Monday, April 19, 2010

Experiment in Family Documentary Editing

With time to devote to it, I am updating a family documentary I did about my own parents five years ago to high definition. Although the interviews are standard def, the photographs have more than enough resolution to show in high def.

I'm also adding historical context and music to places in the story where it fits. The original had no music and only one audio clip of Franklin Roosevelt's speech December 8, 1941 asking congress to declare war on Japan.

The reason this is experimental is because of how I used music in this chapter. Normally, I use music to help set a mood rather than help establish a time frame. That's partly because including popular music from a given time period involves having to pay license fees to use it.

I am hoping that I'll get a pass this time since I'm using records from my father's personal collection, no money is being made from the project and this is a trial to see how well popular music from a given time period fits the story.

The other reason this is experimental is that a famous song might not fit the mood of the piece. I'm still debating whether Buddy Morrow's brassy, sexy "Night Train" provides a fitting soundtrack to the opening sequence — with its mentions of Eisenhower's inauguration, the looming threat of nuclear Armegeddon, the Korean War and the race to find a vaccine for polio.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Video Biography YouTube Channel

Although people can watch examples of our family history videos and other personal documentaries on our web site, people find videos online through different means. That's why PRP now has created its own YouTube channel. It's another way to get people to see what we do and how well we do it.

Now that YouTube supports HD video, the quality has dramatically improved. I took the time to upload the HD mpeg files to get the most of this higher quality, including their original widescreen formatting. We use standard definition (4x3 aspect ratio) on the web site because it works with the site layout better.

Check out the example below.

The prominent on-screen graphic with our web site on it is there so that people know its source if someone embeds the video in another site or blog. I hope it's not too distracting. Watch more of our work and see how you can preserve your family's life story on high-definition video at

Videos appear with the permission of their subjects. We don't show anyone your project unless you tell us it's OK.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Life Story Video is Like a Will

I've mentioned that my biggest challenge running a video biography business is convincing people the worth of something whose greatest value will be decades after they buy it.

A cousin of mine who's a lawyer heard me say that and replied, "it's like a will." It is! A will is not for you, it's for the people who survive you. And, like writing a will, you may not think you need to preserve your story right now and, chances are, you don't.

The problem is that you don't need a will until after you die but, by then, it's too late to make one. Same with sharing your life story. A personal documentary is not for you, it's for those who come after you. It's how you tell your stories with them when you can't be there to do it in person.

Granted, leaving this Earth without leaving a video of your life story behind doesn't create the havoc that dying without a will can. But, like a will, it is something whose benefits are greatest long after it is made.