Life Story Video

Saving lives through video

DIY Family History Video Pt 3: Post Production Choices

OK, this is the third part of our series on DIY life story, tribute video and family history video. Today, we are going to tell you how to handle some of the bigger questions that will arise in the post-production phase of your family history video project.

Part 1 of this series covered a slew of choices that you will face in the pre-production phase of your personal documentary. And Part 2 of this blog series took you, dear reader, through key choices that are likely to present themselves in the production phase of a tribute video.


“Post production” really just means the editing phase of your family history video project. So the first question is which is the best editing suite?

Which editing suite is better: A. Adobe Premier or B. Apple Final Cut?

Well, the best answer here is: it’s the devil you know. Starting out, we used all kinds of programs, including iMovie, Sony Vegas, Windows Movie Maker and some others too (mentioned below). And by and large, they are all pretty good. But if you are starting out from scratch:

B. Final Cut Pro. It’s well supported by Apple, they teach it in most of the technical colleges I am aware of, it is used in a lot of pro documentaries and has even been used on feature films (Cold Mountain is one). We use it every day, even for slideshows and some audio projects. Not perfect, but perfectly serviceable.

A. That said, Adobe is a great company, “Adobe Premier” runs well on PC and it has a ton of fans. It is from Adobe which also make Photoshop and After Effects – so there will be good integration there. (Also, a lot of pros have recently been turned off Apple editing because of the big changes in Final Cut Pro X. Those changes make the program easier to use for newbies (the new interface reminds a lot of editors of the relatively simple iMovie) but the changes frustrate long term users who have gotten used to the old look and functionality. Many ofthem fear that Apple’s runaway success in consumer devices is sapping Apple’s interest in the “pro” market.)

(Another Final Cut competitor – which still does handles most feature films – is Avid, which company – up until recently – was not very interested in the smaller film makers. Definitely worth a look though.)

Family history video imageWhat about other editing software?

There are a lot of other programs out there that the profession video editor will have, that definitely help your editing or solve certain problems, and that you may want to explore as you improve on your main editing software.

Those programs include: Adobe After Effects, Adobe Photoshop, Apple Color, Compressor, and many others. If you are going to bring in other video elements then “MPEG Streamclip” is the Swiss Army Knife for video that you will be glad to have packed. Then, you will need a decent DVD authoring program… (the list is pretty much endless).

Music: Can’t I just use A. iTunes or must I buy B. Royalty free?

B. No surprise here: it’s got to be royalty free. There are a ton of providers – and various blogs and industry group websites have the names and recommendations for a goodly bunch.

A. Small video professionals dream of the day when the music publishers provide a workable service for the cottage video maker – like an iTunes for production music. But it hasn’t happened yet.

Voice over and narration: Is it A. Just a distraction or B. Does it add to the project?

B. The conventional advice about documentary film making is that as far as possible you should let your subject tell his/her/its own story; and better than telling is showing. The best stories unfold, and are not presented in a “news package” style.

And we agree with that, mostly. Where the text books suggest you should consider narration is:

      Where you make a real gain in production value (i.e. the voice gives the audience a break from the main – or only – interview and is itself a nice asset – think Peter Coyote or James Earl Jones);

Where the subject is unable to tell their own story (animals come to mind here or family stories reaching back to ancestry); and

Where it is important to cut to the chase or summarize a long event.

We often use narration for the opening of a project, and then use it sparingly later on.

A. I have no quarrel with those who use no voice-over. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice and one often dictated by convenience or cost. Your Story Here does not charge extra to use our own voice as narration, but we have paid between $150 and $650 for voice over talent.

If I turn pro, should I: A. Allow the client to make copies of the project as delivered or B. Should I try to restrict them?

A. We don’t try to restrict clients from burning their own disks from copies we provide. By and large, clients who want extra disks call up and we provide them at a cost that is fair.

If you make a nice product, with a printed disk and an artistic DVD cover, chances are the client will want to buy copies from you. Seeking to place restrictions on copying, to protect what in most cases will be a very small incremental profit, seems mean spirited to me. But we accept that opinions will differ here.

What’s Next?

If you have come this far, and read each of the three articles in this series on DIY life story, tribute video and family history video, then you will be well on your way to gaining the knowledge and confidence to start you own project.

And when it comes to recording and preserving family history, don’t let a pursuit of perfection be the enemy of the good (and good enough). A good family history is much better, and more valuable to the family now and succeeding generations later, than that perfect project that somehow never got done.

Filed under: DIY Tips & Advice, family history video, ,

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