Sticker Shock

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I can sometimes be my own worst enemy.

We were in the studio on Saturday. It was an active day with customers streaming in throughout the morning and afternoon. We had a Brazilian couple stop by with a box of memories: film, slides, and videotapes. After a bit of small talk, the husband wanted to get an idea of cost.

So I started looking at the film.  And I was counting aloud as I handled each reel.  “400… 500… 900… 1200…” I caught a glimpse of my wife in the corner of the room. She was animatedly pointing to the client. So I turned in his direction.

I think the proper expression is bug-eyed. I had to stop what I was doing and address his obvious distress. “Is there something wrong?”

He looked at the film and said, “This is going to cost over $1200.00?”

I was puzzled at first and then I realized why he was thinking it might.  “No!” I quickly exclaimed. “I’m just counting how many feet of film you have here.  Our prices are based on how many feet you tender to us so I need to get a count of how many feet of film you have in order to tell you how much its going to cost.  It looks like you have 1350 feet of film.  Based on that, I can now give you an accurate price to transfer that much film to a digital format.”

His sigh of relief could be heard counties away.

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.

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The Evolution of Popcorn

 

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Thanks go out to the Wise Corporation for this insightful (albeit incomplete) evolution of the hands-down all-time favorite movie-watching snack: popcorn.

Whether it is buttered or “naked,” popcorn and movies have long been paired together.

But a glaring omission is to be found in the above chart that remains in my memory banks. If you were a child of the 50s, no discussion of popcorn would be complete without a passing reference to Jiffy-Pop. As the ads said, it was as much fun to make as it was to eat.

For the uninitiated, Jiffy-Pop was a popcorn making invention that resembled a small skillet covered with aluminum foil. Instructions were easy. Light burner on stove. Put Jiffy-Pop container on burner. Shake.  That last part was the most important if you didn’t want charred kernels.

As you shook, the aluminum cover would begin expanding to make room for the ever increasing size of all the popcorn kernels. Once all kernels had been popped, your Jiffy Pop container would look like a small, silver mushroom cloud filled with hot, fluffy morsels of goodness.

I can remember jiffy-popping my way through many a Sunday night and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. And then microwaves came on the scene and Jiffy-Pop became little more than a footnote in popcorn history.

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.

 

The Queen is dead. Long live the queen.

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Aretha Franklin impacted so many people with her music… my wife included. Her gospel leanings infused with an energetic pop style led many people to appreciate and applaud her vocals. And with so many iconic songs, Aretha’s sound absolutely electrified a gender; a generation… indeed, an entire world.

As a tribute to this remarkable artist, here are a few memories to hold onto –  a collection of some of her most iconic hits:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Aretha’s reinvention of this Otis Redding song became an anthem of empowerment and basic human rights.

(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – Her performance during songwriter/performer Carole King’s Kennedy Center honors brought the house down and brought a president to tears.

Chain of Fools – Another song intended for Otis Redding, it appears on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

Think – written by Aretha Franklin, it was showcased in the movie Blues Brothers.

I Say A Little Prayer – This was already a Dionne Warwick hit when a record producer heard Franklin and studio musicians playing around with it during a break in the studio. He had them record it and in just one take, they captured what was to become one of Aretha’s most popular songs.

Freeway of Love – Another Grammy award winning hit from Aretha featuring a killer saxophone solo from Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) – This duet with George Michael was to be Aretha’s biggest hit in the UK.

Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do) – Originally written by Stevie Wonder in 1967, he sat on it for ten years. Aretha turned it into a hit in 1973. Stevie released his own version four years later.

Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul. R.I.P.

Tap Tap Tap… Tap Tap Tap

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You just never know who is going to walk into the studio on any given day.  Yesterday it was a delightful young lady of 84 who just wanted a DVD of one of her tap dancing performances to be copied.  But this was not just any transfer of an old performance of years gone by. This was a recording of a recent show. As a matter of fact, at 84, she is still teaching tap to anyone who would like to learn.

