Why you should commission a family documentary

Times of your Life

You hear stories all the time about when someone’s house burns down, the first thing they grab are the family photo albums and home movies before they go running out the door. But in fact, while these items may be the first thing they grab, most people’s home movies and photo collections are stored in assorted boxes locked away in a dusty closet or slopped together in cheap photo albums that lay strewn on the bottom of a basement bookshelf where they rarely see the light of day. What people do with their home movies would make Steven Spielberg cry.

Your family media can be more then just a scattered collection of pictures and video tapes. Put together properly they can become more valuable then the worlds largest diamond or a fancy sports car. When all is said and done, your diamonds end up being fought over by greedy relatives and your sports car ends up in the used car lot. But your family media has the potential to live on and influence people for eternity. In a sense, it is the closest thing that we have at this point to immortality. Something that we can offer the next generation in regards to passing down little bits and pieces of our lives.

The Cold Hard Reality of Home Movie Editing

Editing home movies is a bitch. Sorry to phrase it that way, but there is really no other way to state what is a cold hard cruel fact of life. Editing and organizing home movies is one of those projects that we always say were going to do that somehow never seems to get done, and by the time we’ve resolved ourselves to the actual task of doing it, the mountain of home movies socked away in the closet has grown to Everest size proportions that the sight of defeats most of us before we even begin to properly edit and organize our home movies. Hence, the pile grows, the video degrades and our memories are cast off into the sea of digital oblivion.

The task of organizing and editing home movies is usually so overwhelming that it does not get properly done, if ever done at all. And that’s a crying shame. These memories are one of the most valuable possessions that you have. It’s extremely discouraging that most people put more time and money into purchasing and maintaining a new car then they do in preserving the videos of their kid’s first spin on a bike without training wheels. These are the times of our lives and if we don’t do something to properly maintain and store these digitally perishable items, they will be lost for the ages.

We are the first generation that has the technical ability to capture these moments for prosperity. A few years back, all you had, if you were lucky, was a shoe box full of handmade three minute films where you or our relatives usually danced in front of the camera doing something incredibly stupid in splendid scratchy, washed out silence. Now with the technology available to the masses, it is possible to record and document some ones entire life.

So, how do you take this great concept of documenting your family’s life, a shoe box of unmarked videos collecting dust in the closet, and put them together to make a great DVD that won’t bore people to tears. It’s not easy, but it is definitely worth it to try. Consider this. Would you rather give a gift that falls apart after a few years and crumbles back into the earth, or give your family a beautifully edited DVD of all the wonderful moments that you shared together raising them, that they in turn will hopefully pass down to their kids. It is, in a sense, one of the few things that you will leave behind that has the potential to be your living legacy. There are few things in life that one can give that offer this. But the reality of that gift is that you have to make the effort to do it for it to take effect.

I just spend a few weeks researching this article and unfortunately the bottom line is, this article included that if there is a need there is someone there trying to sell you something to do something, that even if you do buy whatever it is that they are selling, you’re not going to be able to do. Problem with editing and organizing home movies, is that just like everything else, there are more hucksters and rip off artist then there are actually people who can do what you need done, well.

When it comes to editing and maintaining your home movies, the first thing that you need that nobody can sell you, is time. So beware before you buy anything related to editing you own home movies. The market is swamped with products that claim to make this task simple. It is not a simple task. To properly put together your home movies, you are going to have to pay someone, or take the time to learn how to do it yourself. The key ingredient here is time. Time to install hardware, time to install software, time to digitize, time to log material and time to actually sit down and do the editing.

Motivating yourself to do it and getting started is probably the biggest obstacle you will have to overcome. IM a professional video producer and it took me a year and a half to get my ass motivated enough to sit down and do the actually dirty work of editing together a family video about our beach vacations. What it actually involved, once I got started was daunting, even to a seasoned pro like me.

For starters, there is the collecting of all of the material that you are going to need to produce a decent production. This is where you go around the house looking for all of those home movies that you are your family has shot over the years. It is also at this point you may want to sit down and decide what it is that you are attempting to do. If you are planning on tackling your whole home movie collection in one sitting, forget it. This won’t happen overnight. It’s better to take on the task of editing home movies in small manageable chunks.

