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The Future...The Past...Old Friends, Long Gone

COW Blogs : Mike Cohen's Blog : The Future...The Past...Old Friends, Long Gone

In the past, here and on the forums, I have discussed the merits of putting one's relatives on videotape. I can think of no greater use for video than in documenting those you wish never to forget.

This past week we buried my last grandparent, my dear Izzy.

While sometimes an annoyance, the video camera surgically attached to my hand at every family gathering, no matter how insignificant, has been my own conduit to the storehouse of precious memories. If I close my eyes, I can certainly envision favorite memories, places, fragments of conversations with people I have loved. But with my eyes open, I have a treasure trove of visions of the past which I shall cherish forever. And when my relatives are prepared, past the point of immediate mourning and sadness, they too can share the magic of visting their best friends who speak no more.

Today I viewed a few minutes of video, shot around the dinner table at Grandma's house 6 years ago, before any of us could have imagined the start of a gradual decline in health we would helplessly witness less than 12 months later. I know not what was going through my mind as I shot this, but rather than the typical wide shots and zooms of family videos, I captured seemingly meaningless images - pouring soda into a glass, Grandpa eating a spoonful of noodle soup, Grandma shaking salt over her matzoh ball soup then asking if the soup needed salt, a closeup of the oil painting on the wall depicting a wise old rabbi who watched over all of us while we grew up. Now the wise rabbi is all that remains of that scene, helping us mourn our losses.

Indeed, the random images are in fact the most poignant of all. I encourage you the reader to do the same every chance you get. For life is fleeting, and any help you can give yourself in capturing meaningful imagery will pay dividends in the future.



Thanks for reading.


Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 10, 2008 at 1:49:57 pmComments (2) family


the technical
by Mike Cohen

As you know, when someone produces a broadcast camera in a family gathering, the room clears instantly. Alas, all of my family memories are Hi8 - not a bad picture after all these years, not to mention the shoebox on a shelf storage system. A few dropouts here and there. Thankfully the Hi8 handycam I bought in 1998 came with a letterbox as well as 16:9 anamorphic setting, so much of my footage is still looking ok on modern tv sets, albeit grainy. I sometimes add a letterbox overlay to cover up the blanking lines and vitc pulses, which used to be hidden on overscanned older tvs but are now quite prominent on lcd sets.

The best shots of Grandma were with a video in mind, my aunt's 50th birthday retrospective. Although shot handheld with the Hi8 I used my Beachtex XLR adapter to get good lavaliere audio, and Grandma's living room was very quiet, carpeted and nicely lit.

Family events such as anniversary parties, Bar-Mitzvah's and weddings are all shot natural light. The first Bar-Mitzvah I shot with a Thomson 3 tube camera and MII tape, edited on 1". My younger cousin's big day was Hi8 edited in Media 100. The most recent events and profile videos were Hi8 and Premiere. Although I happened to be at my aunt's for a shoot the next day, so a few minutes worth of one video is DVCPRO - talk about a stark difference between shots.

Still more recent events, such as X-Mas day has been shot on DV, some years just stills, 2007 was on HDV - you felt like you could reach out and grab the turkey it looked so lifelike and delicious. 

Mick Jagger said it best - What a drag it is getting old!

Thanks for the reminder
by Tim Wilson

Very moving, Mike. Thanks for sharing it.

I'm getting ready to undertake something like this for my mother-in-law, who's fighting it pretty hard. So with apologies for shifting to the technical, how'd you do the shooting? Handheld? Tripod? What about recording -- camera mic?

I have a passion for my job, which entails training for medical professionals such as surgeons, nurses and administrators, not to mention various industries.

Technology is great, but how you apply your skills is what pays the bills.

Years ago I canceled my Media 100 support contract upon discovering what a treasure trove of helpful advice can be found on the Creative COW website. I am proud to be a part of this fantastic community.

In my blog I talk a little about media production, a lot about travel and workflow, and occasionally about cooking, nature and my four-legged friends.

Follow me on Twitter: med_ed_mike

I'm also on LinkedIn if you can't get enough of me!


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