With A Song In My Heart

I used to think that my company produces the best emotionally charged gifts available. I still do. And if you want to give your family a present that will live long into the future, there’s nothing like giving them a gift containing the memories of the past. That’s what we do at Home Video Studio.

But, the next best thing would be to take the emotions of your heart and set them to music. And that is exactly what songfinch.com does. Once you answer a few questions and provide a couple of details, they will produce a professionally mixed original song specifically for you that will melt the heart of your significant other. I should know… I had one produced for my lovely wife for her birthday. And outside of the videos that I produce, it was the best gift I ever gave.

It was a random Facebook ad I responded to so I realized that it was a roll of the dice that could have gone badly south. But songfinch.com exceeded my every expectation and allowed me to give my wife an experience she will never forget.  Fortunately, I had my phone out and was able to record her reaction the first time she heard it.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

I Have a Short Snorter

I have discovered, among my father’s possessions, that I have inherited his short snorter. A short snorter is a single bill, or multiple bills that have been taped together and that, upon examination, are found to be covered with signatures.  It is a custom that apparently originated from or was popularized by Alaskan bush pilots and was eventually adopted by WWII aviators. 

As the custom goes, an airman passes around a banknote and asks those he is with to sign it. Then, if they should ever meet again and he is asked to produce the short snorter with the requestor’s signature and fails to do so, he must buy that person a drink (or snort). 

There are many of these around, some of them containing famous names. Marlene Dietrich collected one that contained 83 bills and over 1,000 high profile names including Ernest Hemingway, Irving Berlin and George S. Patton. My father, serving in the 8th Army Air Corps (448th BG), seemed most interested in collecting foreign currency as his short snorter consists of 14 bills taped together from a number of different countries: Portugese escudos, English shillings, French francs, German marks, Canadian dollars, Cuban pesos, and of course the US dollar bill. Each of them containing signatures of people unfamiliar to me but who, at one time, apparently played an important part of my father’s WWII history.

I can’t help but thinking that each one of these bills told a story to my father. I imagine he could not only remember each person whose signatures he obtained but the circumstances in which he collected them. (And I’m definitely sure he’d remember whether he ever had to pay out for leaving his short snorter behind in the barracks.)

But his short snorter is mine now. And if Lenny Burns, Arthur Bach, Eddie “Mulla Bone” Redlan, or any of the other dozen names from 1945 displayed on it should ever ask me to produce it, I’ll be ready.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

And Devil Makes Three

I love it when people bring in family treasures that they’ve inherited or found but have no idea what memories may be contained within them. It is a mystery that I can help to solve. Today, a woman brought in boxes from her home that contained reels of film, carousels of slides and envelopes of photographs. And tucked away in the bottom of one of the boxes were two 45rpm records  containing recorded messages along with a written letter that came from a soldier stationed in Germany in the early 1950s.

I’ve yet to transfer the audio but I glanced at the letters from 1952 that the soldier wrote home describing life in post war Germany. He was excited because Gene Kelly was in the area making a film and some of the Americans stationed there were going to be tapped to be extras in his movie.

Upon investigating, it would appear that the film in question was “The Devil Makes Three” which was made in 1952 on location in Germany and starred Gene Kelly and Italian actress Pier Angeli. The film was about a man who returns to Germany after the war to track down the German family who protected him when his plane was shot down. While there he uncovers a neo-Nazi group still operating in the shadows.

I don’t know if the writer of the letter ever appeared in the film. All I know is that he was excited that he might be among those chosen. I did find out why Gene Kelly was appearing in a film shot on location in post-war Germany.  It turns out that in 1951 the US Congress passed a law that allowed a significant tax break to any Americans who lived abroad for 18 months or longer. During that time those ex-pats would not have to report any earnings they received while out of the country.

Kelly was one of the first Hollywood stars to take advantage of this new law. The Devil Makes Three was the first of three films Kelly made overseas during this time. While some believed Kelly’s move was purely financially based, others thought that Kelly moved to get away from the McCarthyism running amok in the US at the time because his wife, Betsy Blair, was known to outwardly support several left-wing Communist causes and he felt he could protect his family better outside of the country.

