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How to Make a Bar Mitzvah Video

Here’s an outtake from the video I created to celebrate our son’s bar mitzvah. I followed a process that prioritized keeping it simple. Here’s how I did that.

Over the years, I think I’ve recorded hundreds (thousands?) of little family video clips. So if you’re wondering, yes, of course I created a video to celebrate our son’s bar mitzvah.

It was a highlights reel of sorts, containing some of his greatest hits to date… at least the ones that I happened to capture on video.

Fortunately, I’ve been diligent over these past thirteen years to label each of my family video clips and organize them into folders by month and year. (That’s a lot of folders!)

Over time, I’ve also created a variety of little ‘finished’ family videos that reflected different moments in our family’s story (birthday parties, vacation trips). These particular videos were especially useful to identify the clips I needed for the bar mitzvah video.

Not a Documentary
So years of good digital organization set me up nicely to begin my project. (I’ve got all of my video files stored in an external G-RAID drive.)

But really, any way I looked at my task, it was still absolutely overwhelming. (And I wasn’t even considering using any photos.)

So instead of trying to accomplish the impossible and somehow jam in every perfect clip to tell the ‘total’ story, I decided instead to enjoy my trip into the past and simply use what I uncovered in my digital archives over the course of several hours during three separate research sessions.

Capture the Spirit
Sure, there were a few video moments that I had specifically remembered and searched for. (My wife also had a few clip requests.) But for the most part, my process of rediscovery organically led me to the clips I used. If I had repeated my exercise the following month, I could have easily collected an entirely different grouping of clips that were just as delightful.

I realized as I went along that the video would mostly reflect these three factors:

  • Our son’s growth across the years
  • His family and friends
  • Some fun moments

It would never be a complete reflection on his life to date. And that was fine.

Keep a Simple Structure
This understanding freed me to focus on creating a video that was simply enjoyable to watch. And it was ‘relatively’ simple to make.

It ran seven and a half minutes. Each clip was 10 to 15 seconds long. And I organized them chronologically (using Final Cut Pro on my iMac) with a date stamp graphic in the bottom of the frame. I think the dates were useful to show the passage of time. I used a couple of his favorite pieces of music to support sections that were more visually oriented. And I popped in a title at the top and a ‘congratulations’ graphic at the back.

Finally, my wife and I recorded a short video message to our son that I included towards the end of the video.

Make a Few Drafts
That was it. I made three drafts before locking the final cut.

The first draft was a just a long string of clips in the right order. The second draft was a shorter version. (Everything can’t make it in. Always remember that less is more.) The third draft added a few more clips that my wife had remembered. (Don’t forget to collaborate!) And the final cut was where I polished it all up.

There are any number of ways to make a bar mitzvah video. This was the path I took.

A Video for the Past and the Future
We showed my finished video to our son, and I think he enjoyed it. He did smile a few times. To be fair, I can understand how he may not be as excited to see his toddler clips as we were. (My wife and I were delighted with the trip down memory lane.)

But beyond celebrating an important milestone for our son, I also see this video as a piece of family history that reflects our son’s first thirteen years. And I hope it’s something he can return to years into the future and enjoy.

My wife and I certainly will!

How to Quickly Turn a Scanned Negative into a Positive Image on a Mac

If you think a 90-year-old negative is a lost cause, think again. Here’s how to bring it back to life.

Sure, photo negatives aren’t cool anymore. They represent 19th century technology. Most of us aren’t housing a roll of Kodachrome in our camera bags these days. I get it.

But there’s well over a century of family history locked away in millions of shoe boxes in the back of closets… all in those negative strips. There should be a way to rescue them.

There should be an easy way to rescue them and quickly bring the negative images back to life into positive form.

I’ve been traveling that complex journey for the past months since I’ve taken ownership of all of my family’s photo archives (shoe boxes) after my father passed away.

Digital Conversion
So, I bought a slide and negative converter to handle the bulk of the work.

It’s fast. It’s a one-click solution. The results are mostly solid.

