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Advice needed on historical video

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Greg BallAdvice needed on historical video
by on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:27:05 pm

We've been asked to bid on a Gov't project for a historical site. The challenge is that they have an audio narration that tells the story but they have no visuals. The narration is 4 minutes long. So I'd need to find historical images to fill the 4 minutes. This video would be put on exhibit at their historical site

The historical time period for the project centers around the years 1750 to 1850. I'm not quite sure how to bid for this. I would think we'd need to hire a historian who knows how to find images that we can use. But how find a skilled historian/researcher, who can also find images.

The other challenge is negotiating pricing and copyright for images.

Any suggestions on historian/researchers and also the best sources for historical images?

Thanks so much.

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Richard HerdRe: Advice needed on historical video
by on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:37:33 pm

Sounds like your proposal is going to be rather large because you will need to film recreations, because there is no photography to find, because the camera had not been invented yet. If you have access to the audio, then consider using it to develop a shot list and budget for a production and post production.

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Todd TerryRe: Advice needed on historical video
by on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:55:38 pm
Last Edited By Todd Terry on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:57:29 pm

Another possibility/option would be to budget for an illustrator... illustrations might be helpful since, as Richard said, real archival/period photography will be nonexistent.

This is one of those projects that I always feel is done backwards... I'm always harping on writing (or concepting) something around the images that you know you can get (or already have), rather than the other way around. You're obviously stuck though, having to produce to their existing soundtrack.

I know neither Richard nor I even remotely answered the actual question that you posed... but do have a couple of other things to think about.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Shane RossRe: Advice needed on historical video
by on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:08:43 pm

There may not have been cameras, as those came just before the Civil War, there are plenty of paintings and other art. And yes, you'll need to hire a researcher and license the images. Some can be found in the US Archives, and most of those are free. But you need a researcher and clearance person to know for sure.

Where are you located? I can recommend people here in L.A. Not sure about rates, as I'm the editor and they are the researcher and payroll is handled by the accountants.

Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def

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Greg BallRe: Shane -Advice needed on historical video
by on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:25:54 pm

Hi Shane,

I'm located in South Florida, but the historic site is in Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh). I was thinking about illustrations or paintings, as I would really not have any other choice.

I'd appreciate any names even in LA that might steer me in the right direction.


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Greg BallRe: Todd
by on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:30:33 pm

Thanks -An illlustrator sounds like an interesting idea. Wonder how they would know what to draw based on the time period.

Yes this is absolutely backwards. Write the script based on what images you can find is always better.

Thanks much.

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Greg BallRe: Richard
by on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:28:20 pm

Thanks Richard. I'd love to film re-creations, but the client has said that this should not include any video shoots. I'm aware that photography equipment wasn't invented yet.

I can budget based on a shot list, but the problem is, can I get the shots that I've listed?

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Nick GriffinRe: Advice needed on historical video
by on Mar 13, 2015 at 7:25:31 pm

I don't have a particularly good solution either, but here goes. Illustrations do sound like the simplest way to go. You could also supplement them with period paintings. Now... WHERE to find the historian who would know the period and its paintings. I'd advice that you start with the least expensive things first and work your way up. Where I live our public library has a "research desk" which is able to provide a surprising amount of information for free. They could probably also provide referrals for historians. From there you might try the Library of Congress in Washington, DC and see what you can get for free.

Not sure, but I think it's reasonable that there may be no copyright issues on stuff more than 100 years old. Possible that someone has renewed copyrights over the years, but not likely.

My two cents on a multi-dollar project.

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Greg BallRe:Nick
by on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:32:11 pm

Thanks Nick -Great ideas!

I'll check the library out. I probably haven't been in a library for about 20 years...LOL!

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Joseph W. BourkeRe: Re:Nick
by on Mar 14, 2015 at 2:49:26 am

Another great place you can do online research is another well-known library - The Library of Congress. There is an immense online archive which is available to all of us (our tax dollars at work - for once for something worthwhile!):

I have found stuff here that has just boggled my mind, from architectural drawings to historical photographs, to art and period political get the idea. Good luck with the project!

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media

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Ned MillerRe: Re:Nick
by on Mar 15, 2015 at 5:58:36 pm

Hi Greg,

For quite a few years in a row I used to shoot for The History Channel and we would go to local historical societies/museums. They usually preferred we didn't remove anything so the producers would bring an oversize scanner. Also an easel and shoot a RAW stills with a DSLR and small soft light, so the editor could pan and do moves. By using them it's free and they're very helpful, often retirees who are volunteering. So that approach could provide a wealth of visuals, especially maps, platt surveys, etc. captured in DSLR stills.

I do know there are services that look for public domain visuals where rights clearances are already taken care of. Even shooting from a book you would need to have a copyright clearance from that publisher, even though their source was public domain. Plus, working on a government contract I would expect a clause that your company would be responsible for any errors and omissions, especially if it's the Feds such as the National Park Service.

For historical pieces I would budget for some nice antique graphic maps with animation. I think if you look online at what other visitor's centers have done with that time period, in terms of no original videotaping, that would be a good starting point. Google anything Daniel Boone, French & Indian War, etc. plus Park, Visitor Center.

Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer

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Todd TerryRe: Re:Nick
by on Mar 15, 2015 at 6:46:01 pm

Greg, I'm sending you a contact name to your personal email... check it.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Re:Nick
by on Mar 16, 2015 at 4:10:41 pm

A lot of good advice already given. I'd add that depending on the situation, you could also have a 3D cgi re-creation of the site worked up, and that would give you the chance to do a lot of camera moves in, around, and over it... without actually shooting a real location. Illustrations, maps, diagrams and paintings could be scanned and used a the basis for the model. Then you can age it and do fake time-laps changes as well.

I did a project something like this about 2 years ago, and I also had to "vamp" for imagery on a non-existent budget. My solution was to get various maps from the state historic library (the part about having them scanned on-location is very true), then build or find representative props to combine with the 2-d maps into a 2.5-D "world".

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