I had to ask, since I’ve been an admirer of tap dancers for some time, who her favorite all time tap dancer was.  I was expecting the usual suspects.  Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ann Miller, etc… Her reply was instant and a bit of a surprise. Without missing a beat she blurted out, Dan Dailey.

In my age group, Dailey was not all that well known as a tap dancer… to be frank, he probably wasn’t all that well known at all.  I remember seeing him in a 60s sitcom called The Governor and JJ in which he starred with Julie Sommars. It only lasted a few seasons. But, as it turns out, he was quite a hoofer in his younger days.

After bouncing about MGM in a few modest parts, his big break came after he returned from WWII and was allowed to sign a contract with 20th Century Fox. They paired him with their biggest female star, Betty Grable, in the musical Mother Wore Tights. He would eventually co-star with her in two other films. He had another big hit with Give My Regards to Broadway which boasted an all-star lineup. He then had a string of semi-successful films but the film I remember him in most was a sports biopic where he played Dizzy Dean in The Pride of St Louis.

If you still can’t quite place him, here’s a snippet of a musical number from It’s Always Fair Weather with Dailey, Gene Kelly and Michael Kidd as soldiers returning home from the war.  (Dailey is the tall lanky fellow.)

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.

 

You Got A Problem? I Got a Joke.

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One of the benefits of being a part of a franchise operation is the ability to tap into the collective knowledge of those who are providing the same services you are… even though they may be in different areas of the country.  Every so often, one of us will run into something that we haven’t seen before and it is comforting that we have the ability to learn from those who have been doing this longer and have probably run into the seemingly unsolvable problem that lies before us.

Sometimes.

Recently, one of our colleagues reached out for suggestions about a difficult file transfer he was trying to accomplish.  An android phone video file that needed to be accessed by a Mac computer. And none of the established procedures were working.  The colleague reached out to the Home Video Studio community. And the response was overwhelming.

Studio owner after studio owner offered suggestions as we have all had to deal with uncooperative devices. But all the suggestions offered had been tried to no avail. After multiple suggestions and multiple “tried that, doesn’t work” responses, there was only one recourse. I decided to chime in. After all, the studio owner seemed desperate enough to try anything.

“Take the android phone,” I advised, “Place it in a paper bag. Wave it over your head… And scream like a chicken!” When all is lost, I find it best to take comfort in the comedy stylings of Dick Van Dyke.

The good news is that the owner was able to reach a solution on his own. The difficulty was found to be linked to a faulty cable.  Personally, I prefer the scream like a chicken solution.

Here’s the link to the Dick Van Dyke episode entitled The Impractical Joke. Love me some Dick Van Dyke. He was my comedy mentor throughout high school.

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.

Hail to the Chief

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One of the pleasures of life in a small town is that it doesn’t take much to rub elbows with the  movers and shakers of the community.  I recently spent a pleasant hour with the mayor of our fair city: Nick Girone.  He came into my studio, not to discuss affairs of the city or to canvas for votes. He was simply a client who needed to preserve a memory. And who knew he had such memories to preserve?

Long before he was an elected official, Nick was once part of a family business. One that brought great joy and excitement to thousands of people each year. Nick ran a fireworks production company for ten years. The VHS he brought me to preserve to a DVD format was a production that was held in the Philadelphia Eagles’ Veterans stadium on July 3rd in the 1980s. That show broke the MLB record for paid attendance up to that time.  It was an incredible show with pyrotechnics timed to an orchestrated soundtrack… made even more incredible with the knowledge that this was done before the ability to digitally preprogram the explosions.

I unfortunately didn’t ask for permission to upload a clip so I certainly won’t presume to do so now but I’m sure if you run into Mayor Girone and ask him to play it for you, something tells me you won’t have to twist his arm too much. He has a right to be proud of the work that he did so long ago.

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.

Forever Lighting The Way

Today’s blog is a repost taken from The Real Estate Reporter and ERA Grizzard Real Estate. Thanks for the history reminder.

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Set against the backdrop of the Harris Chain of Lakes, Mount Dora is a historical city that dates back to 1846. Nestled along the shores of its namesake lake is arguably the city’s most iconic landmark, the Mount Dora Lighthouse. 

The Mount Dora Lighthouse was built to serve as a navigational aid for boaters and water enthusiasts. Sitting along the edge of Lake Dora on Grantham Point, the lighthouse guides boaters along the shoreline to local boat ramps at Gilbert Park and Simpson’s Cove as well as the Mount Dora Marina.

Those who call Mount Dora home have grown to know the lighthouse as one the most recognizable and beloved landmarks in the city. 

The Story Behind the Lighthouse

Boasting some of the largest lakes in Florida, the Harris Chain of Lakes is an area treasured for its natural beauty as well as the ideal destination for boating and fishing. This chain includes Lake Dora – the lighthouse’s home.

These interconnected lakes were an important draw for the area’s first settlers and remain a fisherman and boater’s paradise today. Encompassing 4,475 acres, Lake Dora is one of the largest bodies of water in the area and therefore has become a prime location for outdoor enthusiasts throughout the year. 

Its origins  stem from local fisherman and boaters who were finding it difficult to travel from nearby Tavares to Mount Dora in the dark. Civic leaders and members of the community took this need to heart and began researching ways to alleviate this issue. 

With an appeal to members of the community, over $3,000 was raised to erect this 35-foot lighthouse that stands watch over the Port of Mount Dora. Open since March 25, 1988, the Mount Dora Lighthouse was built using a brick base and a stucco outer surface.

Powered by a 750-watt photocell, the lighthouse utilizes a blue pulsator to help guide boaters around Lake Dora after dusk and stands as the only inland freshwater lighthouse in Florida today. Its trademark look was created using alternating stripes of red and white paint as well as a white hexagonal lantern. 

Today’s Beloved Icon

Visitors are encouraged to walk along Grantham Point and enjoy its spectacular views. Referred by locals as “Lighthouse Park,” this area is a short walk from the quaint streets of downtown Mount Dora and is ideally situated next to Gilbert Park and Simpson’s Cove.

Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll around the point and follow a pathway to the nearby Palm Island Park Boardwalk. This stretch of boardwalk offers picturesque views back to the lighthouse, particularly when the sun is setting.

Residents of Mount Dora treasure their beloved lighthouse and celebrate its history and beauty with events held during the year. A boat parade kicks off the holiday season with local boat owners displaying an array of lights and decor as they cruise along Grantham Point and the Mount Dora Lighthouse.

On New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July, the Mount Dora Lighthouse comes alive as fireworks light up the sky along Grantham Point. Regattas and boat races are also a regular event along the waters of Grantham Point, offering scenic vistas of the sailboats as they pass this iconic lighthouse.

From reminding us of the city’s historic past to holding a special place in our hearts today, the Mount Dora lighthouse is just one piece of what makes calling this city home so special. 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora 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.

Time To Recharge The Old Battery

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Today was a pet peeve day. And it came as a surprise.  It was a pet peeve that I had almost forgotten about. Car troubles. I figure for the amount of money we spend on acquiring automobiles, once we acquire them, we shouldn’t have to spend another dime. They should just work… like, all the time.

This morning mine didn’t.  I love my SRX. It’s a 2012 and I haven’t had one iota of a problem with it. That’s been over 5 years and 95,000 miles. A perfect record. No complaints…. until this morning. I loaded it up; went to start it up to drive to work; and I heard a sound that I sometimes make whenever I try to get up out of the recliner after binge watching a favorite show for an episode too many.

But the sound is irrelevant. The point is, it didn’t start. No time to mess with it. I had my wife drive me to the studio and she took me home at the end of the day. Thinking that maybe my car had become something of a late sleeper, I tried it when I got home. Absolutely no sound. In my mind, I could not stop the thought… it’s dead. After all, it would not be the first car that breathed its death rattle in my presence. My beloved Jeep Cherokee comes immediately to mind… may it rest in peace. But that’s another and much longer story. Still, even with all the car experiences I’ve had, I could not help thinking… she’s gone too young.

