How to Run a Kids Online Video Contest

I own a small video production in Onalaska, Wisconsin. My company specializes in home movie transfer, editing services and video production for businesses and weddings. I had always wanted to run a video contest, but didn’t really get know how to get started. I was looking for a creative way to promote my business, but mostly it was just something I always wanted to do.

I decided to run a “Kids behind the Camera” video contest. The contest was open to all kids ages 6-16. They were asked to make a 1-2 minute video on any topic they wanted. There would be two winners: A producer’s choice (my choice) & a public choice.

I didn’t have a lot of money to promote the contest or give away a lot of prizes so I had to get creative.  I had met the owner of a local parenting magazine, “Coulee Parenting Connection” a couple of times and thought maybe she would be interested in at least providing some free advertising for the contest.  Not only did she love the idea, she asked the local news channel, WKBT if they wanted to be involved. WKBT jumped on board also. Not only did WKBT provide the two cameras that were given away, but they also agreed to interview each one of the winners and show their video on their newscast!

I use Sony Vegas software for my editing software. By chance, Sony is headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin. I sent an email to them telling them about my contest and would they want to donate a prize. They emailed back, “Sure. What’s your address?” Within a week, I had it new editing software at my door.

So WKBT provided the cameras and advertising on their show and agreed to interview the winners. Coulee Parenting Connection advertised the contest in their magazine and agreed to announce the winners in their magazine. Sony agreed to provide Sony Movie Studio software as a prize. My responsibility was to take care of releases, the video uploads and the public choice voting.

The contest started. The entry time was May 15th- July 7th.  We chose summer because for one, I thought of the idea in spring, but we knew fall was too busy for people with going back to school, winter was too cold to go out and film, so summer was perfect.

The kids were to shot the video, edit it if they wanted to and upload it on YouTube. They would then email me the YouTube link, along with the releases and I would put it on my website.

I required signed releases for every person in the video. Even though the kids put the video up on their own YouTube page, I still wanted to protect myself, especially because all of these videos “starred” minors.

I use and maintain my own website by using Yahoo Site Builder. By maintaining my own site, I was able to easily add the videos right away when they came in.

A few entries trickled in. As the videos came in, I added them on my website, put a link to Facebook and announced every new entry as it came in. I also commented on each video, “Great instructional video today by Gavin. Check out how to learn how to tie a karate belt!”

In all we received 10 entries. Of those 10, 6 came in on the last day.

The videos were in, on the site and ready for voting. I used the Constant Contact application for surveys. I was able to put my “survey” (which was really just one question) on my site. Constant Contact measured the results. I didn’t have to track anything.

I tried to keep the momentum up for the voting by posting it on Facebook and sending out emails to the kids. However, I had made the time frame too long. I had the voting for 2 ½ weeks. I should have only run it one week. 2 ½ weeks was just too long to keep the “excitement” going.

Wow.  I was so impressed by some of the entries we received.  A lot of them had graphics, titles and impressive editing.

I chose a video for “Producer’s Choice” (which was really a very difficult choice) and the public chose “Public Choice”.  In all there were about 500 votes.

At the end of the contest I sent of certificates to each one of the kids. I made up awards such as “Best Stunt”, “Best Comedy” etc. I sent a DVD copy to the winners with their tv interview on it.

Out of the 10 entries, I received 8 phone calls or emails from the parents thanking me for running the contest. I would say it was successful and fun. I just called the magazine and she is excited again to run it this year!

I had some wonderful, funny, cute and serious entries.  For more information about Take 5 Productions, take a look at our website.

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To Flip or Not- Flip Video Camera that is.

Recently, my family went on vacation to Mexico. While packing, my husband once again gave me the “pack light” speech. Vacations have always been a struggle for me. Since I am a “professional” videographer, I want to pack everything: the camera, wireless microphone and tripod. On this trip, I did pack light just my camcorder a Canon HV30. My husband, Bruce meanwhile packed a flip camera and his flip flops and we were off.

I was kind of leery of his Flip Camera. For those who don’t know, a HV30 camcorder is a great camera. Measuring apprx 6 ¼” x 3” x 3 ½” and many optical zoom options and manual settings. Ok honestly, I don’t use most of them, but it is impressive. When I bought it, it cost over $800. Bruce’s flip camera on the other hand, was small about 4” x 1” x 1”. On/off switch that’s about it. Cost around $150.

