All tripods are not created equal

Tripods designed for still cameras and those meant for video, while similar, are very different beasts. They both have three legs, of course. They’re both designed to provide a steady platform for your camera. But there’s a critical difference between the two.

It’s in the head of the tripod, the part where you mount your camera. Video tripod heads are called “fluid” heads. They’re designed specifically to allow you to pan the camera from side to side and tilt it up and down smoothly while taping. Try these moves using a video camera on a tripod designed for a still camera and you’re in for nothing but herky jerky movement.

If you don’t want to spring for a video tripod, check first to make sure your still camera tripod will hold the weight of your video camera (video cameras tend to be heavier than still cameras). Then set up your shot, start recording and don’t touch the tripod. It’s okay to readjust the camera position between shots, just don’t do it while you’re recording. However, one of the attractions of video is the movement it allows. You’ll find that camera moves, especially when taping family photos, add to the quality of your video. So even if you don’t think you’ll use it often, I encourage you to at least buy an inexpensive video tripod. I just bought a very nice Manfrotto for about $250. But you can find video tripods less expensive than that.

At the Family Legacy Video Theatre, the show never ends.

Family Legacy Video thinks seeing is believing – that’s why we created the Family Legacy Video™ Theatre.

The Family Legacy Video™ Theatre is the online theatre where you can view all the video clips streaming from the Family Legacy Video Web site. The clips you see there will surely inspire you with ideas for your family video, and you’ll get to see Steve Pender talk about his passion for family history video in two television appearances. The Family Legacy Video™ Theatre is always open and YOU decide when the show begins. To visit the theatre, click here

Bridge the generation gap with a family history video

Most elder family members are great sources of family stories and family history, but have little interest or experience with video technology. Many younger family members know little family history but are aces when it comes to computers and video. What can bring them together? Try a family history video project.

There I was, at a local Rotary Club, in the middle of a talk about creating family history videos, when one of the older members, a fellow in his mid-seventies, piped up. “This digital stuff seems like a lot of bother to me,” he said. “There’s tape, there’s discs – I really don’t know what’s what. Technology keeps changing and I can’t be bothered transferring from one format to another. I’ve locked all my family films in a cabinet, along with a projector, and when a family historian wants to watch them, that’s where they’ll be.”

I congratulated him for safely storing his family films and I had to admit he had a point when it came to technology. Rapid advances in computer and video hardware and software have been dizzying and sometimes confusing. BUT, when the choice is between preserving a precious video record of your family stories and history or losing them for all time, I don’t think the fear of a little technology should be allowed to get in the way.

So what do you do if you view technology as a hindrance rather than a help?

Look for the nearest teenager or preteen. Grandkids, grandnieces and grandnephews grew up with this computer stuff. To them it’s second nature. Why not enlist their help in creating a family history video they’ll treasure in years to come (kids being kids, they might not see the value in it now – but when they get older, they will). So butter them up a bit. Play to their pride in their computer and video expertise. And if that doesn’t work, have their parents make them help you. Once you get some momentum going, a family history video project is sure to spark their interest and creativity. You may find them getting just as excited about it as you.

Of course, collaborating with a younger family member on a family history video is much more than just a means to an end. It provides a great bonding experience, a chance to share quality time, to laugh and learn together and to create something of which you’ll both be proud. You’ll end up with a living legacy your family will love and with wonderful new memories that will last a lifetime.

Advice from a former hospice nurse: Capture your loved one on video now.

I was on the phone with a sales rep last week. We got to talking about my business and as soon as she heard what Family Legacy Video was all about, she said, “I think what you’re doing is wonderful!” Turns out that, prior to her sales career, she was a nurse at a hospice.

She went on to say that she always tried to get families of hospice patients to tape remembrances with their loved ones and that so few families did. She hated to see so many memories and family stories lost. She was very passionate about the subject; I could certainly hear the emotion in her voice.

I can only imagine how emotionally trying having a family member in hospice care can be. But I encourage you, as does the former hospice nurse with whom I spoke, to spend some of those final days or hours capturing your loved ones family stories on video. They’ll be a lasting legacy you’ll treasure for years to come.