I attached jumper cables between my car and my wife’s. (That sounded a lot easier than it was.) It took me 30 minutes in Florida heat just to find the battery on the SRX. It was hidden under a device cover I swear I saw once on Star Trek (Next Generation, not the 60s original.)

I took a beer break while I let it charge another 30 minutes before I gave it a try. I turned the key or, more accurately, pushed the button. IT LIVES! The engine started and continued to run on its own. I immediately drove it to the auto parts store for a battery diagnostic. They could find nothing wrong with it. I mean, absolutely nothing. I came to them with a perfect battery.

So suddenly… all eyes were on me. I must have done something stupid. I must have done something really lame-brained to drain a perfectly good battery. To their credit, the store employees said or did nothing to make me feel this… they didn’t have to. I’m well aware of my own inadequacies. Which is why this is a pet peeve. I hate being thrust in situations in which I am ill-equipped to succeed. My lack of knowledge of auto mechanics is rivaled only by my lack of knowledge of astrophysics. But since I am rarely called upon to solve problems dealing with quantum theories, the latter never embarrasses me. The former is a sore spot residing squarely upon my masculinity.

But the good news is that I left the auto parts store with the instruction to drive the car around for 30 minutes to recharge the battery. And other than the loss of points on my man card, there was no other out of pocket expense.

So all’s well that ends well… until we wake up tomorrow and try to start the car.

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

Alvinnnnn!

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I was transferring a reel to reel audiotape yesterday. One of the elements to be aware of is that reel to reel machines allowed users to record at different speeds and unless you match the original speed during playback, the result will not be what was intended…unless you were Ross Bagdasarian Sr.

Known better by his stage name, Dave Seville, Ross was an Armenian actor working in Hollywood in the 1950s. He landed a few bit parts in films like “Rear Window” and “Stalag 17” but finding regular work was a struggle. He had written a hit song a few years earlier with his cousin, playwright William Saroyan, called “Come On A My House.” With his last $200, he decided to buy a tape recorder with a speed control and practice recording his voice at different speeds. He used this technique for the novelty song “Witch Doctor” which became a number 1 hit in 1958.

When Liberty Records asked him to create a new novelty song for the upcoming Christmas season, he decided to create characters to match his sped-up voices. After a random encounter with a chipmunk on a California road, his concept became reality and Alvin and the Chipmunks were born.

Following Ross Sr.’s death in 1972, his son Ross Jr. picked up the chipmunk reins and began releasing new Chipmunk material eventually leading to their re-emergence into popular culture with a string of Universal feature-length films.

To understand more about the recording technique used to create the Chipmunk sound, it is eerily compelling to slow a Chipmunk song down to listen to the normal human voice singing to a slowed down musical track.  This is how it would have sounded in the recording studio. Click on the link below to hear an example.

 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora 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.

A Stain On My Memory

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We get a lot of compliments on the stained glass windows that frame our windows in our lobby. And they are attractive. But I had nothing to do with them. These gorgeous custom-made artistic creations were left behind by the previous owner presumedly because they were made to fit this exact space.

I know this to be true because, to my surprise, a woman came into the studio a while back to transfer some tapes and recognized her design. Yes, she was the artist who was commissioned to draw the design that became these lovely stained glass windows.

She’s a local and a stained glass designer. Her father, now in his 80s if I recall the story correctly, works out of his garage and creates the glass masterpieces from her drawings.  She gave me her card but I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t do well with business cards. Most of them end up on the floor, tossed in a drawer or, I suspect, somehow drop through a wormhole into a 6th dimension. In any case, I can’t find the card and can’t remember the name of the company to give credit where credit is due.

So, stained glass designer, if you are out there in the blogosphere, drop me a line and remind me of your company name and contact information. I’ll make sure to pass it along to all the people who have been admiring your work.

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