Stories of a lifetime

Tim Richards has turned his videography hobby into a business, Legacy Video Productions, producing DVD recordings of personal histories and life stories. Photo by Sandra Frykholm

for the Sequim Gazette

Tim Richards knows what it means to lose some of his personal history.

His father was born in 1897 and was 65 years old when Richards was born. Richards always was fascinated with his father’s stories of “mule teams and Model A’s” but much of his father’s life and history is lost now, as that generation of the family has passed on.

“I’ve always been intrigued,” Richards said, “by some of the amazing life stories” of people in Sequim.

Over the years, he has run into people such as the man who helped develop sonar and received a presidential commendation for his work. “As people pass away, a lot of those stories are lost,” he said.

Most people have good intentions about keeping up the photo albums or writing a family history or memoir. But the daily routine and the tyranny of the urgent often derail those plans.

“In videos,” Richards said, “you can get (the stories) down in the person’s own voice.”

Professional product
“I started thinking about this four or five years ago,” Richards said, and he researched similar businesses. “I was shooting for a very professional-looking product, not just home video quality.”

Poor sound and lighting and distracting backgrounds detract from some amateur recordings, so Richards invested in quality equipment and software. He can edit in a black background or put photographs in the background where appropriate to the storytelling.

The finished DVD includes a scene selection menu, making it easy for viewers to find the specific story they want to watch.

To avoid the appearance of a “talking head” looking at the camera, Richards enlists the help of his wife, Branette, as an off-camera interviewer. “She’s easy to talk to,” Richards said, and helps put people at ease.

Test run with Browns
To give his product a test run, Richards chose Glenn and Donna Brown of Sequim.

“I knew Glenn had an interesting background as a Navy chaplain and was a good storyteller, so he was a good person to test some of my ideas.”

Glenn Brown was happy to be Richards’ guinea pig.

“Tim had it well-organized,” he said. “Some people may be a little intimidated. The Richardses put me at ease.”

Brown is working on an autobiography for his grandchildren who are in high school.

“I think my grandkids would watch a video,” he said, “but probably not get into the book until later in life.”

Donna Brown has kept family photo albums for many years but she is looking forward to sharing the DVD with her daughter and grandchildren at Christmas.

Questions,  photos help
Richards developed a process that helps people sort through their life stories and choose the events they want to share. Besides a questionnaire, he suggests looking back at photo albums or diaries to help clarify the significant and meaningful details. Preparation time varies with the individual, he said.

“It takes about three hours of taping to produce one hour of finished product,” Richards said. The video editing process takes longer than the taping itself, sometimes 10 hours for an hour of finished video.

Richards’ own legacy is being played out in his new business venture. As a high school student, he worked with Ross Hamilton, Sequim’s renowned nature photographer.

“He first put a real camera in my hands,” Richards said, “and started teaching me composition.”
Richards moved on to video photography, creating professionally edited family videos of his children in sports and special events such as skydiving with his daughter on her 16th birthday.

Legacy Video Productions is starting small because Richards has another business as a broker for medical and scientific equipment and a busy family life. Still, he is excited to see it launched and to help people preserve the “stories of a lifetime.”
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