Working from her home on Brice Prairie, Linda O’Connell and her Take 5 Productions are preserving families’ memories by transferring audio and video recordings from old formats to new ones.
People bring or send boxes of old recordings – such as audio reel tapes, cassette tapes, 8 mm and Super 8 films, VHS and camcorder tapes – to O’Connell, who transfers them to newer formats such as compact discs, DVDs and MP4 files.
O’Connell also creates custom slide shows – an accumulation of pictures and/or video clips set to music to tell a story — for people to view at weddings, anniversaries, graduations and other events. And she makes website videos for businesses.
O’Connell also offers editing services to remove unwanted footage, as well as photo restoration services. And she scans slides or negatives onto picture CDs.
She also does on-camera interviews, to create a DVD with a family member or others telling their story.
Some other services include DVD and CD duplication, and editing wedding videos that others have taken, to create a wedding DVD. Before the wedding, O’Connell provides a “tips and tricks” sheet on how to take better wedding videos.
Sales have increased each year since O’Connell started the business in 2007 as a part-time enterprise. She turned it into a full-time business after being laid off in 2009 from her inside sales manager position at a local construction supplies company, where she had worked for 17 years.
“It actually worked out fairly well,” O’Connell said of being laid off because of a downturn in the construction industry. “I’m my own boss” at Take 5 Productions. “It’s a lot more flexible and I have a shorter commute. My two kids were still at home and I was able to spend more time with them.”
Her husband, Bruce O’Connell, is director of the library media center at Onalaska High School. They’re empty-nesters, now that their children, Jason, 25, and Melissa, 21, are adults and have left home.
Linda O’Connell was born and raised in Massachusetts. She received a bachelor’s degree in business from Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, Mass.
Her husband is a Minnesota native. They first met when he traveled to Massachusetts to be best man at her cousin’s wedding. The O’Connells married in 1989 and moved to the La Crosse area in 1991.
“I started this as kind of a hobby,” O’Connell said of her business.
She began editing O’Connell family movies and using snippets to make videos to give to other family members for Christmas and other occasions.
Then friends started asking her to make video slide shows for events such as birthdays and wedding anniversaries.
Later, O’Connell’s husband suggested she begin offering to transfer audio and video recordings to newer formats.
Today, transferring video recordings from an old format to a newer one — such as DVDs and MP4 files — accounts for most of O’Connell’s business.
Most of her customers range in age from 30s to 70s, and they’re evenly divided between men and women, O’Connell said. About 95 percent live in the 7 Rivers Region, she estimated.
“Sometimes it’s the grandkids or the sons and daughters that bring things in” to be transferred, O’Connell said. “A lot of times, the parents have passed away and the kids find things.” She can transfer a recording, or make a video slideshow, and provide a copy to each family member that wants one.
“People sometimes bring me boxes full of old pictures,” said O’Connell, who will use them to create a video slide show.
Because technology is always evolving, O’Connell joked, “I’ll always have a job, because they always change it.”
Even people with modern devices such as cellphones and iPads occasionally come to her for help. “Sometimes people fill up the memory and don’t know how to get the pictures off,” O’Connell said. She will do that, and put the photos on a DVD or MP4 file.
“It’s nice being able to help people preserve their memories,” O’Connell said of her business. “I get letters from people thanking me for what I’ve done for them. People get really emotional about their memories.”
O’Connell sometimes gets a bit emotional as well when she creates video slide shows — perhaps one for showing at a 90th birthday party, or at a wedding reception or a funeral.