Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Flashbox is the Solution”

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With 350 guests at their July 12 wedding, Katie and Steve Sperdute knew they wouldn’t get to talk to everyone. Mrs. Sperdute also didn’t look forward to being tailed by a videographer and putting her friends and family in the spotlight. Flashbox was their solution.
“I’ve been at weddings where camera people nag you to say something to the bride and groom. Flashbox was very neat,” the Harmony woman said.
Flashbox, a 5-foot-tall kiosk equipped with camera and microphone, recorded guests’ comments during cocktails on a balcony a Heinz Field, with the football field as a backdrop. After it was moved inside, the bride, groom, wedding party and guests stepped up to record more good wishes, memories, and a song or two throughout the evening.
As any wedding guest can testify, it’s hard to be clever or heartfelt when you’re suddenly thrust in front of a vid- eographer’s camera and microphone. That’s the beauty of Flashbox: Guests can plan what they want to say and do it whenever it’s convenient, even returning several times to add more if they want. Groups of up to 10 people can appear together, allowing song and dance number, skits, whatever.
And it’s not just for weddings. Event planner Natalie Berger, owner of Natalie’s, have recommended Flashbox for bar and bat mitzvahs, anniversaries, special birthday parties and other celebrations. “It’s like a guestbook that comes to life. Guests can do a little toast or roast,” she said. “Once they see some- body talking or singing a song, you get a crowd around it.”
Several months after the event, the hosts receive two copies of a 45-minute DVD containing all of the footage plus subtitles, graphics and soundtrack. The cost? About $1,500. If that seems high, consider that the average cost of a wed- ding in Pittsburgh was $21,463 in 2007. Wedding and event planner Bonnie Walker thinks it’s money well spent.
“It should be a staple at every wedding, just like floral arrangements or a photographer and videographer,” she said. “You can got up to it when you want. You can be as silly as you want, as emotional as you want, as romantic as you want.”
Flashbox is the brainchild of local broadcast executives and computer science graduates of Carnegie Mellon University. One of the chief engineers, Michael Mandel of Mt. Lebanon, had an early version of Flashbox at his wedding last year in Boston. Now living in Santa Monica, Calif. He and his wife, Laura, have e-mailed clips from the video or posted them on YouTube for friends. Flashbox now sets up a Web site where guests can download the entire video. Mrs. Sperdute said she and her husband love watching their wedding DVD and plan to e-mail a link to her brother and two sisters as soon as it’s available online. “All my sibling live out of town so that’s a nice option to have,” she said.

Ms. Berger had Flashbox at her daughter’s wedding and e-mailed a video link to out-of-town relatives who couldn’t make it. “My uncle said he felt like he was there,” she said.