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Cradle to Grave: All Videos Are Not Created Equal
Posted Feb 1, 2011 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Alan NaumannVideo is a powerful tool to help keep the memory of a loved one alive. This is especially helpful for younger people who are perhaps experiencing the death of a loved one for the first time. One grandmother told me how important a memorial video was for her 7-year-old grandson who had lost his best friend—his grandfather. During the visitation, he just sat and watched the video again and again. At the end of the evening, he was ecstatic to find out that he would have his own personal copy. That said, some of the memorial videos I see are incredibly low quality and have disappointed families with expectations of a well-made memorial video. Sometimes families have tried to make the video themselves, only to find out that the DVD they made was incompatible with the equipment at the funeral home and won’t play. I’ve received many 11th-hour emergency calls, most of which came too late for me to help.

Some funeral homes try to produce their own videos using a cookie-cutter approach with inexpensive software designed for the funeral industry. The basic problem with this is not just the quality but also the process. Funeral directors choose their profession in order to help families and to serve them during their time of need. It’s inconsiderate to add to the list of duties by asking him or her to produce a memorial video. I have yet to see a memorial video produced by a funeral home that I would be proud to have as a lasting memorial for a loved one.

Fortunately, there are many funeral homes that have been wise enough to secure the services of a local professional videographer to produce all of their memorial videos. However, the No. 1 challenge prospective funeral videographers face is encountering funeral homes that produce their own videos in-house and choose not to spend money for an outside provider. Here are some ways that I respond to this issue.

First, I ask owners or decision makers, “Imagine that this video is being made for your spouse. Would you be satisfied with the quality of the video that your funeral home produces?” I remind them that the memorial video is not just a nice addition to a service; it’s the last opportunity the family has to honor a loved one and preserve his or her memory. So the real issue is not finances; it’s “What kind of video best reflects the love and devotion that the deceased loved one deserves?”

Second, I point out that people today are being exposed to high-quality video production in every area of life. Then I ask the question, “Do you want your funeral home judged by the quality of the video you produced?” The reputation of the funeral home is at stake every time it provides a service for a family. If flowers don’t show up for a service, it’s not the flower shop but the funeral home that ordered the flowers who gets the blame. If a funeral home provides a memorial video that doesn’t play correctly or that displays crooked or unrestored photos, that video will be an eyesore to anyone expecting a well-produced video.

The third thing I do often catches funeral directors off guard. If they insist on producing their own videos in-house, I offer to come in and teach them how to increase the quality of what they are producing. I cover everything from scanning and using Photoshop to the proper way to edit and burn a high-quality DVD. I point out the importance of presentation: To give the family a disc with a handwritten label is unacceptable. Taking the time to do this, even though they haven’t hired me, communicates my desire to serve their families during their time of loss, and it keeps me involved with funeral home directors so that they’ll call me when their equipment or presentation fails.

It also allows me to communicate with them about other ways to use video. For example, most funeral homes now have their own websites, but are they using video on them? Many funeral homes will have a service recorded, but have they thought about webcasting? They may want to advertise on cable television, but who can they trust to produce a high-quality commercial? These are all services we can offer. And then, there are celebrations sponsored by the funeral home, such as a ceremony to honor those who have served in the military. This is another opportunity to produce a video that can be given to those in attendance with the name of the funeral home displayed neatly on the cover of the DVD.

We’ve all heard the saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” That may be true of books, but funeral homes can and will be judged by the quality of the videos they give to their families. There are professional videographers all around the world who have committed themselves to producing high-quality memorial videos in a short turnaround time and at a reasonable cost. And it’s up to us to educate the funeral homes about the differences in the types of videos available. If funeral homes really want their families to have the highest quality of service, they need to establish a relationship with reputable videographers so that they can provide videos as part of their offerings, allowing them to focus on what they do best: directing funerals and serving their clients.

Alan Naumann (alan at memoryvision.tv) is co-author, with Melonie Jeska, of The Complete Guide to Video Biographies, a comprehensive set of training materials for professional video producers. A featured speaker at WEVA Expo 2004–2010 and a two-time EventDV 25 honoree, he is based in Minneapolis.

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