Video Shooting 1-2-3

by Dan Cohen
AllEars® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the
September 14, 2010 Issue #573 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

When I last visited Walt Disney World, there were many memories I wanted to bring home with me. My favorite way to do this was to capture home video of some of my favorite experiences so I could watch them at home whenever I wanted to. You can do this too, and it is easier than ever before!

You probably have the ability to take your own home videos in Walt Disney World. Market research shows that many people have at least one video camera, new or old, sitting somewhere in their homes. If you don't, inexpensive and high quality video cameras, even HD (high-definition) video cameras, are readily available, and some people can even capture video on their phones. Taking home video in Walt Disney World has never been easier.

It's not hard to take home video, but a little planning and just a little effort goes a long way toward making your videos better than average. Rest assured, you can use ANY camera, new or old, to take home video of your WDW memories. Let me show you how easily you can make your home videos great.

This article is about what I consider the most important philosophy you can use when you are filming a home video. Your goal when you film should be to tell a story. Images and video clips are nice to have, but if you use them properly and your story contains a beginning, a middle, and an end, your final film will be much more powerful and enjoyable to watch for your audience.

Let's start thinking about this topic by remembering Walt Disney. Walt Disney was an incredible storyteller, and his talent continues to inspire and guide Disney culture. This storytelling is what makes Walt Disney World so wonderful, and is what makes all the Disney theme parks stand out from other entertainment offerings. Employees have been renamed cast members. Every building, every costume, every ride, has a theme and is part of a larger whole, and they all tell stories. Think about Splash Mountain for instance. The reason it is different from every other log flume ride out there is because it compellingly tells the story of Brer Rabbit during the course of the ride. It is the story that makes the ride transcend every other ride like it. And every attraction, every store, every hotel, does exactly the same thing.

You need to bring the same storytelling to your home movies, which will make your videos more compelling. Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your videos will also tell a story if you give them a beginning, a middle, and an end, and this is actually easy to do. It is as easy as 1-2-3. In fact, I call this the 1-2-3 method of filming.

For the purposes of this article, I think there are two basic types of story that you want to capture:


Your visit to WDW is made up of many short stories. Every ride, every meal, every character meet-and-greet is a short story. Telling these stories doesn't have to take a long time. You can tell a story on video in less than a minute. Let me give you an example. Imagine your family getting ready to go on the Haunted Mansion.

1. On your way into the ride, you take home video of 10-15 seconds of your family walking toward the Haunted Mansion, along with a few images of signage, cast members, and the headstones on the way in.

2. At the doorway into the ride, you capture another 10 seconds of your daughter talking about how she is scared of ghosts and her anticipation about what she is going to see.

3. After the attraction, you capture 25 seconds of your daughter talking about which ghosts scared her and what were her favorite parts of the ride.

Would a short, standalone clip of the Haunted Mansion exterior have been interesting? Absolutely! A video clip on its own is better than no video clip, but you can make your video more interesting to your audience if you focus on the story that is happening to you and your family. In the video story example I spelled out, the story of your daughter's experience is what is interesting to me, not the Haunted Mansion on its own.


... Otherwise known as the theme. While your visit to WDW is a series of short stories, there are also larger themes that run through your visit. Why are you visiting WDW? Are you there with your immediate family for a family vacation, holiday, or milestone? Are you there for a certain event, such as Star Wars weekends? These are some of examples of big themes that bind together your short stories into something cohesive. Telling the "big" story can be a very powerful way of making a video, but it requires some planning. You can make this part of the story very clear and powerful if you are editing your video.

Here is an example of how I might tell a larger story with all the smaller stories. The last time my family and I went to WDW was the first time my daughters visited. Here is how I pulled my footage (my combination of short stories) together into a whole.

1. The beginning of my video is clips of my family -- in the airport, at the hotel, riding on the bus to WDW after breakfast -- all talking about what they are doing and what they are seeing. They talked about their anticipation and excitement about visiting the Magic Kingdom.

2. The middle of my video, and bulk of the video itself, is made up of all the things we did while at WDW. The attractions, the meals, the character meet-and-greets, and on and on. This is where I used my series of "short" stories. They make up the "middle" of the "beginning-middle-end" of my larger story.

3. The end of the video sums up the experience of our visit. You can do this by taking "exit interviews" with family members talking about their favorite experiences at WDW, or a video out the window of the airplane as you take off from the airport. I finished my home video with credits that talk about how wonderful the experience was.

Pre-planning is vital to a compelling home video, and pre-planning actually makes things easier. Most people don't pre-plan out of fear of it being a time-consuming exercise. I actually find that pre-planning makes my home videos better, and that I actually film a lot less. For example, before a visit to WDW, I think about what I want to capture on video. I don't need to capture every minute. If I know I need a few interviews at the airport, I do them in a few minutes and I'm done for that part of the trip. Less than five minutes, and I'm done. If I know my children love certain rides, I know that it's important to capture a few clips at the rides, but not so important to have my camera out during meals. If I know I want a clip of my family on Main Street USA, I catch a quick clip in 15 seconds and I don't need to be one of the myriad folks who wander up Main Street with a camera glued to their eye, tripping over other tourists. I don't live my experience through a viewfinder this way, and I have an end-product that my entire family enjoys.

However, there will always be surprises. Sometimes something exciting happens that doesn't fit into your plan and you end up with a piece of home video you didn't expect. Sometimes themes don't present themselves until after your trip when you are reviewing your clips and short stories. If you are editing your video, you can compile series of clips (related or unrelated) using basic editing software into an order that again tells a story. When we got home from our trip, I realized that about a third of my total video was of my daughters getting character autographs. This was a part of their trip that they really enjoyed, and was a special part of their visit. I got some wonderful footage of the characters, who all have their own "shtick". Have you ever seen Pluto sign an autograph book? He balances it on his nose. Have you ever heard the Princesses banter with the kids while they are signing? They make remarks about their movies. Princess Aurora asked about my daughters' personal fairies, Mulan asked if they had ridden in on a horse, and Snow White talked about Dopey blowing water out his ears. My daughters were entranced. This collection of clips, as an organized group, documents all the autographs and pulls together into a solid section of the video. In putting the clips together, I was able to compile an interesting montage of both the autographs and the little details that Disney is famous for. My daughters are thrilled with it.

Probably the best thing you can do before you go to WDW is to practice a little. Pull out your camcorder and spend some time making a video that tells a story. It doesn't matter what that story is, I encourage you to just do it. A little practice goes a long way. Whether your camera records to tape, DVD, SD card, or hard drive, the media you record to is the least expensive part of your video equipment and you will learn a great deal if you designate a practice tape and spend some time playing around. Annoy your spouse, collect some footage you can later use to embarrass your kids, have some fun! Keep in mind the 1-2-3 method of shooting, which will push you to give your story a beginning, a middle, and an end. With these elements in place, your video will be much more interesting to both you and your audience.

Good luck with your filming!


To see an example of how to use Dan Cohen's 1-2-3 method of shooting a home video, visit his youtube channel here:


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Cohen is a self-described Disney nerd who sometimes goes by the name "Disney Dan", who also happens to be a freelance writer and video hobbyist. He maintains a youtube channel devoted to using your camcorder at WDW at Home Video at WDW. New updates coming soon! He is especially partial to classic Disney Imagineering (especially the Haunted Mansion and The Enchanted Tiki Room) and animation (his favorite Disney movie of all time is the short, "The Skeleton Dance"). He uses a Canon HV30 as his camcorder, a Rode Videomic as his microphone, and Sony Vegas Movie Studio (Platinum Edition) as his video editing software.