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.

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Now, What Did I Come In Here For?

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When you reach a certain age, you have probably have had this experience: You’re sitting in one room of your house when you suddenly get up and walk into another room for a reason… but when you get to that room, you find you can’t remember why you went there.

Memory is sometimes fickle like that. One moment you can recall with absolute clarity the finest details of your past and other times the memory you are searching for seems just out of reach like it is hidden behind a veil. You know it’s there but you are unable to reach out and pull back the curtain to reveal it. It is frustrating.

Having your memories stored on devices that can no longer be played is just as frustrating. All the events, occasions, and family times that were important enough to record for future reference were supposed to be available to us when we reached the future. But technology had other plans.

Fortunately, there is a way to retrieve those memories and bring them with us to our current day and time. If you have a 8mm or Super 8 film but no projector to play them on; or a VHS, hi-8, or mini-dv videotape but no working tape player; if you have boxes of 35mm slides but the irreplaceable bulb in your projector is dead; or you have photos so faded you can’t see the people in them clearly; or if you found an old audiotape that you don’t recognize or a vinyl album you vaguely remember but lack the equipment that can play them… there is a solution.

My company, Home Video Studio specializes in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of old analog media. Bring us a 8mm film, we’ll give you back that footage on a DVD or a computer file that you can play today. We can even offer you the ability to stream that home movie to your smart phone or tablet. Same with all those videotapes you haven’t seen in decades. And as far as the slides, photos and audio recordings go, not only do we give you the access once again to view or listen to those memories, our digital products take up much less space than their bulky analog counterparts.

Your memories deserve to be preserved and protected. More importantly, they ought to be remembered. At Home Video Studio, we make sure they can.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio stand ready to help you protect your memories. And right now, we are in the midst of our Christmas in July sale, offering up to 40% off many of our transfer services. Call 352-735-8550 for more info or visit our website.

Music To My Ears

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Usually, when I am transferring a homemade audio tape of a musician or band, I don’t pay much attention to the sounds coming from the speakers. No offense intended but the quality of self-recorded performances from garage bands or shower singers typically leave more than a little something to be desired. It is usually better to listen from afar… like in another room. Such is not the case these days.  Because it’s not every day a world class pianist walks into the studio.

Tzimon Barto is something of a Renaissance man. He speaks seven languages, is a published novelist, reads ancient Greek, Hebrew and Latin, studies philosophy, writes poetry, and, oh yes… he plays the beauty of Schubert and Chopin while possessing the physique of Schwarzenegger or Stallone.

Born Johnny Barto Smith Jr. in Eustis FL, he was given the name Tzimon by famed Julliard instructor Adele Marcus with whom he studied. She later claimed she was joking about the name change in response to his concern that Johnny Smith might be too plain a name for a classical pianist.  But the name stuck and is now known around the world.

He first started studying the piano at the age of 5 under the instruction of his grandmother. His studies continued at Rollins College, the Brevard Music Center and, as stated earlier, Julliard. Since then, he has performed with nearly every major international orchestra including the New York Philharmonic, Berliner Philharmoniker, the London Philharmonic and the NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo.

If you’re unable to stop by the studio to hear some of this brilliant artist which will be our background music during the next few days while I transfer his tapes, here’s a video of him performing Mozart’s Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in A major with the SWR Symphonieorchester.


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 and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Voices From The Past

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It has always been a toss up to me as to what might carry more emotional weight for someone… seeing a familiar image or hearing a familiar sound.  Today’s memory leans towards the audio vote.

I had a man come into the studio today carrying an armful of 1/4 inch reel to reel audio tapes. He was specifically looking for one he thought existed but none of the tapes were labeled so he didn’t know if he had found it. I had some free time so we starting playing through them. Most contained music that must have been performed 50 or more years ago. There was one consisting of a number of sermons recorded by the same preacher. And then we came to the last tape. At first we thought it was blank but we ran it through to the end and reversed it on the machine. When we started playing the other side, we were stunned to hear the clear and delightfully young voices of this man and his siblings playing with the tape recorder.

Immediately, the emotional level in the room red-lined. The man got quiet, his head bowed; my wife became visibly stirred, even I got a bit misty-eyed watching him drink in the voices from his past. His sister, no longer with us; his father, now in a nursing home but then a vibrant young man playing with his new family; and his own sweet pre-school aged voice. It was a touching moment and one I was quite privileged to experience.

Tomorrow, a video may evoke similar feelings but, today, just the sound of a few forgotten voices that electronically survived the passing years was able to melt three adult hearts… two of which had never heard them before. But there was that one heart who remembered them only too well and we felt and shared the emotion that flooded his soul.

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.

I Wanted A Hot Dog, Not A Math Problem

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One of the great imponderables of life has always been: How come hot dogs come in packs of ten and hot dog buns come in packs of eight? The only way to come out even is if you decide to buy 40 of each (4 packs of dogs and 5 packs of buns.) Unless you have a huge family to feed, how much sense does that make?

While there have been logical explanations provided by both meat packers and bread makers defending their respective packaging decisions, it really isn’t what I sat down to write about. You see, the recording industry has its own version of this dilemma.

