The holiday season is over and you now have probably fifty hours of holiday shenanigans caught on camera. As much as you love your grandma and want the career she made out of opening her present on Christmas day forever preserved on film, you likely would rather watch the five minute version of this event and not the full three hour director’s cut. While the editing process can be daunting — especially with your aunt calling and e-mailing daily asking when she can get a copy of when your dad shot egg nog out of his nose — we are here to provide some practical and technical ideas that will make the editing feel a little less like falling crotch-first into a steel bear trap.

Get It on the System

You, of course, have to have an editing system on your computer. Many computers these days have simple editing programs on them to do the job, but you also have the option to upgrade for a few hundred bucks more. So, provided your computer can handle the amount of space your footage will need, get it all loaded onto the main and start rocking. Then go through the process of organizing your footage in your editing system for chopping. Chronologically or alphabetically are two logical ways, but order it whatever way works for you. If you need more space, go grab a couple of removable hard drives to store the extra footage and get to work dumping your images onto the hard drives. If you don’t want to drop the extra dough on a hard drive, just load half the footage on your main computer, edit that portion, delete the excess, and then load the rest on for editing. Takes a little more time, but saves a couple of bucks.

Cut Down on the Nausea

Home videos — especially those shot during the drunken holidays — tend to have Blair Witch moments.  You know, the shaky hand-held shots, swooping pans across the room, a dropped camera, uber-quick zooms, accidental shots of grandpa on the can, etc. Sure, it may be fun to watch these moments while under the influence of something illegal, but for most people these sequences can induce headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. Simply scrolling quickly through all your footage and finding these ‘down’ moments and deleting them can save you time and from having to clean up puke later.

Set aside the Bloopers

What video is complete without a bloopers reel? Even if your bloopers are only funny to you and your friends and relatives, don’t neglect the funny stuff. What should you look for in a blooper? Someone’s hair catching on fire is always good. Old people farting can also be pretty special. Set up a file for all the bloopers to be used at the end of your video presentation. Of course, if your final video has a humorous spin throughout, then keep some of the golden bloopers in the body of your holiday masterpiece. But still save some key moments for the bloopers reel. It’ll be a crowd pleaser.

Decide Your Story’s Style

This is the sitting back and thinking part of the process. While most people’s holidays can be considered dramas — tragedies, even — you probably want to capture at least something upbeat out of the hours of footage. And how you tell your story can have an effect on that. Do you want to just present all the events chronologically, or start with the aftermath of the holidays and jump back to tell how you got there? Most editing systems these days come with solid effects, but you can purchase more sophisticated packages if you feel the need to get all George Lucas. Effects, transitions, story jumps, titling — there are many tricks you can use to tell your story. And don’t neglect the sound trickery. You can pull someone’s sound from another shot and play it over another, and presto — you have narration.

Exorcise the Fat

Nothing is worse when watching someone’s vacation, holiday, or child birth videos(really, really NSFW), than all the excess crap. Extra long fight videos are no good either because they are boring.  The endless droning on and on about nothing from that crazy uncle who somehow got invited. Holding on that shot of the family around the dinner table for a minute too long. Less is more — especially when putting together home videos. Just look for those moments where the camera hasn’t moved in a while. Or where someone or something in the shot isn’t doing anything. Cut ‘em. Also ax out any duplicate shots. If you’ve come back into the kitchen and caught your mom washing dishes for a third time, probably delete two of those. As much as we enjoy watching a good dish washing video…

Lay It in a Timeline

Now you’ve edited your individual scenes and decided how you want to put it together. You’re now ready to lay it in a timeline. If you are using a linear system, you shouldn’t be reading this or be allowed to edit anything since you are obviously a caveman.  Non-linear systems make adjusting your timeline a piece of cake. Pull the scene you want and drop it in the timeline. Yes, it will take a bit to get them all organized and you will likely change your mind a few times, but this, Mr. Spielberg, is what we call making the film a third time…or just putting your scenes in order.

Music and Stuff

Once you get your timeline laid down, drop in the effects and transitions, sound trickery, and all the other stuff you decided earlier that you wanted to use. Don’t make the thing effects-geek laden, but throw some in there to spruce up your project. Music is also a must when putting a video together. Music can make an image of crappy quality and boring content suddenly seem less awful. It’s like a psychological thing or something. Since your videos are full of holiday stuff, we suggest you steer away from Rage Against the Machine and look for something that has a hint of season in it. Yes, we were sick of the Christmas tunes by December 1st, too, but it’s a holiday project. We’re just saying.


Rendering is what locks in all footage, effects, and everything else you crammed into your video and marries them all together as one happy holiday farce ready for viewing. Depending on the speed of your system, amount of footage, number of effects used, length of music, etc., this can take some time to complete. Start the rendering and go have yourself a shave and a shower. You likely need it after all that editing. Once rendered, you are ready to turn the missile key. If we can use that phrase with you.

Output to __________

Outputting is, well, outputting. You gotta’ get the finished product out so all your friends and family can see your genius and look back at their fond holiday memories. You can output to a variety of formats — DVD, CD, a slew of files for internet uploading — so you have to decide your outputs based on the needs of those that will be viewing your Citizen Kane. DVD will likely be the most sought after format, unless your relatives prefer to save the shelf space and watch it on-line instead. If you upload, use privacy settings on Youtube, Facebook, etc. Unless you want the world to see the hideous pair of socks you gave your girlfriend for Christmas. You can also output to VHS for that relative who still hasn’t caught up with the world, but that would require owning a VCR and some rewiring to your computer. For our money, not worth it.