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My Amateur’s Guide to Making A Year-In-Review Family Video

2016 February 4
by Becky

Earlier this week I shared our 2015 Year in Review family video and got lots of “how do you the have the time?” and “what software do you use?” comments about it, so I took a minute to write a rambling post about it…I promise this isn’t hard and is SO worth the time. I swear I’m no video-editing master (as is clear from my final results), I just stumble through iMovie each year and get things to flow together, telling a story, driven mostly by of my severe fear of digital backlog.

So I thought a little how-to was in order…just my method (if it can even be called that), one that makes this process a little faster with each passing year. Here is…


Cheesey title, but truthful! I’ve tried to step this out, but the first step takes a whole year, so not sure it’s very helpful as a “tutorial”, but hey, gathering all the family cuteness takes time!

  1. Get the action in the can. Throughout the year I take short movies, not worrying about background sounds or talking, just capturing moments in our lives. I primarily use my iPhone for this and I don’t try to be “artsy”. My goal is get lots of movement and love when people are walking through and out of frame, jump into the frame, or are mid-action. Reaction shots are amazing too. Just a few seconds at a time of stuff you really want to remember.
  2. I make my videos based on the calendar year, so come December I have hours of material saved in my little “2015 Movies” folder, within which I have the movies organized in folders by month (organization is half the battle folks). Even before Christmas rolls around, it’s time to start the process of going through all of the clips, deleting the bad stuff and dragging the good stuff into iMovie. I organize the clips chronologically by month, just to start. I’ll even put temporary month title separators in there to keep things in order.
    Amateurs Guide to Making Family Movie
  3. I edit down each clip after dragging it over, roughly so I only have the piece I want, not the whole video (like the two minutes waiting for Finn to finally stand up or 30 seconds waiting for Ethan to jump over a wave). Clips are sometimes just a second or two, which sounds short but is actually perfect in many cases.
  4. Once all my videos are roughed in, I go back and add still pictures, going through the folders by month, just a few here and there to help tell the story or show a major event of which I don’t have video.
  5. I take another pass at the whole thing, which at this time is usually about 30-40 minutes long. I cut more videos, deleting a few more that don’t seem necessary, and start organizing things in groups, sticking with their general chronological order (ie Ethan learned to ride his bike over many months, but I condensed them all into a quick little “montage” and placed it in order around the time he dumped the training wheels). Cut cut cut. Be brutal. I know kids are SUPER cute doing even the simplest thing but the point of this is for our family to actually want to watch these videos in the future, not suffer through them, so I make them fast and fun. I try to keep my movies under 10 minutes.
    Amateurs Guide to Making Family Movie
  6. Time to start picking out music (I usually have several songs in mind). Honestly, this is my favorite part, when the video really starts to feel like a project. I get so inspired to get it done when I hear that music playing underneath. I scour my music collection, blogs, Youtube, Vimeo, Top 40 lists, whatever to find inspiring, motivating, upbeat and fun tunes to make this family video super special. (I use this little trick to get around iMovie’s new restrictions on music.) To save you some work, I’ve put together a Family Video Songs Spotify list of the ones we’ve used.

    Here’s a quick list of our favorite Family Video Songs: 

    1. On Our Way – Royal Concept
    2. Happy – Pharrell
    3. Let’s Go – Handsome and Gretyl
    4. Bloom – Paper Kites
    5. Hero – Family of the Year
    6. We Bought A Zoo – Jonsi
    7. The Little Things – Carlos Bertonatti
    8. I Take Flight – Mindy Gledhill
    9. Wake Me Up – Avicii
    10. Best Day of  My Life – American Authors
    11. Home – Phillip Phillips
    12. 93 Million Miles – Jason Mraz
    13. On Top of the World – Imagine Dragons
    14. Northern Lights – Cider Sky
    15. First Day of My Life – Bright Eyes
  7. Let’s be honest, I make about 20 additional passes, tweaking and cutting even more. But as the years go by, this process goes faster, probably because I’ve become more diligent about cutting clips down enough at the beginning. Sometimes I split music clips to cut out the middle in order to make them end in a specific spot, sometimes I try to time music to video transitions. These are tweak that just take trial and error and time, a cool effect but not totally necessary.

In the end, I stop when I love it. It’s never “perfect”, but I get it done. Getting it done is more important than perfection!

A Few Tips:

  • This isn’t a photo album. Meaning I keep the still photos at a minimum, only using them to help tell the story, not just including all my favorites. Those will get printed in a yearly album in a couple months (at least thats the plan).
  • Keep the music light, easy, fairly fast paced, and make sure the lyrics say something positive or motivating, they shouldn’t be about dating or a break up…that’s weird piped over your family having fun at the beach. Maybe it’s a song you just loved that year.
  • I time 90% of my still photos to 1 second, sometimes .8, other times 1.3. Never much longer than that or it’s draggy.
  • I keep my videos simple, in the past couple years I’ve used no transitions at all between clips, and I rarely (if ever) use Ken Burns effect on my stills.
  • While I typically mute all the videos to avoid muddling the music, I leave the sound on a few. It’s cute hearing little squeals of delight or parental encouragement over the pretty tunes.
  • If a clip feels even slightly laggy, it’s way too long. Cut it by half.
  • I try to group stories. For example, I have several “story sections” in this movie. There’s the bike riding, learning to crawl, a segment about friends, and a slew of animal encounters. Those are things I had lots of video for, so I grouped them. I didn’t go crazy making them seem separate, but I find it more enjoyable to watch similar videos flow together rather than placing them chronologically.
  • For a few specific reasons, I only upload to Vimeo. I think it’s better than YouTube.

If you got this post via email, click the video title to watch on your mobile device.

Again, I’m not going for perfect, my main goal is to get the hours of videos out of a file folder and into some sort of structure, something fun and quick to recap our year. If you check out more of our movies, I think you’ll agree they get better as the years go on, that’s the whole “practice” thing coming into play…the more you do it, the better you get. The kids LOVE these videos, our families do too, Ethan gets downright sentimental each time he watches himself making memories.

I love making these compilations and especially love sharing them! Please share your family videos or favorite family video songs in the comments, I’d love to watch!

2 Responses
  1. February 4, 2016

    I meant to tell you that your videos are awesome. I’m perfectly okay with the fact that I can’t do everything, and making cool year end videos is one of those things I just don’t do. (Plus, I probably use the video feature on my phone about four times a year, max).

    But I do think it’s great that you actually do something with the videos you take! Very cool.
    Kristin recently posted..project addition: preliminary meetings with the cityMy Profile

  2. February 11, 2018

    Great work.
    I think we all get into things for our love of the subject.

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