Pomp and Circumstance

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It is that time of year to prepare to say congratulations to the young men and women who are on the cusp of one of life’s great achievements – high school graduation. Putting together a photo/video keepsake to recognize and honor their journey is a great idea and I’ve done a number of them over the years. The importance of choosing the appropriate song to accompany pictures of your graduate in various stages of his or her life cannot be emphasized enough and there are a number of great songs to choose from.  Here are some client favorites along with some key lyrics that help explain why they are popular:

The Climb – Miley Cyrus 2009. “Ain’t about how fast I get there. Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side. It’s the climb.”

My Wish – Rascal Flatts 2006. “My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to…”

I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack 2000. “I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance. Never settle for the path of least resistance.  Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’…”

Graduation (Friends Forever) – Vitamin C 1999. “And so we talked all night about the rest of our lives. Where we’re gonna be when we turn twenty five. I keep thinking times will never change. Keep on thinking things will always be the same.”

Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield 2004. “Staring at the blank page before you. Open up the dirty window. Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find. Reaching for something in the distance. So close you can almost taste it. Release your inhibitions”

Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson 2004. “I’ll spread my wings, and I’ll learn how to fly. I’ll do what it takes till I touch the sky. And I’ll make a wish, Take a chance, Make a change, And breakaway.”

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) – Green Day 1997. “So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why, It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time, It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right, I hope you had the time of your life.”

These are just a few of the songs clients have used to tell the story of their graduate’s life. There are many others and I’m sure there’s one that would be perfect for the graduate in your family.

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

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Go to Plan C?

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When you decide to become a videographer, you commit to the often impossible attempt to capture lightning in a bottle. Moments come and go and if your camera is not pointed in the right direction, focused, and turned on at precisely the right minute, you’ll miss it. And your clients won’t be happy.

To make matters worse, there are a lot of moving parts to a production shoot. And it is very easy to have something go south on you. Which is why it is important to have a backup plan to your backup plan.

Case in point: I was hired to videotape some high level animal experts who were presenting at a recent veterinary conference here in the Orlando area. I packed my bags, loaded the car, had an assistant with me, double checked everything. I thought I was ready.

As we arrived at the venue, a local convention hotel in South Orlando, I found that instead of filming a lecture at a live conference as I expected, the clients decided to recreate the presentations just for my camera. In a hallway… at the hotel. With people passing by… on their way to and from an open bar.

It was not what I was expecting but no problem. I adjusted my plan. I set up my equipment. I had brought my lighting kit so the lack of adequate lights was not an issue. I brought my lavaliere mikes in case we needed them which enabled me to reduce the amount of ambient noise distractions (i.e. well lubricated convention goers.)

I had an extra DSLR camera with tripod for B-roll and as a back up camera to catch the footage from a different angle in case I needed to edit in a cutaway shot during an unplanned break in the presentation.

To my utter dismay, what I didn’t bring was the DC cord to the main camcorder. No worries, I thought to myself, I’m glad I tossed in that backup battery for the camcorder just before I left.

I was there to record six presentations.  I recorded the first one and my battery went from 100% to 78%. I quickly did the math. I was going to have to switch batteries halfway through in order to capture all six presentations. But I wasn’t really worried… yet.

At the halfway point, I switched batteries.  The one I had been using was down to 30%. The new one I put in… 0%. It was completely dead.  I had 3 more presentations to record. And not enough battery strength to do it. Cue the sweat glands.

I did have the back up DSLR with its two full batteries so I knew I could get the video but the lav mikes needed my camcorder’s XLR jacks to capture the best audio. And the camcorder was going to die before the end of the next presentation.

I suddenly remembered that I threw my Zoom H4nPro audio recorder (pictured above) in my video bag on a whim. I didn’t think I would need it (in fact had never used it before on a production job) but I had space in the bag so in it went. This device accepts the XLR jacks of an audio cable so I could direct the lav mikes output to the Zoom’s SD card while the back up camera could record the main video signal. 

I completed the shoot and everything fell into place. It turned out great. Thanks to the Zoom H4nPro and to the people who suggested to me 2 years ago it might a good thing to have in the camera bag. To quote Hannibal from The A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

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

Hi Ho, Oh No, It’s Off To School I Go.

