Talkin’ Legacy Videos – Part 1

Welcome to Part 1 of the “Talkin’ Legacy Videos” video series. In this first installment, Family Legacy Video President Steve Pender sets the stage by offering a thought experiment.

Imagine your great-grandmother had a video camcorder back in 1924…

Take a look at these examples.

Posts to follow will cover these topics:

  • What is a legacy video?
  • Why create a legacy video?
  • Legacy Video Benefits
  • Legacy Video Process
  • Travel
  • Cost
  • Choosing a Legacy Video Production Company
  • Rescue your old family albums – before it’s too late!

    My first still photo camera was cheap. REAL cheap. Pretty close to being a toy camera, actually. I plucked it off a metal rack in a five-and-dime store sometime in the mid 1960s, when I was maybe 9 or 10 years old, and I’m sure I only shelled out a buck or two for it. Of course, that was big money to me back then! As far as I can remember, it was black plastic, with a fixed lens. It took rolls of film; no cartridges for this baby. Once loaded, I had to carefully turn the knob attached to the take up reel until the number for the next shot appeared in the center of the translucent red circle on the camera’s back. Then, it was just point and shoot until I used up 12 exposures – black and white, of course.

    After dropping off the film at the local drugstore, it was nail-biting time; the anticipation building until I returned to the pharmacy, handed over my claim check, paid for the prints, and peeled open the top flap of the envelope to see if any of my snapshots had developed as hoped.

    I actually fared pretty well with that little camera and wound up with a goodly number of photos worth saving. The next challenge became what to do with all those square prints with the white, serrated borders. The answer, put ’em in an album. Now, when I was a kid, I first stored my photos in albums with heavy paper pages – sliding each print into little white paper corners pasted to the page. Mounting pictures back then was a laborious process, and not much different from the way families had been storing their photographs since the late 1800s.

    Your old family albums are treasures - preserve them!And it’s those old albums that can really pose problems. If you have one or more of them in your family, you know what I mean. The black or gray paper pages are far from archival and full of chemicals and acids that may have discolored the photos stored on them. By now, the pages are probably pretty brittle. The glue holding the photos or corners into place may have completely dried out and the pictures let loose.

    I work with albums like these occasionally in my video biography work and I always handle them gingerly. Wearing cotton gloves, I slowly and carefully untie the thread holding the pages in place, and then tenderly convey the album, page by page, to a flat bed scanner, doing my best to prevent the edges of each leaf from flaking. I always breathe a sigh of relief after I’ve successfully reconstructed each precious book.

    The problem is, the conditions of these old albums isn’t getting any better. What can you do to preserve your precious family images and protect them from the ravages of time?

    The first step I suggest is that you digitize the photos. Several years ago, a client approached Family Legacy Video with three old family albums dating from the late 1800s through the end of WWII. He was hoping we could scan the pages and the photos and reconstruct the books somehow. Using a large format scanner, we scanned each page of the albums, including the front and back covers, as well as each photo (including any notes on the back of the photos), at high resolution. We used the scanned pages and covers to recreate the albums as printed books, and provided the client with all the digital files as well. He and his family were thrilled with the results. Now albums that had been sitting in a closet for years are in a form that can be enjoyed by all members of the client’s family.

    Even though digitization is a wonderful thing, you still want to take steps to keep the original albums from degrading any further. According to Certified Archives Records Manager Melissa Barker, the best way to do this is to put a sheet of archival tissue paper between each page of the album. This creates a barrier between the photographs and the adjacent black paper pages; if photographs come off any remaining glue will not touch the other photographs on the adjacent page.

    Store loose photos that have fallen out of the album in archival sleeves and keep them with the album. Place the entire album, along with the loose photos, in an archival box. The box should fit the album as snugly as possible. If you need to fill up some space to keep the album from shifting position, simply wad up some of the archival tissue paper and slip it between the album and the sides of the box. Store the box in a cool, dark, and dry place. Never store documents, photographs, or artifacts in an attic, basement, or where it is humid or there is direct sunlight.

    Looking for a source for archival photo storage supplies? If your local photo store doesn’t carry them, you’ll find any number of outfits online.

    These old family albums, and the images they contain, are wonderful keepsakes. Through a combination of digitization and careful storage, you can make sure your family photographic treasures are around for generations to come.

    Toss the “stuff” – NOT the stories!

    Save your family stories!Crash! “Now it’s garbage!”