Ethical Wills on Video

We’ve seen the scene in movies countless times. Bereaved relatives gather in a lawyer’s office. An attorney picks up a sheet of paper and begins to read, “I (insert name here) being of sound mind, do hereby bequeath my estate to…” And so on and so forth. A last will and testament, the document that details how a person disposes of his or her physical property after death, is a pretty common concept. But there’s another kind of will gaining popularity, one that focuses on spiritual and moral values as opposed to physical assets. And this will is often passed along before the will’s writer passes on.

It’s called an ethical will. Ethical wills have actually been around for three thousand years, but they’ve gained newfound popularity since 9/11. They can take the form of personal letters written to a child, grandchild, niece or nephew, an audio recording or a video. Ethical wills can incorporate anything a person believes is meaningful enough to pass on. The Web site lists some common themes:

  • Important personal values and beliefs
  • Important spiritual values
  • Hopes and blessings for future generations
  • Life’s lessons
  • Expressions of love
  • Forgiving others and asking for forgiveness

Why create an ethical will? According to some of the reasons are:

  • We all want to be remembered, and we all will leave something behind
  • If we don’t tell our stories, no one else will and they will be lost forever
  • It helps you identify what you value most and what you stand for
  • By articulating what we value now, we can take steps to insure the continuation of those values for future generations
  • You learn a lot about yourself in the process of writing an ethical will
  • It helps us come to terms with our mortality by creating something of meaning that will live on after we are gone
  • It provides a sense of completion in our lives

Video can be a powerful medium for passing along your values to a loved one. The conviction in your words and the passion in your eyes will leave a profound impression on the person for whom you create your video ethical will, as well as the generations that follow. You don’t have to do anything fancy from a video standpoint. To ensure a good quality video, just employ some of the basic organization, lighting and sound techniques described in the Family Legacy Video™ Producer’s Guide.

An ethical will can be a wonderful gift and a long lasting legacy, made all the more powerful by the use of video.

Memories More Valuable Than Money

A new study finds that, when it comes to family legacies, an overwhelming majority of people believe preserving family stories, histories and values is more important than money.

A recent story by By Andrea Coombes of MarketWatch says that: “When it comes to thinking about inheritances, both boomers and older Americans say money’s not everything. Instead, baby boomers say their parents’ personal keepsakes, family stories and final instructions are more important than the oft-publicized trillions of dollars they’re expected to inherit.”

These attitudes were uncovered during a telelphone and online survey conducted for Allianz, the insurance company, by Harris Interactive.

According to the survey, “Seventy-seven percent of boomers said understanding their parents’ values is very important, 65% said enacting their parents’ last wishes is key and 34% felt receiving their parents’ sentimental treasures is very important.”

The article goes on to say that when study participants were asked to choose between one type of bequest, either money or values, not one person chose money. The article quotes Ken Dychtwald, a consultant on the study, who said, “We’re not saying money isn’t important and people don’t enjoy receiving some financial windfall, but … the focus on inheritance is the wrong paradigm. What people have an appetite for is to pass a large part of themselves along to the next generation.”

Fascinating stuff. It seems most people realize what Family Legacy Video customers, clients and Cafe visitors know: Your precious family stories are your greatest legacy of all. And preserving those stories on video is the best way to share your family legacy with future generations.

The Timeline of Your Life

I just found a site where you can generate your own personal historical timeline.

If you have a few minutes and want to see how your personal history intersects with world events, head on over to Enter in your name, the date of your birth and the current year, and the site generates a timeline of historical events – and tells you what your age was when these events occurred.


Join our September workshops!

It’s nice to be back at the cafe. I admit I’ve been lax in posting, but I have a good excuse. I’ve been busy finalizing plans for two exciting video biography events in September. I hope you’ll join in the fun!

So, what’s been keeping you from getting a jump on that family history video project of yours? Not sure where or how to start? Maybe the technology, from cameras to computers, is too intimidating?

