Life Story Video

Saving lives through video

How to Make a Tribute Video Pt 2: Production Phase

This is the second part of our series on making your own life story or “tribute” video. The first part – DIY Life Story Video: Preproduction – looked at some of the major choices as you plan your tribute video.

Now, we move on to the main course: location, make up, sound and lighting, and video recording! Also known as the “production” phase in the film making process.


Location, location, location: A. Stay in the living room or B. Get out and about?

B. I like to get the video camera outside in my life story videos. It allows you to not just have the subject tell their story but it allows them to show it also; and it ultimately makes the whole project more interesting for the family audience.

A couple of points about shooting for a tribute video outdoors: schedule the outside day before the inside day – that way if it rains you have some flexibility. I seldom worry about city approvals (which normally require you to show proof of insurance) – although would not discourage people from obtaining them. Street and traffic noise is often a big issue – so I make sure that I always re-ask important questions once we are inside – just in case the audio is unuseable. And if you are driving the subject anywhere, you should obtain a liability release.

Tribute-video-imageA. And I film in the living room too.

What about Looky-loos: Is it A. Better to have a member of the family present or B. Is it better to interview the subject on their own?

B. On their own, generally. Family members are often curious, but can be a major distraction if the subject calls out to check an answer. Also, you are less likely to get especially revealing answers if the subject is in front of an audience. When filming a couple, I usually do them separately first and then together. And, where possible, you will want to preserve some element of surprise in the finished tribute video.

A. There can be times when, because of frailty or excessive anxiety, you will want another person present. For example, if you are filming in an assisted living care facility, you don’t want to order out the nurse (or the son or daughter) because you certainly do not want to assume responsibility in case of a medical emergency.

Do I need to A. Worry about hair and makeup or B. All that is the responsibility of the client.

A. Early on, I thought the answer was B. I thought I had enough to worry about without having to obsess about clothes, hair, weight and wrinkles. But experience taught me otherwise. If the client is unhappy with how the subject looks, you will get some of the blame whether you like it or not.

So, I usually advise my female subjects to have their hair done and I advise about the kinds and colors of clothes that will look the best (no plaid, no stripes, solid colors but no pink, avoid lace and ruffles; for men and women dark jackets are always good and if a man wants to wear a blazer and a tie I encourage that).

On the day, if I am filming the tribute video at the subject’s house, we may go to the closet and I will pick something out. Weight? Distorting the video about 5-7% in the vertical direction can have a remarkable slimming effect! Wrinkles? Applying a soft focus filter (a la Doris Day) can help, as can avoiding strong and direct lighting during the interview.

B. Most of my clients aren’t that fussy. But B is still the wrong answer! So I always carry a makeup bag which I most often put into effect for bald headed men, or men with that red (drinker’s) scalding!

Equipment: A. Rely on the inbuilt camera mic or B. bring your own lavalier microphone?

B. They say that the modern audience is more sensitive to (and less tolerant of) bad audio than bad video. So you gotta get some lapel mics (called “Lavalier” mics in the biz). Really, you must not rely on the in-built microphone.

Equipment: A. Natural light or B. Stage lighting for your tribute video?

A. Life story videos aka “tribute videos” are really documentaries. And there is no reason that you cannot rely on natural or even artificial room lighting providing you 1. Don’t have a strong source of light coming towards the camera; and 2. you “white balance” your camera. At the most basic level, you should have a menu option for “outdoor” and “indoor” lighting. Make sure that is set to the proper setting. For the more advanced life story video documentarian, you can point the camera to a white card and manual balance the whites (see your video camera manual for details).

B. If you do have access to video lights, then using them will take out any anxiety you may have that your subject is not properly lit. If you are using artificial lights, you will need to color balance your camera and it never hurts to follow the rules of 3 point lighting: First, a strong light at around 45° and elevated slightly above the level of your subject; a second, weaker, fill light on the other side of your subject; and a strong, third light coming from behind (but not directly into the camera) to provide a subtle rim of light that separates your subject from their background.

And position your camera such that you are shooting towards the shaded side of your subject and make sure they have nose-room in the frame.

Good luck! And if you need any help just click on over to us here at Your Story Here Tribute Videos and we’d be glad to lend a hand!

Postscript: One more thing. I sometimes get asked about sources for archive photographic images on the web that can be used in tribute videos and other multimedia projects. I recently wrote an article summarizing my favorite sites to find free web images called something like “Web Images – Best Sites to Source Free Images”. Enjoy!

Next time: Part : Post-Production Phase for your DIY Life Story Video

Filed under: DIY Tips & Advice, tribute videos, ,

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Welcome to the Life Story Video Blog!
This blog features stories about ordinary people and their experiences with life story videos.
Us? We are professional family historians creating custom-made, life story video documentaries!
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