Equipment and Technology for the LifeStory

You’ve planned. You’ve done your Pre-Interview Questionnaire work. You’ve researched and formulated questions. You’re primed and pumped to begin. But there’s one thing left out before you begin to interview: What equipment do I use? As I’ve mentioned (as well as Steven Covey) many times before, begin with the end in mind. If your “end in mind” is to only hear the stories, then audio equipment is what you need. If you want to garner more senses to tell the story, then video is a must. I choose video as the primary way I capture LifeStories for my clients because it has the most lasting emotional impact. Let’s cover both methods.

Audio Equipment – An advantage of recording via audio is the equipment is portable and a bit easier to use and edit than video. Modern technology has also made it inexpensive to use high quality digital audio equipment. If you don’t already own one, there are many places to purchase digital audio recorders. Your local camera stores should have them and have helpful people to answer questions for you as you shop. Online shopping gives me the most variety to choose from. While there are many online stores to choose from, I have had success using Newegg.com http://tinyurl.com/3p87a99 .

When shopping for audio equipment, I advise to just keep it simple. Features that are nice to have are a voice-activated recording feature and an easy to use transfer process from the recorder to your computer. The better sound quality will come from recorders that have the ability to plug in two separate microphones on two separate channels. If you cannot afford this more expensive option, don’t worry. The quality from a built-in mic will still be okay.

Once you have your audio LifeStory on your computer, you can edit it. While this is not a mandatory step, it gives you the ability to take out interruptions, audible distractions and miscues, thus “cleaning up” your production. Most computers these days come equipped with some audio editing software. If it’s not already on your computer, the software is very inexpensive to buy. With my MacBook Pro, I use Apple’s Garage Band http://tinyurl.com/2l96m, one of many cool things available on their iLife software.

Video Equipment  – Years ago,when most people thought of shooting a video interview, immediate fears of expensive, bulky equipment and impossible editing technology came to mind. Today, the YouTube generation has taught us that it can be easy and fun. Again, if you don’t have a camcorder already, online sources like Newegg.com http://tinyurl.com/3p87a99  and Fry’s http://tinyurl.com/3umgpdq are plentiful.

As many of you have seen by viewing YouTube videos, the quality of the finished product varies widely, especially when it comes to the audio part of a video shoot. For this reason, I advise looking into spending a bit more money to buy a camera that has inputs or channels for two external microphones. That way you can edit and adjust your voice and the voice of your interviewee separately when editing the video.

There is a lot to cover when addressing making a video. A good, quick and fun source for learning how to shoot a video is found in a book I recently found. Steve Stockman’s How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck http://tinyurl.com/3bhn4mn provides a fun, easy to learn way of making your video. Regarding editing the video, software is plentiful. Most of my editors use Apple’s Final Cut Pro http://www.apple.com/finalcutpro/, a professional’s software that produces big screen quality productions. But you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get good quality editing done. As mentioned above with audio, my Apple computer has iLife, and with iLife comes iMovie http://tinyurl.com/6b57x, video editing software that most beginners can learn and have fun with.

Whichever method of recording you choose, be sure to experiment and have fun with it before you sit down to record the LifeStory. You want to be able to concentrate on the conversation you are having with your interviewee rather than worrying about technology once the interview begins. And if you want to hire a professional to do it all for you, I’m available! http://www.lifestoriesalive.com/