Looking for some free, archival footage? Here’s one option.

World War II bombing runs by B-17s, collecting maple syrup in Quebec, commercials for the Ford Edsel; all of these are examples of historical footage used in past Family Legacy Video® video biographies. There’s an amazing abundance of historical images, both still and moving, from an array of sources, that can help enhance and illuminate the life stories related by family storytellers. A hallmark of Family Legacy Video’s Deluxe Legacy Videos is the use of archival images that lend a “big budget” documentary feel to the productions.

Family Legacy Video provides custom personal video biography and legacy video production services.Archival images and footage do come with a cost, however. First, there’s the time it takes to research, locate and secure the material. This time alone adds to the cost of video biography. But the footage itself can be pricey. That’s why it’s nice to find a resource for free, public domain footage. One that’s been helpful to me over the years is the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is a digital online repository of both still and moving images. You’ll find lots of old government and promotional films there, many of them in the public domain. Clips are available for download in a variety of formats. Due to compression, the video is not necessarily pristine, but it is free, and if you’re a creative editor you can always find ways to dress it up in post.

I’ve found shots in some films at the archive that I couldn’t find anywhere else – and that perfectly fit the bill. So check out the Internet Archive; you may find it a valuable free source of images or just a place to go to watch some really neat old films.

The preinterview: The key to a successful legacy video interview.

Organization and preparation are the keys to any successful video shoot, and legacy video interviews are no exception. This is especially true when planning the questions for your video biography session. After all, your life story is unique, and only a set of custom questions designed to elicit the details of your life will do. The key to crafting those questions is the preinterview.

Basically, a preinterview is a discussion we’ll have as we begin planning for your shoot. It takes the form of a casual conversation, or conversations, and can be conducted either face-to-face or over the phone. During the preinterview, I’ll learn just what you want to talk about, as well as the details of your stories. I’ll use that information to draft questions that relate specifically to you and your stories.

Doing my homework with a preinterview helps us to work efficiently once the cameras are recording. Not only will I know what to ask, but because I’ll already be aware of the details of your stories, I’ll be able to prompt you for more information if I catch you overlooking any important facts.

So, as you see, a little homework in the form of a preinterview can guarantee a smooth, successful and enjoyable interview – for all involved.

Working with your video biographer: Collecting visuals.

One of my responsibilities as your video biographer is to usher you through the production process and make the experience as easy for you as possible. That includes taking the time to learn your stories, crafting custom questions for your on-camera interview, and making sure you look and sound your very best on screen. If we’re working together to create a Premium or Deluxe Family Legacy Video®, another critical part of the process involves collecting the photos and other images we’ll use to illustrate your stories and give your legacy video that big-budget documentary look.

So, what kinds of images are we talking about? This list will give you an idea:

• Still photos
• Newspaper/magazine clippings
• Diplomas
• Wedding announcements
• Plaques
• Trophies
• Medals
• Paintings
• Drawings
• Letters
• Keepsakes
• Souvenirs
• Childhood toys
• Family videos (or films transferred to video)

Pulling together all these visuals may appear daunting at first. And there’s no getting around the fact that you’ll need to help with some of the work. Here’s how we’ll collaborate to collect the visuals that’ll help make your video biography so special.

WHAT FAMILY LEGACY VIDEO WILL DO.

After we wrap up your preinterview, I’ll draft what I call an Initial Wish List. This is simply a list of photos and other images I think would be great to accompany the stories you’ve told me. I fully realize you may not have all, or sometimes even most, of the items on the list; it’s just something to help you start your search.

WHAT YOU’LL DO.

You’ll go through your albums, shoeboxes and other archives to see just what you have that’s on the Initial Wish List. You may also want to contact family members to see what visuals they may have. Sometimes you’ll discover photos you forgot about and that will stimulate other stories we can cover during your interview. While the visuals search can be a bit time-consuming, it’s far from being drudgery. Think of it as a process of exploration and discovery. I guarantee you’ll have fun! You’ll need to set aside the photos you find. If possible, make notes in pencil (or use sticky notes) on the back of each photo regarding dates, places, and people. If labeling the photos is too much of an effort for you, we can add some time to do this together after we record your interview.

