Last year we bought a Roku [$80] box to attach to our tv. This box connects to the Internet via our wi-fi network and brings us Netflix, MLB games, Amazon’s Digital Downloads and much more. We bought it for the Netflix and baseball, but it’s the “much more” part that’s getting more interesting every day.
Because Roku and other devices like it can display photos from Flickr or Facebook, videos from Vimeo or YouTube and much more, it gives us the ability to create our own programming. It can be something as simple as a photo slideshow from Flickr to a family documentary on Vimeo. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
A photo documentary along the lines of Ken Burns’ Civil War isn’t difficult to create and would be a great way to tell a family story or document an event like a wedding or new baby. Don’t believe me? Check out the Circle B Ranch documentary below, then grab a copy of Release Your Inner Ken Burns (a reprint of a series from Shades of the Departed Magazine) to see for yourself how easy it is.
Want to start small and work your way up? Here’s a few suggestions:
- Build a multimedia scrapbook using something like Memory Mixer, then upload it to YouTube or Vimeo.
- The Flickr app on Roku will display photos from a specified set, but doesn’t include titles. You could create your own scrapbook pages or presentation slides with captions and other design elements, save them as JPGs, then upload them to Flickr to present a custom slideshow.
- Create a custom slideshow in iPhoto (or your favorite photo-editor supporting slideshows), export to a movie format and upload to YouTube or Vimeo.
- An iPhone with the Ustream app can broadcast live video from a wedding or family reunion to family members who can’t attend in person. They can watch online from a computer or from a tv with an Internet connection that includes Ustream.
Roku isn’t your only option for Internet television. There’s Boxee [$300], Google TV [$300], Apple TV [$100] and a growing number of Internet-enabled televisions. You will also need a broadband wireless network set up in your home (802.11n is best) to handle the load of all this streaming media. Amazon has a useful series of videos explaining how it all works and what you need to make it happen.
From what I see, these items are on a lot of Christmas wish lists this year. Even if you don’t get one for yourself, you’ll probably have a family member or two who did. Creating family history projects with these devices in mind give you another avenue to generate interest. You can become a tv producer using the apps you already have so production costs are low. And, because these productions are posted online, you might also attract a cousin or two you haven’t met yet.
Cecil B. DeMille would be so proud!