In thinking about what(or whom) I wanted to make a story about using the video-making tools on UMN’s Immigrant Stories website, I decided to focus on Augusta Henschel Schoenherr, my great-great grandmother. While most of my family arrived in America before the Constitution was signed, one branch of my family includes German immigrants that arrived between the 1850s and 1870s. Augusta, or “Gusty” as she was known, is the only immigrant ancestor that I have a photo of, which makes her more real to me than ancestors from 400 years ago. I had a special relationship with her daughter, my great-grandmother Mae (Elizabeth “Lizzie” May), despite the fact that I was one of roughly 200 great-grandchildren. She grew up with Gusty as a mother, and German-born Julius Schoenherr as her father, living in a sod house as homesteaders in ND, speaking and reading German in the home.
That being said, I don’t have actual memories of her, just what I know from family stories and original documents.I tried to use the templates provided on the website but I felt like none or the categories were pertinent to me in that I didn’t necessarily have answers to the questions they asked about her. So instead I just typed my own. I wasn’t quite sure what the text box was for-that could’ve been made more clear. Was it the final script? Just thoughts? Later it all made sense, but at the time it was confusing.
When I was redirected to the video-making website, I didn’t understand that you had to get a separate log-in. When I tried to create an account I apparently already had an account (?) which caused confusion. I watched the tutorial video on the Immigrant Stories website about editing the sound before I started. I don’t have a microphone, and even with every machine off in my house and talking loudly and closely, the audio is barely discernible. After a little practice I was able to edit out my mistakes, or which there were plenty. I did not get too elaborate but liked that there was the ability to use audio tracks or sound effects. While it took me awhile to figure out where to upload images and how to get them into the video or lengthen them, eventually it made sense.
I took a break to have dinner and came back to work, and had to sign in again. After I was logged in I no longer saw my edited audio but rather the error filled original version. And none of my images I added were showing up. I ended up re-editing all of my work and adding images again which was time-consuming.
I exited the screen and came upon another screen where it showed I had started numerous projects.
I’m unsure how I did that (although it’s totally my M.O. to end up on weird screens or think I’ve lost all of my work). I had lost so much time by the time I realized my mistake and my double work, that I didn’t quite finish the video. It’s missing a credits screen, and I could’ve made better use of the functions of the tool, but I still think I got a good idea of the site’s functionality and user-friendliness. For how little I accomplished in such a long period of time, I am unsure if other users would stick with it, especially those with little English, no computer skills or limited internet access.
While all of the bells and whistles (fancy fades, sound effects) are neat, I think it makes it appear too confusing. I almost wish there were less options. After the learning curve though it became much easier. I definitely see myself using this tool again to make videos. I’d like to make a video for my race riot archive to tell the condensed history of the summer and featured the images in the collection without overwhelming the reader with text. I think that it is a great tool to have in your tool belt as a historian in the digital age.
So keep in mind that: 1. I’m without a microphone and 2. It still needs some work, but it resembles an actual video, so mission accomplished?