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Home Movie Tips 2: Carousel Films

Part two in this series of “how to” videos by a person who really doesn’t much know what they are doing. The result is something EASY for you to do, too! Woo hoo! And it actually does work…

…or it doesn’t.

Here are two of my own attempts to make a cute Carousel-themed home movie. One of them succeeds pretty well, and the other is terrible.

Look, Father! A Carousel!

Grab the Popped-Corn!

There are a few easy tricks and techniques you can use to suggest silent films of the 1930’s style. Bullet points, anyone?

  • A cherubic child, doing cute, olde timey stuff. Favorite subjects include Carousels, ice cream at the seaside, 4th of July Parades, petting puppy dogs, playing stick-and-hoop, voting for Taft, stuff like that. Avoid Justin Beiber concerts for this style of video. Though we will be muting the sound, so…
  • If you are going on a carousel,you may have to shoot it WHILE YOU HOLD THE KID. Be prepared. It’s not easy. Or you can get a second adult on, but you will need to pay for them. Shooting carousel footage from the sidelines results in a pretty terrible movie, as you will see in our second example.
  • Black and white or sepia tone on all shots and titles. I usually prefer B&W, but try both.
  • Film grain or age effect. These come prepackaged in your computer’s video editing software, probably. Experiment with different ones until you get something convincing. NOTE: I should have used the grain and effect on the dialogue text and the frame well, for consistency.
  • Sound. Mute the sound from the video, and then use something old time-y and cute or dramatic. Here we have incidental music from The Little Rascals short, played by The Beau Hunks. Solo piano works well too, as it mimics the cinema players of the time.
  • Get a bunch of shots, even if they are short ones. Telling a story is key, however basic (We arrive, we look at stuff, we leave.) Try and get shots of your arrival, establishing shots of a location when you get there, and shots of you leaving. A napping child, happily exhausted, is a classic final shot. Shoot each image for longer than you think you need, to make it easier to edit later.
  • You’ll need a silent movie frame for your dialogue. Here’s one I found on a message board, it’s the one I used in the video below. Click the photo below to link to the full-sized version. Basically you put it in your movie as you would a photo, and then put your dialogue on top of the photo as a centered subtitle, in a vintage font. Dialogue should be corny as all get out, of course.


  • No fades or effects on the edits. Use all quick cuts, and make some of them jarring!
  • End credits are useful to tag your film with the people’s names, the date, the place. Who know how long your film will survive? If your grandchildren are able to watch it, they will appreciate having that information.
  • And, of course, my #1 tip- keep it to the length of one short song, if at all possible.

Ahhh! Halp!

No... not that! Anything but that!

What can I say about example two? I did pretty much everything wrong with this video. I really had no plan going into it, and threw it together in this way because… who knows what I was doing. I must have been drunk.

Let me list a few of the things that went wrong, even though they are so stupid I am sure you will never do them.

  • We went to a carousel on a cold windy day, in the fall on Cape Cod. No one else was there. Less people usually makes for a nicer experience. In this case, the ride operators thought they would do me and Stella (then 2) a real favor by cranking the thing up to full speed and letting us go for a full five minutes. Watch the video- it is one, unbroken shot of five minutes of terror. With a fake grin plastered to my face, I was trying to calm Stella, who was growing more and more frightened, as my fingers grew numb and I began to lose grip on the freezing metal pole. The centrifugal force threatened to toss us bodily from the ride. And each time we flew around to the front of the ride, you can see me desperately trying to let go for long enough to manage a quick wave before we are torn away for the horse and thrown to our deaths. It was insane.
  • Unedited sideline footage of a carousel TOTALLY SUCKS. No story, no character, nothing. You are watching an empty ride whizz around in a static shot for five minutes. Only my squinting your eyes and using your imagination can you even begin to make us out. It’s boring, uninteresting, dull, and synonymous with meh. It conveys pretty much nothing about the subjects. This is why you want to get shots and edit your shots.
  • The music is a terrible choice for this movie. It’s a mashup I made with Lil Wayne and George Michael, a tongue-in-cheek Father Figure vs Stuntin’ Like My Daddy mix. It’s OK as a mashup, but it is way too long (4 full minutes) and just seems to go on forever. It’s also a swear-filled abomination, a storm of f-words and n-words which would disgust any right-thinking grandparent and should probably not be heard by children, either. So it’s basically useless, practically unviewable for anyone but my most jaded drinking buddies. The video doesn’t know if it is a mashup music video or a home movie, and in the end it ends up being neither.

By the way, if you want to download the mashup, you can find it here.


About Uncle Dad

DJ, musician and Dad of three!

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