While his film was not received warmly upon its release it has endured largely because it provides a real time perspective of post war Germany. Its final scenes were even shot in Hitler’s retreat at Berchtesgaden before it was demolished in 1953. 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Promos Are Us

July 31, 2020

The video that won for best Company Promo during the recent 2020 Hanley Awards was a web commercial we did for a local businessman to introduce his teaching series for individuals looking for a fast track to a career for themselves.

Jeffrey Chilton has developed a technique and the methods that can be applied by anyone to gain the skills, knowledge and expertise to become proficient in the window washing field and compete for business at a professional level. He has given his permission to allow me to post his video on our site as an example of the work we can produce.

Invertatex, Best Company Promo, 2020 Hanley Awards

The other award we received was for Best Studio Promo. Similar to the Company Promo award, the Studio Promo was a commercial we did in-house to promote one of our many quality services. In this instance, it was for our Life Stories service where we help individuals leave a personal legacy or history behind by recording them telling the story of their lives.  Highly emotional and hugely important, it is something of a passion for us. It is a passion I hope comes across in the video.

Tell Your Story, Best Studio Promo, 2020 Hanley Awards

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

AWARDS SEASON

July 19,2020

As some of you might be aware, July marks the time of the annual Home Video Studio “Getaway” conference. This would have been the 20th time all HVS owners around the globe travelled to meet, greet, and yes, compete for valuable prizes and bragging rights. Well, the odd events of 2020 kind of put the kibosh on our festivities. We will not be meeting or greeting in the face of the pandemic. But we will always be a competitive bunch.

While our “getaway” has been cancelled, our awards ceremony will continue on… virtually.  The many talented studios who comprise the Home Video Studio family have submitted their projects, of which they are rightfully proud, for consideration in close to 20 different categories. Plus there are a few honorific awards that are passed out every year as well.

We will safely attending from home via a streaming event where nominations will be announced (Friday, July 24) followed by the announcement of the winners in each category (Saturday, July 25). We may even put on formal wear for the occasion… at least from the waist up.

Looking back over the years, we have certainly been blessed in the awards department:

2015: Rookie of the Year; Best Rookie Video

2016: Hanley Marketing Award

2017: Best Company Promo; Dr. Strangelove Award; Best Memorial Video; Best Backlot Video; Social Media Award

2018: Best Studio Promo; Best Editing; Best Memorial Video; Social Media Award; Studio Owner of the Year

2019: Best Photo Keepsake; Best Documentary; Dr. Strangelove Award

We’ll be hearing of the award announcements for 2020 on Saturday and will post the results. Until then, here’s a quick look back at some of our successes.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 3520735-8550 or visit our website.

The Important Memories

I like to think that in my job, like everyone else, I have my good days and my bad days. The difference perhaps is that my good days are really, really good. And it is all because of the people I get to meet and the stories I have an opportunity to hear.

Today, in my studio, I had the pleasure to meet a gentleman in his 80s who had a number of film reels and videotapes he wanted transferred to a digital form. As we were talking, he disclosed that before he retired, he made his living as a professional cameraman. I’m talking high level… He worked on The Fugitive with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, Edward Scissorhands with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, The Untouchables with Sean Connery and Kevin Costner, and many others.

The stories he told… the behind-the-scenes look he provided… fascinated me and, I have to admit, I kept encouraging him to tell me more. He provided me with inside stories about how Hollywood movies are made, what the stars were like, how the unions operated, and what life as a camera technician in those days was like. He also shared professional tips on how to get the shot that was needed… and it wasn’t always a method that was taught in film schools.

But the real reason he came to see me was not to tell me stories or relive his past glory days. It was because his granddaughter had asked him a simple question: “Grandpa, what was my mommy like when she was my age?” And he suddenly realized that he had all this old family footage on 8mm film and videotape that his grandkids had never seen. So he brought it to me to have me turn it into a digital form that could be played on today’s equipment.

He didn’t want to show off his Hollywood credentials, as impressive as they are. He just wanted to share the personal films he took of his family with his family members who had never seen them. I was thrilled to meet and speak with him. But I am more thrilled to be able to help him deliver to his family the memories he most wants to share. And I feel that way about every client who walks through my door. No matter what they did (or do) for a living. I am always happy to hear your stories, but I am happier to be a conduit for you to be able to share them with those you love.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Voices of Yesteryear

June 11, 2020

Three vinyl records came into my studio the other day. These weren’t the commercially made rock or pop albums most of us grew up with. These were homemade disks recorded at 78 rpm that were made over 75 years ago. I know this because it was written on the label.