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We have five senses. And a memory can be attached to any or all of them. Today, I was reminded of a memory through an auditory trigger which led to an olfactory memory.

An old high school buddy who I read online today mentioned a local radio station which prompted me to recall the local AM station my family listened to in the morning every…single…day…for…fifteen…years. It did have the best contact information to report on school closings due to stormy weather which is why my parents tuned into it. But it also had some very odd practices which it never wavered from. One of them was the practice of playing, at 6:30am, a military march to get their listeners awake and active and ready to face the day. Let me say, that when you’re a school-aged kid, you don’t much appreciate that style of music jarring you from your deep sleep.

And I was hit with a double whammy, because my father, as a depression era kid, refused to waste food. If the previous night’s meal was not entirely consumed, it became his breakfast the next day.  Here’s what he did. He chopped up an onion. He chopped up a green pepper. He took the leftovers of last night’s meal. And he threw them all into a skillet. It could have been lasagna, it could have been flank steak. He just fried it all up. The smell of fried green pepper and onion quickly infused the house and it…along with the oom…pah…pah beat of the morning march.. drove me straight out of the house. I could not get to school fast enough.

To think of it, I never did stick around long enough to see if my dad ever ate his concoctions. Perhaps it was all a ruse to get us kids to wake up and go to school. But, knowing him as well I did, I wasn’t about to bet against it. It worked. We survived and I got an education. And as much as I am loathe to admit it, I even developed a kind of fondness for military marches.

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

One Man’s Noise Is Another Man’s Symphony

 

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Passion is a wonderful thing. It is something that can be shared and appreciated… but not always understood. I learned that recently through a client who brought in an audio tape that he wanted “cleaned up” a bit.

I was not prepared for what I heard. Noise would be putting it mildly. There was percussion, but no beat. Sounds but no melody. Have you ever heard a comedy routine where a character leaves the stage and the next sound you hear is the crash of someone tripping over a garbage can? To my ear, it was kind of like that but it lasted some 20 minutes.

When the client returned to pick up his order, I got an opportunity to learn a little more about what it was I was transferring. Turns out, it was a real and rare recording of a specific musical composition. The proper term is called “twelve tones” and is also known as dodecaphony or twelve tone serialism.

Devised by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg in 1921, the term “denotes a system of musical composition using the twelve chromatic notes of the octave on an equal basis without dependence on a key system. The technique is central to serialism and involves the transposition and inversion of a fixed sequence of pitches.” [Wikepedia]

I know, right? Silly of me not to recognize it. But while listening to my client who obviously had a passion for the mathematical precision needed to compose and perform this particular discipline, I couldn’t help but form an appreciation for something beyond my comprehension.

Researching it a bit further, I found that this musical system has been adopted by many classical and mainstream composers including Igor Stravinsky and American composer Scott Bradley, probably best known for scoring Tom & Jerry and other cartoons.

Here’s an audio sample of a twelve tones composition by Anton Webern.

 

It’s not what I’d call a toe tapper but I’m told there’s a musical genius behind it that my audible perceptions aren’t skilled enough to recognize. Which is why I love what I do… I am continually introduced to new disciplines, artforms, and historical facts or events of which I had no previous knowledge. And I get to hear about them from people who have developed a passion for them to the point that they want to preserve the memory of it. And that is something I can definitely understand.

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

 

Club Babalu

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As I’ve said before, one of the benefits of my work is not only meeting a wide range of people but also hearing of their stories and experiences. I find I’m always learning something new.

Recently one of my customers, who came to in have some music from a band he was in converted to a CD, told me a story about the father of one of his band members. Seems the dad cultivated a bit of fame back in the day using the name Rey Mambo. It wasn’t his real name, which was Marvin Baumel, but when he got swept up in the Latin craze in the early 50s, music promoters said the public would never accept a Latin band fronted by a Jewish man. So he made up a name more fitting for the music he was playing… Rey Mambo. And a star was born.

Back in the day, most hotels in South Florida would have a house Latin band… think Ricky Ricardo and the Tropicana Club (later renamed Club Babalu) from the I Love Lucy show (pictured above). Rey Mambo and his band was a part of that vibrant scene on the beaches of Miami.

Here’s a short educational documentary that tells a lot of his story. I found it fascinating and charming. I hope you enjoy it too.

