Photography Information

How to Create a Family History Video Memoir with Photos and Interviews of Your Loved Ones

Here are examples of two basic videos you can create quickly on a great budget:

Example A - Do-it-yourself for around $125 + extra copies

1. The interview

Rent a digital video camcorder or if you have one already, use it. At the Video Kitchen in Louisville, Kentucky our $48 daily rental charge includes a tripod, a 60 minute digital tape and one DVD copy of your video.

In a comfortable room with bright and warm (incandescent) lights behind the camcorder facing the subject and no back light (windows behind the person) videotape your relative. Make sure there is water to drink and the camcorder is within 6 feet of the individual. First record 15 seconds of silent video with the lens cap on at the beginning of the video. For more information on how to shoot great video, check out the article by Video Kitchen owner, Carlile Crutcher at:

There are usually two parts to a biography video: questions and photos. First, in a clear voice, behind the camera or preferably sitting next to the subject, read the questions and allow for plenty of time for answers, this is not a race, make sure the subject feels comfortable to tell stories, or go off on tangents. Here are examples of questions to ask:

What is today's date?
What is your full name (and maiden name)?
When is your birthday?
What year were you born?
What was going on in the world that year?
What were your parents' names? Ages when you were born?

Tell us about your aunts and uncles.
What is your most prominent memory of your grandmother? ?your grandfather?
Did you have brothers and/or sisters? ?their names and ages?
Did you have any farm animals and/or pets when you were little?
What was a typical day like when you were 5 years old?
Did you have a nickname when you were younger?
What sports or games did you like to play?
What was something you did as a child that was really scary?

What subjects did you enjoy in grade school? Why?
What was a typical day like when you were 10 years old?
What were some things you and your friends did for fun as a child?
Who was your best friend when you were a young teenager?
How many people went to your high school?
What was a typical day like when you were 15 years old?
Did you like to dance or listen to music? What kinds?
When did you start dating? Who was your first kiss?
When did you first learn to drive? What kind of vehicle? How fast did you go?

What was your first occupation? ?your starting salary?
Did you go to college? Where? What did you study? What did you like most?
How did you meet your spouse? What first attracted you to him or her?
Where did you go on your first date? How did they ask you to marry them?
How old where you when you got married? Where was it?
Did you or your spouse go away to any wars? Which ones? What was that like?
Where were you when JFK was assassinated? How did you hear about it?
Where were you when man first walked on the moon? How did you hear about it?
When did you attend your first movie? What was it? Was there sound?
Which president from your life did you like the most? Why?

How old were you when you had your first child?
What are your children's names? What do you like the best about each of them?
What are your grandchildren's names? What do you like the best about each of them?
What is a typical day like for you now?
What are some of your favorite things to do now?
What is the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?
What do you like about your life today?
If you could re-experience one thing in your life, what would it be?
What is the one most important thing you have done in your whole life?
Is there anything that you always wanted to do, but never did?

2. Discuss family photos - Now comes the second part of the video? photos. You don't want to have whole books of pictures to go through. A good number is 30. Have the subject look at each photo, describe what is going on as if they are showing it to someone, and tell its story. Let them know that they do not need to show the print to the camera, and not to point to specific things, but to just describe them in any detail they wish. Once they have finished with the photos as them one more question?

If they could give one message or bit of advice to their generations of descendants to come, what would it be?

Now your source video is finished and you are ready to edit it.

3. Edit the video and photos -

Call your local video editing suite and reserve an edit station. Let them know that you have a MiniDV digital tape that you want to edit video from, photos you want to include and music to be added. At Video Kitchen in Louisville Kentucky, our basic edit station has a $19 setup charge plus $29 hourly. You need to bring in the videotape, the photos and a CD with soft background music (we can provide the music if necessary). If everything went well and you have a good plan, it should take a couple of hours to complete the editing. We will put a title page at the beginning, replace sections of video with the photos and add the background music to the audio track.

Now you have a digital master tape. Your first DVD copy is included in the price of your camcorder rental. Pricing for additional copies are found on our duplication page.