But the Wolverine couldn’t capture the full real estate of the larger negatives dating back to the 1930s (2 ½” x 3 ¾”).

I turned to my old flatbed scanner to handle the large negatives. But then I needed a way (an easy way!) to transform each negative into its positive doppelganger.

Adobe Solutions
There are any number of tutorials on YouTube that demonstrate how to do that in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, and they all promote the concept of how easy and fun it is.

‘Fun’ is code for it’s not really that quick. Sure, it may be relatively easy, but it still requires about five minutes of fiddling to bring the image to life in the positive universe.

A few minutes may not seem like a lot of time, but fiddling is not a precise exercise, and five minutes can easily turn into fifteen.

Apple Photos (OS X):
As a Mac user, I wanted to see if I could find a native solution without having to rely on the muscle of Adobe. The good news is I found a couple good options.

If you already use the Apple Photos app on your Mac, you can do the conversion right there. It’s not quite one click. But it’s straight forward. Let’s give it a shot using a negative of my grandmother Rae from 1935 with my father and uncle. (My dad is the tiny one!)

  • Upload your negative into Apple Photos.
  • Select it.
  • Click on ‘Edit.’

Select the ‘Curves’ drop down.
You’ll see a histogram of the photo with a straight white line positioned diagonally from bottom left to top right.

To invert the negative image to its positive version:
Click on the bottom left of the line and drag it all the way to the top left. Then click on the top right of the line and drag it to the bottom right.

Voilà! Your negative image is now inverted and displays in positive form.

Then, you can continue to tweak the image from there as you choose. (And that’s where you can go down the rabbit hole of tweaking.)

Using Apple Photos to perform this trick is actually quite similar to Adobe Lightroom’s interface.

Preview App
You can also use Apple’s ‘Preview’ app to bring your negatives back to the positive universe.

It’s a near-identical exercise:

  • Select ‘Tools.’
  • Then ‘Adjust Color.’

Can You Invert a Negative Image in One Click?
Okay. None of these options are one-click solutions. So, Is there one? I figured any number of online photo management websites must have a negative-reversal filter built in.

I checked out Shutterfly, Google Photos, Amazon Photos and Canva.


Yes, there are apps out there that promote the ability to reverse a negative in one click. But after giving it some more thought, I just didn’t want to add yet another piece of software into my workflow.

So, I canceled my adventure down this particular rabbit hole. Enduring a few clicks to turn a negative into a positive image will suffice.

Diagonal-Line Maneuver
The truth is I already do most of my photo management work in Adobe Lightroom. The diagonal-line maneuver in the Tone Curve section works just fine (just like with Apple’s ‘Photos’ and ‘Preview’ apps).

The good news is there’s a choice on the software to use if you don’t want to take the Adobe path.

And now I need to get back to work on my time machine. There’s still almost a century of negatives to go through.

I’m bringing the past back to life, one image at a time.

I’d say maybe that’s worth the five minutes.

“For All Mankind” Needs these Course Corrections

Here is my review for the first 3 seasons of this alternate reality TV series that chronicles the space race from the 1960s to the 1990s.

I originally checked out “For All Mankind” when it premiered on Apple TV+ back in 2019. And while I understood the premise that this was an alternate reality where the Russians landed on the Moon first, I expected some type of explanation as to how this reality evolved or was created. That never comes. (Yes, I admit I’m heavily influenced by the whole MCU multiverse.)

And while it’s interesting to watch how this timeline continues to branch out, it’s really just background.

And as I watched the first episode, I couldn’t help but feel how slowly it moved. The plot kept focusing on the family lives of the characters instead of the space program.

And then it finally hit me. Oh, that’s what this show is really about. It’s a character-driven drama about the astronauts and ground support engineers who work for NASA… in an alternate timeline.

It’s fiction. But not really science fiction as we might traditionally expect.

This Alternate Timeline Moves Slowly
“For All Mankind” is created by Ronald D. Moore, who is royalty in science fiction television. He executive produced the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” and was a writer and significant influence on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

The premise of an ongoing space race opens up so much possibility. It’s a great idea. But it’s not the engine that fuels much of the drama in this series.

