Better Home Video for Your Family History #2

September 28, 2015 Deborah Wilbrink

Record Your Family Heritage on DVD with Tips from the Pros

 Julie Miller conducts an interview

Julie Miller conducts an interview for a personal history video.

Recording your older family members seems simple enough: prepare questions, find a quiet, well-lit spot, ask the questions while you record and transfer the video file to a DVD for easier playing. You have captured those family history stories! It’s a huge step. But, like any worthy endeavor, there is room for improvement. Make sure your effort gets replayed for generations with this professional advice from personal historians who specialize in producing life stories on video.

Julie Miller, Life Story Media, tells life story in terms of the storyteller’s historic quest: what was the goal, how were obstacles overcome and did “our hero” get what they wanted? She evokes description from those she interviews with questions that start with such phrases as “tell me about,” “what was it like” and “describe …”

Most personal histories can be hung on a timeline: they begin at birth and go forward. “Telling events out of order can be useful as that’s often how memory works,” advises Stefani Twyford, Legacy Multimedia. “Pull out the sweet spots.” Twyford looks for a personal theme to follow, such as dad’s interest in photography or grandmother’s quilting and cooking, rather than every life event.

Jane Shafron, Your Story Here LLC, says to consider adding a narrator to your video. A voice can summarize, transition, add humor and describe someone who is too humble to speak about themselves. Shafron suggests avoiding narration however if you don’t have images to show the narrator’s topics; if you have a low budget, as it requires more editing; and if you’d rather show than tell. Showing “B-Roll,” or images, rather than your talking narrator, can come from treasured photographs, old home movies and free archival stock footage.

What about a soundtrack for your video? Debbie Brodsky, DMB Pictures, thinks about music “as if it’s an additional voice in your story. Music will cue your audience into feeling emotion you want to convey at the appropriate time.” Brodsky says to pay attention to what emotion you want your viewers to feel at any given time and enhance it with music. Adding a song from an era is a start, but use just the right piece at the right time. Nor do you need a “music bed” underneath the whole video.

Experts agree that you should research and know the subject before you begin the interview. You may furnish some topics ahead of time, but do not rehearse Uncle or Grandma. You will capture more gems spontaneously. Do it yourself, or find a professional, but save your story while the memories are bright!

First published in Mature Lifestyles of Tennessee Magazine, August, 2015

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“The Best Book is Your Own Story.”
Deborah Wilbrink

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