WHAT FAMILY LEGACY VIDEO WILL DO.

After reviewing the visuals you’ve collected, I’ll either scan or shoot them at your location, at the Family Legacy Video office in Tucson, Arizona, or a combination of both. I fully understand that you may have photos or other family heirlooms that may be too fragile to ship or that you don’t feel you want to part with. That’s quite alright; I’ll certainly respect and accommodate your wishes. If the budget allows, I can arrange to have an extra crew member whose job is to scan your photos while we’re conducting your interview.

THE FINAL WISH LIST.

It’s not usual to get ideas for additional visuals after shooting your interview. If this is the case, I’ll send you a Final Wish List detailing the extra items I’d like. Again, you may or may not have some or even all the items on the list. But heck, it doesn’t hurt to ask. If you can provide extra material, we’ll arrange to ship it to the Family Legacy Video office. Or, if you have a family member or friend with a scanner, I’ll send you the dimensions I require and you can then either e-mail or snail-mail the digital files to me.

THAT’S ALL THERE IS.

Of course, there’ll come a time (usually after you receive the Final Wish List) when I need you tell me I’ve gotten all the visuals you can provide. Once I get that word, I’ll focus on using the images I have to their greatest effect.

So don’t let the prospect of having to comb through your family archives stop you from pursuing your video biography project. I guarantee I’ll make the process as easy on you as possible. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve given your family photos and other visuals new lives that will enlighten and delight generations of your family to come.

Saved by a GoPro.

If you’re interested in GoPro capabilities you might like to see a clip one of my recent clients posted on YouTube. During the course of documenting the building and installation of Catalina United Methodist Church’s new organ, Family Legacy Video was asked, at the last minute, to record the dedicatory concert. We had on hand only two cameras, a Sony EX3 and a GoPro Hero 3+ Black. After interviewing the organist using the EX3, we set up the GoPro as the master shot and used the EX3 for closer views. We were not allowed to supplement the house lighting, which was rather low. I was amazed at how good the GoPro shot looks. A little grainy, but quite acceptable. See for yourself.

A video biography shoot in paradise.

The Family Legacy Video crew just returned from a video biography shoot on Oahu, Hawaii! We spent one day scouting, one day recording an interview with a fascinating storyteller, as well as scanning photos and a final day shooting b-roll and finishing up the photo scans. We added a few days for some R&R, of course. Always a pleasure and an honor to help folks preserve, celebrate and share their life stories. And sometimes we get to go to a really beautiful place to do it!

Acquiring images on the road.

New York City – “The Big Apple” – it’s where I got my start in the video business over thirty-five years ago. A need to shoot two interviews and capture some stills for a current legacy video project brought me back to NYC in late March. And though the outside temperature was bitingly cold, the bagels were hot and the memories were warm.

Before leaving for the east, I had a decision to make: How was I going to acquire the stills? Normally, I prefer to scan images in the office using one of my flatbed scanners. This gives me the greatest control over quality and image size and allows me to name the scanned files as I go, in whatever way helps to best organize them. However, old photos, albums and papers can often be too fragile or unique to ship. In that case, scanning and/or shooting them at the client’s location becomes necessary.DSLR-Scanner-300x227 My two favorite tools for this kind of work are my Canon LIDE 210 scanner and my Canon 60D DSLR.

The LIDE 210 is great for traveling. At 9.9 inches wide, 14.4 inches long and 1.6 inches deep It’s barely wider and longer than a piece of legal paper – and it fits easily into my carry-on luggage. The scanner doesn’t need a power adapter; one USB cable connects the LIDE to my laptop and provides power for the scanner. Compared to my larger office scanners, the LIDE is a little limited when it comes to the range of ppi (pixels per inch) available, but, overall, I find it a great scanner to take on the road.

