The magic of video
I mentioned awhile back that in 2005 I'd shot several hours of video in which I had Donald go from room to room, describing everything of value in the house. As I expected, it's been a godsend in sorting things out. I call up the video on my iPad, and there's Donald, right in the room with me, describing the items I'm looking at. It's like magic!
As a retired museum-keeper, Donald was meticulous about documenting his collections, so I have the basic facts in his files. But the stories he tells on my videos fill in so much information that would otherwise have been lost. And it's great to see his face again and hear his familiar chuckle, as he describes the colorful histories of these pieces. Donald was a great storyteller who could really make the past come alive. I'm so glad I have these videos on my iPad!
I almost didn't, though. Because I shot these on MiniDV videotape six years ago, I had to dust off my old Canon ZR-10 camcorder to play them back into my computer... and three quarters of the way through the next-to-last tape, the camcorder gave up the ghost. I had to completely tear down the camcorder to extract that precious tape, and then borrow a compatible MiniDV camcorder from my friend Gretchen so I could transfer the last of the footage.
Lesson learned: formats become obsolete, and hardware can fail. If you had shot irreplaceable footage of your grandparents on Betamax tape twenty years ago, would you be able to play it back now? If you undertake this kind of project, be sure to transfer the video to newer formats when the old ones become obsolete, or you may not be able to do anything with it when you need it.