Or, maybe you’re already a video guru and you’ve been wondering how to run your own video biography business?

Has Family Legacy Video got the workshops for you!

This September, in Tucson, Arizona, Family Legacy Video offers two unique workshop events:

Create Your Own Video Biography (September 23-25)
Family Legacy Video’s president, Steve Pender, and the dynamic production duo of Dan Crapsi and Ginny Temple usher you through the process of creating your own family legacy video. You’ll learn what makes a successful video tick and get hands-on practice composing questions, lighting and taping interviews, shooting family photos, and getting the video onto your computer. You’ll also edit that video and walk away with your own, three-minute long “mini” video biography.

The Business of Video Biographies (September 26) – If you’re thinking of opening your own video biography business, this one-day workshop is just the ticket. Steve Pender (Steve was recently featured in the Arizona Daily Star and EventDV Magazine) offers tips, advice and insights into the business. You’ll learn what you should expect to need and pay when it comes to equipment, insurance, and music. Marketing and promotion also take center stage as Steve shares his promotion strategies and tells you what’s worked for him and what hasn’t. Graphic designer and marketing expert Dan Blumenthal (Blumenthal Design Group, LLC) will discuss the importance of graphic design in creating an image and brand for your company and how they can add to your bottom line.

Early bird workshop discounts end August 22.

As a special offer to FLV Cafe visitors, Family Legacy Video is offering an early-early bird discount. Register by Wednesday, August 3 and receive an additional early-early bird discount over and above the already low early bird rate. To get the additional discount, register online and enter the coupon code: vidbio. You may also register by phone – call 1.888.662.1294 (toll free).

Whether you sign up for one workshop or for both, come prepared to learn, to have fun and to meet some great people!

Visit the workshop page of the Family Legacy Video Web site for complete details.

Leave the editing to Family Legacy Video

I’ve recently received a number of phone calls and e-mails from potential customers who are already taping, or planning to tape, family video biographies. They’ve all asked the same thing: Can you edit our video for us?

The short answer: Yes. Here’s how it works.

First, we need to consult. I need to know your vision and your goals for your video. I also need to know what I have (or will have) to work with (interviews, stills, films, etc.). Knowing this allows me to give you an estimate of what the editing (or as professionals call it, postproduction) will cost. Keep in mind that the cost can rise if you decide to add or change things once the editing process begins.

Second, you need to provide your materials to Family Legacy Video in as organized a fashion as possible. Ideally, this means having selected the interview segments you’d like to use along with labeled photos or discs with scanned photos that are clearly named, along with notes as to where they go. We’ll also need to discuss music and titles. Family Legacy Video uses only music from our extensive music library (which you can screen online, if you wish).

Third, I’ll need to know how many copies you’d like, the format (DVD or VHS) of those copies and, if DVD, whether you’d like menus and chapters and a custom cover.

That’s it in a nutshell. I highly recommend that you purchase a copy of the Family Legacy Video Producer’s Guide on CD-ROM. It clearly steps you through the process of organizing and taping your project and preparing for postproduction. Remember, the more organized you are, the less time Family Legacy Video needs to spend in post – which will keep your cost as low as possible.

Family Legacy in Poetry

My local paper, the Arizona Daily Star, just picked up a column by Ted Kooser, the Poet Laureate of the United States. The first column carried by the paper featured a wonderful poem by Andrei Guruianu that relates to family history in a very personal way. The poem really resonates with me; I hope you enjoy it.

by Andrei Guruianu

Dead before I came into this world, grandfather,
I carry your name, yet I’ve never met you.
I hear my name, and know
that somehow they refer to you.
When I scribble those six letters
fast, to sign some document
or print them neatly in a box,
I feel your presence flow with the ink
stain and burn through the paper,
forever imprinted in my mind.
Late summer nights
gathered around the dinner table,
leftovers being cleared away,
faces clouded in cigarette smoke,
I hear voices pass the word
back and forth in reverence.
Somehow I know it’s not me
the little one grabbing for attention.
They speak of you, Andrei,
the one I’ve never met,
whose name I carry.