Life Story Video

Saving lives through video

How Much Should You Pay for a Video Biography?

I am going to let you in on some pricing secrets in relation to video biographies or “family history documentaries”, as they are sometimes known. How much should you expect to pay and what can you hope to get for your hard-earned video biography money?

Video biographies are gaining in prominence as a feature item for an anniversary, reunion or a significant birthday. Often there is no such occasion, just a desire to capture Mom and Dad’s stories, or grandma’s or grandpa’s story, or some family genealogy, before it’s too late. As a recent survey by Allianz Insurance discovered:

“Eighty-six percent of boomers (age 47-66) and 74 percent of elders (age 72+) agree that family stories are the most important aspect of their legacy, ahead of personal possessions (64 percent for boomers, 58 percent for elders) and the expectation of inheritance for financial well-being.”

Video-Biography-CostSo, if you are reading this, you probably need no convincing about the importance of a video biography (or “family documentary video” if you prefer that terminology) and you are starting to get serious. But how much does a video biography cost? No point asking for something you can’t afford, right?

So what is the price of a video biography? The good news is: Pretty much whatever you want. (Wait! Don’t run away. I am going to blow up video biography “omertà” and give you actual market prices, just hang in there). But I do have to say that the price or cost of a video biography will depend on the features you would hope to include. Makes sense, right? But even better than that, it needn’t cost a penny.

The Zero Dollar Video Biography Pricing Option
The most important part of any family history project is to just get started. And you should never let funds stop you from starting – these are projects of passion, not cashion (if you get my drift). And you actually can do quite a good job on your own.

You will need a decent video camera (promise me you won’t use your iphone or your laptop – unless you really, really have no other options); also the owner’s manual; a lavalier mic; and a tripod. Oh, and a bright room with no direct sunlight on your subject. There is ample guidance on the web, just try Binging “DIY family history video” to see some of the tips I have given elsewhere and then try “video biography questions”. You will quickly be on your way!

You may not have a family history documentary with this no-cost option, but you will have saved a life through video.

The Actual Dollar Video Biography Cost Options
OK, I suspect if you are still reading then your have in mind to contact a professional video producer. How much will that set you back?

First, let’s distinguish between an amateur or a friend; a wedding videographer and a family history professional.

Family History Videos By Friends and Family
An amateur or friend almost fits into the “Zero Dollar Video Biography Pricing Option”, but they might charge you three or four hundred dollars for their equipment and their time. Or if not, you should think about paying them anyway. This should be especially so if in addition to interviewing and filming, you are going to ask them to ingest the video, edit it just a bit, and output it somewhere.

Keep in mind that this stuff is fiddly and time consuming and it’s really not fair to ask them to do all that for free. Also, if you decide to rely on their best intentions (and not at least some money) you may find that delivery of the finished product gets a little held up!

Family History Videos By Wedding Videographers
This can be a pretty good option, especially if you are prepared to work closely with the videographer in relation to setups, questions, images and the like. A number of wedding videographers are attracted to family history video work because it allows them to film during their relatively quiet weekdays (weddings are shot, almost always, on weekends).

Most reputable wedding videographers who have been in business for – let’s say 5 years – really know their stuff. They can shoot with multiple cameras, know all about lighting, often have dollies and cranes, a modern editing suite, and are almost always terrific still photographers, and can often do good audio.

Now, you may not need all of their core talents (intimate knowledge of the tried and tested wedding and reception stages, wedding slow-pans, rack focusing from flowers to the bride’s mother etc). And they may not have lit, miked, and shot a video biography interview before. Perhaps check to see if they have much in the way of oral history training and have access to the institutional resources and knowledge base of a group like the Association of Personal Historians. But they are almost certain to be personable (hey, they are still in business in a very tough industry) and will not frighten mom or grandma! And as I said, they really know their equipment and can be highly trained.

My best advice? Try to get the main person who owns the shop to do the work. And keep in mind the features and options I will cover below. Consider too that wedding videographers often have a decent size crew of part-timers for weddings and sometimes use goodly folks like fire fighters for “second or third camera”. No disrespect to firefighters, but for something as important as a video biography you do want the very best they have (which is usually the owner).

For a wedding or a video biography you can expect to pay around $3,000 to $5,000 for a decent wedding videographer filming for the best part of a day and doing some solid editing, image work, and delivery on BluRay, DVD or hard drive (maybe more, or even less, depending on the features you require). And here’s the thing: it will almost certainly look absolutely fabulous (an unhappy bride’s mother is an unhappy client!).

Family History Videos By A Video Biographer
Specialist video biographers are not more or less expensive than a wedding person, we are all professionals after all with cost structures and overhead and the expectation that we get to feed our kids! By and large, for the same work, our charges should be similar.

