YouTube for Dead Guys

By Tom McNichol, Business 2.0 Magazine senior writer

(Business 2.0 Magazine) -- Cremation may save on cemetery space, but it's bad news for the death industry. The average cremation costs about $1,500, compared with $7,000 for the typical cemetery burial. About 30 percent of Americans are selecting cremation over burial, and the figure is expected to rise above 50 percent by 2025. Plunging revenue is forcing the funeral business to think "outside the box."

Case in point: the Vidstone Serenity Panel. It's a solar-powered 7-inch LCD screen that can be attached to any upright or slanted gravesite monument and displays a customized seven- to 10-minute photo slide-show tribute to the deceased.

"When you look at a plain headstone, it doesn't tell you much about the person," says Sergio Aguirre, CEO of Vidstone, based in Aurora, Colo. "With these, you really get a sense of his whole history."

The panel retails for $1,999 and won an award as the "most innovative product" from the International Cemetery and Funeral Association. When the first Vidstone panels go live in December, here's what you can see at a cemetery near you.


The panel features a shatter-resistant cover to deter vandals. Sorry, no "lifetime" guarantee - the panel comes with a 15-year warranty. After that, Aguirre says, people will want to upgrade to a more modern video system.


The Serenity Panel is powered by solar cells, since most cemetery owners are loath to dig up their grounds to bring electricity to individual gravesites. It requires a daily minimum of four hours of sunlight to hold a charge.


Vidstone uses photo-editing software from FuneralOne, a St. Clair, Mich., funeral consultancy, to turn family pictures into a video tribute. Result: a slide show with Ken Burns-style motion effects and occupation-specific background themes, including ones for architects, hunters, engineers, and chess players.


A weatherproof headphone jack provides private listening if you don't want to wake up the neighbors. The audio track has instrumental music or the favorite tunes of the departed.


The video tribute is also available as a DVD for home viewing. Service Corporation International, a conglomeration of more than 1,000 funeral homes and 350 cemeteries, will have produced about 7,000 tribute DVDs by the end of 2006. Top of page

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