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.

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.

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!

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.

Working with your video biographer: Travel.

In many ways, technology has certainly shrunk our world. All you have to do these days to get in touch with someone on the other side of the globe is dial a phone or log on to the Web; within seconds you can be chatting, either by voice or text. It’s easy as pie. But let’s say, after doing some research, you find that the video biographer you want to hire is located in another part of the country, like Tucson, Arizona? How easy will it be to work with someone who may be hundreds or thousands of miles away?

The short answer is that a long distance relationship with a video biographer can work quite well. In fact, I’ve worked with clients from coast to coast and points in-between. But there are some things to consider when looking for a professional outside your local area.

COST
Might as well deal with this issue first. Not a week goes by that I don’t get a call from a prospective client asking me if I can travel to their location outside Arizona. When I say yes, the next question is usually, “Does travel add to the cost?” Quite honestly, it does. A video biographer living and working in your area doesn’t have to bear the expenses that come with airfare, hotel rooms and rental cars. Your local pro also won’t need to spend an extra day’s worth of time traveling to your location and back home. In all fairness, it’s only right to reimburse the video biographer you hire for travel expenses. Personally, I don’t “mark up” travel – I just pass along the actual costs to the client. I can either add the costs to the agreed-upon budget or subtract them from the budget. Let’s say I have a budget of $20,000 and travel expenses of $2,000. To be able to devote all of the $20,000 to the video, I would add the $2,000. The client would then pay a total of $22,000. If the client can’t go as high as $22,000, I can subtract travel expenses, leaving $18,000 to devote to the actual video production.

COMMUNICATION
Staying in contact during the course of production is crucial. You’re likely to have lots of questions about the process and your video biographer will also need information from you. Some people prefer chatting face-to-face or just feel more secure dealing with someone local. However, a professional video biographer, working long distance, can consult with you and conduct preinterviews over the phone just as effectively as in person. One word of caution: You and your video biographer SHOULD NOT rely entirely upon e-mail. E-mails can sometimes be cryptic and incomplete; they also don’t convey emotion well. When I want to send a reminder or ask for a small bit of information, e-mail is fine. For anything more than that, I prefer to pick up the phone and call.

KEEPSAKES
If you do choose to work long distance, you’ll need to decide how to best get your family photos and other mementos into your video biographer’s hands for scanning and shooting. If you’re comfortable shipping your items make sure you wrap them well and cushion them to guard against damage. Clients have been shipping me photos, singly and in albums, for years. Nothing has ever been lost. The only damage in all these years resulted when a client sent a glass-covered photo that wasn’t properly protected, resulting in some breakage. While shipping long distance has worked fine, I understand that some families may be uncomfortable with the thought of packing up their old photos and trusting them to FedEx. That’s why I always ask my long distance clients if they have any photos or other items that they aren’t comfortable shipping – or that wouldn’t be practical to send to me. Knowing that, I can build in some extra time before or after the interview taping to scan or shoot the keepsakes on location.

Working with your video biographer: Visuals.

The foundation of a successful video biography is a well-researched, conducted and recorded interview. But just as important as what the storyteller says during his or her interview is what viewers see. Many times it’s just fine to have the storyteller on screen. Other times, the interview can be wonderfully enhanced by visuals that illustrate the incidents, people and places being described.

What do I mean by visuals? Photos, certainly. But visuals can also include family movies, newspaper and magazine clippings, yearbooks, wedding invitations, journal entries and memorabilia like medals, awards and trophies, etc. Knowing what kinds of visuals can best enhance a storyteller’s legacy video is one of the strengths a professional video biographer brings to the table.

When I first sign a client, we talk in a general way about the kinds of visuals that may be available within the family. Then, after I learn more about the storyteller during the preinterview process, I’ll send the client a specific “wish list” of all the visuals I think will help contribute to the video. After the on-camera interview, I often follow up with a final list, based on other stories that surfaced during the videotaping. These lists guide my clients during their searches for the perfect images to include in their legacy videos – and will often give them ideas for items they might never have considered. After all, as a professional visual storyteller I’m used to thinking visually – and I use this experience to help direct and inspire my clients as they search through their family archives.

Knowing how to use these visuals effectively is another strength a professional video biographer brings to a legacy video project. But that’s another story. Before you can use those visuals, however, you have to find them. And before you can find them, you have to know what to look for. A professional video biographer is just the one to guide you on “the hunt.”

Ten years and counting!

How time flies! It just occurred to me that Family Legacy Video, Inc. has been in the personal history video business for ten years – having incorporated in August of 2003. I’ve helped many individuals, families and organizations preserve, celebrate and share their stories over that decade – and I look forward to creating many video biographies and legacy videos in the years ahead. Perhaps Family Legacy Video® will create a custom video biography for you!

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.

Organization
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.

Creativity
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.