Saturday, November 21, 2015

How to Convert 8MM Films into DVD, Reorder Clips and Create a New Movie

Once upon a time, my aunt sent me 71 rolls of 8mm film from my mother's family from when they were kids.  It was 20 years of family history - what a treasure! Aaaaand... on a completely inaccessible media type.  Doh!

Being the do it yourselfer that I am, I toyed around with learning how to correctly lubricate, clean and record film to a more accessible media type.  I bought an 8mm film projector on craigslist, bought a splicer and all of the stuff I needed... and here's my magic tip for converting 8mm film to digital format : hire a professional.

Those family films are gold. They are people and events and lives that are 50 or 60 years past.  Many of the people in them have passed or have long forgotten what's there.  Although here are many accessible techniques online for maintaining film, without having had some practice, it is easy to screw up.   Without experience, you won't necessarily know how to counter what you find when you start rolling a film.  What if it cracks?  And although I am a diy pro and feel pretty confident I could figure it out with enough time, I don't want it to be at the expense of 20 years of family history.

So take the $200 it would take to buy all the stuff and stash it in a high interest savings account to hire someone and move on to picking someone out.  When you're looking for a professional, look for someone who will move it to a master tape and then make a DVD for you.  The tape they put it on can always be used to create more DVDs or copies later.  At least until one day, it's also inaccessible.  But for now, it's easier than 8mm.  Check reviews for the person you select.  Make sure their price includes  repairs or cleaning should the film break down in the process.

It's worth noting here, that film conversion is usually quoted by the foot.  When estimating the number of feet of film you have, on the thicker (wider) 8mm film, although it says 25 feet on the box, it's actually 50 feet of filmed images.  So, when pricing out conversion, make sure to do it with how many feet of images there are, not how many feet of film the box says it has.  That got me.  I was expecting to spend $300 and the bill was $600.

$600 isn't something I have lying around.  So, I created a crowd funding project for my family to pitch in.  Within a few months, we had it funded.

The day came and I went and dropped them off and, a couple of weeks later, they were done.  I immediately sat down to watch them.

Sidebar: I saw my grandfather, who I never met when he was alive.  My grandparents  - I saw them young and bright eyed with their first baby and watched them mature over the course of these films.   I saw both sides of great grandparents, some of whom I've never seen photos of at all.  Aunts and uncles I've never seen.  This film is truly a treasure.  I am so grateful that my grandparents were 'those parents', who filmed everything.   I am so grateful to have had the opportunity, the means and the know how to watch them again and that my grandchildren and their grandchildren will hopefully have these in some form.

The new issue was that although some of the film boxes had been labeled or had a post mark date on them and I could sort of put them in the right order for him, most of them were not.  Without playing them, I had no idea what was on some of them.  So although I labeled them and cataloged them before I dropped them off, when they were put onto tape and then DVD, they, of course, were not in the correct order.

I wanted to present my family with something they could watch from beginning to end or something my grand-kids (in 20 years, son) could watch and understand how it was moving through time. So, the next step was to figure out how to edit the video well enough to chop up the film, put it into the correct order and then re-create the DVDs in the correct order - with some additional menus and bells and whistles so that they were easier to watch.

I made lots of mistakes.  It turns out, there is some skill involved in film making.  Who knew?!   I had to redo it 4 times.  This post is the final solution for getting family films from DVD, cutting them up, re-ordering them and burning them to DVD again - without dropping  ton of cash.  It takes relatively advanced computer skills and I don't think I explain it very completely, in large part because I probably don't entirely understand the whys behind a lot of it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Magic of a Horizontal Family Tree

Photo : Horizontal Family Tree / Carrie Norwood
Last week a cousin contacted me.  He'd had his DNA processed at FTDNA and was excited to find that FTDNA says we are fourth cousins.  His father was adopted and he believes us to be related on his father's side.  If I only knew who all my 3rd great grandparents were, we might unlock the mystery of his father's heritage!

