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Making a Family History Video - Part II

Updated: Dec 19, 2021


In part II of our family history video overview, we'll cover the interview guidelines for your discussion with the family member and software tools to create a family history video slideshow story. The final slideshow will combine your media scans and transfers, interview audio, narrations and optional background music.

Interview Preparation & Questions


Below are a few best practices for family history interview questions and preparation so the answers from your family member are relevant and interesting.

  • Know your interview subject and events you will be talking about. Review the photo scans, any diary or journal entries and the home video and film reel transfers. If you will be discussing events like specific wars or the civil rights movement, make sure you understand those events so your questions are knowledgeable.

  • Create a basic outline of the interview even if you do not follow it exactly. Having an outline gives you a good blueprint to follow for the Q&A session.

  • Consider showing the outline to the subject even if the questions are not provided so that they can prepare to discuss particular events.

  • Always insist on a 1:1 interview. Having a 3rd person in the room affects individual experience recollections and often results in a 2-person shared memory of events. Individual experiences and recall are left out and viewpoints that do not fit the shared reality may not be brought up.

  • The focus needs to be on the interview subject who should be doing most of the talking rather than the interviewer.

  • Use open-ended questions such as "Tell me about..." and "Can you describe..."

  • A good interview gets stories and narratives and the subject's experiences rather than their opinions and confirming facts and figures. Try to focus on the Whys, Whats and Hows about family history and how the subject felt about those experiences.

  • The interviewer should be open to hearing disturbing, negative or ambivalent stories about the family that may go against the general narrative about the family being happy and conflict-free. In contrast, the interviewer should be probing if you feel the subject is glossing over with a positive spin on a particular topic that you know is problematic. Find ways to present contradictions or alternative views that do not attack the interview subject directly.

  • A typical family history interview will last about 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Interviewing Equipment

  • Try to invest in decent quality equipment that provides better audio and video quality than your computer or smart phone.

  • Test your equipment before the interview to make sure the sound and video meet your requirements.

  • Conduct the interview in a quiet place. Often small unnoticed sounds like a ceiling fan or humming from a machine motor will make the recorded audio unusable. Avoid doing an interview in a public place or outdoors.

  • Run a short test with your subject to view the video and test the audio volume and quality before you start the actual interview.

  • Always back up your audio and video recordings in multiple places and have a filing system that prevents lost files.

Interview Outline Topics

Parents and Family, Community Grew Up In, Early Schooling, Friends and Interests, Changes in Family, School, Work, Social Life and Outside Interests, Further Education, Marriage & Other Relationships, Employment, Children, Church-Political-Other Involvement and Reasons Behind, Ongoing Interests & Hobbies.

Slideshow Software Programs

There have been major advances in the quality and ease-of-use of software programs that create photo history slideshow videos. These are often called Photo Stories and we'll cover a few of the current programs that are good for pulling together your photo scans, digitized videotapes and 8mm film reels, audio tape sound files, narration and background music.

Magix PhotoStory Deluxe 2022

This is probably the most full-featured photo story program available for novices. It quickly creates a slide show from photo files you add and will also accept video and audio files. The cool map feature shows a moving graphic with fly-in animation, for example, of your relatives coming over from Europe to the U.S. This software is Windows only and is priced around $40 for the annual license or $3 per month for an ongoing subscription version that has the advantage of being updated quarterly.


NCH Software PhotoStage Slideshow

This software for both Windows and Mac OS comes in a free version that is quite useable and a fully licensed version. It has over 100 transitions and lets you add narration to each and every photo slide. It offers a number of restrained effects that enhance your project without overpowering it. The Pro Edition that allows you to import video files along with photo files is around $40.

Ashampoo Slideshow Studio HD 4

This Windows program has a wide variety of templates for creating your slideshow and plenty of effects and transitions. As with the other software in this post, it lets you burn your final creation to optical media such as a DVD. This software is for bargain hunters as the license can be purchased for as low as $10.

Movavi Slideshow Maker

One of the more expensive programs in this list, Movavi Slideshow Maker is full featured and reportedly very stable to minimize computer crashes during an editing session. Every slide can be animated as well as having background music and narration added to keep your audience engaged. Slideshow Maker and Slideshow Maker Plus are priced between $45 and $65 and support both Windows and Mac OS.

Summary


With the popularity of DNA testing services, interest in family histories and genealogy has never been greater. It takes a bit of work, but creating a family history video or video slideshow is a project that will bring great joy to your relatives and to future generations. Today's advances in digitizing and slideshow software applications make it easier than ever to create a family history story masterpiece.

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