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Healing Through Home Movies

I have often told my clients over the years that one of the most often overlooked, but important reasons that you want to move your home movie archive onto a hard drive, sooner rather than later is to “BE READY”.

While we often associate Being Ready with a planned event such as that 50th anniversary party or retirement dinner happening sometime in the future, there are other times in life that you find you will want to be ready for something unexpected.

Our family recently had the tragic experience of loosing a family member quite suddenly.  In the shock and sadness of this also came the realization that we, as the keepers of the family archive would have only a few days to edit together a beautiful memorial piece that would be shown at the Wake. Instead of being a daunting task trying to collect material from various people and sources and rushing to get them hastily digitized, because we were ready, the experience was in an unexpected way part of our healing.  Because we were ready, we found that the process  of putting together this tribute piece offered us a feeling of comfort, and was a vital part of our mourning and grieving. As we scrolled through her life on film from baby, to child, to teen, to bride, to mother, and so much more, we laughed, we cried, and most of all we were grateful that we would be able to bring others comfort in their sadness with an amazing story of wonderful memories of our loved ones life, which we set beautifully to music.

More importantly, we could do the editing ourselves, without the assistance of strangers or a company recommended by the funeral home.   Just about a year ago we encoded the entire family archive that were  gathered from several generations of different family members home movies to file format.  This was a huge improvement from our prior version which was DVD.  You can not edit a DVD, so there was  no option for extracting clips.  This version has the home movies encoded to digital files on a  Codec called  Pro Rez  422.   The entire archive was organized into playlists on several hard drives. This encoding gave us the ability to plug the hard drive into our Mac Computer  We could quickly scan through each film and extract clips of our loved one throughout her life.   We were then able to  edit the clips to tell a story.  We are not experienced editors, but these new programs are extremely easy to use.  We used Final Cut Pro, but imovie, or any computer base editing system (compatible with the Codec you chose) will work.  We found appropriate music.  The process took about 6 hours to look through 1 TB drive worth of material, select our clips and edit them.

We were able to burn our  10 minutes edited piece onto a  DVD to play on a loop at the Wake.  In addition, we  burned  copies to give to family members so that they would have this tribute as a permanent memorial to our loved one.  The power of this cannot even be put into words.

I think especially during those private moment of sadness and grieving, the ability to create a story without the assistance of strangers or a hired production company is so wonderful.  It is an extension of the love you feel for the departed, and allows you to  tell the story that you want to tell, the way you want to tell it as a visual Eulogy.

I hope this post will help motivate you to be ready for whatever life’s events can be more fully realized through the memories and healing power that lie within your family films.  Our loved ones and their legacy live on and are sustained through our photographs and films.  Take care of them, and treat them with the integrity they deserve.

-Rhonda Vigeant (c) February 23, 2012    (sample) Little boy

“Mourning is one of the most profound human experiences that it is possible to have… The deep capacity to weep for the loss of a loved one and to continue to treasure the memory of that loss is one of our noblest human traits”.
(—Edwin Shneidman, 1980)


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