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-   -   Funeral memorials, anyone? (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/wedding-event-videography-techniques/82001-funeral-memorials-anyone.html)

Tom Tomkowiak December 18th, 2006 11:51 AM

Funeral memorials, anyone?
I just viewed the worst possible example of a special event video.

The event is a funeral memorial service, lasting about 54 minutes, with about a dozen people stepping forward to eulogize the dearly departed. Here is how it is presented on DVD:

After the disk comes up to speed, two symbols appear on a blank gray screen: a green triangle and a blue square consisting of a bunch of smaller squares inside. No text or any other graphic. I first clicked on the square, thinking it might be a slide show, but it linked to nothing. So, I clicked on the triangle. What followed was 54 minutes of unedited/uncut video from the time the camcorder was turned on until it was turned off.

The video starts with the camcorder being set up on the tripod then aimed at the podium. Action video of ceiling, floor, empty chairs, tilt left, tilt right, zoom in, zoom back, zoom in…..is what you see!! Then about a minute of video of the podium and the wall behind. No people, no movement, not even somber funeral music.

When the first speaker steps into the camera’s view, the top 2/3 of the frame is wall, and the speaker’s head is about 1/3 from the bottom. With two exceptions (mentioned later) the camera remains aimed like this until a really tall guy steps up to the podium. The camera is adjusted upward so his head is about 1/3 from the bottom. But, it’s not adjusted downward for the remaining speakers, so from that point until the video ends, all you see are literally talking heads ‘way at the bottom of the screen. The rest of the way up is blank wall.

The two exceptions to the camera pointing at the podium were when the camera person decided to do a sweep of those in attendance. Moving from left to right then back to the left (very jerky, I might add) all you see are the tops of heads from the back. The only way to identify anyone is by their hairdo.

By the way, it was definitely on-camera audio. Also, this 54-minute event with 12 speakers is all in 1 dvd chapter. That’s it, no menu and one 54-minute long chapter of unedited video with lousy camera work and poor audio.

I suspect the same person who drains blood, sells caskets, and sweeps up ashes is the one who did this. I can’t imagine this crap coming from anyone who claims to be even a semi-pro videographer. However, the relative of the dearly departed who handed it to me said it was "really nice." I didn't ask how much it cost.

Anyway, as an expansion of the business, it seems taping memorial services would be low stress and quickly produced. The end product (apparently) is not subject to the same highly critical review as is a wedding video. And, my wife points out that death isn’t seasonal and that there are a lot more funerals than weddings.

About a year ago there was a discussion (http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...hlight=funeral) about taping funerals. Rather than resurrect that thread, I thought I’d start a new one to get some fresh blood in the discussion.

Last year's discussion generally put a positive spin on this type of event taping. I'd like to hear from anyone who might've done this for a while, then quit. Or, simply considered doing this kind of event, then nixed the idea. Or, anyone who just has an opinion about taping memorial services. I'm sorta leaning forward in the saddle on this one, but I'm wondering what the negatives might be.

Chris Barcellos December 18th, 2006 12:11 PM

I just shot one for a friends father, as a favor. I actually my unobtrusive GS120 along, rather than the FX1 or VX2000, not really intending to do anything. When we arrived on scene, our friend asked if I could record some things. I ended up filming procession, and various things, but I did not do anything at the church service. Actually turned out pretty nice.

With another friend, I actually did a memorial video. The congregation filmed the actual memorial. The friend like my memorial so much that they asked me to do a DVD with the memorial footage, as well as the services footage too. I folded them together in a nice DVD.

So the video to be played at the services, as well as recording of aspects of the funeral are both areas that may be business opportunities.

Trouble with doing memorial videos to be shown at services is the time frame itself. You have to be ready to go and be able to deal with grieving people.

Tom Tomkowiak December 18th, 2006 12:26 PM

Maybe a bad choice of wording on my part.

I'm talking about simply taping the memorial service for delivery to the relatives some number of days after the funeral, not doing a video for viewing on the day of the funeral.

Doing a memorial video, sort of like a life story for a wedding, would require a lot of effort on very short notice. That would definitely be a problem if I had another project under construction.

Mark Slade December 19th, 2006 11:57 PM

I'm doing photo montages for 2 local funeral homes. The turnaround is tight....usually 48 hours at most....but they keep me somewhat busy.....the other thing I do in this category is I shoot a lot of funerals at Arlington. Have only done 3 services in the church....and I've seen footage like Tom described.....and it is amazing that people say they like it.

Scott Jaco December 20th, 2006 12:52 AM

Don't do it.

Unless you enjoy watching other people suffer, it just isn't worth it.

I've done one funeral. It will probably be my last.

The funeral video actually turned out quite nice, I started with establishing shots laid out over music, then I showed the eulogies. At the end, I did a really nice montage of the burial site with people saying their last goodbyes and putting roses onto the casket.

The deceased was a girl that had been battling cancer for over 10 years. She had her whole life ahead of her. I guess she had just graduated college and gotten married. The family was absolutely devastated. It makes me upset just thinking about it.

If you want to get into doing funerals, you have to develop a very thick skin for this sort of work. I donít recommend it because itís just a drag, and you will have to go home afterwards and watch it 100 times during the edit. I highly discourage anyone from this type of work.

