Anybody else confused by all of the different terms thrown around for recording life stories in video form? You may stumble upon legacy videos, video biographies, video memoirs, oral history videos, and personal documentaries while trying to decide how to record life stories.
While each of them are used somewhat interchangeably, you’ll want to be certain that you’re choosing the right one for your needs because each term means something slightly different.
First up, personal documentaries. A documentary is a video “based on or re-creating an actual event, era, life story, etc., that purports to be factually accurate and contains no fictional elements.” In human terms - personal documentary videos highlight a person’s life stories as told by the person themselves. What makes it a personal documentary vs just a recording of an interview is the incorporation of photos, videos, and music to help tell the story. Where an oral history video is focused on the historical information, a personal documentary is focused on telling a story in an entertaining way.
Note: It doesn’t cost thousands of dollars anymore to create personal documentary videos. There are services like Kindred that make creating legacy videos quick and affordable. They make for heartfelt, sentimental gifts for a family member or best friend.
Next up; legacy videos. Legacy videos are short personal documentary videos focused on telling someone’s life story with the goal of being remembered, passing down life experiences + beliefs, and documenting their life achievements. With legacy in the name, these videos are focused on handing down a video for your descendants to remember you by.
Note: We can all agree that mothers have some of the best stories to tell. Their legacies reach far beyond just motherhood. If you’re considering making legacy videos for your family, here’s a resource to help: Meaningful Questions to Ask For Your Mother's Legacy Video.
Next we have the video biography. Video biography, biography video… pick your poison because they both work. A “biography” is a detailed description of someone’s life. So add in the video part, and you get a detailed description of someone’s life in video form!
Note: Video biographies are a little tricky because there are a few different use cases for them. Also, you can make a video biography yourself or you can make one for somebody else. Other than creating one for a loved one, here are a few other use cases you may come across:
Oral History Videos
A close cousin to the video biography, oral history videos are focused on “gathering and preserving history.” If you remember writing papers in school, there are primary and secondary sources of information. Oral history falls in the category of primary source material as the people themselves are sharing first hand accounts of historic events. Although a documentary itself could be considered a secondary source, the videos and photos included in the video are typically primary sources of information.
Note: Genealogists are especially interested in oral history videos when trying to piece together a family tree or gather more information about a specific member of their family. Learn more about genealogy and oral history videos in our article Do Your Genealogist Descendants a Favor with Oral History Legacy Videos.
A memoir is slightly different yet again. A standard memoir is, “a written record of a person’s knowledge of events or of a person's own experiences.” Another way to define memoir is, “a narrative, written from the perspective of the author, about an important part of their life.” The key aspect of the second definition is “about an important part of their life.” A memoir does not typically span an entire person’s life - that would be an autobiography. To cite Celadon Books again, authors of a memoir will choose a meaningful or impactful period of their life and “try to recreate it through storytelling.” Take all of that, record a video instead of writing, and you’ve got yourself a video memoir.
- Legacy videos are focused on what an individual wants to leave behind from their life.
- Video biographies and oral history videos are focused on preserving history.
- Video memoirs are focused on a specific, important part of a person’s life.
- Personal documentaries can be a mixture of all the above but focus on telling life stories in an entertaining way.