Example B - Work with a production company's staff for around $550 + extra copies

1. The interview

Call the your local video production facility and setup a shoot. At Video Kitchen in Louisville Kentucky, our shoots include a broadcast quality camcorder with an operator and a wireless microphone. Lights are extra. We will come to your location and make sure that everything is captured perfectly. There is a $49 setup fee plus $99 per hour and we will probably be onsite for an hour and a half.

The shoot will proceed as in example #1 with a friend or relative reading the subject questions, describing photos, telling stories and sharing memories.

2. The Edit session

Then set up an appointment at the video production facility to come in and sit with an editors at a digital computer non-linear edit station. At Video Kitchen in Louisville Kentucky, this station runs $99 hourly and depending on how much editing is needed, it will probably take around three and a half hours. At this station, we can add photos, music and titles with fades and dissolves. Then we would create your digital master and make one DVD copy which is included in your shoot. Pricing for additional copies are found on our duplication page at

More tips

The object is to get the central figure of the video to start talking. Think about it, there are times this person does start telling stories without end. It might be after a large Thanksgiving dinner, it might be late at night, it might be at the kitchen table, it may take a glass of something to reduce tension.

Sometimes it takes something to set the subject off, to get them on their soapbox, to tell the kids how it was back in the good old days. A lively discussion of world events, the way kids dress today, the cost of gasoline may help getting the juices to flow.

There are some masters at this art. Two come to mind. Jim Lipton on Bravo in the Actor's Studio program interviews movie stars in a way that probes their personality and background without parallel. He has done his research and has questions on blue index cards. His questions not only are "tell me" but also open a subject by telling the actor something that Lipton already knows a little about, and the actor is invited to fill in the blanks, resolve the conflict, complete the joke.

Charlie Rose is another superb talent at drawing information out of his guests. Same blue cards. Same method of asking questions by making a statement and inviting the guest to enter into the conversation. He is on PBS late most evenings. You might want to catch some of these kinds of shows to help you map out a strategy you are comfortable with.

If the person asking the questions is nervous and tight, it may not work. Find a replacement. If the subject of the interview is lost in the best family sofa and you remember most lively discussions being around a table, go for the table. Sound is more important than the picture. Stay close. Leave the camera running through minor errors; just say it again after a small pause. It will be easy to cut out later. Try to keep going. If the first session doesn't work well, laugh it off and let the subject know you'll be back. A bad dress rehearsal frequently makes for a great first performance.

While it may increase the budget from the numbers suggested above, there are many ways to add other stories, movies and pictures to your Memoir Video. Other members of the family may have great stories to add, video cutaways of the subject in action walking in the neighborhood, sawing a board, or cooking a meal can all add to an understanding of who this person is. But don't throw too many things into your first effort. You will have a digital master. You will be able to add more later. Don't plan delays into your project!

We look forward to learning your families history with you and hope to help you preserve it for years to come. If you have any other questions about video editing, duplication, transfer or conversion, please visit our web page at or you can write us a 1917 Blankenbaker Parkway in Louisville KY 40299

Good luck on creating your own memory photo montage video!

Video Kitchen can edit, duplicate or convert your video to and from almost any format. Our most popular services are transferring photos to DVD building stunning photo montages and copying VHS and camcorder tapes to DVD to preserve and share those special moments.

We also shoot, edit and do mass duplication of VHS, DVD and CD for businesses and organizations. You can come in and work in an edit suite with one of our editors producing a "broadcast-ready" program or edit together a family video on a self-service basis.

Our wide-ranging transfer services include converting old Super 8, 8mm and 16mm home movie film to video, converting video footage for PowerPoint presentations and encoding clips to be shown on the Internet, to name a few.

We have a location in Louisville Kentucky's Highlands at 2323 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40205 and one in Jeffersontown in the East End at 1917 Blankenbaker Parkway, Louisville KY 40299. Please browse through our pages at and feel free to call six days a week.

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