A CD is designed to hold 74 minutes of audio recording. There’s a bit of an old wives’ tale stating that engineers developing the technology wanted to ensure the entire performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony would fit onto a single CD. I’m not sure if that is entirely true but it is an interesting folk tale. Regardless, the 74 minute length didn’t cause many problems at first when transferring vinyl records or early audio cassettes to a CD format as both analog types were typically under 60 minutes of playing time beginning to end.

But as audio tape manufacturers continued to develop their products, audio cassette lengths increased and 90 minute tapes became commonplace (45 minutes of recordable tape per side.) And try as I might, I have never quite figured out how to squeeze 90 minutes of recording onto a 74 minute disc.

So, when faced with clients who have 90 minute tapes they want digitalized, I have to inform them that what they will receive (and what they will have to pay for) is a two disc set as the full recording is too large to fit on a single CD.

And in case you were wondering, if you wanted to come out even… bringing in enough 90 minutes tapes to fill each and every CD to their fullest 74 minute capacity,  the number of tapes you would need to bring in is … 37  tapes. That will exactly fit onto 45 CDs. And I would be more than happy to handle that job for you.

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.

A Ship By Any Other Name

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A bit of history walked through the doors of Home Video Studio yesterday. But before we get into that, some facts:

The first USS Ticonderoga was an 18-gun schooner that was in service from 1814-1825.

The second USS Ticonderoga was a screw sloop-of-war in commission from 1863-1881.

The third USS Ticonderoga was a former German cargo ship that served in the Naval Overseas Transportation Service during World War I.

The fourth USS Ticonderoga was a long hull Essex-class aircraft carrier that served during WWII and beyond; from 1944 -1973.

The fifth USS Ticonderoga was a guided-missile cruiser that served from 1981-2004.

The Ticonderoga name has served our country well in all its forms. But it was her fourth reincarnation (the aircraft carrier) that brought her to our attention. Yesterday, I was presented with reel to reel audio tapes containing the actual mission control recordings for the Apollo 16 and 17 moon missions and the Skylab recovery mission.

Back in the day, before the space shuttle and the Space-X automated re-entry boosters, space capsules returning to earth splashed down in the ocean. It was up to assigned US military vessels to be on hand to retrieve them. The Ticonderoga ( the aircraft carrier) was assigned to recover the capsules during the aforementioned space expeditions. The tapes from mission control were given to the historical society that is tasked with maintaining the official archives for the Ticonderoga. They, in turn, passed the tapes to me for digitalization and preservation.

It is an honor to be a part of this history. Just as it is an honor to be a part of yours.

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.

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.

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.

The Music Box

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I had a client in my office yesterday who presented me with an audio cassette containing his father showcasing one of his passions of life. He collected music boxes. The audio cassette had him playing each music box one by one and afterwards he would explain how he acquired it and what it meant to him. His son said that by the end of his life he had acquired a collection of more than 200 music boxes of all kinds.

It brought to my mind the very first gift I bought for the woman who eventually agreed to become my wife. It was a musical jewelry box.  I bought the box because, at the time, I couldn’t afford the jewelry. I figured it would count as a promissory note.

By this time I had learned enough about her to know that her favorite piece of music was Rachmaninoff’s Variation on a Theme by Paganini. What I didn’t know is that it wasn’t a commonly used piece of music for a music box.  I could have easily gotten her the theme to Love Story, or Mozart’s Eine Klein Nachtmusik which could be found in abundance but instead I spent weeks looking for the Rachmaninoff piece because she loved it so. (This was before online ordering took all the challenge out of shopping.)

I finally found one in a discount store, bought it, put a small trinket in it (because even then I knew you couldn’t give someone an empty jewelry box), and wrapped it up.  I guess she liked it. After all she married me. And the box is still sitting on her nightstand some 26 years later.

Pretty tune too.

 

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.

 

Word of the Day: Cacophony

 

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It may come as no surprise to find that our business is not one that allows us to do one thing at a time. We have multiple machines in our studio and usually multiple jobs are running on each of those machines simultaneously. And each one emits sound.

I like to think of it as the soundtrack of your lives. That’s not to say that it is always harmonious. Just this week I was transferring a video of a Mexican wedding to DVD while the machine next to it was transferring a series of karate demonstrations. In the adjacent room was a vinyl record of a school band in concert playing patriotic songs that was being saved to a CD. Orchestral arrangements, strenuous grunts, and marriage vows spoken in Spanish are not often heard at the same time. For us, it was just another day at the office.

The word cacophony is defined as a harsh, discordant mixture of sounds. If you think about it, that kind of describes life itself. Which is why, when you drop by our studio, you may be greeted with any number of noises from the past. If you are lucky, it will be the sound of laughing children. But there’s no guarantee. It may also be the bone-jarring rumbling of an ATV slogging through the mud.

What we must remember is that all those sounds represent someone’s past experience and should be respected and honored as such. When heard together, it may be a raucous noise… but it is also a joyful one.

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.