How to Make a Birthday Present with MAXQDA

Being a historian I used to care little about video analysis. Until last year, when I was faced with a stupendous task. For a birthday I needed to turn dozens of hours of childhood videos into a short compilation. By importing the video files into MAXQDA, tagging the video track and thus segmenting the long video into many smaller clips, I was able to take a serious shortcut. So I finally get my hands on learning some video analysis and it also saved my nerves and improved the results with the power of qualitative data analysis.

How to analyse 20 hours of childhood videos?

How do you know that you have spent too much time on your research? When you start applying it in private life as well! All started years ago when my family and I digitized our old VHS tapes. Since then dozens of (one hour) childhood videos are rotting on our hard drives. For the 30th birthday of my brother, I decided to make him a special present and to create a best of video based on this material. My idea was to identify the ten decisive factors that made him the great person he is. But how should I identify these factors and how to cut and analyse dozens of hours of old videos? Here, some skills in qualitative data analysis saved my day.

Step 1: importing video files

For the fun of it, I decided to import the 17 videos into MAXQDA, the research software I use as a PhD student and freelancer. The videos are mostly about an hour long and although they are fun to watch, I did not intent to watch them several times.

To make sure that MAXQDA would run smoothly, I used a decent resolution (bellow 720p), frame rate (30 fps) and file format (mp4). I saved all my (external) video files on a local drive in order to increase performance and therefore the software ran quick and smoothly.

Step 2: coding video segments

Then, I began with an inductive coding process. Fortunately, I did not need transcripts or anything. Instead, MAXQDA allows to simply tag the video track with different labels. Here, a coded segment is made up by a code and the beginning and end time. With simple dragging and dropping and the help of the function keys, I was quickly able to assign labels to all the relevant video segments.

In this way, I watched one video after another and tagged the segments with ad-hoc labels. After a while, I began to define and describe my codes with code memos. To set a useful analytical unit, I decided to code only video segments that make sense on their own. The selection criteria was also clear: Only scenes with my brother that are heart warming or fun to watch.

One of the videos in the multi media browser. I created preview images (eye icon in the menu) to navigate it more easily.

Step 3: organize the code system

After my initial open coding, I ended up with some 20+ codes. Then, I began merging, splitting and re-arranging my code system by rewatching and reconsidering some of the segments that I have coded.
My finished code system. Of course a residual category “other” remains.
In the end, I ended up framing these codes as “10 Factors of Success” that turned my brother into the great and successful person he is today. These are (in English):
  • Endurance
  • Creativity
  • Sportsmanship
  • Teamwork
  • Wanderlust
  • Combat readiness
  • Marketing skills
  • Leadership qualities
  • Technophilia
  • The family

Step 4: Export the video clips

Up to this moment this all may seem like much extra work, right? Who has got the time for that? But then came the best part: The export function. By hitting “export coded video clips”, MAXQDA exported all the video segments as individual video clips and automatically sorted them into folders named like my categories.
The finished folder structure after the export. Each containing about 10 video clips.

The rest was quickly done. I just took the video snippets, aligned them in Movie Maker (yes, movie maker! I don’t do this very often^^). Then, I added some photos that I had also sorted into these folders, put some text and music in, and was done.

Putting the video together in Movie Maker.
Luckily, I did not need to cut any videos or re-watch dozens of hours of video footage several times. Instead, I went through it all exactly once, tagged it properly, missed nothing and was 80% done with making my video before I even opened Movie Maker.

Conclusion

My family at last was amazed by the astonishing results of my research. Finally, something that they could relate to! Unfortunately, I cannot show you the final result. But I am sure you can imagine the ten factors above represented by children between the age of 1 to 12.

If you have made it to this point, you might already have guessed it: this is not just a nice story, but I also lured you into reading a tutorial on how to do video analysis with MAXQDA. Try not to be mad at me and thank me next time you need it 😉 .

PS: If you want to use MAXQDA for a similar purpose. The free trial version has all the functions and lasts for 14-days. That should certainly be enough for a present!

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