Arriving in Mexico we were greeted to beautiful beaches, lazy days, and shopping and eating out. There were many times I didn’t want to “drag” my camera along. After all, I didn’t want to take the chance of getting sand in it or getting it wet and well, to be honest I was kind of lazy. After all I was on vacation. Bruce, however, popped his camera into his shirt pocket wherever we went.

Needless to say, Bruce ended up with a lot more footage then I did.

When I we arrived home, I was excited to start editing our footage and compare the quality of the two cameras. My camera is a tape camera meaning I had to use a fire wire to import it. Bruce’s Flip Camera had a flip USB plug. I plugged it in, dragged the files and I was done. So I thought.

When I tried to edit the Flip footage, all I got was audio, no video. After spending hours researching on the internet, I discovered that the Flip Camera is not encoded to work on my editing computer. I discovered I needed to purchase conversion software to convert the files to a workable file. The conversion software cost me $79. Then I was finally ready to edit.

I couldn’t see much of a difference between the quality of the Flip Camera and the HV30 camera. I edited everything together smoothly and have a great vacation video.

Moral of the story? The flip camera won out for size and ease of taking it wherever you went. However, the downfall of the flip is the hassle of the file conversion. Not every computer will have the same problem. I wouldn’t hesitate on using the flip camera on our next vacation.

Linda enjoys taking home movies for herself and transferring them for her clients.  Her website can be viewed here.

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Turn Home Movies from Boring to Blockbuster

Vacations are one of the most common times to bring out the old video camera.  We all want to capture the fun of camping and road trips and family gatherings.   It can also be the time of frustration; the battery is dead, mismatched tapes, and unsatisfying video.  “Why did we take 20 minutes of that waterfall, anyway?”

By following these simple tips, you can turn your dull video into exciting home movies.

1.  Be prepared.  Charge your batteries and have tapes ready before the summer starts.  Take a few moments to glance at your owner’s manual.  Get familiar with your camera.  Practice taking some film before the big trip.
2.  Be aware of your surroundings.  Turn off the TV, radio, fans and other distracting ambient noise.   Low light?  Open the window shades, turn on some lamps.  If it doesn’t look good on the monitor, don’t be fooled that it will look good on your TV
3.  Be deliberate.  Know what you are shooting before you turn on the camera.  Don’t search for your subject while the camera is turned on.
4.  Think about what you are going to shot.  We have all seen this.  Someone decides to set up the video camera and film the whole one hour gathering.  Don’t shoot to just shoot.    Get 2 or so minutes of one scene.  Turn off the camera and get the next scene.
5.  Slow and Steady.  Professionals use tripods and for good reason.  Shaky video can be nauseating to watch.  If you don’t have a tripod, use what you have, your body.  Firmly place your feet steady, elbows close to your body and shoot.  While shooting, move the camera slowly.
6.  Get down to their level.  Kids are short.  When filming get down to their level.  Sit on the ground or bend down and shoot at their level.  It is much better to get a face in the video instead of the top of a head!  – Keep in minds this also applies to pets.
7.  Be wary of zooming.  When we zoom, every movement is exemplified.  So unless you are using a tripod, it is difficult to get a steady shot.  Instead get closer to your subject.  Remember that audio won’t follow the zoom.
8.  Get the whole family, including yourself!
9.  Label, label, label.  Perhaps the most important tip of all.  We think we will remember the trip to Aunt Sally’s, but time flies but and we don’t.  When starting a video, narrate the date and place and the circumstances.  “It’s July, 2011 and we are excited to be at our cabin and go swimming today.”  Label your camcorder tapes as soon as you put a new one in.  Protect your camcorder tapes by switching the switch at the top of the tape to protect it being recorded over.
10.  Store Properly.  Dampness and humidity are enemies of video tape.  Avoid storing in basements or garages. Instead store them under a bed in a plastic box or in a closet.

By following these simple tips, your vacation video will be memorable and will be shared with future generations.

Linda O’Connell is the owner of Take 5 Productions in Onalaska, WI. She transfers home movies to DVD and see lots of great – and bad home movies. She can be reached at

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