Welcome to the April issue!
Spring is finally here! As daytime temperatures rise, I hope your video biography activity does, too. This month, you’ll learn about some things to think about when considering working with a video biographer outside your locality. This month’s Q&A features a variety of topics ranging from production to postproduction.
I hope you enjoy this issue of the Family Legacy Video® Producer’s e-Newsletter. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone toll-free (888.662.1294) with any questions or comments you have.
Cheers! – – Steve Pender
Working with your video biographer: Travel.
In the March 2011 issue, I described how a professional video biographer can help hunt down visuals to lend production value to your video biography. This month, we’ll talk about some things to consider when working with a video biographer outside your local area.
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.
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 $1,000. To be able to devote all of the $20,000 to the video, I would add the $1,000. The client would then pay a total of $21,000. If the client can’t go as high as $21,000, I can subtract travel expenses, leaving $19,000 to devote to the actual video production.
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.
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.
Ask Steve – This month: Soft light, video editing software & backgrounds.
Q: Dear Steve,
Regarding lighting, would an umbrella be sufficient for diffused light or do you recommend a light box? What editing software do you like to use? Have you found a set of backgrounds or themes that you like to use in your creations? Thanks!
– – Brent L., Houston, Texas
A: Hi, Brent.
If you want to create a very soft, diffused light that nicely wraps around your interview subject, I would choose a light box – also called a soft light or a soft box. One popular manufacturer is a company named Chimera. That being said, if a soft light is going to bust your budget, an umbrella will also diffuse light. To see what umbrellas look like, check out Lowel Light’s Tota-light page. If you don’t have an umbrella or a soft light, try this trick to create a soft key light: Get a white showcard, clamp it to a light stand, position it where you’d normally put your key light and then aim your hard, undiffused lighting instrument at the card. The light that bounces back to your subject will be nice and soft – you’ll just need to play with the relative positions of light, card and storyteller until you get the look you want.
I’m a PC person and I use Adobe products for postproduction. I upgraded to Adobe CS5 earlier this year and I’m very happy with it. Adobe does make a more consumer-oriented version of it’s Premiere Pro software, and it’s called Premiere Elements.
I don’t use too many canned backgrounds, but I have a set from Digital Juice that comes in handy now and then.
Got a question about any aspect of family history video production?
Send it to Steve at email@example.com.