Thursday, February 25, 2010

Video Biographies: Put your best face forward

I know, in a project such as a video biography where the main emphasis is on sharing and revealing stories from the past, who really gives much thought to what to wear? But oh, let me tell you, that's important and the phone call by one of the ladies I will be interviewing next month just confirmed it. We were trying hard to juggle our schedules around and come up with something that works for both of us. We had just decided on a date towards the end of March... when suddenly she remembered her appointment with her hair stylist is every Thursday and well, that did it! Friday would be the day to put her best face forward on camera!

If that sounds superficial, well, let me put it this way. The image on the video biography is going to be how generations forever in the future will remember Grandma. Or great-grandma by then. Or even great-great-grandma. More than the photographs in albums and dusty old trunks, more than words on the family tree, more than verbal stories passed down as folklore, the video biography will the definitive source to form a feel of Grandma's personality and in that case, shouldn't she look the best she can?

So give a thought to what you're wearing. Avoid busy patterns and loud stripes... go in for a nice solid color that doesn't compete with the stories for attention. Spend some time on your appearance. And yes, let's not forget that hair appointment. And let's not feel guilty about it either!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Video Biographies: How to make sure they last

An interesting question came up at a recent video biography workshop here in Austin. One of the members of the 'audience' shared her experience recording her mother's stories on video many years ago. She never got a chance to look at the video much since then, and two days before the workshop, she decided that the time was finally right to play the tape that it was stored on. Imagine her shock then when all she saw on the TV screen when she pushed the 'play' button was static-y snow... no image, no sound, no memories.

So what happened?

The lady mentioned lending the tape to someone else who wished to make a copy of it for their own use... and while it's hard to guess what really happened, I'm going to hark back to my TV news channel days to give my take on it. A news channel can use a LOT of tapes (at least the one where I used to work did!) and once they had been stored for the necessary amount of time, they were ready to be reused. At which point they were 'scrubbed' i.e. wiped clean of all existing footage on them and made 'new' again. If I were to guess, I think somewhere along the way, instead of hitting 'copy', the button 'delete' or 'scrub' was accidentally pushed, resulting in the current state of the tape. Of course I'm simplifying the situation a lot here (!) but the point is to provide an idea of how easy it can be to lose valuable information... in this case, precious memories of a very important person in the lady's life.

If you are planning to record the stories of your loved ones, then try and make a copy of the original tape wherever possible. Store the original, and use the duplicate for your editing purposes. Once you're done editing the video to your satisfaction, burn a few DVDs for your records. Yes, there will always be a file stored on your computer and this may seem like an unnecessary precaution, but computers have been known to crash without prior notice... and why risk the loss of all that valuable information?

Now if the lady's video had been a digital file on her computer, there could still be a hope of retrieving the data she lost... of course, you would need to go to someone who is a technical expert in these sorts of things and in no way am I that person. But there is a larger possibility of retrieving files once they've been digitized. And I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that in my experience, DVDs have proved to be good for storing my audio/video files. They are durable, sturdy, last long, and can be duplicated without much trouble. All this provided you handle and store them right!

Happy interviewing!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Video Biographies: 'Stories from the Heart' conference in Austin

What are you doing this weekend? Yes, I'm talking about February 5,6 and 7.

Well, Story Circle is hosting their 5th annual conference here in Austin - "Stories From the Heart" and I'm very excited by it. So far, more than a 100 women from across the country have registered, and apart from the conference program, it sounds like there will be ample opportunity for fun, games and forging new friendships. But before I get distracted by that, let me tell you a little bit about the conference.

The focus of the 3-day conference is, quite simply, stories. Stories from our day-to-day lives. Stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. Stories of lessons learned. Mistakes made. Stories of heartbreak and overcoming heartbreak. In short, the stories of a lifetime.

Over the course of several workshops, one learns to give voice to these stories - either through memoir writing, blogging, poetry or... you guessed it, video biographies.

I will be accompanied by two very accomplished writers / editors - Jane Ross and Pat Flathouse - in giving an informational talk on how to effectively use video as a medium to document individual histories, without getting intimidated by the technology involved. Needless to say, the three of us are very excited to be presenting this 'new' resource in storytelling!

Moreover, there is an opportunity for individual consultations on Friday - so that if anyone has very specific questions, they can get one-on-one talk time with professionals and experts from the field. And there's a silent auction. Open mike. a sinful sounding dessert reception (!). Informal interactions. Slumber parties - okay, so I made that one up but only to test if you were still paying attention! Rest assured, it will be an experience. And if that appeals to you in any way, come on over to the Wyndham Hotel. Online registration may have closed at the moment but there's still the opportunity to register at the door... and I know we're glad to have you there!