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Behind the Scenes (BTS) - July 4th Video

Also known as "Excuse us while we iron out a few technical difficulties!"

Note: The reason there is a cat meme is that Facebook wouldn't let me link to the blog post if the video was the first "image". Yep, add that to the list of tiny technical issues we have had.


Here is our finished video in case you haven't had a chance to see it yet.

It turned out so much better than we had hoped for! It wouldn't be the video it is without every one of the participants. It reflected the population in Monmouth County in a way that is not often celebrated or shown.


So why did we do a video this year? Well, because of COVID-19, we could not do our traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence at the historic Allen House this year. So how could we bring the community of Monmouth County together to read this document that set us on the course of independence from King George III and the traditional monarchical type of government?


As many others, the staff at MCHA are working from home, participating in Zoom meetings and Google video calls for face-to-face meetings and brainstorm on new ways to stay connected with our audience. The audience wants to hear from us because they are stuck home just like us! Our librarian has found some great nuggets in our collection which she has shared with you. Humpty Dumpty, anyone?


And just like many of you, we have experienced the technical difficulties of relying on video calls. The first 10 minutes are the most difficult. "Doug, I can't hear you - you're muted!", "Awwww! Your co-worker is sooooo cute!", perhaps "Tamara, can you please move the camera angle up a bit?", a few "MOOOOOOOM! Johnny breathed on me again!", and the ever grateful "Thank you for putting on pants today, Steve."


Yes, the new co-workers......................the sleeping on the job security guards who spill snacks everywhere, the judgmental looks from HR if lunch is late, and the ones who don't contribute to the meetings, but just sit and stare at you.


About two weeks before July 4th, it was apparent that the social distancing situation wasn't going to change and the country was in turmoil. We thought "what about a video?" But it would be too long for one person to read the Declaration of Independence and how could we get so many to read the numerous paragraphs AND show the diversity of the wonderful people in our county? D'oh! Zoom meetings! It just fit. It captured the spirit of our traditional program and incorporated the virtual living situation that we are currently in. We proposed the idea to our board and they loved it! Now the work begins!!


With 10 days to go, we quickly reached out to so many in our community - contributors to our Digital Diversity project, black, white, exhibition contributors, young, old, religious leaders, highly educated professors, traditional dance troupes, families, individuals, and naturalized citizens were among those asked to participate. The requests were met with enthusiastic YESes and the response was overwhelmingly wonderful! They all wanted to participate.


Scheduling all the Zoom meetings and recording them were a monumental task of organization - yes, the only way to do it was a spreadsheet with who read what paragraph. Besides their given paragraph, we asked the participants to also read the final paragraph. That one is traditionally read by the whole audience. What fun it was to meet all these participants in "person"! Their enthusiasm was incredible and heartwarming.


With all the videos in hand, it was time to put them all together. One of our volunteers who knew a tiny bit about video editing now knows a LOT more! He offered to put the videos together. Okay, he is my husband and I bribed him with cookies to help. He came up with a template and as I collected the videos, he placed them in the video. After stringing the videos together, the completed video must be rendered, which can take time. He completed the first part of the video except for the reading of the last paragraph - this 12 minute video took about 45 minutes to render, which isn't surprising.


Next up was the final paragraph. What do we do with it all? He took the videos and starting adding them in one at a time, starting with the Shrewsbury mayor. The first few times, we laughed until crying because everyone is speaking at different speeds and emphasized different words! It was quite hysterical! He started taking the audios with the people who were reading at about the same speed and raised their sound up a bit. The ones who were slower had their sound set a bit quieter. He had to improvise with the participants who weren't able to read the final paragraph and their original videos are used but slowed waaaaay down. Look closely at the end of the video.


That final minute and a half took over 45 minutes to render on a very good computer, but a new better computer is needed because the processor and hard drive were cranking away!


My husband: Okay, I'm rendering now.

............waiting patiently for the 45 minutes to go by...................

Me: There's a typo on the third video's title.

My husband: .........................re-rendering.............

...........waiting for the 45 minutes to go by.....................

Me: Did you mean to leave this placeholder in?

My husband: .............................re-RENDERING.................

Me: I'm going to go shopping now.............


Here's a screenshot of what he was working with in that final paragraph.

Once the final paragraph video was added to the rest of the videos, it was ready to be loaded on our website and on Facebook. The files loaded perfectly on the first shot and posts were scheduled. Saturday, July 4th, 10am came along and the video showed up without a hitch!


The video reached over 5,500 Facebook members with over 25 shares! We couldn't have asked for a better response.


For all the little quirks and rush to get the video done, it was a blast meeting all these participants, learning about them and why America is their naturalized home, and seeing the video in its completion.


56 signers.

31 paragraphs.

17 days.

5 signers from NJ.

1 document.


July 4th's video:

0 professional actors.

0 professional videographers.

1 14 minute video.


Just the lovely citizens of Monmouth County.


They created this video.


They really did. Thank you.




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Old Tennent Church by Alessandro Mario,

oil on canvas, 1856.

Painting from

MCHA collection

70 Court Street

Freehold NJ 07728

732 - 462 -1466

© 2020 by MCHA

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Monmouth County Historical Association received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.