    Remember that scene in the “Odd Couple” movie, the one where Oscar smashes Felix’s plate of pasta against the kitchen wall? (Okay, the film WAS released in 1967, so you younger folks may need to Google it. Look for the spaghetti scene.)

    Well, the same kind of thing is happening now with the possessions of our parents and grandparents. What do I mean?

    Family keepsakes – and stories – are at risk.
    I treasure my grandparents’ Atwater Kent radio and my great-grandfather’s meerschaum pipe. But I’m not sure who in my family will want these physical links to our past once I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. And, as pointed out in two recent articles by Richard Eisenberg (Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff & What You Said About ‘Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff’) this is a challenge facing many families today. With Baby Boomers downsizing and younger generations shunning lots of possessions, the things that used to be family keepsakes are being donated to Goodwill, placed in consignment shops, sold to antique stores, or just tossed in the garbage. That’s troubling, but there’s an even bigger issue here.

    Losing connections to our family history.
    What concerns me as a professional personal historian and video biographer is the continuing loss of something even more valuable than mementos and keepsakes: family stories. That’s because so many of the items being sent to landfills today have great family stories and associations attached to them. For instance, I treasure with my grandfather’s pocket watch. It’ll never cause an “Antiques Roadshow” appraiser’s eyes to light up with excitement, but every day when I see the old silver timepiece hanging in its display stand, I’m reminded of a man who I still love deeply, decades after his passing. It’s amazing how a simple item like this serves as a powerful touchstone to feelings and memories.

    But I get it: Some families just have too many items that nobody wants to display or store. So how can you let go of this stuff without trashing your family history?

    Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.
    My apologies to “The Godfather” for this analogy. But before tossing your parents’ keepsakes (the gun), save the stories and memories associated with them (the cannoli). How can you do this? Here are a few ideas:

    • Video Inventory. Break out your video camera (or hire a professional) and gather your family and the possessions you’re planning to “eighty-six.” Shoot each item, describe what it is and share the memories and stories it evokes. With a little editing, the result will be a cool visual record to pass along to future generations.

    • Slide Show. A variation on the video inventory theme. Shoot stills of each item and record your remembrances on audio, using a digital MP3 recorder. Combine the two to create a slide show video.

    • Illustrated Photo Book. Transcribe the audio recording mentioned above. Produce a book featuring the photos and the transcribed text. The final product can range from simple (loose leaf pages in a binder) to elaborate (hard cover book with glossy pages) – it’ll all depend on your budget, wants, and needs.

    Make sure your family stories survive.
    You may not treasure the possessions your parents and grandparents accumulated, but don’t forget that the memories associated with these items speak directly to your family’s identity and values. Your grandkids and great-grandkids may one day feel disappointed that you consigned all this family stuff to a dumpster. But they will be grateful that you made sure the stories connected to these items survived.

    Legacy Video Lounge Podcast – LVL 17: Life Stories & Legacy Planning

    The Legacy Video Lounge Podcast, Episode 17
    What does the idea of “leaving a legacy” mean to you? Some folks equate “legacy” with “inheritance,” thinking of it only in terms of the money and physical possessions they’ll leave to their loved ones. Others see passing along life stories and values as their true legacy. In this episode personal historian and Family Legacy Video® president Steve Pender introduces you to someone who has a foot in each of these camps. Jeff Knapp is an attorney specializing in Estate Planning. Jeff’s a lifelong New Jersey resident. He founded the Knapp Law Firm in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, hanging out his shingle in 1989. He’s one of four Estate Planning Law Specialists in the Garden State and he’s a member of both the New Jersey and Florida Bars. He’s also an Accredited Estate Planner, a Certified Financial Planner, a Certified Thinking Consultant, and holds a Post-Doctorate Masters in Wealth Strategies Planning.

    He’s also a SunBridge Network Certified Legacy Advisor.

    Jeff has been married for thirty years. He has four adult sons. One is currently in law school and a second just took his LSATs. So it looks like the Knapp Law Firm’s legacy may continue for another generation.

    Steve first met Jeff during high school. They went their separate ways but reconnected a number of years ago after Jeff stumbled onto the Family Legacy Video® website. While Jeff is an expert in the nuts and bolts of estate planning, he’s also a big believer in incorporating life stories into the process. He kindly put down his snow shovel during a recent blizzard and spoke to Steve by phone from his home in New Jersey. The conversation touches on just what estate planning is all about and how Jeff uses stories to teach estate and legacy planning concepts to his clients as well as ways he encourages his clients to pass along life stories that speak to family values and identity.

