Playing Through Adversity

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I am constantly amazed at how frequently history comes walking through our doors. Today a client brought us some films that were part of his dad’s collection. He then began to tell his story.

His dad was Paulino Caron, a Cuban musician turned dissident during the height of the Castro regime. He was an active participant in the disastrous Bay of Pigs “invasion” and as a result was captured and imprisoned by the Castro forces along with nearly 1200 other members of Brigade 2506. While in the prison camp, he was shot twice – once in the chest and once in the arm for being “uncooperative.”

What he was doing was trying to build morale among the other prisoners. He fashioned and led a prison camp band. They had no traditional instruments so they improvised. Broken bottles became horns, trash cans became drums. And they played music. It became so popular amongst the other prisoners they performed weekly shows. They took to calling it “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

After JFK finally arranged for their release in late 1962, the real Ed Sullivan, who had heard of their inspirational story, invited them to appear on his actual show with their makeshift instruments to play to his national audience. The video clip survives and can be found below. Paulino Caron is the one leading the band.

As the son was telling his father’s story, the pride in his voice and the glow in his eyes told me all – this was a story I needed to retell. I am thankful that he allowed me to do so.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio 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.

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Finding the Key

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As you may know, Kate and I recently returned from a vacation in the UK with our granddaughter. We arrived in London on a Monday morning but could not check into our flat until late afternoon. With nothing scheduled for the day, we dropped our suitcases off at a holding station and looked for something to entertain us.

We walked past the British Museum which was not on our list of sites to visit during our stay so we entered on a whim – without knowing what was contained in their exhibits. It turned out to be a  delightful surprise; especially for someone who makes his living preserving memories.

As we walked through room after room, we became fascinated with the many items of antiquity that were displayed and then we turned the corner to find a rock encased in a glass box. We had rediscovered the Rosetta Stone.

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The stone was originally discovered in 1795 but dates back to 196 BC (nearly 2 centuries before Christ). Engraved on the stone were words from an ancient language… 3 languages to be precise which is what made the discovery so significant. The engraved texts spoke of a decree issued during the reign of Ptolemy V Epiphranes. While the decree was nothing extraordinary, the fact that the same decree was engraved in ancient hieroglyphics, ancient demotic script, as well as ancient Greek gave researchers the ability to finally decipher the lost language of hieroglyphic symbols thereby increasing our understanding of ancient Eygptian life.

History is all around us. You never know where it will turn up. Although, come to think of it, museums would be a fairly obvious place to look.

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.

Globetrotting

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Back when my wife and I were raising children, we had the benefit of having her mom and dad living in the same city as us. Every day after school and every Sunday afternoon our sons could be found at their NanNan and Grandpa’s house. As a result, our boys developed a close and loving bond with their grandparents.

We certainly desired to have a similar relationship with our grandchildren but, like so many other families in today’s world, we were separated from them geographically. We did not have the opportunity of constant or regular contact. So we decided to invent a new family tradition. We asked permission of our kids to be allowed to take their children, one at a time, on a cultural adventure. When a grandchild of ours turns twelve but before they become thirteen, we promised that we would take them on a trip outside of the United States and introduce them to another country and culture of their choosing… a special Papa and Nana trip.

Our eldest grandchild, Morgan, opted for Italy. We spent a glorious fall with her, walking throughout Rome, enjoying paninis and gelato amidst one of the most amazing cities in the world. It was an experience shared just between us and one that we will always treasure.

And now the time has come for her sister, Elle, to have her special trip. She, perhaps influenced by the Harry Potter books she’s been reading, decided that she’d like to see what London is like. So we’re closing our studio for the next ten days while we jaunt off to jolly old England with a side trip to wee bonnie Scotland.

So hold onto your memories until we return. We’ll be back to help you preserve them on August 15th. We’re sure to have some new memories to share with you when we do.

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.

It Was a Very Good Year

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At the close of every Home Video Studio season, we indulge ourselves a bit and take a look back at many of the projects that we and other studio owners around the country feel best represent the work that was done throughout the year. Then, in an Academy Award style gala event, we go head to head for top honors. This year, three of our submissions were chosen as being the best in the nation within their classification.

Best Documentary

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The Lucy Evelyn: From Ship to Store was a delight to work on. We interviewed ten family members and, using their words, told their story of how, from 1948 through 1972, they owned and operated the most unique gift shop in the world. The Lucy Evelyn was a 166-foot, 3-masted wooden schooner built in 1917. When the family was looking for a solution to keep their retail store from continually flooding during the high tide season of Long Beach Island NJ, they bought The Lucy Evelyn at auction, had it towed and beached it on the shores of Beach Haven. It was refitted, filled with high end merchandise, and it remained as a landmark, gift shop, and tourist attraction for many years. It was a great story to tell with a wonderful family who told it well. We were also blessed to have available a lot of archival footage that we were able to insert into this one hour movie. Best of all, the family now has this section of their family history preserved in a narrative and cinematic form that is sure to become a treasured keepsake to be passed down through future generations.

