Small Story: “Grandpa”

Small Stories
I’m excited to share a Small Story submission with you today.

If you’ve been following my recent posts, then you know that I’ve declared a Small Stories Manifesto and that I asked for submissions that I could share on this website.

I think good Small Stories can be both inspirational and educational for you.

I received many links to videos. Some of them ignored the guidelines. Several of them were quite good. And a few submissions were great.

I really like the one I’m sharing with you today. I think it does a nice job of telling a Small Story.

It’s called “Grandpa”, and it was created by Stephen Greszczyszyn.

Take a moment to watch it (under two minutes long):

A few things I really like about this Small Story:

  • The subject matter (the story of an active 99 year old) fits nicely into the 2 minute limit.
  • The story is told without narration. It doesn’t need narration, which I think is uncommon in Small Stories.
  • The story doesn’t use music, but it still holds my attention.
  • The cutaways successfully prove what the speaker is saying (evidence that he’s active at his age).

When Stephen sent me the link, he mentioned things he’d want to improve about the video (color correction, for example), but even though this isn’t 100% polished, it still succeeds as a Small Story.

If you’ve made a video that fits the Small Story guidelines, please send me the YouTube or Vimeo link. I want to watch it, and I’ll continue to share my favorites on this website under the Small Stories category.

31 thoughts on “Small Story: “Grandpa”

  1. The personal story is what kept me interested. It held my attention also. Great job Stephen.
    Q. How did you pick up the sound? Shotgun? If so, where did you put it.

    1. This segment is from about a 30 minute interview I did with my Grandpa this past summer while I was on holiday visiting my family. I mounted two cameras (Olympus E-P5) side-by-side on a horizontal mounting bar on a tripod. I think one lens was 35mm and the other at about 90mm for the close shots. I used a lavalier microphone (Rode SmartLav+) and hid it using techniques shown by Izzy in his video:

      I did also use the Rode Invisilav mounting system (you stick the lav mic in a bit of silicon to prevent rubbing noises caused by clothing). Izzy shows how to do the same with gaffer tape, but I didn’t trust myself to get it right the first time, so I bought the Invisilav.

      The lav mic plugged into my iphone which was in my Grandpa’s pocket and I used the Rode recorder app (don’t forget to set the phone to airplane mode!). In fact, I forgot to stop the recording after the “formal” interview and have about an hour of us chatting while shooting B-roll around the house and our lunchtime conversation!

      I did have a zoom H1 recorder set up down in front of him for backup audio, but for some reason it didn’t start properly – oops. I’m glad the lav sound turned out OK.

      For the B-roll I just used one camera and a 50mm lens and followed my Grandpa around his house showing me things and talking about his life and people in various photos. The Olympus cameras have amazing in-body stabilisation (floating sensor) that makes hand-held video easy, however overall the Olympus video image can get quite pixilated if there is a lot of detail or movement. I would only recommend the Olympus cameras for shooting portrait video, or scenes with shallow depth of focus. I’ve since switched to Panasonic cameras, due to better video quality (although I’m missing the amazing stabilisation!)

      I was using natural day light for the interview, which was complicated as the weather was sunny/cloudy and the colour temperature and exposure changed a lot throughout the interview. Also, the interior lighting was mostly incandescent which is why b-roll is much warmer/yellow than the interview. I’m trying to learn colour-correction, although it is complicated as I’m colour-blind! I haven’t spent much time learning lighting, as most of my video is of my kids and events using natural light.

      This was my first completed project, and I was pushed to submit it as part of another online course that I was participating in this past July. I used multicam editing in Final Cut Pro X and synced up the external audio from the lav/iphone to the camera audio. I edited the story in two evenings (after my wife and kids were asleep) while trying to learn Final Cut Pro X :) and had to keep it under the 90 second time limit as per the assignment. Some day, I hope to have time to polish this up as well as cut a longer edit which would be of more interest to my family.

      Thanks for your interest, and Izzy for your great site! I’ve learned a lot here!

  2. That video made me smile. If it made me smile, then it most likely made more people smile as well. I think any video that brings smiles to the faces of the people watching them, is a good video. Especially if it’s a human interest story that everyone can relate to. Well done….

    1. Thank you Joe,

      My Grandfather is definitely an interesting character (at least to me). Prairie Boy / wheat farmer who road the rails to Toronto during the depression, almost went into professional boxing, and has lived a long, colourful, healthy, social, active life. Some might be genes, but a lot has to do with lifestyle choices and his outlook on life, and yes luck :)

      I only get to see him once per year, so this interview was important to me, and boy was I nervous!

  3. Except for the color issues, this is awesome! Totally held my attention and now I WANT TO SEE what happened with his driving test! There better be a “part 2.” :-)

    Also, I think he’s in better shape than I am… :-/

    1. Hi Shane, thanks for the comments.

      I struggled with the colour due to the changing light (changing sunny/cloudy daylight) coming in through the window during the interview, and the incandescent lighting in the rest of the house (which is already fairly yellow). I tried balancing/correcting the interview shots to get the exposure matched and skin tone correct, but didn’t have time to finish the b-roll shots (and haven’t revisited the edit since). I probably should have left the interview shots warmer (my mom said that looked more consistent).

      I definitely struggle with colour, as I’m colour-blind. I’m trying to learn to use the scopes to assist me. I mostly worry about getting the skin tones right and matching the shots for consistently.

      My Grandpa is definitely fitter than me. He has walked 5+ miles every morning, rain or shine or snow for his whole life and just gave up his gym membership (where he lifted weights) last year. He still walks the stairs and does his daily exercise routine (as in the movie).

      He passed his drivers test (more of a cognitive and reflexes test) and had his license renewed until his 101st birthday. He says that is might last longer than he does :)

      We hope to be there for his 100th birthday this December, where I probably will be filming/photographing the event :)

  4. I love it!

    I got caught up in the subject line from the first moments and didn’t see a thing thereafter.

    That’s what it is supposed to do.

    The talking goes on as different shots take place and returning to the speaker from time to time.

    Great timing and content.

    Two minutes or two hours it can all be the same with this format.

    The interest being the subject matter.

    The blurring in the beginning moments was by accident I am sure but it helped draw us in and helped create our interest and focus throughout.

    1. Tom, thanks for the comment!

      I tried something “creative” with the first cut-away. I focused on the reflection of my Grandpa’s face in the picture glass and then refocused on the picture itself. The picture was of his father and uncles in front of their sod house from when they were clearing the land to farm wheat on their homestead at the turn of the century.

      It might not have come across as well as I would have liked or had in my mind… I found it tricky to get supporting B-roll for the interview, as my Grandfather wasn’t really “doing” anything. I mostly got him to take me around his house and show me stuff that was interesting or important to him, and recorded. I think he didn’t see the point of it, though – “kids” these days :)

  5. Bravo. Great video short story. Like all great stories this video: has a simple compelling plot trajectory (though not necessarily linear), features a person with a character you take an immediate interest in, and a story that has a few twists (such as his “great genes’) to hold our interest. However, after the set up to the climax about the driving test, we are left hanging. And that only means one thing: there must be a sequel planned. When is part 2?

    1. Thanks Daniel,

      My Grandpa just passed his driver’s test. Hopefully he can keep it as his younger senior friends rely on him to taxi them around to various appointments!

      I hope to be able to see him again this summer and for his 100th birthday in December.

      He has done a couple of interviews for the newspaper and the news, and before I started the interview he said “I don’t know why you want to interview me, I’ve already told my story on video during my 50th wedding anniversary speech” :)

      Maybe I’ll get his vitality secret next time I interview him :)

  6. Great short story Stephen:
    I do a lot of the care taking for my 92-year old father, and it was great seeing how active your grandfather is. I hope your grandfather is well. Good job.

  7. Great job editing, totally kept my interest! Endearing gentleman.
    Color correcting is a fine art. Only those who know, know that there may be room for improvement. Had it not been mentioned, I wouldn’t have noticed.

  8. I loved it! Very artistic; it drew me in from the first frame. I want to see the continuing adventures of this man.

    I also enjoyed the focus pulls in the b-roll and the editing was very smooth. There was a small issue with color timing but that can be corrected later if need be. Also, the gentlemen’s face was slightly overexposed in a couple of instances but this is not such a big deal at all – just something to look out for next time.

    Well done!

    1. Thanks Michael,

      I did overexpose the face in a couple of parts where they are clipped beyond recovery. I set the exposure on the cameras and let them roll and just did the interview as a conversation. The skies were changing rapidly from dark cloud to bright sunlight and I was using natural light coming in from a large north-facing window. Since I was on holiday, it was the only time I was hoping for an overcast day!

      I probably should have picked a location further away from the window, but I was concerned about not having enough light as my Grandpa’s place is quite dark and I haven’t learned to light yet :)

      I also learned that my cameras have a 30 minute recording length and after they suddenly shut off, when I restarted them I reset the exposure.

      I also should have had my Grandpa pick a more comfortable chair as at one point he slouched down, out of frame and I couldn’t use those shots.

      Lots of learning, and lots more to learn!

  9. Very well done! I’ve done thousands of audio stories under a minute and my favorites were the ones that needed no narration. My videos are typically longer (around 3:30). I will give this a shot. One thing I need to learn is the value of color correction and how to recognize the need. It was not an issue to me with this fine video.

  10. Great video! Drew me in immediately. As others have said, your Grandpa is quite the character. Love the B-Roll. I did see his reflection in the picture.
    Glad to hear he passed his test. I think any of us who watched were curious!


  11. Love it…
    Stories from those older than us are just amazing. I love the fact that you took the time to record a small part of history, which most people don’t these days.
    I wish my grandparents were still alive so I could do the same.
    The older generation have so much to give, but we choose not to listen most of the time, and when they are are gone it’s too late.
    Well done.
    I only wish it was longer.

    1. Thanks James,

      I have another project that I really want to do. My wife has a great aunt who lives in a small Spanish mountain town. She must be in her 70s and still farms the land. The scenery is breathtaking, and she is such a character. I just hope I can do the story justice when the time comes to film. Until then, I learn and practice, practice practice.

      I find the older generation fascinating and am amazed by all they have done and seen in their lives.

  12. Brilliant!!! My mother in law was very active until she was 98 but then had a massive fall and several months in hospital with 66 stitches to her head. Then almost immediately she had an operation for Cancer. She now lives with us and had her 100th Birthday last week. Perhaps when I can afford a decent camera I’ll try something with her.
    Thank you so much for sharing. Give your Grandpa our very best.

    1. Thanks Pete,

      I don’t think you need a decent camera – I could have done this interview with a mobile phone that shoots video and some sort of voice recorder. The most important thing is that you just do it. I think the most important is the audio anyway.

      Last year I found an old VHS tape that someone had edited of my Grandpa and Grandma’s (she passed away already) 50th anniversary. I digitised it and put it on DVD for my Grandpa and believe it or not, he had never seen it. Many of the people on the DVD are no longer with us so it had a lot of value for him.

  13. Hi all, I returned with another “small story” about our visit to Canada for my Grandpa’s 100th birthday and Christmas with my family. The script was written and narrated by my 5-year-old and this time I did use a music track :)

  14. So pleasant to see, well done…!!!
    What an interesting man your Grand Pa!
    And Izzy is an excellent teacher!

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