    Choosing your video biography playback options.

    It was the mid-1960s. I was nine years old, and about to dig into a hefty slice of chocolate cake at my cousin’s birthday party.

    “Act natural!”

    I looked up, and for a split second I saw my uncle balancing a Super 8 movie camera attached to a metal bar bristling with lights. He flipped a switch, and suddenly it seemed as if I was looking directly into the sun. I waved and smiled, hoping against hope that the heat radiating from that nuclear glow wouldn’t melt my scoop of mint-chocolate chip ice cream. After a few seconds, the ordeal ended. As red and purple spots danced in front of my eyes, my uncle moved off to find other victims.

    For years, the only way to watch my painful attempt to “act natural” was to set up a movie screen and projector, thread the film over the sprockets, turn off the lights, fire up the projector and roll the film.

    That’s all changed now, of course. The miracle that was VHS (and, for a while, Betamax) videotape has given way to a plethora of video formats. Great for the consumer, but an ongoing challenge for those of us who create and distribute video, including video biographies, and who want to meet our clients’ needs for convenient viewing options and secure storage.

    Most of the work that goes into creating a legacy video is the work that’s needed to, well, create the video. Once the program is finished, Family Legacy Video® can deliver it in any number of ways. Here are some of the most popular options currently available:

    DVD/Blu-ray Discs
    There are some who say DVD and Blu-ray discs will be the next video technology to fade away. While disc-based playback (including audio CDs) competes with many other playback options these days, it’s not about to go extinct anytime soon. Here’s what a representative from a company named Primera (admittedly a business that sells discs and disc duplicators) recently said on the subject: Our main customers are recording studios, video production houses, churches and schools, government and military – all of whom still use lots of discs to distribute and archive content. For example, wedding photos and videos are almost always still put onto discs. Brides don’t seem to trust flash drives or the cloud for such important content! Also, bands still sell Family Legacy Videos come on discs and flash drivesdiscs at gigs. It’s really the only way to sell content on-site. Sure, they’ll RIP the disc to their iPhone when they get home. But at least the band got the sale, which they likely wouldn’t have if they simply said, “download us online when you get home.”

    DVDs (for standard video) and Blu-rays (for high definition video) offer long shelf life (as long as you use high-quality discs and don’t abuse them). Custom navigation (menus that allow you to play the entire video biography or select which chapters you’d like view) is a terrific feature. Plus, Family Legacy Video® creates beautiful DVD/Blu-ray artwork. So from the legacy video itself to the final package, clients receive a unique and custom video keepsake.

    That being said, you need a standalone player connected to a TV or a computer with DVD and/or Blu-ray capability to play the discs. And, like anything physical, they can be lost or damaged.

    Video Files on External Drives
    I recently worked with a client who viewed video only on a Mac laptop that didn’t have a disc drive. For this client, the choice was video files on an external drive, in this case a USB flash drive. The storage capacity of flash drives has skyrocketed in recent years, so finding one to fit even a high-definition video biography file is not an issue. What has been a concern for me is the packaging available for flash drives. While the quality of the video is paramount, I still want to present the video in a well-designed physical wrapper. Fortunately, I have found a provider of high-end custom-printed USB drives and boxes. While we can’t fit nearly as much printed information on the face of a flash drive as we can on the insert for a DVD case, a personal flash drive can now boast a very elegant appearance.

    An upside to a flash drive is the ability to easily copy the files to other computers and drives. A downside is that you can erase a flash drive. So be careful! I recommend making additional copies for safe keeping.

    Online Video Services
    If the audience for your video is spread over the U.S. or the globe, you might want to consider posting your video biography to a service like Vimeo. You will be charged annually for hosting. But, you can create a private account that will keep your legacy video away from the prying eyes of the public. You’ll have a link you can share only with those who you want to view the video. This could also be a great option if you want to be sure that younger generations of your family, addicted as they are to their mobile devices, will be able to watch you tell your life stories for years to come. Family Legacy Video® can certainly help you set up a private Vimeo account and upload your legacy video.

