Return to site

Q&A Session with Jeff Diehl, Video Editing Extraordinaire.

· Video Tips

The video portion of an adoption profile is one of the most crucial elements to telling a full story. The best videos are ones that capture your personality and captivate the audience. This may sound easy to some but it proves to be quite a daunting task for most. Don’t let the anxiety get to you! We are here to help.

In the past, we have noticed there are several common questions that adoptive parents ask when working on the video portion of their profile. So, below is a quick conversation we had with our Video Editor, Jeff Diehl, outlining some of the problems people face when making adoption video profiles.

Hey Jeff! So before we begin, can you give us a little background on yourself? How long have you been doing your magic?

I’ve been fortunate enough to be working in audio and video production for almost 30 years. We’ve worked with television networks such as ESPN, E! Network and The Outdoor Channel, etc., as well as national radio, recording labels like SONY and Epic and hundreds of regional productions. I would say I speak for all of us in the edit rooms when I say that we all get an incredible amount of satisfaction producing these family portraits. I love family history and feel lucky to be able to help tell your story.

Whoa! You really are a master, aren’t you? Okay, so the first thing people really want to know about is lighting. What do you recommend for lighting and why?

My best advice to families would be to always seek out natural light that is “falling” directly on you, not from behind. For example, if you’re sitting with your back to a sunny window it will make you appear very dark on screen. So instead you could try stepping outside to let the sun fall directly on you, or simply just utilize your overhead indoor lighting.

And when it comes to being creative with these videos - you know, going outside the box - what do you recommend for the families?

Try to enjoy the process! Smile, have fun, and don’t be afraid to mess around with different camera angles and segues. Regarding content, well I’d say practice makes perfect. Try your script out while performing different activities - walking the neighborhood, cooking, playing with the dog - and see what feels the most natural!

Another idea good idea would be to record creative B-Roll footage to accent parts of your script. So, if you mention entertaining guests consider getting some simple footage of a backyard barbeque. If you talk about doing Sunday chores together, get a quick clip of someone folding clothes. Little shots like these make the perfect transition between subjects, not to mention they just feel authentic!

I like that part about being authentic! It’s so true. Okay, next question. When it comes to script and footage, what is the best length/amount of content for you to work with.

I’m going to start with the script. Number one rule here is keep it simple. Don’t try to tell too many stories or pack too much information into such little time. Consider beforehand what stories and information are most meaningful and use those.

The same goes for the footage you send back. Look through it and delete those takes that just didn’t work. The best videos we see are when families include only their accepted takes. By giving us less footage to sift through we can spend more time being creative when editing.

Less is more. That is exactly what we say during the Writing Process of Parentfinder too! Next question: What are some things you wish people would consider while filming the footage?

So first of all, when you’re about to start speaking to camera, let the film roll for a couple of seconds. Clear your mind, summarize your thoughts and then go for it. Do the same at the end, don’t cut the footage so quickly. This gives me the ability to edit clips better.

Also, speak up and make sure there is no background noise whatsoever - turn the A/C off, silence your phones and mute the football game! You’d be surprised how such quiet noises can suddenly become so prominent in a video.

And finally, do not - I repeat DO NOT - read the script verbatim. I recommend writing an outline and just going off the cuff. Trust me, it feels way more authentic and just looks natural. However, if you are uncomfortable, which I 100% understand, try having some bullet points placed very close to the camera lens so it doesn't look like you're just reading it.

All good advice. Oh wait, do you have one more thing? I didn’t mean to interrupt!

Just one last piece of advice. Maybe this is just the camera man in me, but chill out on the panning and zooming. Take your time to get a nice smooth pan. It’s really common for first time camera users to zoom in and out too quick, and it feels like you’re being sucked into a wormhole!

I have to admit, I’m a culprit of the quick zoom! Okay, now let’s get down to your technical needs. What sort of things do you need from people regarding picture files?

Use pictures with file names that describe the picture itself. For example, if your photo has the title, 101112_DSC.jpg - change it to something descriptive, like grandpas_lake_house.jpg or "Saras_nephews_baseball_game.jpg", etc.

This gives us more information during editing and will help make the process quicker. To do this, simply double click the name below the picture icon and give it a meaningful name. This will save us time sifting through your images.

And what were those pre-sets on the camera that everyone is always asking about?

The infamous pre-sets! These are the settings I find work best on the camera’s we send out.

Video: HD with 29.97 or 30 frames per second / Full Auto

Audio: Full auto level controls

Alright - last two questions, Jeff. First, what is one piece of advice you’d give people dealing with stage fright?

Just remember that the people watching your video want you to be happy and comfortable. Be yourself and show who you are and what you’re like. It is important to remember that we are here for you and we will make you as attractive to birth mothers as possible. Also, film is not theatre, you have an unlimited number of do-overs.

Oh, and have fun! This process is all about having a good time. Sure, there are a few technical guidelines which should be observed but the best videos are the ones where couples and families are enjoying themselves.

And finally, how can we make your job easier? What can parents do to help YOU?

Well, it's important to remind everyone to follow the worksheet included with their camera package so we don't receive 25 minutes of footage.This is the biggest issue is that we get parents who send us 25 minutes of takes, plus 100 photos. Then there's their B-Roll footage that is very long and excessive. It simply means we spend two to three times the amount of production time completing them. I would go as far as to say it makes for a less quality final. We tend to miss or leave out small clips that the parents REALLY wanted to be included. So following the guide would make the project move along quicker and reduce the number of versions we send back and forth.


Just follow the rules - that sounds easy enough! Well Jeff, we thank you for all your hard work and the time you’ve taken to talk with us today. Keep up the good work!

All Posts

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!