Maps can chart your way to video biography success

by Steve Pender, video biographer & personal historian, Family Legacy Video, Inc.

Whether you’re setting out on a cross country driving tour or wondering how to visually “navigate” through your next video biography, a good map can be a real asset. You can use maps to establish the locations important to your subject’s story and also use them to impart a sense of movement to illustrate someone’s travels.

For example, I recently used maps to help tell the story of a married couple. The wife was born in the Philippines prior to World War II. I used a map of the Philippines to establish the length and breadth of the island chain and also to show the location of her home island and the areas on that island that figured prominently in her story.

Her husband, a bomber pilot during WWII, hitched rides from Texas to Canada in order to volunteer for the Canadian Royal Air Force. I combined two moving maps, one of Texas and one showing the border of the U.S. and Canada, to help visualize his journey.

Where can you get good maps? I recently found a great resource, a company called Maps.com, which offers a variety of digital maps available for download. They’re already digital, which offers convenience (no scanning) and great image quality. I recommend downloading the PDF versions. First, they’re inexpensive (many starting around $6.95). Second, if you have Adobe Photoshop, you can open the maps there and scale and crop them to whatever size you need. You can also add effects to give the maps an aged or period look, add locations, etc. Then, import the map into your editing software, give it some motion, and you’ve got a great-looking, low cost visual.

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