    One caution: Don’t make an online service the only repository for your video biography. No matter how secure they’re advertised to be, servers can crash or get hacked and companies can go out of business. Even if most of the family will be accessing your video biography on the web, be sure to squirrel away some physical copies (preferably a combination of discs and external drives) in a secure place, just for safety’s sake. And don’t forget to make sure someone continues to pay for the hosting – you don’t want your account – and your legacy video – deleted!

    The bottom line: You have lots of options for viewing and storing your legacy video these days. Family Legacy Video® will be happy to deliver those that work best for you.

    Legacy Video Lounge Podcast – LVL 16: A WIFFLE® Ball Game “Under the Lights”

    The Legacy Video Lounge Podcast, Episode 16
    In this episode of the Legacy Video Lounge podcast, personal historian and video biographer Steve Pender does what he’s been helping clients do for years: tell a story. In this tale, Steve takes us back to his childhood. The time: The early 1960s. The place: Suburban New Jersey. Steve describes his earliest memories and his neighborhood. He introduces a few of his neighbors and a favorite summer activity involving a lot of the neighbor kids: WIFFLE® Ball. Finally, he talks about one game that ran a bit too long one evening, only finishing thanks to the ingenuity of two friendly folks from next door.Pender brothers - 1962

    Legacy Video Lounge Podcast – LVL 15: Transcripts & Legacy Videos

    The Legacy Video Lounge Podcast, Episode 15
    In this episode, personal historian and video biographer Steve Pender urges you to properly label and organize your family history assets and storyteller recordings so you can find them when you need them. Steve also talks about how he uses interview transcripts to create the editing scripts he uses for the longer documentary-style video biographies Family Legacy Video, Inc. creates for clients. Transcripts, which are text versions of interviews, allow you to scan interviews more efficiently and highlight the portions you’d like to use. Steve also cuts and pastes from transcript files to build the scripts he uses to guide the final video editing. You can create transcripts yourself, hire transcribers to create them, or use an online service like

    Legacy Video Lounge Podcast – LVL 14: Keeping the Energy Level High!

    The Legacy Video Lounge Podcast, Episode 14
    In Episode 14 of the Legacy Video Lounge Podcast, personal historian, video biographer, and Family Legacy Video, Inc. president Steve Pender answers a listener’s question about keeping up the energy during a life story interview.

    Here’s the question, which came in via email:

    “One thing that occurred to me after I listened to your podcast on the pre-interview (which was excellent) is regarding the energy levels. I did radio for years – and I know – people (of all ages) can tend to go monotone, if you don’t keep lifting up the energy. I hope you’ll address this in a future podcast.”

    Some tips:

  • Inquire about storyteller’s energy level during preproduction. Do they have the energy for a full day’s shoot?
  • If material is extensive, you may want to look at two days or more.
  • If you’re determined to keep the finished video around an hour or so, plan on no more than around two hours of raw interview.
  • Stay engaged with the storyteller – maintain eye contact, use nonverbal cues by varying your expressions, nodding, gesturing.
  • Keep an eye on the storyteller’s energy level and mental focus. If he or she tires or starts to stray from the topic at hand, take a break.
  • Do all the things you need to do to make your interview set a comfortable and fun space: Provide water, let the storytellers take breaks when they want, and let them know that do-overs are okay.
  • Storytellers who are having a good time are likely to maintain better energy levels – so have fun!

    Legacy Video Lounge Podcast – LVL 13: The Association of Personal Historians

    The Legacy Video Lounge, Episode 13
    NOTE: The Association of Personal Historians has been dissolved.
    In this episode, personal historian and video biographer Steve Pender introduces you to the Association of Personal Historians, an organization devoted to promoting personal history and helping personal historians working in video, audio, and print polish their skills and improve their business practices. Steve also describes the annual APH conference, the “must attend” annual gathering of personal historians. The 2016 conference takes place from October 23-27 in Fort Worth, Texas. Whether you create video biographies, audio legacies or print memoirs, you owe it to yourself to check out APH and the yearly conference.

    Legacy Video Lounge Podcast – LVL 12: Stimulating Memories with Keepsakes & Places

    The Legacy Video Lounge, Episode 12
    Family keepsakes, as well as objects and places associated with important times of our lives and those of our ancestors, can play valuable roles in stimulating life stories for video biographies. In addition to stimulating recollections, these items and places can be included in legacy videos as visual elements. Personal historian and video biographer Steve Pender shares some personal experiences and observations about “Stimulating Memories with Keepsakes & Places.” in this episode of The Legacy Video Lounge.