Now that you're done recording the interview, the next step is to edit and produce the video. I'll do my best to make this chapter less daunting and intimidating, but the reality is is you need to educate yourself on video editing if you are going to do this yourself.
There are so many video editing programs available that I won't make an attempt to summarize or weigh the options. Instead, I'll speak in general terms about the editing process based on the program I use, and I'll share what I have learned.
B. Photo Curation
When I first sat down to edit my grandfather's video (photo above), I realized I had a CD slideshow with dozens of photos from him. My wife had created this slideshow for use at his 90th birthday. I had a ton of photos of his life, and was curious how it would look if I dropped in some photos that complemented his story. For example, he said one of his few memories of his mother was a trip to the beach. I happened to have a photo of that very day on disc. I experimented with fading in with this photo as he spoke, and it immediately improved the quality of the video.
This is completely optional, but if you can supplement the interview with photos of the subject's life, it will immediately improve the depth and emotional resonance. In the alternative, you can include a photo slideshow at the end of your video.
The way I do this on my computer is to create a master folder for each person I'm interviewing, with a subfolder for photos. I drop all the photos there for later use. There are many options to receive and digitize the photos, including: scanning (least optimal for you), email, flash drive, CD-ROM, downloading from Facebook and cloud. I interviewed my dad at his sister's house, where she had a treasure trove of old photo albums. Scanning wasn't feasible, and I wasn't about to peel those old photos out of the albums, so I used my cell phone to snap photos of them. It wasn't perfect, but they's totally useable after some cropping. You're going to have to use some ingenuity and creativity to acquire the photos, but I promise it's worthwhile.
Once I'm inside my video editing software, there is a "bucket" where I drop all files I intend to use with the video. This includes the raw unedited video itself and any photos I care to include. Everything goes in there for later use.
C. Video Editing
1. Software Selection
When I first set out on this journey, long before I even conceived of this concept as a business, I knew nothing about video editing and was very intimidated by the process. My video camera came with some stock software that enabled me to view thumbnails by date, but was completely useless for editing.
There are too many video editing options available for me to make any meaningful effort at instructing you on which program to use or how to compare the software. All I knew was I could not use the raw video I recorded.
Video editing is mandatory. Suppose the phone or doorbell rang, or you have material you want to delete. You need to edit. Suppose you want to create chapters for ease of navigation. You need to edit. Suppose you want to blend in photos or make an opening montage or add music. You need to edit.
I found a couple websites that compared and contrasted dozens of video editing software. I found sites that used grids with columns containing different features and check marks. Don't just pick the first option that arises on your web search. The first options you see are either paying for that space, or they have great SEO. That doesn't mean the software is right for you.
I recommend doing some research, weighing the options and reading actual user reviews. You want something simple and user-friendly. Something with a short learning curve with an intuitive user interface. I was about to settle on one particular program, then the reviews indicated that the software took draconian liberties with your computer and was impossible to uninstall. I was close to installing that software, but the reviews thankfully kept me away. Be a discerning consumer and do some research to find the best fit.
For any software, if you see options for paid v. free, I always recommend the paid software. Nothing is ever truly "free." Even if you don't pay upfront, you'll pay on the back end. Some freeware might lock certain program elements behind a paywall. It might contain adware or malware, and if you downloaded the sortware for free, the developer has zero incentive to help you. You don't have to get too fancy here. I paid about $50 for my program.
Once you select your software, you'll have to spend some time playing around with it and educating yourself on its functions. Expect to fail early and often, be patient and manage your expectations. Unless you have prior editing experience, have no expectations of creating something useable for a little while. The Help feature in my software is terrible, so I discovered that YouTube has plenty of third-party videos of people explaining how my particular program works. In fact, almost every time I have a question about how to do something in the editing process, I find the answer on YouTube.
2. Editing Basics
I can't speak to the nuances of all editing software on the market. I can't create a one-size-fits-all tutorial, and that is beyond the scope of this chapter. I'll discuss the editing and production process in general terms from the framework of the program I use.
