How to Make a Video Obituary: Step-By-Step

Updated

As the world becomes increasingly dependent on digital technology, new opportunities arise to honor and memorialize those we love. The obituaries most of us are used to are about one paragraph long and printed in a newspaper or on a funeral home website. But there are other methods for relaying obituary information in a special way that honors our loved ones, such as a video obituary.

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If you’ve ever been to a funeral where the family played a memorial video, you’re already familiar with the basic elements of a video obituary. In addition, if you know how to write an obituary, you’re already halfway there to creating a video obituary. Though the process may be a bit time consuming, it’s easier than you might think. 

What’s a Video Obituary?

Video obituaries are one option of many when considering the possibilities for making a creative obituary for your loved one. They can be as fancy or simple as you desire, and can also make for a memorable tribute to your loved one. 

A video obituary and written obituary are similar, except that the information you share in words can be told in video format. Information such as the person’s name, family members, and dates, along with education and achievements normally found in an obituary, can be included in a slideshow/video that might include pictures, narration, and music.

One of the best parts of a video obituary is the fact that many people can be involved in making it. You can add a few words from close friends and relatives as part of the footage. In all, when finished you’ll have a lasting tribute that honors your loved one, touches those who watch the video, and inspires family and friends with a lasting legacy.

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What’s Included in a Video Obituary?

A video obituary includes the same pieces of information as a written obituary and many of the same elements as a video memorial. You should include information such as the name and dates of the person, who they’re survived by, who preceded them in death, and information about their life such as where they lived, their education, and any special achievements they’d want others to know about. To relay this information, you can include text, pictures, video clips, and sound bites.

Steps to Make a Video Obituary

The hardest part when making a video obituary is gathering all the individual pieces to make the video itself. Once you’ve completed the first seven steps below, making the video will likely be easier than you expect. 

Step 1: Decide on professional or DIY

The first thing to determine is whether you’re going to DIY the video or have a professional video maker produce it for you. There is no “right” answer and it largely depends on whether you or another family member has the time it takes to put the video together.

If time is an issue, you can hire a videographer or editor through numerous platforms such as Upwork, Fiverr, and Etsy. If you’re confident that you have enough time to make the video yourself, then you can proceed with the following steps to gather the needed information. 

Step 2: Determine the length of the video

A video obituary can have many of the same elements as a video memorial with one exception: its length. A video obituary should be shorter and more concise than a memorial. Memorials can be anywhere from two to ten minutes long. They’re viewed during a memorial service and copies are sometimes given to attendees as a special gift when they leave.

Video obituaries, on the other hand, are often uploaded to a funeral website or a person’s social media page. It serves to provide those they knew with a small amount of information related to their life and death, and should be no longer than five minutes. Most video obituaries are around two to three minutes long.

Step 3: Gather digital images

The first step in the video-making process is to gather digital images of your loved one. Some pictures, such as original baby pictures, might need to be scanned. Try to obtain important pictures from each major stage of their life including birth, childhood, young adulthood, college years, marriage, career or major personal achievements, family, and life as a senior. 

Step 4: Gather digital clips

Digital video clips don’t have to be included in the obituary, but if you have them, they can really make the obituary truly heartfelt by sharing others’ views. Some loved ones record themselves saying goodbye to their family before the time of their death. If your family member did this, you might want to include it in the video obituary. 

You can add short clips of relatives, friends, and acquaintances sharing a brief memory, stating how they knew the deceased, or saying goodbye to their family member. You can include touching tributes and even ask a few relatives for ideas as to what they’d like to add. Just remember to keep it short, since the whole video should only be two to five minutes long.

Step 5: Highlights of life

Next, gather a timeline of highlights of their life. Put this in writing and then see if you have any physical representations such as trophies, artwork, or certificates. While you can include many things in a person’s timeline, take care to include the following:

  • Who preceded in death
  • Who they are survived by
  • Education
  • Achievements

The achievements category is open-ended and can include anything noteworthy in their life from getting married, having children, running a 5K, to winning a baking championship. 

Step 6: Things to avoid

Most people have decisions and periods of life that they look back on and regret. If you’re putting the video together, you should know the person well enough to avoid things they wouldn’t want to be included. Try to strike a tone of remembrance, and make their video obituary something which everyone can watch and enjoy. No one should grimace midway through.

Step 7: Soundtrack

Soundtracks are a powerful way to stir up emotion, add an extra dimension to the video, and even add another layer of communication as it plays. When choosing a song, there are two things to consider: time and intent.

When it comes to time, you’ll likely want a song that plays the entire duration of your video. If you have a two-minute video, then the song you choose should be around two minutes in length, ending with the video. If your video is longer, you might need more than one song to play in the background. 

Intent comes down to why you’re choosing to add a musical element. Do you want something to play softly in the background to provide a thoughtful environment for people to watch the obituary? Choose something soft, melodic, and instrumental. Do you want the music to reflect religious values? Choose a special piece of religious music that was a favorite while they lived. 

Are you hoping to pair the music with specific periods of life? Choose clips that have words and meanings that relate specifically to periods such as growing up, college years, marriage, and living a good life.

Step 8: Store and backup digital content

Once you’ve gathered all of your digital images, video clips, and music, be sure to store them in a secure location and back them up. Keep a copy in two different places such as your computer and a relative’s computer, or upload it to a cloud-based site such as Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox.

It’s also important to save all progress as you make your movie. Once you’ve finished part of it, save and upload it. By doing this, you’ll have all progress saved and if your computer crashes, you won’t lose all your hard work.

Step 9: Put the video together

There are many programs available to help you put your video together and most have a very directed step-by-step feel that is easy to follow. Here are several options for producing your video.

Video-making software 

Check your computer for video making software. Windows comes with Windows Movie Maker and Apple computers have iMovie preloaded. If neither of these is your preference, a quick search online should reveal a variety of software available for movie editing.

Both the Windows and Apple options are designed to be easy to understand and build upon depending on your level of comfort and familiarity with video editing.

Slideshow creator 

If you’re putting together a slideshow instead of a traditional movie, consider using slideshow tools such as PowerPoint or Google Slides. 

Step 10: Preview video

Once you’ve made your video, watch it through several times. Ask another family member to watch it with you for a second pair of eyes. Make any adjustments necessary at this stage.

Step 9: Export/upload

Save your file in the appropriate format required by the funeral home’s website, social media, or another hosting site. When you are ready, export and upload your entire video. Keep track of it to make sure the whole video uploads properly. After it finishes uploading, click preview if the option is available and watch it through from start to finish to make sure it is completely uploaded.

Where Can You Post or Distribute a Video Obituary?

There are many places you can distribute your video including social media sites and funeral home web pages. Here are several things to consider when posting a video obituary.

  • Social Media: You can set the video to public and allow everyone the ability to view it or private and allow only a certain group of people access. Decide on this before the post goes “live.” There are options to do so on websites like YouTube and Vimeo to make a video private or public as well.
  • Funeral Home Web Page: These pages often have two options: public or private. If you want the video to be viewed privately, you password-protect the page and give the code to family and friends. If you set it to public, anyone will be able to view and share the page.

Both of these options are free and if you’re on a budget, posting a free online obituary is an excellent option.

A Video Memory

Video obituaries serve as a visual reminder of a person’s life, their impact, and their legacy. Take your time, get feedback and input from trusted relatives, and create a video that your loved one would be proud to watch.

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