But where video biographers may part company with wedding videographers is that they are likely to include a little more. Some of these features include:

Time spent in pre-production: The longer the time, the more you will pay. Serious video biographers like to spend 10 hours or much more time in pre-production: meeting the client; meeting the subject; talking to all the kids (to make sure we get the stories they like and remember); doing basic family and ancestry research; unearthing artifacts and sounds; scouting locations and the like.

The number of personal and historical photos to be included and hence the work needed cleaning up and repairing those images. Not all videographers are formally trained in Photoshop and know how to bring out the best in the images to create a true personal documentary (as opposed to simply showcasing a “talking head”).

The number of subjects involved: While there are cost savings in filming two people as part of the same project, there are also additional costs.  Two people, while they may be a couple, are really, um, two people and need to be treated separately as well as together. Two people are really two stories with the added excitement of blending parts of their lives together.

Time spend filming and length of footage shot: The more hours of footage filmed and captured means the more time needed to digitally process the material, review and catalog it, and then make selections and edit them in.

Length of fully edited final product: The longer the finished product, the higher the price. Editing and creating non-interview content (images, B-roll, occupational footage, etc) is time-consuming. Also, video biographers tend to prefer a longer finished product – reasoning that this is important family history!

Other factors will be at play in the cost or price of a video biography: whether graphic animations are used (we tend to go light on these); whether there is any old family movies or audio to include; and how much the thing needs to be reedited (or edited again – most video biographers will include a set number of extra hours to fix errors or make other changes; after that the client must pay an hourly rate ($40 to $150 per hour); whether travel is required etc.

Alright, you are getting the picture. But what you came here for is an actual market sounding to answer the question of how much people across the US are paying – i.e. what’s the cost – yesterday, today and tomorrow for an edited video biography or family history documentary.

The cost of a video biography

You can certainly get a professionally lit, miked and shot – and lightly edited – video biography for $3,000 to $5,000.

For a fully edited video biography from an experienced, video biographer who invests in the project and guarantees satisfaction in the result expect to pay between $7,000 and $15,000 depending on the features mentioned above. And, through client disclosures, I am aware of $30,000 and even $40,000 price points.

Too rich for your blood? My advice – if you are seriously constrained in the cabbage department – either go DIY or get a really nice interview done by experienced people and take delivery of the raw footage and worry about editing the thing into something elaborate and coherent later.

Hope this helps. If you need more help, check out our video biography website and our blogs. Video biography is a passion for me and I can almost always fit a product to a budget.

 

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Filed under: Biographies, DIY Tips & Advice, Personal Documentaries, , , ,

Life Stories on Video from the Inland Empire

The recent special exhibition entitled “When I’m Sixty Four” at the Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art at Chaffey College in San Bernardino County, California gave a chance for local seniors to recount some of their life stories on video. And how astonishing those stories turned out to be!

Originally conceived as an oral history project involving Storycorps, life story video specialists Your Story Here LLC stepped in to video record twelve remarkable stories from locals 64 years and older… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Biographies, Personal Documentaries, , ,

Family Life in the 1950s: Life Story Video

This month’s life story video is the story of a typical 1950s family.

The 1950s were a little different to the 2010s

These days, from the perspective of 2011 and the tail of a very difficult recession, the 1950s present as a kind of golden period for America. The economy was expanding, nearly everybody had a job, and new and better machines kept appearing to help with household chores.

And from this distance at any rate – the country seemed optimistic and unified behind a set of agreed goals that today just seem a million miles away.

Of course, it wasn’t all Coke and beach umbrellas. We had the Reds to worry about, potential nuclear Armageddon, and vast race and gender inequality.

The Earls were a classic 1950s family
The Earls were a classic 1950s family. New bikes for birthdays, peanut butter and jelly school lunches, buzz cuts for son Ben, and vacations at the beach. And much of this happy time was captured by Ben in Super 8 Kodachrome. Their whole story was recently told in their family history documentary (extract follows):


Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: family history video, Personal Documentaries, Uncategorized, , , ,

Personal Documentaries Explained & Simplified

Lights, Camera, Personal Documentary!

What is a Personal Documentary?
Personal documentaries are life stories told on film or video. They typically present a life from beginning to end, and often cover ancestors as well as progeny. Personal documentaries combine interview footage with photographs, historical images, documents, music, archive footage, voice-over, objects and artifacts, captions and titles, personal or home movies, maps and animations, and other media as available. Normally, they are divided into chapters and most usually they are output, or delivered, to DVD.

There are 5 rules for the would-be DIY personal documentarian. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Biographies, DIY Tips & Advice, Personal Documentaries, ,

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This blog features stories about ordinary people and their experiences with life story videos.
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