My first step is to create a New Project and drop all the files (video and photos) into the "bucket." I then drag the main video file(s) (you will have multiple video files if you started and stopped the recording) into the editing strip. From here you can cut, delete and move portions of the video. When there are significant pauses in the recording, you can cut out the wasted seconds to make the video crisper and easier to watch. Suppose the interviewee disliked a certain answer or a question was poorly received. You can cut it out. I have yet to do a life story interview were I haven't tossed out certain Q&As because they didn't flow well, they interviewee struggled answering, or the question was terrible (it happens to me too). The beauty of the editing process is you can throw out the bathwater but keep the baby.
There should be a panel where you can drag other files to use in the video, such as other video clips, audios or photos. I have the option of using a photo to cover the entire screen or I can modify it to be any size on screen. There is a helpful concept here called "transitions." This is where you transition between scenes or other files, such as a photo or other video clips. My software has dozens of transition elements I can use, such as fading and particle effects. I like to keep it simple and fade in and out with photos. You can even set how long the fade lasts.
You can create chapters. While every interview is different and wanders into different subject matter, with overlap, I generally create chapters such as Family Background, Childhood, Education, Career, Marriage, Family, Inspirations, etc. This is beneficial when you're going to create a DVD. You can then skip between the chapters to find the material you want to watch.
In summary, shop around for the best software at the best price. Look at aggregating websites that have already done the legwork and read user reviews. Then educate yourself on how the software works and watch YouTube instructional videos when you get stumped.
D. Video Production
Once you're happy with the video you created, the next step "producing" the video. This is where you get the video formatted into the desired media. My software gives me several options, including posting on YouTube, burning DVDs or converting the file to mp4 (my favorite).
Burning DVDs is a common method, but I will attempt to dissuade you from DVD. First, you have to create menu screens. It's a total hassle and not fun. You have the video ready to go, and now you have to create menu screens. Burning the DVD itself is also very time consuming. I have a pretty high-end computer, and paid extra for it to have an optical drive that can read CD/DVD. If your computer doesn't have an optical drive that can burn discs, then DVD is not viable for you. DVDs take a long time to burn. It can take up to 30 minutes for one disc, and the files are so large that I have to split up a video into two discs. That means I have video file 1 and video file 2, which need to be separately burned. I've got an upcoming client who requested 10 DVD copies. Assuming the file needs to be split into two discs, I'm going to be burning all day. Another downside is you have to buy a spindle of DVDs, and they cost around $50. Some of the discs can be duds, so you need to test each disc to ensure it works. You also need to create a label (unless you want to write on it with a sharpie) and get a jewel box for storage. That's a lot of work.
I recently sponsored an event and was talking with another vendor about my project. She said she doesn't own a DVD player and would be unable to watch my video. A light bulb lit up, and I realized I could deliver my files on a flash drive. Everyone owns a device with a USB port. Modern TVs even have them now. Just plug and play.
I found multiple vendors online who sell custom branded flash drives, and decided the model below perfectly fits my project. You generally have to order these in bulk (my vendor had a minimum order of 50). I don't know if it's feasible for you to get custom flash drives, but you can go to any office supply store and buy as many generic drives as you need. I recommend using 16 gig size. 8 gig might be too small, but check your video size first.
Here is my pitch for using flash drives, followed up by how to use them. They are compact and portable. They won't scratch like a DVD, so they are more durable. People can use them on all kinds of devices. You can also upload the file from the flash to a computer, so it's backed up and easily accessible. You can't do that with a DVD, assuming your computer even has a DVD drive. Most computers don't even come with optical drives, whereas every computer has multiple USB ports.
A problem I encountered early on is, unless I burned to DVD, my edited videos could only be watched on a device that has my editing software installed. I tried sending my files electronically, but the recipient can't open it because it's an unknown file type on their end. I discovered that by converting my files to mp4 format, then can be opened universally. The conversion process, on my software, takes about 45 seconds. I upload the mp4 file to flash drives, and the user's default video player can run it. I can upload mp4 files anywhere, like YouTube, my website, or Facebook. I can also email them to people using Google Drive (look it up - this enables you to send files too large for email).
About the Blog
Here I write about the evolution of this project, the act of preserving life stories and personal development. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.