The show takes its time, and you’ve got to be willing to go along for the ride with a whole host of characters, some more interesting than others.

The payoff wasn’t there for me. So, I quickly gave up on “For All Mankind” after the first couple of episodes.

A Second Chance
Fast forward a few years (as the show likes to do between its seasons). Some friends told me how much they enjoy “For All Mankind.” When I told them how I couldn’t reach orbit with the show, they told me that it gets better after season 1, and that season 3 was really good.

So I tried again.

Yes, season 1 was a slog with so much emotion to get through, but the series does get better. So I decided to strap myself in and get through all three seasons that have been released to date. And I’m happy to report that I’ve accomplished my mission.

And I’ve got a few thoughts to share (with some minor spoilers)…

A Rerun of our Past
“For All Mankind” is really ambitious, especially as it jumps from decade to decade. And in doing so, it leaves inevitable holes in its storytelling.

It tackles many of the major societal social struggles of the past half century. You’ve got to give it credit for its reach. But at the same time, this narratively forces the show to focus backwards on our actual past instead of forwards towards an alternate future from our past. (Got that?)

Science fiction stories often bake big social themes of the day into the storytelling. It’s simply more front and center here. But while the series does rewrite some pieces of history and has fun with an alternate set of presidents, the world is still fundamentally the same. This reality hasn’t branched out that much.

At its core, “For All Mankind” is simply a drama. Or maybe a historical narrative from an alternate timeline. Again, it’s not science fiction as you might expect.

That said, I do appreciate it when the writers throw a few bones to sci-fi fans with references to “Star Trek” and “Space: 1999.”

Lots of Secrets
The storytelling structure is unusual in that there really aren’t any ‘bad guys’… just a lot of grays in many of the characters. Yes, there are a few episodes on the moon when the Russians aren’t at their finest, but they have reason to be upset at the Americans.

It’s often difficult to create narrative tension where you don’t have a villain. And the writers do a pretty good job working around that by making sure just about all of the characters we care about have a secret that has the potential to destroy their lives.

Houston, We Have a Problem
While the heart of “For All Mankind” is focused on relationships at home on planet Earth, the best parts are indeed off planet and where the show comes closest to an action/adventure series. In many ways, the series finds a better balance as it sets its sights on the mission to Mars in season 3.

But as much as the show finally finds its groove in the 1990s, the writers continue to inject instability by (spoiler alert) killing off major characters across the seasons.

Is that supposed to make me feel that anything is possible in this show? I suppose. But I don’t feel all warm and fuzzy about a series that keeps killing my favorite characters.

And some of the ways our astronauts act are a little far-fetched. (Do they really disobey orders as a norm in this reality?) Then, I have to remind myself that this is not real… it’s still fiction. But does that make it okay?

And (spoiler alert) after the explosive ending to season 3, what’s really left that I might want to care about? A problem for the writers… to be sure.

Don’t Exhaust the Viewers
So yes, I’ve now watched all three seasons. And clearly I’ve got some issues with “For All Mankind.” Is there a reason to keep watching into season 4 when it comes out?

Well, that final reveal into 2003 at the end of the last episode that previews season 4 is certainly enough to peak anyone’s interest.

Here’s one suggestion for the writers…

Reality is tough. I know every story doesn’t get a happy ending. And this alternate reality seems intent on maintaining a healthy dose of this cruel truth. But that can feel exhausting.

I think it’s time for a little more healing, thank you very much.

Find the Right Balance in this Timeline
“For All Mankind” is bold. There’s nothing else like it as it jumps from decade to decade with many of the same characters. And each season improves on the last. But it takes a commitment get through.

The show has teased going to Jupiter after Mars. I’d like to still be there if that happens. But I’d appreciate a few more thrills and a few less tears along the way.

Mr. Moore, I’d prefer this journey across space and time to just be a little more fun.

Make it so?

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