Sunday, July 28, 2013

How To Make An Anniversary Keepsake For Your Parents: A Comedy Of Errors

Back in March, I mentioned how I wanted to do something for my parents' 40th anniversary.

Today was their anniversary.

Here's what went down-

April 7th: I place an order with ATS Rentals to rent an 8mm projector with a Super 8 adapter for a week.

April 13th & 14th: I finally get to see what is on all the reels from the basement. The projector works great- although, I do end up briefly panicking about how if you pause a reel for too long, it make it look like the film is burning (my sister would later see this image and freak-out about how it looked like an ant hill to her) and when one reel snaps early in the roll, but I quickly figure out how to re-cut and salvage the footage safely. Also, the rental came with complimentary Jelly Bellies. I am smitten with the company.

Some are surprisingly boring. The few that are good: My sister's first few Christmases as well as her first birthday. There is also a Christmas that is pre-kids and, what makes it truly gold, is that my father actually got in front of the camera at some point. This is a major win as he's usually the one taking pictures or filming (sometimes there are pictures of him with his camera. And I do have footage from one Christmas in the 90s where you can clearly see both his brothers also have camcorders in their hands- that was a little bit of overkill)

April 16th: I send out an email to anyone I could think of, requesting any photos, videos, and more (no one wanted to do more, sadly, so I'm not going to even go into more description).

The rest of April and all of May are basically lost to the hell of an office move. The last week of May, I start to get the first few sets of pictures from aunts.


The first week of June, I buy a light-weight scanner- a CanoScan Lide210. I had been planning on getting it, for the photos, but it spends the first week on my desk at work, as we didn't have our office solution copier yet and I needed to make a lot of scans of documents.

I then spend June scanning pictures most evenings and making a ridiculous amount of trips to my parents' house to scan and/or steal photos. When discovered, I cover by saying I'm scanning photos for fun and that I noticed some of the albums in the basement were falling apart and felt like digitizing them.

By mid-June, I'm working on the video. I make the odd decision to use an iMovie template for the first time- the photo album one. I think I rationalized it as helping with the fact that the video was going to be mostly photos, which was a big change for me.

The first song I try with the wedding photos is "What Is Life" by George Harrison. It quickly starts to depreciate, though, and isn't quite right.  Too peppy. I switch to a softer Harrison song, "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)".

June 13th: I then add Ringo Starr's "Photograph" for the reception footage, only to later actually listen to the lyrics and decide to only use a small snippet of it for a transition rather than the whole song. Damn those lyrics, as the song had the perfect tempo.

June 29th: I then decide on using Paul Simon's "Kodachrome" at some point, but don't know where in the video to put it. I had been fighting it, as I didn't want to use songs that were too obvious for home video footage- like how I wouldn't dare use Joe Cocker's cover of "A Little Help From My Friends". I always associate "Kodachrome" with the Coneheads movie's home movie segment. Which, while Coneheads isn't the height of pop culture, the association is still there. "Here Comes the Sun" ends up being put over the footage of my sister's era as an only child.

June 30th: I'm still struggling on songs and put out a desperate plea for help on Facebook, saying that I'll be using "Superfly" if no one stops me. One of my aunts wisely points me in the direction of a song played at their wedding, "Danny's Song". A song I knew but never knew the name of. I settle on the Loggins & Messina version, rather than the Anne Murray one.

By the 4th of July, I've received all the photos I'm going to get from people. I spent the holiday editing like a fiend, knowing that time is running out and this is my last chance. I also realize I don't have a picture of both of my sister's kids with our parents. I force a picture to be taken during our family reunion that weekend.

I start looking for songs outside of the 1973 holding point I began at, while also looking for songs that represent both parents. When I can't find a song to go over footage of me as a baby, I suddenly remember Roy Orbison's Black & White special. A "Sweet Dreams Baby" duet Bruce Springsteen is a perfect combination of both parents.

I also finally figure out what to use for the reception footage: the Beach Boys. "Wouldn't It Be Nice".

"Kodachrome" ends up being put over all the annual family Christmas photos and professional photos as well as over the "thank you" footage. I decide to not let Coneheads get in the way.

July 15th: I know I need one more song for one more segment, but the well is once again dry and I don't even know what the theme of the segment would be. The video is hovering around 20 minutes long and I'm starting to worry that it's too long and too disjointed. I ask to borrow my niece to possible do some hosting segments.

July 18th: I remember that I have "When I'm Sixty-Four" and suddenly realize that I can use it for showing parallels between pictures from different eras. But I still need one more song, because it's too low-key to end on.

July 21st: My niece ends up at Six Flags the day I intended to do the hosting segment. I have to wait until the 26th.

July 24th: I'm in the crunch now, determined to get everything finished by Saturday and even cooking up a plan to sneak the dvds of the project into their house over night. I finally find the last song I need: Linda Ronstadt's cover of "Rescue Me". I end up having to re-cut the song so that it's significantly longer, but it works. I have almost everything ready to be "locked down" and to start testing exports.

July 25th: At 10:30 PM, I make what was going to be my last edit before declaring it locked down... and then all the set times for how long photos display on screen mysteriously re-set themselves. Most suddenly become 7 seconds (which was never a length I used in the video), some become 10, others become 5. I'm up until 1:30 on a worknight trying to fix the transitions. I start freaking out.

July 26th: I record my niece and... it just doesn't go well. The microphone doesn't pick her voice up very well, she's mumbling out of self-consciousness. There's a fan in the background. But the good news is that I realize that I had my dates messed up and that the video needs to be done by Sunday, not Saturday. I go home and fall asleep at 9:30 with a migraine.

July 27th: 

12:30 AM: I wake up with terrible and debilitating cramps. So, I work on the video until 5:30 AM and lock it down for real this time. I set it to do an HD export as I read in bed and try not to freak out. I start putting the dvd menu theme together.

11 AM: The first export mysteriously re-set all the transitions this time. I re-do them. Start another HD export. Start uploading the faulty one to YouTube, just in case all else fails.

5:30 PM: I throw caution into the wind and agree to go to a movie rather than spending the evening obsessing over the export.

10:30 PM: I come home four hours later to find the export failed. I try again, having realize I forgot some other items that I meant to add to the video. I try to salvage the footage of my niece from Friday.

July 28th: 

3:30 AM: Third export is good. But I completely give up on the "sneak in overnight" idea due to having another raging migraine.

4:30 AM: I start a new YouTube upload of the correct version. I fall asleep for exactly an hour.

5:30 AM: I can't get the new export to merge with the bookend segments with my niece. I end up just putting them all on the dvd menu- all as separate items, though.

7 AM: I go to burn the dvds and... computer says no. DVDs get spit out every time I pop them in. I resort to Video_TS and Audio_TS files on an external drive and a lie. I realize that I also left the DVD labels at work on Friday.

9:30 AM: I drive to my parents' house. Lie about why I need to borrow a computer. I put in one of the two dvds I made and... the laptop eats it. I have to restart it to get the disc back. And it won't do a proper burn.

11 AM: I end up getting the dvds to play in the laptop's dvd player and hope it's enough.

1 PM: I clandestinely leave a card with the dvds in the envelope on their kitchen table while I'm talking to both of them.

5 PM: They don't find the envelope until hours later when they come back from dinner.

8 PM: The dvds don't work in real dvd players. They end up watching on a laptop. They say they like it.

10:30 PM: I go to sleep. This morning's YouTube upload is still only at the 81% mark, but everyone else is just going to have to wait to see it.

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