Return The Love - Make A Gift to Pay Back Your Parents

How to Make a "This Is Your Life" Video


If you think you are up for the challenge, here is an initial checklist of things to think about before you begin.

  1. Timing
    • When would the ideal time be to unveil the movie to your mom?  A surprise at her birthday party or Mothers' Day would be ideal dates.  Anytime when family can be together is also a great idea.  Pick some potential dates.
    • You want to give yourself ample time to work on this before that date.  Work backwards to figure out how much time you would have before that date.  In a spirit of full-disclosure, my mom's video took me over 100 hours of work over several months, but I am sure you can cut that back significantly by learning from my mistakes.  I bet you could do a great production in half that time.  (I sure wish this website were around for me back then!)
  2. Computer Experience & Tools Needed
    • You will need access to a pretty decent computer.  If you just include still photos and music, you can probably get away with any decent computer from 2002 or newer.  If you want to add and edit video, that requires a lot more computer power.
    • I did my production using a Sony Vaio with 524MB of RAM and it worked fine.  I ended up just using still photos and music, which seemed to work fine.
    • I bought the expensive Adobe Photoshop software to build my site.  However, after quite a bit of time using that powerful (and complex) software, I ended up using a much cheaper and simpler software package called Ulead (  I found it to be a much better tradeoff between ease and capability.  There are other packages you can try to that I will list in the Useful Links page on this site.  I suggest you try Ulead or something you are familiar with.
    • You will also want access to a DVD burner to make copies of the DVD.  You will probably want to make multiples to share as well.
    • A photo scanner is also pretty useful to scan in old paper copies of photos that you will inevitably end up using from scrapbooks and such.  If you don't have one, you may be able to ask around for friends or others that have one.  As a last resort, you can always use a Kinko's or the like, but this will probably add a bunch to the cost.
  3. Workspace
    • If you intend this to be a surprise (highly recommended) you will need some space where your mom's prying eyes won't see this.  In addition to having the computer working space, you will probably want a space where you can spread out and store photos.
  4. Cost
    • Overall, the main cost to do this is your time, if you already have a computer, scanner and DVD burner.  If you have to rent time on any of those, you may incur costs.
    • My main cost was a trip home I took secretly to scan in photos from my mom's scrapbooks while she was away one weekend.
  5. Co-Conspirators
    • I found it quite helpful to secretly recruit my dad and brothers to help me do this.  Their contributions were mainly in helping gathering photos and setting up the unveiling event.  In addition to helping you out, I found it was quite touching to my mom that her whole immediate family was part of putting it together.


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