Unfortunately, he and I are genetically related on a branch of my family tree that I know very little of.  Or should I say, that while I know we are related on my father's side, he and I are NOT related on the branches of my family tree that I have identified MRCA genetics on or that I know a great deal about through research. So I don't have  fairy tale story of unlocking the family mysteries of my adopted 4th cousin once removed (even were the FTDNA estimate to be accurate, which is another post altogether, I'm sure).  But I do have a fairy tale about how freakin' easy it was to get a list of my 3rd great grandparents.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over - Week Something - Research Checklist

Photo : Checklist / Nemo / Public Domain
Week... something.  It is a week happening during the genealogy Do-Over in which I'm doing Genealogy Do-Over things a bit behind the weekly schedule.  At my own turtle pace.  Not a turtle who has seen food though - just a regular, ambling turtle.

Part of this process for me has been watching stuff that other people post and learning new tricks and techniques.  One such new (to me) technique is the genealogy research checklist.  This helped me solve three problems :

Tracking the Negatives

 I have always kept person-centric notes about the research in which I found something interesting - but I have never tracked what I didn't find.  Or where I searched that I didn't find anything.  While I don't know of any issues that this definitely caused, thinking about it, I can see how likely it was that I was re-searching for evidence that wasn't there.

I was also, most likely missing vital clues about an individual resulting from the absence of of a record in a particular place.  For instance, this evening, I ran through my checklist and searched each census in which my grandfather would have appeared.  I noticed that while he shows up on the census with his parents when he was 4 years old, and I can find a census for his parents and his younger sibling ten years later - he isn't on it.  This is the first time I've noticed that.  Most likely because I was simply looking for his name and when I couldn't find it on a census, probably put it off for another day, assuming I just needed to look harder or differently.  When I wrote down that I found him on the 1920 census and could not check off the 1930 census, this caused me to look for his parents, which I found - and realized the clue that had been staring me in the face the whole time.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over - Oops I cheated

Photo : Break the Rules / chickspirit / CC 2.0

So, I spent last night cheating on the genealogy do-over.  Like all night, I absolutely shamelessly cheated.  A lot.  We weren't supposed to start researching at all.  Instead, I entered myself and my father and researched his parents and siblings.  At the time, it felt like 90% itch to get moving but in retrospect, in the bright sunshine of a new day, given that I am the victor, I get to write that history any way I want, right?

So, I say it was all in the name of science!  I, in fact, spent my time observing what I was doing and how - and came up with some new insight into doing it right.  I have new golden rules, some new Evernote processes and some new knowledge of Legacy Family Tree.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over

Photo : Nagasaki Bomb / public domain

I've decided  to start from scratch with a genealogy do-over.  Here's why :

1) I started poking at genealogy about fifteen years ago and since then have amassed a hodge podge of records, notes and tree data, some of which originated before I knew that a lot of what one can find online in other trees is hogwash.  I know my knowledge level will continue to evolve, but OHMYGAWSH, my processes could sure use a logical, fresh perspective makeover.  Fifteen years is a lot of change and due to the nature of research documentation, incremental change is not always the way to go.  Thus the hodge podge.
2) These days, I am chasing down so many ancestor stories at once that I get this flood of information that trickles through various stages of research but most often, never makes it to my tree software.
3) Geneaology, for me, has evolved from 'interesting thing I do sometimes' to 'immersive hobby that I am borderline obsessed by'.  Just like a career musician might have the best of the best in instruments, it's time I have the best of the best in well oiled genealogy machines.  I want to re-imagine what I'm doing in a way that keeps up with new technology and takes full advantage of what's available these days.
4) There is no better time than now, while there are so many people doing it!  I'm excited to have the pointers and support from everyone who's doing it along with me.  Really, having the community has made all the difference.
Week one is about laying groundwork for where to put genealogy stuff and how to put it there.  It looks like this :
  • Setting Previous Research Aside
  • Preparing to Research
  • Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines