Live Long and Prosper


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Michael is still at the Advanced Training Seminar for Home Video Studio owners but is continuing to blog from the field on a daily basis. Subscribe to the blog to have it delivered directly to your email.

Yesterday, at our conference, we held our traditional movie/pizza night where studio owners around the world were invited to bring and show a small segment of a video project that they have either worked on recently or are currently working on. It is always a fun event showcasing the degree of talent and creativity that exists within our franchise family.

For my part, I decided to bring a short, personal clip that I used to open a 90th birthday video for my mother-in-law. The family had decided that, as a birthday gift, each member should film a short selfie video telling a small story or recollection that would help celebrate the fun times shared over the years. I assembled the clips, and then added some photos and music to make a special 30 minute video presentation. We presented the movie at a family gathering, gave it as a gift to the birthday girl and she has watched it many times since. It makes her cry each time… happy tears.

The clips ranged from sentimental to funny and came from far and wide as our family is spread across the globe. I received video segments filmed from the deck of a Coast Guard cutter destined for Antarctica, from a desert in Arizona, from the beaches of Hawaii, from the hills of Tennessee and in my case, from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, the familiar setting of her favorite TV show.

As I often say, if you don’t know what to get for the person who has everything, you can never go wrong with a video of memories shared. And because each keepsake we produce is different – specifically tailored for the person to whom it is given – it can never be duplicated; it always delivers an emotional impact; and it will be treasured forever.

For the curious, here’s the clip I made for my mother-in-law that I showed my fellow studio owners last night:

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories (and in the creation of new ones). For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

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Away From Home Still Feels Like Home

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Michael Ondrasik is attending an annual training seminar and will return to the studio on March 5th. While away, he will continue to post blogs from the field. Subscribe to the blog to have them delivered directly to your email.

One of the best things about conventions are the people who attend them with you. Sure, there are guest speakers, and educational tracts to take but the real learning and benefit in attending is in the associations you form with people who are doing the same thing you are doing.

Home Video Studio is a quarter century old and has studio locations scattered across the United States, Canada, and Europe. Each studio is independently owned and operated by a studio owner and twice a year we gather to learn more about our industry, share insights and observations about what we do and the problems we encounter with the aim of helping each other solve those problems to make ourselves better suited to serve the needs of our customers.

Tonight, I dined with studio owners from the states of Minnesota, Ohio, Washington, Alaska, Colorado, North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, and California. The food was good; the company was better. I remember my first year as being a studio owner (a year culminated by being named “Rookie of the Year”). I said it then and I will repeat it now, the people drawn to this business are so passionate about what they do that they decide to make the financial commitment required to open a studio. They are among the most likable, genuine and personable people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.

If you ever have the need for the services offered by this franchise, (videotape transfers, film transfers, photo/video keepsakes, 35mm slide transfers, audio transfers, memorial videos, sports scholarship videos, life stories, and more) you can rest assured that you are in good hands. You need not look any further for you won’t find any better.  That, of course, is only my opinion – but it is an informed opinion that caused me to want to join their ranks. You see, preserving your family’s memories is not just a job to us… it is a calling – and an honor.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

23 and Grok

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Michael Ondrasik is attending the annual Home Video Studio Advanced Training sessions. The studio will be closed until Mar 5th. However he is posting his daily blogs from the field.

While I await the arrival of other Home Video Studio owners from across the country, something unexpected also arrived. I received my results from the 23 and Me DNA testing kit.

Yes, my wife gifted me with the DNA service last Christmas. I dutifully spit into the tube, sent it to the lab and we have been waiting to hear back. And today I did.

My wife will be pleased to know that I am 100% European. I am a combination of Northwestern European (British/Irish) and Eastern European (Poland/Hungary/Czech), with a smattering of Southern European (Iberian/Balkan peninsulas) thrown into the mix.

She’ll also be happy to know that I did not test positive for any of the variants associated with some of the scarier diseases facing mankind. (Offering up a prayer of thanks to my ancestors for their contributions to this element of my DNA).

I’m not sure however how she’s going to react to this next piece of rather surprising news. I have been informed that my DNA contains 288 variants belonging to Neanderthals. That is a number higher than 67% of the 23 and me customer base.

What does that mean, you may ask? Don’t ask me, I’m part Neanderthal.  How would I know? Fortunately, I have evolved enough to learn how to Google. Here are 10 possible Neanderthal traits I may have “inherited.”

  1. Elongated skull.
  2. Space behind the wisdom teeth.
  3. Broad, projecting nose (thanks a lot!)
  4. Little or no protruding chin. (again, thanks!)
  5. Rosy cheeks
  6. Wide fingers and thumbs
  7. Straight, thick hair
  8. Insulating skin
  9. Fair skin and freckles
  10. Red hair.

And according to my 23 and Me report, at least one of the 288 Neanderthal variants found in my DNA is associated with height. I’m 6’ 3”.

So what does all this mean?  Well, for one thing, when my wife tries to scold me for leaving a dirty dish in the sink by saying, “We’re not animals!” I can smile back and think to myself, “Maybe you aren’t…”

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Flying the Friendly Skies

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I’m flying to Indiana today – on my way to an Advanced Training Seminar for Home Video media specialists – and I’ve been racking my brain to remember my first plane ride. You’d think it would be a memorable event, no?

I’ve gone through my grade school days and I can’t remember being on a flight as a child. But in all fairness, my dad was a bombardier in WWII with 23 wartime missions over Germany. Perhaps he felt that was enough flying for anyone so he decided to drive his family everywhere we went. I can’t say that I blame him.

I was thinking perhaps maybe my first plane ride occurred during my college years. I do remember navigating myself to the Pittsburgh bus terminal in order to catch a bus ride home to Maryland for the holidays (not necessarily an experience I would choose to revisit) but I simply cannot recall ever taking to the air. Perhaps I couldn’t afford the plane ticket as an impoverished college kid.

Through process of elimination, I guess my first plane ride took place shortly after college when I was hired by World Courier Inc for their DC branch operation. They were based in New York and I remember flying up from DC to NYC to take a tour of their headquarters. I was instructed to board the Eastern Airlines shuttle which flew from Washington National Airport to LaGuardia Airport every hour. It was the closest the airline industry ever came to having a subway-type service.  It would have seemed appropriate to have handrails with leather straps for people who needed to stand in the aisle.

I also remember being extremely grateful when Dulles International Airport opened in the DC market. Flights from Washington National, upon takeoff or landing, needed to bank rather sharply to line up with the runway while avoiding structures. The first time I departed Dulles, which was constructed in the then sparsely populated area of Northern Virginia, I was delighted with a slow, smooth gradual incline into the skies. I never wanted to fly out of Washington National again.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Edjumacation – Time for Some Larnin’

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Our studio will be closed from February 26 through March 4. We are closing so that we may attend our annual Advanced Training series of classes.

Learning is a life-long exercise. It is important to stretch one’s self – to continue to grow. When we stop learning, we kind of stop living. It is why we close our doors twice a year to participate in these annual training seminars. It is when we, along with other industry professionals, learn the new tools and techniques of our trade. It enables us to continue to be able to offer you the finest in media services.

I have had both good and bad experiences with teachers over the years. The bad ones tend to fade from memory.  The good ones always stay with you.

There was Miss Mueller, my first grade teacher. She was young, pretty and a great introduction to the world of public schooling. She was also probably my first teacher crush. She wouldn’t be the last. Young boys are fickle like that.

I remember Bonnie Fox, my ninth grade English teacher, who allowed me to explore my love for words and writing as a form of personal expression. She never could get me to “get” Shakespeare but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Then there was Dr. Earl C. Lammel, who took me and several of my classmates under his wing and, during our 4 years of undergraduate school, led us through exponential growth and development using Viola Spolin’s book, Improvisation for the Theater as our primary text. It was a time of great self-awareness for me as the process forced us all to look within ourselves with candor and honesty. 

There were many others who taught me and guided me through life and I thank each of them. I wouldn’t be who I am today without their willingness to impart to me their knowledge and expertise. Teachers are special. I should know, I was raised by one.

Note: I will be continuing to blog on a daily basis while away and will do my best to impart some of what I will be learning during the training. Subscribe to the blog to have it delivered directly to your email.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd

Giver’s Gain

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I have been a member of a BNI (Business Networking International) chapter for four years now and can tell you, from personal experience, it has been the most beneficial business networking association that I have ever found.

I mention this because I had previously belonged to a fine chapter in Apopka but found out late last year that an effort was being launched to start a new BNI chapter in the Mount Dora/Eustis area. So, as a Mount Dora businessman, I transferred my membership there to add support to this effort.

Why is BNI effective?

  • They only accept one company per classification. If the chapter has a plumber who is a member, no other plumber may join. This adds to the value of chapter membership.
  • The overall principle which guides the group is “Giver’s Gain.” Each member is focused on how they can help the other members increase their sales and customer base. The benefit is clear. If you are looking at how you can help the other members of your chapter, you need to recognize that all the other members are all looking at how they can help you. Giver’s Gain. The more you refer people to your other members, the more you’ll see that being reciprocated.
  • Because membership is prized, all applicants go through a vetting process to make sure the chapter is comprised of professionals who have credibility in their industry.
  • It is not a social club. While we all know how to have fun, we also recognize that the reason we have joined BNI is to grow our businesses. There is no faster way to grow a business than to develop business relationships with other businessmen and women. BNI affords a great opportunity to do just that.
  • The proof is in the pudding. BNI boasts over 230,000 members in over 8300 chapters worldwide. In the last 12 months, those members passed over 14.3 billion dollars in referrals that resulted in closed sales.

I mention this because we are still in the early stages of forming our chapter. Many highly sought-after seats remain open. Remember, we can only take one company per business classification so the earlier people jump onboard, the higher the likelihood of there being a spot for them

We are having a visitor day 2 weeks from now. It is scheduled for Thursday, March 8th at 7:30am. If you are local to the area, I highly encourage you to come out and sit in on a meeting. Meet the other members and decide for yourself if it is something that would benefit your company. If you are not local, I encourage you to do a search to find a BNI chapter close to your area.

Call or email me for more information. I would be happy to provide you with the details so you can attend the next meeting as a guest.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd

Spanky and Our Gang

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This is one of the framed pictures hanging behind my desk in our studio. I’ve actually lost count as to how many clients have pointed to it and said, “Is that you?”

I’m not sure if I should be offended. I would like to think that, at that age, I was certainly cuter than the guys in this picture but my clients wouldn’t necessarily know that. Neither would they know that the kids in that particular photo were born a lot earlier than I was.  What you are looking at are two members of The Little Rascals, aka Our Gang.

On the right is Spanky, played by George “Spanky” McFarland. On the left is Mickey, played by child actor Robert Blake. I still remember watching the Our Gang comedy shorts as a child… even though they predated me by decades.  Here are some random facts about this beloved piece of entertainment:

  • All told, 41 child actors appeared in over 220 short films… starting in the 1920s. Spanky and his gang didn’t come along until the second decade of this franchise’s existence. Over time, as children became too old for the franchise, they were simply replaced with younger actors.
  • Two unknown child actors both auditioned to become part of the Little Rascals cast back in the day. They were rejected. Their names were Mickey Rooney and Shirley Temple.
  • Petey the dog was played by Pal the Wonder Dog who was also the model for the Buster Brown ads. When he was cast as Petey the director learned that the eye circle was made with permanent ink for the shoe advertisements. He decided to keep it on.
  • When Petey died, one of his pups inherited the role. But they painted the ring around the other eye.
  • The series was produced from 1922 to 1929 as silent short films. Afterwards, as sound was added, they entered into their most popular phase.
  • The Little Rascals characters that I remember most include: Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, Petey, Buckwheat, Mickey, Froggy, and some other kids whose character names I can’t recall.
  • The theme song, “Good Old Days,” has become iconic in its own right. Written by Leroy Shield, it was inserted into the episodes in the 1930s.
  • It is said that the concept for The Our Gang comedies came to Hal Roach after a series of bad auditions from over coached child actors. He then looked out his window and saw un-coached children on the schoolyard just being themselves. That became the impetus for The Little Rascals. Kids being kids was what they were after.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-0885 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

How Many Balls Can You Juggle?

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I hate to break the news to all you alpha-type overachievers but there is no such thing as multi-tasking. I know many of us would like to lay claim to that ability but the sad reality is… it doesn’t exist.

It is impossible for the human mind to think two thoughts at the same time. Look it up. Scientific fact. What we think of as multi-tasking is not doing two or more different things at the same time. It is doing two or more different things in quick and ever changing succession. it is the ability to juggle tasks… oftentimes extremely rapidly.

Such is the case during a normal day in my studio.  I go from station to station, checking on works in progress, adding input, correcting errors, and moving on.  At any given time, I can be working on three video transfers, an audio transfer, a slide transfer, a video editing job, answering phone calls, greeting customers who drop in, responding to email requests and so much more… but I have to handle them one task at a time. 

To be effective in what I do, I have to juggle them, giving priority to the task which requires the most immediate attention. If I am working on a video transfer and the front door opens, I leave one task to respond to the more immediate need.

If an audio transfer still has another 15 minutes to go before completion but a slide transfer is ready to move to the next stage, I’ll address the needs of the slide transfer.

Juggling tasks is the proper way to describe what many call multi-tasking. Fortunately for me and my clients, I am an excellent juggler. I learned the skill in high school and once learned, it is never forgotten. Ask me next time you come by. I’ll be happy to demonstrate.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Color Me Red-Faced

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I see commonality amongst families. We record the same events; we document the same kind of red-letter dates. And we typically have buried in all the reels of film or boxes of home movie videotapes one singularly embarrassing moment captured by the camera that has over time become a family favorite and the cause of much laughter over the years.

Today, I digitized what I can only assume is one such moment and, out of respect for my clients, will not divulge the specifics. But I am sure that when the family gathers to watch the DVDs I’m producing for them from the videotapes they haven’t been able to watch for years, there’s going to be a considerable amount of laughter and love in the room.

I know from experience. I too have such a moment that was lovingly recorded by my darling parents. A moment that was used to try to cause me great embarrassment in later years by my sibling. In her defense, she had a righteous cause. Earlier, I had found an embarrassing photo of her as a toddler, standing naked in the bathroom, reaching into the toilet but looking back at the camera with a big grin on her face. At the time she was nearing sixteen, (and of dating age), I decided to take that photo and thumbtack it up on the community bulletin board at our local pool where all her friends were sure to see it. What can I say? I was fourteen and to me, it was funny.

She waited a long time to get her revenge. Near the end of the summer the following year, our swim team held an end of season picnic and party where the highlights of our swim season would be shown on a Super 8 projector.  It was a much anticipated and well populated event. My beloved sister decided to take the below family movie clip and somehow managed to splice it into our swim team’s highlight reel for all my friends and their families to see. Embarrassment complete. What comes around goes around.

Well done sis.

What embarrassing moments has your family recorded that you can now look back on and laugh?

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Downhill Racer

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I’ve been watching some of the ski competitions taking place in this year’s Olympic Games. The skill level, dexterity, and speed being displayed has been enjoyable to see.  Personally, I’ve never been much of a skier. Tried my hand at it once. But, as with so many things, my personality shaped my experience.

The problem is that I’ve never had much patience to learn something before I jump in and try it. So, during my first and last ski outing, I simply strapped on the skis and after an uneventful trip down a rather unremarkable bunny slope, I was ready (I thought) for the ski lift. Lessons were offered and quickly dismissed as unimportant and unneeded. I had always prided myself on my natural athletic abilities.

My first run down the intermediate slope was, to put it kindly, ungainly. But I managed to make it to the bottom in one piece without causing harm to myself or others. And with every subsequent trip I became more and more confident that I had mastered the sport well enough to hold my own. Unfortunately that’s when my friend, an accomplished skier, asked me if I minded if he went up to ski the “blacks.”

“The heck with that,” I countered, “I’m coming with you.” He did his best to dissuade me but I can be obstinate. As we passed the drop off for the intermediate slope and headed up, up, up to the advanced level, I quickly understood why this might not have been such a good idea. The smooth, wide, expanse of the intermediate slopes disappeared and in its stead was a boiling river of snow with mounds and hills and no real clear path to the bottom.

I fell the minute I left the ski lift. Picked myself up, said a prayer and tried to follow my friend down the mountain. I fell again after two feet. Picked myself up, advanced another foot and fell. I then took off my skis and and started walking. I still managed to fall three more times.

I happily returned to the intermediate slope where I promptly hit a patch of ice and went down hard, breaking my collarbone. But, on the upside, I got to ride in one of those stretchers on skis down to the clinic which is an experience not everyone gets to have.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd