Monday, December 12, 2011

Good Time To Get Family History

This is the season when many of us will give or receive video cameras or haul out of the closet and dust off cameras that we already have. Rather than just catching the scenes of your holiday, which for the most part will look much the same as the scenes of the year before, why not use that video camera to create something truly special, something that 25 years from now your kids and grandkids will appreciate more than any gift from or Macy’s.

During the holidays families gather for meals and celebrations. This is often the only time during the year that many families get together. What a great opportunity to ask our parents or grandparents or other relatives to share stories of their lives. This does not need to be a big production. All you need is a video camera, a somewhat quiet place and some time.

Find a room away from all the commotion of the celebrations and use that as your studio. It does not have to be soundproof and a bit of background conversation from other rooms is OK. Make sure the room is well lighted and comfortable. Don’t shine spotlights at the subject but make sure that they are not seated in front of a window or other bright colored wall. The light should come from the front.

I suggest that you mount your camera on a tripod or some solid surface. Focus it on the face of the person being interviewed and leave it there. There is no need for zooming or panning. A fixed shot is best. Since most video cameras have built in microphones, be sure the camera is no more than 6 ft from the subject especially if the person being interviewed has a quiet voice.

Have the person sit in a comfortable chair, turn on the camera, and just begin. The person asking the questions should be seated next to the camera. The interview should be a conversation between these two people; the camera should be ignored and will soon be forgotten. It may take a few minutes for everyone to relax and forget the session is being recorded.

You may begin with some simple questions about their holiday memories or what it was like when they were growing up. From there just let the conversation go. Don’t worry about pauses or hesitations. The interviewer should ask questions and clarifications but the key is to let the person being interviewed do the talking. These interviews can be targeted to a single topic like the time spent in the military or details of career or vocation, or they can be more open. One topic will soon transition into others. Have patience and just let it happen.

I suggest that you do not stop the interview before you are finished and play back a portion for the interviewee. Many will be self conscience and this will have a negative impact on the rest of the interview.

Once you are finished, you can edit out the long pauses using inexpensive video editing software. Then burn the interview on to a DVD and distribute to your family members. No gift will be more valued.

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