Uniting Families Around the World for a Final Tribute Really Is As Easy as Point and Click

February 22, 2010
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imageToday?s increasingly transient society is making it more difficult to bring family and friends together for scheduled events. And for unscheduled events, like the death of a relative or dear friend, it is often more difficult. Job commitments, travel considerations, finding sitters to watch small children and many other obstacles can make getting away to attend a funeral a logistical nightmare. There comes a point when a person realizes that despite their best efforts, it just isn?t going to happen.

However, even though families and friends spread out around the world, in some ways, the world is becoming smaller. Thanks to social networking sites, long-lost friends have now been found. And with video chat capabilities on the home computer, ?seeing? old friends is even easier. But for those events that are truly once in a lifetime, technology can get you there.

The technology has existed for some time now. Video conferencing has allowed executives to ?attend? meetings while still being able to tend to the home office. More recently, the technology has been used for some of life?s most solemn and poignant moments. As war raged on around the world, soldiers have been able to witness the services of a fallen comrade through an Internet connection at their base.

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More frequently the general public has been asking their funeral directors about webcasting in order to allow relatives and friends to share in a tribute for a deceased loved one, no matter where they are. Funeral homes too have been exploring this technology to accommodate these wishes.

The reason why many funeral directors have been reluctant to embrace webcasting is a kind of a phobia about it, which calls into question the reliability of the technology. After all, the last thing a funeral director wants to tell a family is that there has been technical difficulties beyond his or her control. There is also the fear that maybe the funeral director might feel webcasting may be a little advanced, which would require an IT person being retained on staff. Further, both the funeral director and the family need to be wary of the costs involved to pull off such an event.

These are all valid concerns and before my company decided to introduce our new webcasting solution, I made sure to address all of these concerns to win the confidence of both the family who wants this service and the funeral home that will provide it. The technology exists; it is just a matter of finding the right solution.

First, I researched a number of server companies to ensure optimal quality and reliability from virtually any point around the world. After all, once the service is started, keeping the video streaming is out of the funeral director?s hands. Tribute Center webcasting is built on a platform, or a backend technology, that will allow more than a million people to log on and view a service simultaneously. To accomplish this, it was important to align ourselves with the best technology that is out there and that is exactly what we did.

Let?s say that there are troops in Afghanistan or Iraq who want to watch a service back in the states. They will be able to log in, and since our streaming server company offers literally hundreds of servers spread across the globe, they will connect with the server closest to their location and receive the highest quality stream possible of the web cast.

Next, we specifically had the funeral home in mind. The Tribute Center software is the same software that allows a funeral home to create a DVD tribute video in the funeral home. But now in the same software program it has an application for webcasting so it is an integrated solution. The huge benefit for the funeral home is that it only has to know how to use one software program. If you can make a Tribute DVD you will be able to make a web cast with point and click. All you need to go live is a video camera, laptop computer and a tripod. And making sure you have access to the web from any location is as easy as calling your cell phone provider for wireless Internet service.

Before the service, the software will allow the funeral director to create a unique, personal video tribute for the family. Then, after they finish, the staff can prepare the service for the webcast. The hardest part of the preparation will be where to set up the camera and tripod to get the best vantage point of what will take place.

Later, whether the service is broadcast live and/or recorded, it can be burned onto one disc with the video tribute. It?s a convenient memento for the family, and it is easy for the funeral home to produce and run off as many additional copies as the family requests. If the family doesn?t choose a live webcast, the service can be recorded and uploaded later. There is always a substantial number of people who want to see the service live, but others will only be able to watch it when time permits. When the final version of the webcast is uploaded, it can be available online for viewing for 45 days at no extra charge. All the online traffic will go through the funeral home?s own web site and not to a secondary location.

I think a lot of funeral directors have shied away from offering webcasting for so long because they assume that it is harder than it really is, and because they never had anyone show them how to do it. Once they actually see how this works, they will be confident that they can take the camera, set it up at the funeral home or in church and hit record. When the service is over, hit stop. It is that easy.

Just as easy are some editing tools built into the software that allow you to create a more professional presentation. What if there is a delay before the start of the service? Any superfluous footage can easily be edited out. Or what if the family only wants to use just a portion of the whole webcast, that?s easy to do too. The software also allows for titles or captions to be added to the video. If they are moving location, if you start at the funeral home to do the visitation and you put the video on hold while you travel to the cemetery, you can insert slides with the funeral home?s logo that might say, ?The webcast will resume at 1 p.m., we are currently en route to the cemetery.? These tools are available so it will be just point and click for the user.

Finally, we look at the cost to do this. As I said, the funeral home does not have to invest in a lot of equipment since many probably already have what they need ? a video camera, tripod, laptop and connecting cable. Plus, we offer some convenient terms that are based on how well the program works within your community. If it is very popular, a funeral home might want to consider a monthly charge of $145 for unlimited usage. For those who would like to try it out, and see how popular it is within the community, we offer a pay-as-you-go rate of $40 per service. And there is never any contract, and the funeral home pays for only what they use.

The many funerals of celebrities that were broadcast in 2009 helped many in the general public grieve and heal. By offering webcasting to your families you give them the option to say goodbye to all the important people in their lives ? let everyone, both near and far, deal with his or her own grieving process and allow them to move toward healing.

Article By: Matt Frazer, President, Frazer Consultants

CDFuneralNews

ConnectingDirectors.com is the leading online daily publication for funeral professionals with a reader base of over 45,000 of the most elite and forward-thinking professionals in the profession. With ConnectingDirectors.com we have created a global community through an online platform allowing funeral professionals to Stay Current. Stay Informed and Stay Elite.
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