Why hire a video biography pro?

You own a pretty nice consumer camcorder. You’ve dabbled in editing. You’ve even created birthday video DVDs for family members. AND you’ve decided that this is the year you’re going to create that long overdue video biography featuring your grandparents, or your mom and dad. After making that decision, you’re immediately confronted by another – whether to attempt to create the legacy video yourself or hire a professional personal historian/video biographer to work with you and for you. If you have the financial resources, there are definite benefits that come with hiring a pro.

In order to proceed smoothly, a video project needs to be organized from start to finish. A professional video biographer can bring years of organizational experience to the table. A pro can talk with you about your goals and wishes for your video and then design a production that meets your needs and your budget. A pro knows how to start a legacy video project and then proceed efficiently each step of the way. A true professional treats you, the client, like the executive producer – consulting you and ushering you and your family through the process.

A professional video biographer will be well-versed in visual storytelling techniques. He or she can offer you a number of ways to approach and treat your family stories and storytellers. And a pro will have a realistic idea of the cost and time involved in the different options he or she offers you. A real pro will be able to show you samples of past work so you can make informed decisions about the creative direction of your legacy video.

Production Experience
Your storytellers deserve to be presented in the most flattering way possible. A professional can insure that your storytellers look and sound their very best on camera. This means professional lighting, knowing how to compose a pleasing shot and using a high-end camera to capture the image, along with top-notch microphones to ensure great sound. A pro will also know how to make a storyteller feel safe and comfortable during the interview in order to ensure an effective “performance.”

Editing Expertise
The final edit is where the magic happens. A video biographer who is an experienced editor can take all the raw elements collected during the production process (interviews, photos, films, music, sound effects, etc.) and turn out a program that exceeds your wildest expectations.

Time Management
Best of all, a professional video biographer can be working on your project steadily, not squeezing it in during a free moment here and there like you may have to do. This means your video biography actually gets finished – and doesn’t get put off for yet another year.

True, you’ll have to pay for the service – but in the end, the value a professional can bring to your project may be well worth the price.

Two more veterans’ stories preserved.

I recently interviewed two Korean-era vets for my Rotary club’s veterans project. This’ll make 9 interviews so far, with the first 7 being WWII vets. Hope to have these latest two up on the web and off to the Library of Congress by the end of the summer. If you’d like, check out what my club is doing for our vets at the Catalina Rotary Veterans Project site.

Another award-winning video biography!

I’m excited to be able to add another trophy to Family Legacy Video’s trophy case! It’s an Award of Distinction from the 2013 Communicator Awards. The honor came in the History/Biography category for the video biography entitled Isabelle Smith Lamb: Getting Down to Business. This four-part legacy video series featured the life story of Isabelle Lamb of Hoquiam, Washington and Tucson. You can view a clip from Isabelle’s custom video biography here.

The Communicator Awards is the leading international awards program honoring creative excellence for communications professionals. The international video competition attracted over 6,000 entries this year. The Communicator Awards are judged and overseen by the International Academy of the Visual Arts (IAVA), a 600+ member organization of leading professionals from various disciplines of the visual arts dedicated to embracing progress and the evolving nature of traditional and interactive media.

Video biography brings comfort after the loss of a loved one.

It happens every time I give a presentation about video biographies and Family Legacy Video: folks come up to me afterwards to say what a great service I perform and how they wish they’d created legacy videos for their parents or grandparents before it was too late. My heart always goes out to them, because I know how I would have felt if I hadn’t preserved my grandmother’s stories on video. Now that Gram is gone, I don’t think I could forgive myself if I’d let the opportunity pass. I recently received an e-mail from a Family Legacy Video client describing how thankful she was for a video biography she hired Family Legacy Video to create four years ago. I think her note provides an object lesson on the value of legacy videos:

Dear Steve, I hope you are doing well. I wanted to write to thank you and tell you how grateful I am we did a legacy video of my mom and her sister four years ago. Recently, I gave birth to our second daughter, Phoebe. A week later, my mom died unexpectedly in her sleep. Fortunately she was with us that week and spent some time holding Phoebe, but obviously Phoebe will never get to know her. A few days after it happened I remembered we had made the video and I felt a sense of relief. At least, I realized, she will have the chance to get to know her grandmother and hear her stories when we watch her video. I haven’t been able to look at it yet since she died because it’s still just too raw, but I hope to soon. I look forward to remembering her full of life and joy, as she was when she was alive. Thank you so much for the service you offer and for encouraging me to do this. I am so so grateful.

I urge you to take a cue from the letter above. Preserve your storyteller’s remembrances while there’s still time. And remember, Family Legacy Video is here to help.

A heartwarming testimonial.

If you watch too much Home & Garden Television (HGTV) like I do, you’re well familiar with the “reveal.” This is where the designer ushers his/her clients (usually the clients have their eyes closed) into their newly redesigned/rebuilt room or space, asks them to open their eyes, and then enjoys their reactions. As a video biographer and personal historian with clients spread throughout the U.S., I’m not often able to be present when a completed legacy video is “revealed” for the first time. But I do enjoy the feedback from my clients and storytellers and find it quite fulfilling.

I recently delivered a Family Legacy Video Q&A™ that a client hired me to produce for her dad. My client’s response made my day. I thought I’d share it with you:

My Family Legacy Video® is perhaps the most valuable possession I will ever own. It is an irreplaceable treasure for my children, my children’s children. In his video, my father speaks with candor and clarity for two hours about his life, telling stories I’ve never heard before and will treasure forever. I am touched beyond explanation for the gift Steve Pender has given us. My dad is the most beautiful man, and this heartfelt interview, woven exquisitely, makes my heart sing with joy and gratitude for our Family Legacy Video® of the man who will always be my Daddy.

Wow – it sure doesn’t get any better than that.

When is a Family Legacy Video NOT a Family Legacy Video?

Answer: When it’s not created by Family Legacy Video, Inc.

I feel the need to point this out because “Family Legacy Video” is a registered trademark belonging to Family Legacy Video, Inc. Yet, I’m always running across production companies using “Family Legacy Video” to describe and promote their video biography/legacy video services. Just found a couple of more this past week. In most cases, I think folks just think “Family Legacy Video” is a generic term, like people who say “Kleenex” when they mean “tissue,” or “Xerox” when they mean “photocopy.”

Since a Family Legacy Video® produced by my company stands for a high-end video biography product and service, I’m naturally very protective of my brand. So remember: A video biography or legacy video is NOT a Family Legacy Video® unless it comes from Family Legacy Video, Inc.

The preinterview – a key step in preparing for a video biography interview.

One of the keys to a successful video biography interview lies in preparation – doing your homework, if you will. And one of the best ways to ready yourself, and your storyteller, for that all-important on-camera interview is to start your prep work with a preinterview. What’s a preinterview? As the name implies, it’s the interview before the interview. In other words, an interview you conduct with your storyteller before the actual shoot-day.

A preinterview takes the form of a casual conversation between you and the storyteller. It’s a opportunity for the two of you to meet and to build a rapport that will help your storyteller feel comfortable on camera. Very importantly, the preinterview gives you the chance to hear your storyteller’s life stories and to use the information you learn to construct questions that will elicit those stories on camera.

A preinterview is also a great time to explore – if an interesting memory surfaces during your conversation, feel free to ask about it and see where it takes your storyteller. You could dig up some very interesting remembrances that will surprise and delight your storytellers and their families.

In addition to helping you prepare questions, you’ll walk into the videotaping session knowing your storyteller’s background. If the storyteller gives you an incomplete answer while the camera is rolling, you’ll know it – and you’ll be able to ask a follow-up question to help fill in the rest of the picture.