Of course, when using a flatbed scanner, the material being scanned needs to be, well, flat. And for items that aren’t easily scanned or scannable at all (framed pictures or paintings, for example) my Canon 60D fits the bill. On this trip, I knew I’d be encountering an array of stills in various forms (loose snapshots, photos from books, framed images and old, crumbling scrapbooks). Plus, the time I’d have to sort through the available images, decide what to capture and then do it, would be limited to one afternoon. Given these circumstances, I decided my DSLR would give me both the flexibility I needed and the ability to work quickly. So I brought the 60D with me and left the scanner at home.

In the end, that was the right decision. I captured far more photos using the DSLR in the time I had than I could have with the scanner. Of course, the photos will need a little more Photoshop work than they would if they’d been scanned. And I couldn’t name the files as I went. I just made written notes as I shot, listing the order and subjects of the images. I’ll give them appropriate file names when I Photoshop them.

If you’re in a situation where only a DSLR will do for snagging the images that will grace your client’s video biography, here are some tips:

Keep the camera as parallel to the image as you can. This keeps the image as flat as possible and saves you some Photoshop work later. It also helps keep all of the image in focus. I was able to shoot many images by laying them on a table and shooting down on them, although some needed to be leaned against a vertical surface.

Be careful when using flash. Direct flash can create hot spots or even wash out the image being shot. Rely on ambient light if you can, or soften the flash by bouncing it.

Watch out for reflections. This can be difficult to do when shooting framed photos covered by glass. You can minimize or eliminate reflections by placing the image on a dark cloth, preferably black, and leaning the frame against a vertical surface. The idea is to angle the glass and your camera so that the only reflection the glass picks up is the black cloth.

Check focus. After shooting an image, display it on your camera’s monitor and zoom in to check on the fine details. Today’s small camera monitors can fool you into thinking a shot is sharp when it isn’t.

Take notes. Make a list of the shots you take as you work. You don’t want to be left scratching your head while guessing who is who or what is what after you get back home.

Back up your files. If you have a laptop available, copy the files from your camera’s card to it. For safety’s sake, it never hurts to have your files stored in a couple of places.

Finally, keep your eyes open. You may find something worth shooting at your client’s location that you hadn’t expected. For example, as I was finishing up for the day, I saw three portraits of my client’s children hanging in a hallway. It took me only a couple of minutes to snap those and I know they’ll make a nice addition to the video.

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Another wonderful testimonial.

A recent client, Angela Hallier of Phoenix, Arizona, just sent me a wonderful testimonial. Thanks, Angela!

Here’s what she wrote:

I bought a Family Legacy Video® for my father for Christmas. We did not know what to expect but Steve and his crew were professional from beginning to end. From the preinterview to production, it was seamless and my father felt very comfortable – and he was impressed with the detail and attention given in advance to the areas he would cover in his interview and the actual production of the video. We gathered as a family to watch his video “premiere” – we felt like we were watching a ready-for-TV documentary. The tears and laughter we had as a family watching my father’s video were priceless – not to mention the importance to our family of preserving my father’s memories and stories for generations to come. We cannot thank Steve enough – this was the best investment I have ever made!

Bringing home the Gold!

I just found out that Family Legacy Video, Inc. has received a Gold Award from the 2014 AVA Digital Awards competition! The award came in the Video Tribute category, for a video highlighting the life and career of James D Toole, founder and CEO of Tucson’s Southwest Energy LLC. Mr. Toole was the 2013 Inductee into the American Mining Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Mining Foundation of the Southwest. The video was played at the Hall of Fame banquet in December 2013. If you’d like to view our handiwork, you’ll find the clip here.

The AVA Digital Awards is sponsored and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP). The awards recognize outstanding achievement by creative professionals involved in the concept, direction, design and production of media. There were about 2,100 entries from throughout the United States, Canada and several other countries in the 2014 competition. The international organization consists of several thousand production, marketing, communication, advertising, public relations, and free-lance professionals.