Marcus Marchesseault December 20th, 2006 03:20 AM

I did one.

Just cut and paste Scott's post here but substitute 43-year-old guy with lifelong fatal illness for the girl with cancer.

I'm not a particularly emotional person, but I'm not sure I see the point in doing funeral video considering how bad it can make you feel. I'm not sure it is a good idea to preserve an event in time that is designed to help people remember and then move on.

Richard Wakefield December 20th, 2006 04:31 AM

IMO, unless you're filming a relatives funeral, at a relative's request, i think it's very wrong to make money out of such sad moment.

A photo montage, or video compilation from 'old' videos of that deceased person seems more civilised somehow, if you are going to go down that field of work, but to actually attend a funeral, with a camcorder and tripod, and film a coffin, tearful people, and sad readings, does not seem very tasteful.

I once saw a job advert in a funeral parlour window, as a gravestone seller, and i couldn't even bring myself to apply for it, even though i was desperate for cash. Some people can do it, some can't.

Jeff Chandler December 20th, 2006 01:12 PM

I don't see how it can be "wrong" to get paid for honest work providing service that people have requested. It's very little different from the mortuary being paid for their services, etc. I will agree that it is something that a lot of people probably could not do, but it would certainly be a legitimate business venture for anyone that can handle it.

Alastair Brown December 20th, 2006 01:56 PM


Originally Posted by Tom Tomkowiak
And, my wife points out that death isn’t seasonal and that there are a lot more funerals than weddings.

Brilliant......aren't wifes wonderful at cutting through the emotions!

I've done one for a work mate who took his own life. My wife didn't know him but we both cried our eyes out watching it. It was a year ago and I still haven't shown anyone other than my wife. I mentioned it to his aunt and she is keen to see it. One of these things where there really isn't a right time. I really feel for his wife and kids with Christmas coming up.

As for doing them, I think they are something that should be done more. Memories are all we have and helping to keep them alive is something we are so well placed to do. It's only in bad taste if you make it that way.

On a lighter note:- We have open days once a year here in Glasgow where buildings that are not normally open are. There was a newspaper cutting that was really good. It was for a local Crematorium that was having it's open day. It then stated...." a selection of home-baking will be available"...............hmmmmm.........I'll pass on that one!

Rick Steele December 20th, 2006 02:53 PM


Originally Posted by Richard Wakefield
IMO, unless you're filming a relatives funeral, at a relative's request, i think it's very wrong to make money out of such sad moment.

Eh? If you're hired to do it why not? Now... going through the obituaries and dialing up the relatives to drum up business is another story entirely.

When my father died I hired somebody to do this because I had a sister in the hospital and she couldn't attend. It's OK to relive your grief from time to time... it's how we remember.

Waldemar Winkler December 20th, 2006 06:24 PM

A dismal, but apparently accurate, description of videographic incompetance. What an epitaph for a lifetimes experience. May we all learn from mistakes.

No one chooses when to die; it just happens. The resolution of the life of the departed is quick. Video documentary of this celebration of a life lived must be more accurate, more sensitive, and more comprehensive than anything event video records. Not an easy task.

Master the tools. Then master the craft. A task never finished.

Dana Salsbury April 18th, 2007 03:18 PM

I just got a call, requesting video services at a funeral. I don't know the guy, but I really want to help him. As I consider what to say when I call him back, my biggest question is what I would charge him for something like this?


Travis Cossel April 18th, 2007 03:46 PM


Originally Posted by Dana Salsbury (Post 662721)
I just got a call, requesting video services at a funeral. I don't know the guy, but I really want to help him. As I consider what to say when I call him back, my biggest question is what I would charge him for something like this?


I've never done a funeral edit, so take my advice with a grain of salt. I think you should simply estimate the time you expect the project to take and factor in the dollar-per-hour wage you want to make. If it's too much, they will let you know.

I also completely disagree with the poster earlier in the thread who said it was wrong to "make money" off of a funeral edit. If someone wants that service and is willing to pay for it, there's nothing wrong with providing the service and being compensated for your time and expertise.

Dana Salsbury April 18th, 2007 04:42 PM

Exactly. It's capitolism. If I didn't charge, I wouldn't do it, and this grieving man would have to deal with one more thing. But if I did these for free, my family would lose their breakwinner, as everyone would soon know that I was a pushover.

Victor Kellar April 18th, 2007 05:42 PM

We've done lots and lots of memorial videos (slideshows, testimonials, old home movies all combined, that kind of thing) which we have sort of thinned out due to other committments

I've only done a few actual funeral videos ... 4 that were cut from funeral footage shot by family members and two that we shot. We kept things simple, tasteful and low key ... and put in a memorial video as another chapter. We emphasized proper camera work, proper audio and a very simple edit. The family really appreciated it.

What one films is up to the individual ... we, for instance, don't touch anything approaching porn, but its a business decision; we have a lot of corporate clients who would not want to be associated with that .. but if one wants, to, why not? And certainly, recording a major (albeit tragic) life event is something that may ultimately help someone. Business is business; you certainly don't have to take the money, but there's nothing wrong for those who do

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