Then after you have collected all of your home movies and sill photo’s you have to make sure that you have the technical means to complete the project. It is at this point that you will probably find that you are missing something and you will need to spend money to purchase what is needed to produce whatever it is that you want to do. Let me repeat, spend money! Just like everything else in life, you’re going to get what you’re willing to put into it. And to properly edit your home movies you’re going to spend some cash. There’s really no way around it.

There’s several ways of going about the process of creatively editing and storing your home movies. Except of one exception, all these options require a large time commitment and extreme effort. Any publication or sales pitch promising you that this process is easy, and simple, should be avoided, shredded and sent back to the publisher. If someone tells you that the process of producing a family documentary and family media management is easy, then they are lying to you and trying to get you to buy something. Should you spend your cash on anything that has these two words “easy and simple” in their advertisement or web site, then you have been or are going to be ripped off.

What I’m trying to outline here in this article, is information that you can use to make a decision that will change your life forever. Why? Because if done properly, home movies can be a medium that you can use as an extension of yourself that can transcend generations. It is a way for you to communicate feelings that we have to people who do not even know us yet. Imagine for a moment the warmth and joy that you feel watching your child take his or her first steps. Now imagine being able to convey those feelings to that child ten years later. We now have the technology to make ourselves immortal.

Ten, twenty years from now, we are not going to be the same people that we are now. The home moves we share can, if used properly, allow us to traverse those spans in time and give us a chance to express just exactly who it is that we were.

Leave it to the professionals.

The first option is that you pay a company like “Times of Your Life” to do it for you. If you can afford it, and not many of us mortals can, I highly recommend this for numerous reasons, too many to list them all here. If you can afford it, then by all means, let some highly creative producer put it together for you. Yes, you will pay a lot of money, but in the end you will have a quality documentary about your family delivered to you on a DVD that can be shared with everyone. You will also get all of your family media stored and organized onto hard drives that you can access later for your own use. Once this is done correctly the first time, updating the files is not that difficult and can be done yearly. Compared with what most people can do on their own, the results of letting a professional do it for you, pale in comparison.

Problem with this option is that there are not too many companies out there who can really do the job well. But if you are fortunate enough to have the expendable cash and access to a producer, like myself (A little shameless self promotion here for our company Times of Your Life Media), then this is the ultimate option which will provide you with the highest quality production, the most organized delivery of your digitized media, and what we Americans like most, and that is it is the easiest way for you to do it.

Now, just like buying that expensive car, the above option presents two major hurdles. Funding, and finding someone who can do it well. The market is swamped with wedding photographers who claim that they can also edit and organize your home movies for you. Don’t you believe it! Most wedding photographers are amateur hacks who think because they bought a semi-professional camera on e-bay that it entitles them to call themselves professional video producers. Just like any other profession, you get what you pay for. Go cheap, and then pass out the forks with the pop corn when you show people the results.

If you are going to spend the cash to have someone produce your family home movies, spend it wisely and on someone who knows what the hell they are doing. Find someone who is a real television producer/editor and someone who is passionate about what they do. After all, these are the times of your life. Your home movies no matter what the quantity or quality can be transformed into family heirlooms if properly produced.

Also, if you are laying out the cash for this option, make sure that you get your media back in a way that you can access it yourself, preferably on hard drives with everything organized into bins that you can add future home movies into.

Creatively Editing Home Movies…

Problem with home movies is that they are for the most part boring. I just had a look at a website that showcased people’s raw home movies, and man I got to tell you, the Pentagon should really consider forcing terrorist suspects to watch unedited home movies as a form of extracting information. No offense but beside seeing people that you recognize dancing around on New Years, with lampshades on their heads, a home movie, in it’s raw state is not really what I would consider a entertaining way to spend a evening. Now on the other hand, a properly edited, creatively produced home movie can be a valuable keepsake that can be handed down from generation to generation. The key words here are creatively produced.

This past summer I took fifteen years of beach vacation home video and edited it into an hour long mini documentary about our family’s vacations at the beach. In my production I used home movie material and I went around interviewing people in my family and asking them to tell me there best beach stories. I also added still pictures and our favorite music. The final result was a highly produced program that told the story of our family’s trips to the beach. The finished program looked great, sounded great, and is now a permanent record of some of the greatest moments of our lives. Each year all I have to do is edit what was shot during subsequent vacations and update copies for my family members. Not only is it a permanent record of some of the greatest times of our life, it is also entertaining to watch, even to people who are not part of the clan.

What it took as far as labor and time is something that you will have to consider when approaching your project. For just the summer vacations I had to digitize over 46 hours of various format home movies. This involved five 300 gigabyte hard drives. Countless hours of dealing with video that would not capture, and finding machines that I could use to playback dated video material that had to be converted from analog to digital.

The ultimate option? Let a professional do it for you.

Should you not be so inclined, let me leave you with this final option. Let a professional do it for you. That’s what my company “Times of your Life” does. We are a full service production company producing high quality, documentary style videos for consumers. What it means is that we take peoples home movies, pictures and actually develop a scripted documentary about someone’s family that looks as good as anything that you see on regular television. This means that we use the same approach that we do for our network clients like Discovery, TLC and Court TV to produce a finished television production. The results are impressive.

Times of You Life, produces anything from a full blown family documentary, to short professionally produced video projects that include a “Day in Your Life videos, or an anniversary tape for grand parents. We also produce projects that cover specific home movie productions for family events like vacations, kids birthdays and holidays.

In the past we have produced short projects that cover the life of a child or a relative that can be given to loved ones as mementoes. These projects cover specific time periods and are not as involved as the production of family documentaries, but the results are, once again impressive. Give us a call and either my self or one of our producers will fill you in on the details.

I do not take this business of home movies lightly. For me, it is one of the few things that I will be able to give my daughter that will allow her to understand who I was and the role I played in her life. When I’m gone, she will have these collections in which to learn about where she came from, and who I was. So in a way, I will be able to be with her

For most of us mortals, producing a project like this is out of reach financially. But if you are interested, give us a call or visit our web site a www.timesofyourlifemedia.com. For the rest of us, we will have to make do with the means available.

A few closing notes…

Protecting and preserving your home movies should be the first thing that you do. If you’re a family person, then those video tapes should be treated like gold. Except this gold will end up worthless unless you take proper care to make sure that it maintains its value.

Back up your back ups.

It’s a good idea to make multiple copies of home movies regardless of format. If it’s a DVD, then while you’re burning one copy, burn another and stash it away. If possible make a copy of the more important DVDs, such as a child’s birth or first birthday, then burn off a few extra copies and give them to responsible relatives to hold on to.

In this digital age, the memories of all those wonderful family moments are on your hard drives, flash drives, memory sticks and whatever other digital storage devices you use. Eventually these hard drives will crash. The only way to really protect them is to make backing up the media a part of your life. So back them up every few years. Spend a few bucks now, and you’ll be crying over watching your kid’s first ride without training wheels instead of crying over a smoking hard drive. You owe this to your children and their children.

It’s All in Your Hands

So, it’s all in your hands. The good news is, that once you get st
arted, the process gets easier. Once your home movies are properly maintained it’s just a matter of taking a few moments each month to update your family media files. After you’re done shooting a tape, or a DVD, take an hour or so and edit down the material and keep the best of material on a clip reel, or even better yet. Keep adding to the epic that you have already started.

In the end

Think about it. You are part of the first generation that is able to hand down a visual record of the life that you are living. Without that, you’re just a deleted social security number and a tomb stone. I just finished editing the home movies for the first four years of my daughter’s life. I love my child more then I ever thought possible, and I have from time to time, sat in front of the camera and told her just how wonderful it is to be her father. Now thanks to this medium, and the fact that I took the time and made the effort to produce her video, I can share those feelings of joy with her now and for the rest of our lives.

The Family Media that I have produced is something that will live on beyond my mortal life. And someday, when my daughter becomes her own person and shows these video productions to her children, I too will live once more.

Contact www.washingtontoast.com

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