Best Photo Keepsake

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We were honored to have been asked to build a memorial tribute for Canadian country music legend Ronnie Prophet. We worked closely with Glory Anne Prophet, Ronnie’s wife, duet partner, and a Juno-award winning singer in her own right, to somehow capsulize the talent and charisma of a man who was once dubbed “the entertainer’s entertainer.” Once the project had been completed, Glory-Anne stopped by to show us a newspaper clipping that she had found among his archives. In it, an interviewer was commenting on how Ronnie had accomplished nearly everything in his industry: Juno Awards, Gold Records, Male Vocalist of the Year, Hall of Fame inductee… and yet he was still performing. When, the reporter asked, was he going to retire? He replied in his inimitable style, “It has always been my plan to sing at my own funeral.” Thanks to Glory-Anne and the work we did for her, he did just that.

Dr. Strangelove Award for unique video

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When the Mount Dora Boating Center and Marina needed a video centerpiece to introduce their Godfather theme for the upcoming Orlando Boat Show, they reached out to us. Their initial concept would have required building a set, hiring actors, and finding period costumes, all of which would have pushed costs beyond their budget. Our solution was to use a little green screen magic and merely insert one actor into a scene from the original Godfather. They played their film on a repeating loop as they manned their booth all dressed as gangsters inviting Boat Show attendees to “Make Us An Offer We Can’t Refuse.” I’m told it was quite a draw.

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While winning awards is always fun, our main reward is the satisfaction we receive from helping our clients and members of our community with their video and media needs. Whether it is preserving memories through digital transfers, creating memorable video gifts, or using digital media to promote a service or product, Home Video Studio of Mount Dora stands ready to help you.

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 Final Format

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Throughout the years, our families have been given the opportunity to record special moments of our lives. But protecting those memories from loss and maintaining access to them so they might be revisited has been nothing but problematic.

Technology continues to evolve and as new technologies are introduced, older technologies are abandoned and become obsolete. In the 1930s, 8mm film was used to capture family events. This format gave way to the Super 8 films of the 1960s. In the 70s, with the development of the personal videotape camcorder, film projectors became rarer and rarer and families, wanting to preserve their memories, had little choice but to have those recorded films transferred over to the VHS format.

Enter the 1990s and the digital age. DVD technology forced families to once again “re-format” their precious memories lest they become forgotten, trapped inside unplayable plastic cases. But time refused to stand still and as it continued to march forward, new technologies continued to be invented.

Once again, we find ourselves on the cusp of a new age. Today, computers do not come equipped with a built in DVD tray. The days of renting Hollywood movies on a DVD seem to be coming to an end as streaming services become more popular. And families are faced once again with the decision of how to protect the memories they’ve made throughout their lives.

There is a solution. Digital Video Archive combines the best elements of the technologies that have come before it, along with a versatility and adaptability that will carry our memories far into the future. Think of it as a “a personal Netflix for your home movies.” It will be the last media transfer we’ll ever have to make.

Finally, our memories can be protected, played, and shared… now and forever.

Click here for more info.

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.

 

Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds

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I really do love getting to know the people who walk into my studio. Just the other day I was privileged to meet a woman who had a VHS videotape of a amateur video interview she conducted of her friend Ken Carson.

Ken was a member of the internationally known and multiple award winning group Sons of the Pioneers. For my younger readers, you can think of them as an early version of a boy band (without the choreography and with a western twang). Roy Rogers, as Leonard Slye, was one of its founding members in 1933. Ken joined the group a little later and it is his voice that is featured on the songs Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds and Cool Water. He appeared with the Sons of the Pioneers in 22 of Roy Rogers films. The group exists and performs to this day, making it one of the longest surviving country western music groups.

The interview I transferred to a DVD was made in Ken’s home with his wife in 1994, shortly before he died. It was enjoyable to hear him, in his own words, reflect on his life and career. And, even at 80, his tenor voice had not lost any of the crystal clarity for which he was known as he was taped singing many of the songs he made famous, accompanying himself on his guitar.

What a treasure to have and pass on to the next generation of western music fans.

Little known fan note: My client shared with me some memorabilia she has collected through the years. One was a picture of Ken with an early girlfriend. It was none other than Dale Evans, back in the days before Ken introduced her to Roy Rogers.

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.

Bear With Me

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There is something about holding a stuffed animal that has a calming effect on a person.

Hospital workers, paramedics, and police officers have long recognized the comfort that a teddy bear can bring to children who find themselves in a stressful situation. So, when the residents of Carriage House Gracious Retirement Living in Oxford Florida heard about a teddy bear drive that local first responders had put together, they decided to get involved. And get involved in a big way.

