Your Home Movies are Beautifully Digitized. Now What?
A Guest Blog by Haleh Shoa
When I founded Picturli
, a photo organization, curation, and design boutique in Los Angeles, my mission was to help families preserve their memories and tell their stories so that future generations know who and where they come from. I have a sense of longing to know my grandfathers, neither of whom I met as they died long before I was born. I have one photo from my paternal grandfather, which I cherish. Unfortunately, I don’t have any memories of my maternal grandfather, despite having 6 aunts and uncles on that side of the family. He died in 1940 in the middle of the war and famine. Taking pictures wasn’t a priority at that time. Luckily I have enough family members who can talk about their memories of him to help me “feel” where I come from. I have learned that he was kind and generous, the qualities I try and nurture within myself daily.
SK, one of our first clients, had a huge box of 8mm film with footage that neither she nor her family had seen in over 45 years. We knew there was gold in that bag of old 8mm’s because her father filmed most of their global adventures, family gatherings, bar mitzvahs, and way more. We were just as excited to see the footage as she was. Naturally, we had to hire the best shop in town and that’s when I contacted Pro8mm. I was excited to learn that Rhonda, the owner, shares my passion for family storytelling. We got the footage back and it surpassed our expectations.
Even though none of SK’s footage had sound, watching her childhood memories immediately transported her to the smells and feelings of times past. She talked about the air in Paris and the weather in Vancouver and the homemade food of her grandmother. Her eyes welled up; her heart expanded; her face lit brighter with every story. And then I thought, wait… we need to be recording this. Her children deserve to hear these stories, firsthand. The raw emotions that she expressed. That moment was gone, but we were able to help her preserve the stories and emotions of her mom and sister watching the footage. We learned so much from this project, and many more after that on how we can help our clients preserve the story, not just the memory.
In honor of the international annual event, Save Your Photos Month, hosted by the Photo Managers, I would like to share 5 ways for you to try and enjoy those beautifully digitized home movies. But before you attempt any of the following, please make sure all of your devices are backed up. I love and recommend Backblaze as a seamless backup solution. Backing up your devices is the most important step.
1. Enjoy & Share. Upload the clips to your photo cloud service so you have access to them on your phone. I recommend uploading the clips by logging into the cloud service on a computer rather than using your phone because it may take a long time for them to upload, depending on the size of the files. Once it’s uploaded, you can change the name, date taken, and add captions. Once this step is complete, your footage will show up on your camera roll in the right year (or decade) and any part of the title or caption will be searchable. Note: we rename and redate every single file that we digitize so it’s sortable and searchable on any platform.
2. Voice-Over Film. Thus far, all of the films that we have digitized for our clients have had no sound. But the stories are still alive and can be recorded with anyone who was either there or can remember the happenings from that era. The easiest way to capture the story is to record your loved ones watching the clips as they talk about their memories. The stories will just flow and all you have to do is record them. Here are some options for making a film/video with voice-over stories:
1. Effortless, but not great quality. The easiest option is recording a Zoom meeting while showing the clip. To do this, set up a free Zoom account, which allows up to a 40-minute recording that can be saved on your computer. Invite your loved ones to the meeting, share the screen, play the movie, and hit the record button. Make sure they know how to unmute themselves and are able to see your shared screen, before hitting the recording button. This option is great for those who are not technically savvy or whose family members are not close by.
2. Easy, with better quality. A better option is to record them on a phone’s recording application (all phones have this but you can also download free ones from the app store) while watching the movie. Typically recorded files are very “light” and can easily be emailed. Once you receive or download the file, you can combine the video and the audio clip in a program such as iMovie on a Mac or Microsoft Video Editor on a PC, and export it to save, enjoy and share it. This option is great for those who are mid-level tech-savvy and are not intimidated by learning the aforementioned programs.
3. Most effort but excellent quality. For the best sound quality, record the stories with a microphone or lavaliere. Depending on where you live, you may be able to rent a high-end one. Or you can buy either one of those on Amazon starting at $30. Once you have the voice recording you’ll be able to merge the video and sound using the methods mentioned above.
3. Legacy Film. This option is to record them on video while watching the clips, which takes a lot more effort and is technically harder. However, you’ll be recording a slice of your current history, whilst showing the past. To do this properly, you’ll need to be in person with your loved ones and record them on video while they’re watching the clips. For best results, follow these steps:
1.Prop a phone against some books, or better yet on a tripod, and check to make sure they’re in the shot
2.Clean the camera lens on the phone
3.Make sure there is natural lighting on their face, and they’re definitely not sitting against a window
4.Place the phones (or cameras) horizontally, not vertically
5.Do a test before you start showing your clip to make sure everything works
6.Hit the recording button and then start showing the clips
7.Watch their faces transform as they relive the memories
8.Edit the clips from this session with the converted footage in iMovie or Microsoft Video Editor.
4. Create a bespoke film. If you love being creative with your memories, here is a video to inspire you. It was made using our client’s footage. Generations
5. Printed Canvas/Photograph from a Screengrab. Yes, you can actually get a print from a screengrab of the clips. Pro8mm digitizes films in the best quality possible, especially if you order the 4K, plus color correction so it makes it easy to actually capture an image and order a print! The best way of doing this is to open the clip, maximize it to fill the computer screen, and pause it at a point where you think it would make a great print, and then take a screenshot. Make sure that your toolbar is not in the photo. Most programs show the pause and play buttons for about 5 seconds but then it goes away and that’s when you want to get your screenshot. My favorite output, for this application, would be on canvas, because it’ll actually look like a painting!
I hope this has inspired you to dig into your own family memories and connect with your loved ones to record their stories. Trust me, your grandchildren will thank you for this. I wish I had this from my grandfathers.
To learn more creative ways on how you can enjoy your family’s treasured memories, visit Picturli’s website at www.picturli.com.