In the 1940s, there were dozens of “Voice-O-Graph” machines sprinkled up and down the Coney Island boardwalk. They looked like telephone booths and by inserting 25 cents, you could actually record your voice and have it scratched into the grooves of your own personal record for all of posterity.

The three records I received and transferred to digital audio files for their preservation had my client’s father crooning familiar standards and pop favorites in the style of Bing Crosby. What a wonderful treasure for the family to have. Sure, there are scratches and pops throughout the recording but that only adds to the charm of being able to hear voices from the past, recorded as they lived through what for them was their present. All three records were dated June, 1944… shortly after the D-Day invasion. The songs were upbeat, filled with hope and promise, with just a tinge of melancholy. I’d say it was a perfect capsulation of the mood of that time. I am honored to have been a part of preserving this personally impactful and historic moment.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Cover Fire

George-Floyd-Live-Updates-Officials-Brace-for-Fifth-Night-of-800x445

2020 has to be the weirdest year ever. As one TV pundit put it, “It’s like we’re living through the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the 1929 Great Depression, and the 1968 social unrest… all at the same time.”

Yesterday, in our quaint little community of Mount Dora, we were placed under curfew in response to the rioting taking place across the country. The word curfew is of French origin, derived from an Old French phrase “couvre-feu” which literally means “cover fire.” It was in reference to a 11th century law enacted by William the Conqueror which instructed people to cover or put out lights and fires at 8pm to help prevent the threat of spreading flames within and between the wooden buildings of their communities.

The flames that are currently burning in the hearts of so many; flames that are resulting in the wanton destruction of property and the putting of innocents in harms way – it is hard to imagine they would ever spread to my little town but I suppose stranger things have happened.

I understand the anger and the distrust so many feel. I don’t understand the violence and destruction taking place. I simply don’t see how that helps anybody’s case. True change, if that’s what people are seeking, will never come from external forces or pressure. It can only start from within. We must change ourselves first. Change the way we act; change the way we react; change the way we view people. We look in the mirror and make the deliberate choice to become the person we want others to be. If enough of us do that and, by leading from example, encourage others to follow, perhaps we’d be on the way to building a world that doesn’t provide us with so many cringe-worthy or heartbreaking moments.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

You Say Football, I Call It Soccer

englishgame

As we continue our semi-isolation, we are ever vigilant for some new, engaging television shows on which to binge.  My wife and I just recently finished the six episode mini-series from Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. It’s called The English Game and it is currently streaming on Netflix.  It is an excellent depiction of the early years of the game the English call football. For some reason we, in the United States, call it soccer.

Based very loosely on historical events, the series follows the lives of its two main characters: Arthur Kinnard, an upper class gentleman and founding member of the Football Association (FA) which sought to provide rules and structure to a fledgling sport; and Fergus Suter, a working-class man who made his living as a stone mason who dared dream of a life playing the game he grew to love. These two individuals, who actually existed, did more than most to build the game of football/soccer into a global obsession.

Excellent character development, interesting historical elements, and dramatic pacing and flow make this a must-see show for those of us starved for entertainment diversions.  I heartily recommend it.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Memorial Day

memorialdaypic

In observance of Memorial Day, we’re taking a few days off to reflect upon those who served and those we’ve lost.  We’ll be back in the studio on Tuesday. Until then, here’s a repost of a blog from last year about some of the military men in my family:

From left to right:

My father, Edward J. Ondrasik, who, with the Eighth Air Force, flew 24 missions over Germany as a bombardier during WWII. We learned afterwards that he flew each of those 24 missions without a parachute as he could not fit into the bombardier compartment with it on. He died in 2009.

My uncle, Charles C. Parish, served as Lt. Commander in the US Navy. Was a pilot of a #2 F-4J (Phantom) during the Vietnam War. He was shot down over North Vietnam and declared Missing in Action in 1968. His status was changed to Killed in Action in 1973. His name is among the tens of thousands engraved on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC.

My maternal grandfather, Herman O. Parish, who, as captain and commanding officer received the Navy Cross and the Legion of Merit for services rendered during WWII. He retired as a US Navy Rear Admiral. He died in 1989.

We honor their memory and thank them for their service and sacrifice. As we do all who have given service to our country.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.