. Allow me to give you some simple tips that can be summarized in 3 chapters:
  • Tell one story at a time
  • Good filming
  • Editing is mandatory
To provide examples, I’ve taken 3 video clips from one of the many WDW vacation videos I’ve done.

 

Tell one story at a time

Vacation movies can be too long for two reasons. First, too many home movies are not edited and you have long and unwanted shots in the video (blurry, where nothing interesting is happening, etc.). Second, we want to put everything in it. What is a good length for a home movie? Since you are not making a movie with actors, dialog and a plot, be aware that after the 30/40 minute mark, you risk to bother your audience even if it’s your family! It really depends on the length of your stay and its emotional importance. For example, for two weeks in Florida with my wife and our two kids, in 2013, I did a 40 minute movie telling our stay chronologically.
As for Disney parks vacation movies and especially Walt Disney World, the main pitfall is to try to show all the rides done and the most of it. All you get is a movie that is too long. Why? Because you must tell one story at a time. And the story you’re telling is your vacation at Disney, not a documentary about the attractions and shows.
In the video below, here is an example of what I mean: in the 40 minute video about our 2 weeks stay, this is the portion about a big classic, Splash Mountain. We rode it many times, but it is shown just once in the movie.

 

So, yes, be prepared to drop moments from wonderful rides and shows  because this is not the story you are telling. If you are a fan of a ride or show, just edit another video that will be only about this ride or show. And that will work, because you will tell one story at a time, the story of this ride or show.

 

Photo Courtesy of Oliver S.
Photo Courtesy of Oliver S.

Good filming

Avoid rapid pans, frantic zooms (in or out) that mimic the way our eyes and mind go from one view to another. Stay classical. A good video shot uses the same basis as a good picture, the difference being the movement in time. Be steady: avoid moving too much and if you pan, do it on purpose. For example, pan from a store on Main Street to end with the castle in the background. Classical? Yes, but this movement means something (you are going from Main Street to the castle). If you pan and end without something relevant in the frame, you just got a meaningless sequence. Also, do not always shoot with the same scale. Do not film only general landscapes: film your relatives, focus on details (and there are plenty in Disney parks!), use the zoom to frame a detail during a show, etc. These different shots will greatly ease  the editing of your video.
In the video below, again part of the 40 minute 2013 vacation movie, I wanted to keep the souvenir of the closing of Magic Kingdom with an almost empty Main Street and the electrical parade on the lake from the boat. No fancy zooms or frantic pans. Just very basic filming.

 

Editing is mandatory


This is when you edit your movie and choose the shots done with the good filming tips in respect the first tip: tell one story at a time. There is a lot to say about pace and the length of shots. It all depends on what you are showing and telling. For today’s viewers, a 5 second shot can be long… However, sometimes 2 seconds is enough and other times you will need 15 seconds. Because editing a movie, even a vacation movie, can take few days of work, always take time to watch it from the beginning before continuing. By doing so, you get again the pace of your film and you will be surprised to see new ways to improve the editing already done. Thanks to affordable digital editing on computers (iMovie or FCP X on Mac, Premiere Elements or Sony Movie Studio on Windows), it is no longer a problem to add a shot in the middle of a film or even to add a whole new sequence or to get rid of one.
Also, use sound! You can put together fine shots but the sound of each will generally not match (especially with all the different sounds in a park) and it will create a sense of discontinuity. The main trick is to use the sound of one shot over the others (you may need to film longer than needed to get enough sound) or use music. But here, were are entering in a more technical realm that I wish to address in future articles.
To conclude, here is a full day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios from the 40 minute movie. No external music was added, only the sounds I got while filming but not necessarily used with their original shots (same trick was used with the 2 other videos). This is obvious in the Tower of Terror segment. The shots of the drop showing the park, and the ones showing my kids’ reaction were done at two different times and blended together with the editing.

Last but not least: film but don’t forget to enjoy your vacation!

Olivier S. (NDD#263)

Born in France (and still living there) I discovered WDW in the mid 1970's when I was 10 during a trip to Florida with my parents. Since then, I am a Disney fan, but also a WDW fan with EPCOT as the prefered park. The Contemporary is my "mythic" hotel even if I never stayed there: it´s because of its futurist look. By the way, I also encountered space exploration during the same trip by visiting KSC. And I am today working as the chief editor of a space news website for a scientific park in France. Guess you can see the importance of this Florida trip and the others after...