Commemorative videos – Surviving death has never been so easy

Nothing else comes as close to bottling reality as the moving image. Maybe it’s because a movie unfolds in a continuous progression, just like life does. And video has sound as well as images, putting it ahead of photographs, pure sound recordings, and even biographical writing in terms of capturing personality. So when it comes to keeping our loved ones alive, even cheating death in some way, the best option is a memorial video.

Memorial videos are usually played at the funeral during the memorial service. It’s usually a 7-10 minute funeral slideshow put together in some haste by a son or daughter who knows a little about PowerPoint, or it may be put together by the funeral home. For seniors, the slideshow is often a steady progression through the baby photos, school photos, wedding photo, snapshots of the kids, and photos with the grandkids. And there is nothing wrong with that.

But the death of a loved one gives us the opportunity to create something memorable. Something that accurately reflects the personality and legacy of the deceased. Something that will be kept, given and treasured. And with the wonders of modern technology, it has never been truer that “surviving death has never been easier.”

don’t wait for death
The best memorial video celebrates a life and introduces the person: in person. How many of us say, after a death, “I wish I had spent more time with them” or “I’m sorry I didn’t record some of their stories.” As human beings, although we know that death will visit us, we are very good at pretending every day that it will not be today. And we are always right. Until that day when we are not.

So don’t wait for death. Get started on that memorial video before you need it. Get out that video recorder, put it on a stand and film the oldest members of your family. Capture them talking, laughing, crying. Ask them about the happy moments, the challenges, what their hopes are for their family. You don’t need to do anything with it now. Its value will become apparent, and you will make use of it, when the subject passes.

Find out who all those people are
When a person dies, a lot of information goes with them. So much knowledge is lost. Have you ever had the experience of looking at an old photo album and wondering who all those people are? You know some, but there are many others that seem important, but who are they?

Before it’s too late, spend time with your subject and review old photos. Grab a pad of those yellow sticky notes and write down who’s who. Ask about the people, their relationship to the family, what the occasion was, and where it took place. Perhaps you can scan and upload the images to a photo-sharing site and have family members, who may live some distance away, add details.

A life in words and print
Few things are as revealing as old letters. Letters written between siblings or lovers, or to a parent or child, often show a side of a person that you may never have guessed. They can be very personal. They can explain some of life’s big turning points. Intelligence really shines in a letter, even more than the spoken word.

Encourage family members to keep their letters. And within property lines, include them in your commemorative video. Ask your subject to read them. Film your letter. Ask them to talk about the times. Look at the addresses – who lived in those places at that time?

Montage of the memorial video
The key to a truly meaningful memorial video is the diversity of the material it includes. This is where it goes beyond the ordinary funeral slideshow. Therefore, you should include interview footage if you have it; it should include home movies, perhaps from a vacation or special occasion. You must include photographs, of course; It wouldn’t be a commemorative video without photos. But be careful to give them some shine back: these days it’s easy to retouch a photograph with digital editing software. And be sure to include photo captions in the “lower third” text.

Did the subject have a favorite author or poet? Ask someone to read a bit on camera and include it in your commemorative video. Are there significant documents: diplomas, discharge papers, immigration documents, a first pay stub? Bring those.

Often after a death, friends and family visit. Sit them down and ask them about the deceased, record them on video. Ask them to talk about their eulogy, if they have written one. What about the ancestors? Do you know anything about them? Where do they come from? Where did they settle? If you know those things, you can include them as narration for the commemorative video.

give them wings
Once you’ve assembled your memorial video, you’ll want to send it out to the world. Once again, today’s technology gives us endless possibilities. First, you’ll want to burn your memorial video to a DVD. And make a nice cover using your best images and with important details of life. If you are organized, you will be able to hand out copies at the service. If you have interview material to incorporate, you’ll follow that up later.

Inevitably, some people will not have been able to attend the service. Perhaps there were grandchildren who are in school in another state. So why not upload the memorial video to YouTube or other online video hosting service? You can compress it for an iPod or even a phone.

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