The word was put out and circulated throughout the communal building. And the bears started trickling in. Different sizes, different colors, different shapes. The menagerie continued to grow. Soon plush dogs and fuzzy rabbits began to join the teddy bears. They outgrew the original donation box; they had to be moved out of the manager’s office for lack of space. They finally took over the staircase in the central lobby where they are temporarily watching over the same people who so lovingly provided them to help children in need. Local officials will be by early next week to collect this cuddly zoo and put them into service.

Well done seniors. It would appear there’s no age limit on acts of kindness.

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 352-735-850 or visit our website.

Mysteries Solved

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You’re doing some Spring Cleaning and you come across something you didn’t know you were storing. It may be an unmarked videotape. Or a reel of film that has no label on it. It could be some audio recordings you don’t remember ever making.

Whatever the case, in almost every home, in almost every state, there is some unmarked, unlabelled piece of media that can’t be viewed or heard because the equipment to play it no longer functions. No one alive knows what is on it and the current owners can’t play it to find out. But they just can’t bring themselves to throw it away because of what it might contain. So they continue to hold onto it. Move after move. Generation after generation. 

We are happy to say we can convert such items to a digital form so our clients can view what up to that point was un-viewable. We recently converted some unlabeled 16mm film and delivered to our client footage of his parent’s honeymoon vacation from the 1950s. Something he had never seen before.

On the other hand, we salvaged some badly damaged film from the 1920s for a client who had no clue as to what it contained. After we cleaned it up some and converted it,  we played it back to find that what we had captured was some silent movie footage (Harold Lloyd I think) as well as some silent video cartoons of that era. (Anyone remember Dick Tracy?) I was expecting the client to be upset that the film did not contain footage of his family. Instead he expressed his gratitude for delivering to him the footage that contained his grandfather’s great passion for the arts of his time. 

I suppose the point is, we all have these mysteries caused by obsolete media that we keep stored in boxes or closets. We can’t bring ourselves to throw them away but we can’t watch or enjoy them either. Home Video Studio is the solution. We take the old media and transfer it to a format that can be played on today’s equipment  Who knows what is contained on those old unlabelled tapes or film taking up space in our homes? It could be nothing… It could mean everything. We can help you find out.

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 Bells Are Ringing

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Church bells ring for all sorts of reasons: Call to worship; special celebrations; or alarms to alert citizens of impending storms or attacks. Church bells have been rung both to commemorate a marital union as well as to ward off devilish attacks. The first record of a church bell used in such fashion took place in AD 400 (some 1620 years ago) and it has grown in popularity ever since.

Suffice it to say that residents of any small town with a church possessing a bell tower have become accustomed to hearing the regular chime of its tones. So whenever a small town’s bells become silent, people take notice.

When the First Congregational Church in Mount Dora (which is the oldest structure in our downtown area, having been built in 1883) discovered its bell tower was in such a state of disrepair that it required the discontinuation of its ringing, the church leaders immediately put out a call to action. Setting up a GoFundMe site, it requested the help of the community it served to try to raise the funds needed to repair the bell tower.

Our small town community responded in spades. Aided by a matching grant from our local Community Trust, we were able to quickly raise the funds needed to effect the repairs and get our bell ringing again.

There are small stories and there are big stories. But small stories can often make a big impact. The chiming of a neighborhood church bell is no small matter. We sometimes don’t realize how important it is until we no longer hear it. Because it can  and does serve as a unifying force. It reminds us that we are all part of the same community. This may sound corny but it is a message we would all do well to heed. We need to keep the bells ringing… not only in Mount Dora… but also in our own hearts.

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Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio 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.

Dancing Queen

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We do a lot of tape transfers. In addition to our work with film, photos, audio, and editing, we will typically have two or three videotapes playing in the background of our studio as we convert them to a digital form. So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise to realize we don’t have a lot of time to sit and watch every moment of every tape as it is being transferred. So, when we do, you know that it has to be something really special to capture our attention.

One of my clients is a videographer who travels the country to capture footage from the many ballroom dance competitions and events that are held throughout the year. He’ll then send me the footage to convert to the specific media format requested by the dancers.

Recently, I received some footage he took at the Michigan Dance Challenge and as it began to play, I found myself riveted to the screen watching the performance from beginning to end. It was mesmerizing.

In 1983, as a teenager, Cheryl Angelelli was practicing with her YMCA swim team when an accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. She would eventually become a para-Olympic champion, competing in the 2000, 2004, and 2008 games. When she retired from swimming, her passion turned to the world of ballroom dancing and she has been turning heads ever since.

The grace, fluidity, and seeming effortlessness that she and her partner, Tamerlan Gadirov, bring to the dance floor is both beautiful and inspirational. While watching her dance, one forgets that she is confined to the chair. As she has said, “I don’t dance with my legs – I dance with my heart.”

Their performance in Michigan (seen below) was awarded first place in the Best of the Best Bronze Show Dance which means they will be moving on to compete in the Best of the Best grand finale at the prestigious Ohio Star Ball. We wish them all the best. Keep on dancing.

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.