You remember your beloved camcorder, the one you were so excited to get. The one you "needed." The one that has been hibernating for months. If your camcorder honeymoon has ended, then read on for some montage ideas that will put the zing back into your zoom.
A montage is a rapid sequence of video shots assembled to communicate a particular image or mood. Choose an idea or subject that interests you, any idea or subject–cars, people, dinosaurs, architecture–and go shoot it! To help spur your imagination, we’ve taken the old wedding tradition of "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" and transformed them into montage ideas.
Turn everything old into something new: a new montage. Shooting older photographs, people and household items helps preserve your memories of them. It’s also a great excuse to dig through that shoebox full of snapshots and clean out the attic.
Video Photo Album
Create your own video scrapbook. A video photo album is a great gift for someone you love. Pull out old snapshots and clippings, set them up in chronological order on a solid-color surface and shoot them. You can play some of your favorite oldies music as you record the visuals. If your camcorder or VCR has an audio dub feature, you can add music later.
Shoes, hats or any other article of clothing can form a video memory book. Shoot your subject in different ways to keep the images changing. For example, shoot a dress on the person, then lay it out on a bed with a hat and shoes, cut to a photograph of the dress being worn, then show closeups of special features of the dress, like buttons or lace. Keep in mind that a montage is a series of fast-moving images. If you want, add an interview. Record it separately so that it runs independently of the images, add music if you wish, then add it to your tape with your audio dub feature.
The Golden Agers
Seniors have life experience written all over them; a montage of their images can be powerful. Family events are a perfect opportunity to catch elder family members in one place at the same time. If a family occasion isn’t possible or practical, then go to the park or a senior center.
Capture images that invoke feelings: faces, feet, hands, how people walk. Try a montage of subjects’ backs as they walk through a park, or one of only smiles. Try extreme closeups if you are just shooting one aspect of their bodies or long shots to invoke a different mood. Be careful about intruding on people’s privacy and always ask for permission to videotape people.
We probably have more new events on tape than any other events. What is new strikes us most emphatically and these subjects lend themselves to delightful video images. Here are a few twists on shooting a "new" subject.
Those Amazing Babies
Create a baby video. Go to the zoo, the animal shelter, your backyard, the nature reserve–anywhere you can find new animal babies–and shoot them being cute. If you know a lot of human babies, do the same with them. Use shots from a toddler’s angle, down on the floor or through the bars of a crib. Add music and you have entertainment for your baby or a gift for someone who has a new addition.
Spring Is in the Air
Go on a nature trek to capture all the things associated with Spring; new blossoms, leaves and a rushing stream. With music added, you can use a video of fresh images as a background for your next party or just something to relax to while you read or fall asleep.
Same Old Toys, New Way to Play
Children love to collect things. Whether it’s dinosaurs, dolls, toy soldiers or action figures, kids will play for hours absorbed in their fantasy scenarios. Ask your child to set up scenes with his or her favorite toys, then videotape them as a series of quick vignettes.
When I Grow Up
Try taping your children for a couple of hours. Dress them in your work clothes. Videotape them behind the wheel of your car, shaving or putting on makeup, talking on the phone, mowing the lawn or any other activity that mom or dad usually does. Just for fun, try switching roles. The kids would love it if you acted like a child while they handled the camera.
Nothing is more fun than playing with someone else’s toys. Borrow these ideas, get out of the house, and have fun with your camcorder.
Make a Wish
Make a wish list on video to "achieve" your wildest dreams. Think of all those things you’ll buy when you win the lottery: a new car, house, yacht, clothes, jewelry. Now borrow them to tape. You could even put yourself in the picture by standing next to the yacht, sitting in the driver’s seat of the red Ferrari, waving to the neighbors in front of your dream house. Go ahead, dream a little.
Whenever we travel by means other than our own car, bike or motorcycle, we’re essentially borrowing another vehicle. (This is, admittedly, a stretch.) Subways, trolleys, taxi cabs, ferries, cruise ships, shuttles and rented baby strollers are all methods of "borrowed" transportation. To build a montage around this theme, select a type of transportation to videotape. Go to the train station, or a train museum. Study trucks transporting goods. Capture the view from a busy bus-stop bench. Pick one type of vehicle, (taxis are almost as interesting as the people in them), or find as many different modes of transportation as you can.
I Wanna Be in Pictures
Borrow implements for a theme party and carry it out in a video montage. For a boy’s cowboy birthday party, for example, you could dress up the honoree in his cowboy gear and shoot him playing cowboy. Borrow clips from old cowboy movies, and use them as cutaways in the montage. This is a great chance to put a creative spin on child’s play.
Something Blue (or Any Other Color You Like)
Choose a color, then shoot a closeup of an object for a few seconds. Zoom in as tight as possible or shoot the object at an unusual angle, so it’s difficult to tell what it is. Create a game, where the viewer has to guess what the object is by its texture. Here are some suggestions for a few common colors:
- Blue jeans, sky, glass, suit, velvet, eyes, whales, candy, mailbox, bird.
- Trees, plants, grass, peppers, eyes, money, apples.
- Fire engine, roses, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, apples.
- Lace, angels, candles, diapers, paper, houses.
- Streets, poles, tires, lettering on signs, cars, clothes, hair, purses, briefcases, buildings, electric wire, phones, nail polish.
Pick a Color, Any Color
Pick a color and go out seeking any and everything in that color. Select music that helps define your color theme and adds meaning to your video. Choose a piece of music and let it lead your shooting. For example, if your music selection is rap and your color is red, go out in an urban setting and shoot everything red in that urban setting (graffiti, red curbs, stop signs). Or cheat: shoot anything through a red filter. Pace the shots to fit the tempo of the music.
If your camcorder is sitting around unused, get up, dig it out, dust it off, and get shooting. A montage is a great "excuse" to use your camcorder.
Margaret Clair is a scriptwriter and video producer.
What can you imagine?
Let us know how you’ve put your ideas into motion with your camcorder. Write to In Box, Videomaker, P.O. Box 4591, Chico CA 95927 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A hand-held camera works well for some montages; for others, such as the video photo album or color themes, use a tripod.
To add music to your montages use the audio dub feature on your camcorder or VCR. If you don’t have this feature, play music in the background as you shoot, remembering to pause the audio when you pause the camcorder.
Your camcorder’s special effects features can enhance a montage. Black & white, sepia, and negative picture can give a special feeling to old subjects. Posterization and strobe can add an element of fun and provide motion. Be careful, it is easy to go overboard, turning your montage into a demo of your camcorder’s special effects.