The Story of Rey Mambo from Carl Hersh on Vimeo.

 

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

Wedding Memories

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I don’t know if anyone noticed but there was a little wedding that took place yesterday. Congratulations to the newly wedded Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Nice ceremony. And I should know. I’ve certainly transferred enough wedding videos to recognize the good from the great (there’s no such thing as a bad wedding. There may be bad marriages perhaps but weddings are always happy occasions). And I’ve seen my share because they are usually among the first memory people want to digitally protect and preserve.

There was the outdoor wedding that had to be moved under the caterer’s tent when the weather took an unexpected turn for the worse. People coped. Couple got married. Everyone was happy… wet but happy.

There was the wedding that took place around Halloween. It was a costume affair. Bride was a princess. Groom was a frog. Minister was a vampire. I would have been… you guessed it… a cowboy. People seemed happy beneath the masks they were wearing.

There was the Indian wedding and reception that from beginning to end needed three DVDs to hold all  the video that was shot. Lots of colors. Lots of music. Lots of cultural traditions. Lots of happiness.

There was the wedding that had members of the wedding party seemingly competing with each other as to who could give the most emotional toast. Lots of tears but they were happy tears that flowed from an abundance of love and joy in the room.

My favorite wedding video of all time is, of course, mine. And it was the very first videotape I transferred when I got into this business of digitally preserving memories. What is the state of your wedding memories? If they are still on film or videotape, let me protect them for you by converting them to a DVD or digital file.  And if you never had a video done of your wedding, bring me your wedding album. I’ll make a movie for you using your photographs and your favorite songs.   You’ll be glad to have it so you can pass all that happiness onto future generations. And what a wonderful surprise gift for your spouse!

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

The Diary of Anne Frank… continued?

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In the news recently was the story about a discovery of two “hidden pages” within the Anne Frank diary. I always love hearing about historical finds and this one particularly hits a chord as it lands close to the essence of what we do. After all, what are family films and videos other than a different form of a diary record?

Here’s the article about the find that was published on the Smithsonian Mag website.

Researchers Decipher Two Hidden Pages of Anne Frank’s Diary

What little pieces of your history are yet to be discovered? They just might be on that one mystery videotape or unlabeled reel of film you have tucked away in a drawer. You’ll never know what treasures they may hold until you get them converted to a form you can actually use to watch on today’s media equipment. Bring them on down to Home Video Studio. We can help you reveal your past and fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle that is your life.

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

You Can’t Dress Me Up

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If you study your home movies closely enough, you may begin to see the origin of certain character traits or peculiarities you may have. It just happened to me. I had an epiphany. You see, for as long as I can remember, I have always hated costume parties. Just getting an invitation to one would make me cringe.

Halloween, for all its candy, is absolutely my least favorite holiday. Why? It’s the dressing up part… which is a bit odd for someone who spent a large part of his life on stage in costumes playing different characters. That didn’t seem to bother me. But I have almost always had an aversion to costume parties and Halloween celebrations where dressing in costume was a prerequisite.

I think I’ve discovered the reason why I have such a negative bias of a practice that so many others enjoy.  I came across this rare footage of me as a child in the midst of what must be a Halloween parade.

 

First off, let me say the sight of so many white sheeted costumes with pointy hats is a bit off-putting. I’m pretty sure they were supposed to be ghosts (Casper was popular back then) but when viewing the past through the lens of today’s social filters things can tend to take on unintentional meanings.

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So, here are my sisters.  Angelic looking aren’t they? No, I’m not the creepy kid behind them looking like a zombiefied caped crusader.  I wish I was. It would have been much cooler. Here I am in my costume:

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Seriously? Of all the costumes in the world to choose from, I got to dress up as a fashion challenged Mickey Mouse in a Pepto Bismol colored fat suit with pom poms? Granted this picture doesn’t do it justice but in all honesty, I’m not even sure that’s a genuine Mickey Mouse mask. Looks a little deformed.  But get this:

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Again, hard to see but this is a different year. The pink outfit is gone but the same mask is being used? I must have complained about the oversized clown suit so this was the solution? Dress the boy all in black and send him out into the night? I’m amazed I got to live through puberty.

