Video clips are a way to capture memories because they visually display the emotions of the stories from people"™s lives, Tom Taylor said during a Friday afternoon RootsTech session. He offered tips for collecting stories in video format.

When a friend or relative recounts a funny story or reflects on a challenging time, he or she may have deep, hearty laughter, or they may sound like someone who has a sense of doubt.

When this friend or relative talks about these experiences, the corners of his or her mouth could crease into a smile or the visible sign of regret.

Video clips are a great way to capture memories because they visually display the emotions of stories from people’s lives, Tom Taylor, the founder of Pictures and Stories, said during a Friday afternoon RootsTech session at the family history and technology conference. He shared some tips for successfully interviewing and capturing stories in video format.

The interview process

Do some research and learn about the person being interviewed, Taylor said. Because most people are initially uncomfortable with the idea of a video interview, it is the interviewer’s job to come prepared and to help those they interview “find their best stories."

Rather than collecting facts, names and dates, the interviewer should focus on the rich details about a person’s life — the emotions, the challenges and the lessons learned, Taylor said, because interviewing is “the process of discovery.” Interviewers should strive to capture specific moments in a person’s life and not just a “sweeping overview.”

Listening is the key to a successful interview, Taylor said. Ask open-ended questions that allow those being interviewed to tell stories and bring in their perspective.

“Don’t try to fill in the silence — let them talk,” he said. “Give them a chance to share their hearts.”

Know the equipment

Video interviews can be conducted using a variety of tools, including a smartphone, Taylor said. Each type of device comes with its specific advantages and disadvantages, so it is crucial for interviewers to be familiar with their equipment and practice using it beforehand.

Interviewers should also make sure that their equipment is stable throughout the interview. Taylor recommended using a tripod or stand to meet this end.

“The more confident you are behind the camera, the more comfortable the person will be in front of the camera,” Taylor said. “And the more enjoyable it will be for the person watching the video.”

Consider room environment

Interviewers should find an appropriate room and setting where they can conduct an interview, Taylor said. Good lighting, privacy and comfort are some of the sought-out qualities in an interviewing environment. In some cases, interviewers can even cater their room environment to the interests of those they interview, such as speaking to a musician in a room with a piano.

Framing the subject

The “zoom” feature on a camera or phone is overused, Taylor said. He told the attendees not to use digital zoom because the image often gets distorted.

Taylor said that in the context of interviewing, “zooming is walking.”

Rather than using a button to zoom in on their subject, interviewers should zoom with their feet — moving in closer to get a sharper, clearer illustration.

Taylor also said that interviewers should uphold the rule of thirds, making sure that they don’t place their subject directly in the center of the frame. This will create shots that are more compelling and less awkward to view.


Sound is the most critical element of a video, according to Taylor. The quality must be clear and understandable. Interviewers should make sure noise and other forms of distraction are eliminated, and that the speaker’s voice is isolated and emphasized.

“Bad audio will ruin a great video,” Taylor said. “If you can’t hear it, you stop watching it.”

Start now

Taylor encouraged his listeners to think of people to interview and to set up appointments as soon as possible.

He also told audience members to adhere to the 3-2-1 backup rule to ensure the survival of the stories and memories they collect. This means having at least three copies of data stored on two different forms of media, with at least one offsite location.

“There’s never been a better day than today to record your stories,” Taylor said. “It’s a wonderful thing to listen to someone and have someone listen to us. It’s enriched my life, and I know it will enrich yours.”