A friend recently told me: “My Mom is getting up in years and I don’t have any videos of her. I was so inspired by my conversations with you about family legacy movies I went out and bought a small video camera to take on my vacation to visit her. Now what?”
So, I gave her a few tips.
1. First, use a tripod for your camera, or set it on a table with a stack of books or anything to stabilize it while you are recording.
2. Set the camera height so you can see her face head-on. Don’t place the camera below her face so her double chin shows.
3. Make sure lighting is good. Have her sit in front of a solid wall–no bright windows or doors behind her. If the room is dark, bring in extra lights and place them around her so light shines on her face. Use halogen lights or blue-toned light bulbs, not flourescent or yellow-toned bulbs. Sometimes bright shop-lights work well.
4. Turn off all television, radios, music, and use a room where outside traffic noises or other loud noises won’t be heard. If you have a microphone, use it. Most likely you won’t, so place the camera as close as you can and still get good shots. Sometimes if using a mic is just not possible, I will place a second camcorder near her for the sound and later sync movie and sound together on the computer.
5. Change the position of the camera from time to time to vary the views of her and make the final product a little more interesting.
6. During your videotaping, ask her questions about her memories: favorite stories told to her when she was growing up, favorite family times, good times, hard times, friendships, other family members. Think of questions you have and things you want to know about your Mom.
7. If you will be with her for several days, don’t exhaust her or yourself by doing it all in one day. Maybe some of the shooting can be done outside in a quiet garden or on the front porch. Just keep in mind lighting and sound.
8. Finally, make sure you know ahead of time how much video your camera can hold. Get extra internal cards if necessary. If your camera doesn’t have cards and if you have limited space on your camera you might want to subscribe to a website where you can upload your raw footage for safekeeping until you can access it when you get home. And check it to make sure you can see it before you delete footage from your camera to make more space.
9. Most important, make it fun for both you and her.