If you decide you would like to produce a video memoir yourself, but need some help setting up, we provide consultation services, charged on an hourly basis at $55 per hour. The tips below will help get you started.
For more details please contact:
413-247-0308 (M-F, 9 am - 5 pm, EST)
Tips for Do-It-Yourselfers
Camera. Most digital video cameras today can capture a great picture given enough light. I recommend MiniDV digital video cameras. The DV quality can be excellent and being digital, the footage is easy to transfer to your computer for editing.
Sound. Obviously, one of the most important elements for a project like this is good sound. This, though, is an area where the built-in mics of many of the newer, smaller camcorders can be problematic. I recommend an external mic for the following reasons:
a) Built-in mics can pick up a lot of motor noise because of their physical location on the camera -- the camera is small and the mic is sensitive. On larger cameras, this may be less of an issue.
b) In order to get good quality sound, especially if your subject is soft-spoken, you may need to get quite close -- say, three feet -- to your subject. This will be too close for many people.
We use clip-on mics (a.k.a. lavaliere, or lapel type) that plug directly into the camera. If you're shopping for a video camera, look for one that allows you to plug in an external mic. These mics can be as inexpensive as $15 to $30 at online outlets or retail chains like Radio Shack. Even an inexpensive external mic can deliver superior sound to the on-board mic because it is physically close to the subject.
Inside vs. outside. You want to control the filming environment as much as you can; therefore, don't shoot outside unless you have to. Outside, at the least, you will have to deal with changes in light, traffic or nature noises, including wind. At worst, someone two houses over will start using a lawn mower. If it took months or more to convince your family member to participate and/or coordinate your schedules, you don't want anything to slow down or postpone the interview.
Light. This is a tricky area, especially when lighting subjects who may be less tolerant to the heat or the glare of bright lights. If your subject is going to be sitting and talking for a couple of hours, you want to make them as comfortable as possible. If you don't have access to photo lights and can get enough light using natural light, great! If natural light is not plentiful enough, clip-on workshop lights can be used successfully if you put some diffusing material in front of them to soften the light. You want the light to be bright but not harsh. You could even use a regular table lamp with a bright bulb and add a piece of white board behind it to reflect more of the light onto your subject.
There's a lot to consider to get quality footage of your subject's interview session, but it is not hard if you pay attention to details. Do your homework so that it will be easy to see and hear your subject's stories.