I am going to let you in on some pricing secrets in relation to video biographies or “family history documentaries”, as they are sometimes known. How much should you expect to pay and what can you hope to get for your hard-earned video biography money?
Video biographies are gaining in prominence as a feature item for an anniversary, reunion or a significant birthday. Often there is no such occasion, just a desire to capture Mom or Dad’s stories, or some family genealogy, before it’s too late. As a recent survey by Allianz Insurance discovered:
“Eighty-six percent of boomers (age 47-66) and 74 percent of elders (age 72+) agree that family stories are the most important aspect of their legacy, ahead of personal possessions (64 percent for boomers, 58 percent for elders) and the expectation of inheritance for financial well-being.”
So, if you are reading this, you probably need no convincing about the importance of a video biography (or “family documentary video” if you prefer that terminology) and you are starting to get serious. But how much does a video biography cost? No point asking for something you can’t afford, right?
The price of a video biography? Pretty much whatever you want. (Wait! Don’t run away. I am going to blow up video biography “omertà” and give you actual market prices, just hang in there). But I do have to say that the price or cost of a video biography will depend on the features you would hope to include. Makes sense, right? But even better than that, it needn’t cost a penny.
The Zero Dollar Video Biography Pricing Option
The most important part of any family history project is to just get started. And you should never let funds stop you from starting – these are projects of passion, not cashion (if you get my drift). And you actually can do quite a good job on your own.
You will need a decent video camera (promise me you won’t use your phone or your laptop – unless you really, really have no other options); also the owner’s manual; a lavalier mic.; and a tripod. Oh, and a bright room with no direct sunlight on your subject. There is ample guidance on the web, just try Binging “DIY family history video” to see some of the tips I have given elsewhere and then try “video biography questions”. Your are on your way!
You may not have a family history documentary with this no-cost option, but you have saved a life through video.
The Actual Dollar Video Biography Cost Options
OK, I suspect if you are still reading then your have in mind to contact a professional video producer. How much will that set you back?
First, let’s distinguish between an amateur or friend; a wedding videographer and a family history professional.
Family History Videos By Friends and Family
An amateur or friend kind of fits into the “Zero Dollar Video Biography Pricing Option”, but they might charge you three or four hundred dollars for their equipment and their time. Or if not, you should think about paying them anyway. This should be especially so if in addition to interviewing and filming, you are going to ask them to ingest the video, edit it just a bit, and output it somewhere.
This stuff is fiddly and time consuming and it’s really not fair to ask them to do all that for free. Also, if you decide to rely on their best intentions you may find that delivery of the finished product gets a little held up!
Family History Videos By Wedding Videographers
This can be a pretty good option, especially if you are prepared to work closely with the videographer in relation to setups, questions, images and the like. A number of wedding videographers are attracted to family history video work because it allows them to film during their relatively quiet weekdays (weddings are shot, almost always, on weekends).
Most reputable wedding videographers who have been in business for – let’s say 5 years – really know their stuff. They can shoot with multiple cameras, know all about lighting, often have dollies and cranes, a modern editing suite, and are almost always terrific still photographers, and usually do great audio.
Now, you may not need all of their core talents (intimate knowledge of the tried and tested wedding and reception stages, wedding slow-pans, rack focusing from flowers to the bride’s mother etc). And they may not have lit, miked, and shot a video biography interview before. Perhaps check to see if they have much in the way of oral history training and have access to the institutional resources and knowledge base of a group like the Association of Personal Historians. But they are almost certain to be personable (hey, they are still in business in a very tough industry) and will not frighten grandma! And as I said, they really know their equipment and can be highly trained.
My best advice? Try to get the main person who owns the shop to do the work. And keep in mind the features and options I will cover below. Keep in mind too that wedding videographers often have a decent size crew of part-timers for weddings and sometimes use goodly folks like fire fighters for “second or third camera”. No disrespect to firefighters, but for something as important as a video biography you want the very best they have (which might actually be the firefighter).
You can expect to pay around $3,000 or $4,000 for a decent wedding videographer filming for the best part of a day and doing some solid editing, image work, and delivery on BluRay, DVD or hard drive (maybe more, or even less, depending on the features you require). And here’s the thing: it will almost certainly look absolutely fabulous (an unhappy bride’s mother is an unhappy client!).
Family History Videos By A Video Biographer
Specialist video biographers are not more or less expensive than a wedding person, we are all professionals after all with cost structures and overhead and the expectation that we get to feed our kids! By and large, for the same work, our charges should be similar.
But where video biographers may part company with wedding videographers is that they are likely to include a little more. Some of these features include:
Length of fully edited final product: The longer the finished product, the higher the price. Editing and creating non-interview content is time-consuming. Also, video biographers tend to prefer a longer finished product – reasoning that this is important family history!
Time spent in pre-production: The longer the time, the more you will pay. Serious video biographers like to spend 10 hours or much more time in pre-production: meeting the client; meeting the subject; talking to all the kids (to make sure we get the stories they like and remember); doing basic family and ancestry research; unearthing artifacts and sounds; scouting locations and the like.
The number of historical photos to be included and work cleaning up and repairing those images. Not all videographers are formally trained in Photoshop and know how to bring out the best in the images to create a true personal documentary (as opposed to simply showcasing a “talking head”).
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