Maybe it’s too many conversations about who’s going to pick up those socks rotting under the couch, but parenthood can make you feel boring. Your creative juices may have dried up like rubbery raisins in a diaper bag, but your kids’ haven’t!
Why not transfer your rock star dreams to your impressionable children and help them blast to online stardom in style? With affordable gadgets and digital connectedness, your opportunities to act as momager (or dadager) to your musically talented or “experimental” offspring are nearly unlimited. Besides, making music videos with your kids is sure to be a memorable experience.
Start practicing your best directorial yell of “lights, camera, action,” and use this practical guide for helping your kids create their own music video masterpieces.
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“The first order of business is to plan ahead,” advises Miami-based YouTuber and children’s music singer-songwriter Alina Celeste. “Kids are not natural improvisers. Or more accurately, they are, but not if you ask them to improvise.” Though silly moments can be key to a good video, it’s good to have a little structure. Make sure to pick songs they already know, that they’re comfortable with the person holding the camera or phone, and don’t forget to give them plenty of positive feedback — whether or not they sound like Shawn Mendes.
Also, let your little Jepsens feel comfortable taking the creative lead. This should help build trust and produce something original. “The setting should feel as natural as possible,” Celeste explains. And make sure to let them see the recording afterwards. Celeste also suggests short takes. “If they don’t deliver, try again later. It’s gotta be a quick, fun game.”
“Be open to going with what the kids do and making it work later [in editing]... The best, funniest stuff is usually just a kid doing something unplanned,” Mom blogger and YouTuber Andrea Wada Davies says. “Keep the camera rolling. Sometimes the best footage is unplanned, and also for editing purposes, one long video is easier to cut up than a ton of short snippets.”
Though many parents like to edit with iMovie because it’s user friendly, Los Angeles artist, parent, and filmmaker Stephanie Hutin uses Animation Creator to record and edit videos she makes of her family. “What’s awesome about it is you can use pictures and videos that you already have and audio or music from your iTunes library, sound effects you record, or recordings of yourself talking. It’s basically a full service, really easy to use app.”
Hutin likes Animation Creator for kids because it has fun special features. “You want to go with a lot of filters, hashtags, silly stuff for kids.” Because you can shoot with different frame rates, Hutin says you can use it for project-based learning. Kids see that if you take more photos the video will be slower and if you take less, it’s faster.
“It’s fun for parents, too,” Hutin adds, and it’s easy to get the edited videos onto the web by posting directly to social media sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, or save to your photostream directly. “It’s integrated into other platforms, which is the whole point for parents who are strapped for time.”
Davies also suggests the music.ly app. “It’s a great app for kids to record and share snippets of lipsyncing genius.” The downside is that most of the time you are using popular music and can only record a short clip. But, she notes, you can also download and lip sync to your own recordings on it. To edit, she uses not very kid-friendly programs, Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere Pro. “For kids, editing with iMovie should do the trick. It’s a bit simpler to use than Final Cut. But any older kid or teen could also figure out Final Cut fairly easily,” Davies advises. “The main advantage to using iMovie is that it’s free whereas Final Cut Pro is a bit pricey.”
Though you don’t need much more than a tablet or smartphone to whip up a video, some simple equipment can make your home movies much more professional looking and sounding. Hutin loves her Sennheiser ClipMic digital microphone for mobile recording. It plugs right into the phone and has a spiffy, tiny carrying case. Convenient, affordable, and it captures high-quality sound. The Sennheiser can also record directly into Voice Memos and comes with mixing software and audio filters. Since the file is right in the phone, you can put it in any app to sync it with a video. Snagging a tripod is a good idea too if kids want to record on their own with their parents’ phones or if their parents’ hands are full with other things, like diapers or dishes.
Lastly, if you decide to share your videos with the world, be advised: The internet is not such a friendly place. “Keep it simple. Be aware of copyright issues with music,” Davies warns. “You can’t use a licensed song or you will get a copyright strike on YouTube, and Facebook will not even allow the video to be uploaded.”
You can create a protective password on both YouTube and Vimeo to keep videos private. Then send it to a record label and the grandparents, while avoiding lurking eyes. If you’re going to keep the videos public, maybe it’s best to disable the comments section since nothing good ever happens there.
Once you’re really on the road to Bieberdom, you can become eligible for the YouTube for Creators benefits program. If you have between 10,000-100,000 subscribers, you get access to the YouTube soundstage and can even host your own events there.
It may start out as just a fun way to document the cute things your kids are singing or some goofy little dance move they’ve mastered, but these videos just might land you time at the YouTube studio, recording songs for your throngs of clicking kiddie fans. By which we mean, Grandma.
Liz Tracy is a Miami-bred, Boston-based freelance writer, editor, and mother.
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