The process is simple. Just schedule a time that’s convenient for your and your storyteller (you may or may not need multiple sessions). Come prepared with a pen and lots of paper for note-taking. If you don’t want to rely entirely on written notes, a small audio recorder is a great backup that will help you review the session at a later date. Then, start asking questions – and don’t forget to take notes!

In addition to helping you collect the background information you need to conduct a successful interview, a preinterview often helps “jump start” a storyteller’s thought processes. He or she will often remember additional stories in the time between the preinterview and the taping.

So do your homework and conduct a preinterview as you prepare for your next video biography interview. You’ll be glad you did.

Creative editing gives new life to old VHS interviews of 1930s race car owners & drivers.

They were loud, fast and dangerous. They were the sprint and midget cars of the 1930s and a recent Family Legacy Video project brought the memories of those seat-of-your-pants racing days to life.

It all started when a client sent me a VHS recording (probably a copy of a copy of a copy) from the mid 1980s. The recording featured a casual, living room interview conducted by a racing photographer/racing historian named Bruce Craig. On the tape, Bruce speaks with some of the early owners and drivers of the 1930s East Coast circuit: Sam Alperti, Bill Scarince, Bill Morrissey and Myke Collins. My client wanted to share this interview with other racing history aficionados and hoped I could take his old, grainy VHS tape and create a show with a professional look.

Happy to take on the challenge, I asked my client about visuals he could provide. Through his connections, we turned up vintage photos of all the interview subjects from their racing days, including shots of one horrific accident that one of the racers was lucky to have survived.

The photos were a great start, but I wanted more. I managed to track down a video that featured archival film of 1930s racing action, shot at the very tracks where our racers competed. Things were definitely looking up. But – I needed sound. The racing film was silent – I wanted to hear the roar of the engines!

An Internet search led me to a racing museum in the Midwest and a referral to a site featuring just the sound effects I was looking for. Then it was time to pick some upbeat, 1930s-style tracks from my music library and start editing.

The old VHS interview footage was far from pristine, but I was able to improve the image using color correction. The host employed a handheld microphone which he sometimes forgot to aim at his subjects, so I had lots of audio adjusting to do. The opening, featuring vintage racing shots, great music, screaming engines and animated text really evoked the early racing days and set up the interviews beautifully. Skillfully using the photos, I was able to illustrate the racers’ stories and also cut out some unneeded dead air. Delivered on a custom-printed DVD in a DVD case with a custom-printed insert, the final product exceeded my client’s hopes.

The moral of the story is this: You may be presented with an occasional lemon (like old VHS footage). But if you apply some initiative and creativity, you can produce some very tasty video biography “lemonade.”

Get your holiday gift certificate today!

Now that the holiday season is here, there’s not enough time to start and finish a video biography project in time Christmas or Hanukkah. But don’t despair! If you’d like to give a legacy video as a gift this year, you can do so with a Family Legacy Video gift certificate. If you book a project before the holidays, we’ll create a certificate announcing your gift and containing a personal message from you. We can either print the certificate and snail mail it to you or e-mail you a high resolution PDF that you can print. So don’t wait – contact Family Legacy Video and arrange for your gift certificate now!

When in Killarney, try the Boxty at Bricin!

Boxty is the Irish version of a potato pancake. The pancake is folded over a filling – either meat or veggies or both. On our recent trip to Ireland, my wife Halina and I tried Boxty in Dublin and also at a restaurant in Killarney. I have to say, if you’re ever in Killarney, a trip to Bricin (Brih-KEEN) for dinner is a must. They offer a two-course early bird menu that worked real well for us. I ordered a starter and a main course, and Halina ordered a main course and dessert. We shared the starter and dessert, which was just enough food for us – we hate to order lots of food when traveling because we can’t box it to take home. The Boxty was delicious, as was the nut loaf the restaurant offers. So if you want great Irish food, atmosphere and hospitality – and you happen to be in Killarney, try Bricin!