With this as my entry into a world of costumes, it is no wonder I shy away from them. Since I still get the inevitable invites, I have, though pure necessity, devised the only getup I’ll wear.  I’ve got jeans, boots, and a plaid shirt. If your party ever needs a cowboy, I’m your guy. Hat is optional.

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

Child Stars

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I don’t often get surprised by nostalgic posts and pictures of popular figures from our past. But this one took me aback. One, because I had never seen it before; and two, because I could identify every single kid in the picture.

Starting from the back, from left to right:

  • Billy Mumy played young Will Robinson in Lost in Space. “Danger Will Robinson!” spoken in a robot voice became an iconic phrase back in my day. 
  • Barry Livingston joined the cast of My Three Sons as the adopted Ernie after the oldest son Mike (Tim Constantine) left the show. His real life older brother, Stanley, was already on the show as one of the other three sons. The show had one of the best TV theme songs ever.
  • Ron Howard gained fame as Opie, the son of sheriff Andy Taylor, on The Andy Griffith Show. He went on to star as Richie Cunningham on Happy Days. And finally as an A-list Hollywood director of such blockbusters as Apollo 13 and more recently Solo: A Star Wars Story.
  • Anissa Jones was best known for the popular sitcom Family Affair. She was cast as Buffy, the youngest of three children sent to live with their bachelor Uncle Bill when their parents died in an accident. She usually shared screen time with her character’s doll, Mrs. Beasley. Sadly, Annisa died of a drug overdose at the young age of 18.
  • Stanley Livingston played the third child, Chip, on My Three Sons. He is the real life brother of Barry Livingston who joined the cast in later years, Stanley was the only cast member (other than star Fred MacMurray) who appeared throughout the entire series’ five year run.
  • Johnny Whitaker is best known for playing Jody in Family Affair. He fell prey to drug abuse after the show ended but managed to overcome the addiction to become a certified drug counselor.
  • Clint Howard, Ron Howard’s younger brother, has been seen in multiple shows and in various roles. He had a co-starring role in the TV series Gentle Ben but is probably best known for his cameo appearances in many of his older brother’s film projects.

This picture brought back a lot of memories for me. I spent many an hour in front of the TV watching these kids practice their craft. So it was kind of like I grew up with them. I doubt I would recognize a single child actor who has a recurring role on any of today’s shows.

(PS, I couldn’t help noticing they are all holding up ties. Perhaps it was a promo shot for Father’s Day? It’s coming up. And video gifts make for a great present. A heck of a lot better than another tie. Just saying.)

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

What’s For Dinner…Again?

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I hit a home run with dinner tonight.  I made an Instant Pot recipe that was, if I happen to say so myself, delicious.  Here’s the recipe (https://lifemadesweeter.com/instant-pot-lemon-garlic-chicken/)

I received accolades and rave reviews from my dinner companions and had to chuckle to myself because I remember the road I travelled to get here.  I’ve even blogged a little about it in the past. But here’s a specific that came to mind as I accepted the culinary compliments.

When I was in college and on a tight budget, I had to figure out a way to feed myself with limited funds. My solution was to invent a meal that I could stretch to last me an entire week.  To my deepest embarrassment, here’s what I made.  Mind you, this recipe was entirely my doing. And I ate it more times that I can count.

Take a pound of ground beef (or ground chuck, whichever is cheaper) , brown it in a skillet with salt, pepper and a diced onion. Set aside.

Make a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Add the ground chuck mixture to it.

Open a can of Campbell Cream of Mushroom soup. Do not add water.  Just dump the contents into the pot.

By now the concoction will have begun to take on the consistency of spackle. Add a can of corn.  Just because. All balanced meals have vegetables, right?

If you have followed the directions, the mixture will be nearly impossible to stir. I’ve broken many a wooden spoon trying to.  Here’s the secret. Pour a cup or three of red wine into the mess. That will loosen things up so you can stir and serve.  If wine is not available, a can of beer works just as well.

Trust me, you can improvise on this recipe nine ways till Sunday – nothing is going to “ruin” it.  And believe me, it did the job.  I made this on a Monday and by Friday, I was still eating it. Spreading the cost over the span of a week, I figured I was eating on about 70 cents a day. Got me through my senior year in college.  Haven’t dared make it since. I’m afraid to subject my colon to it in my advanced years.

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