The Gift That Stole Christmas

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I wanted to share this unsolicited post that popped up on social media last week:

“Christmas is coming! Last year I was able to give my parents an amazing present that was well received by the entire family. Old film, VHS, slides, etc that had not been played in 35+ years (and could not be played on any devices we had!) were brought back to life – we were able to watch Christmas’s, birthdays and other celebrations with loved ones that have passed and we were able to laugh and cry as a family. I also condensed an entire cabinet or two of unplayable media into a small digital drive…mom loved this. I highly recommend Michael Ondrasik at Home Video Studio in Mount Dora for the best Christmas present around.”

We see it happen year after year. The work we do for our clients have a tendency to stop their Christmas celebrations in its tracks. As soon as our gift is unwrapped, all other gifts are put on hold while the family gathers around the TV or computer screen to watch their memories begin to play back.

Watching the old footage sparks laughs, brings tears, and triggers other memories of days and times gone by. Christmas is best spent with families and what better way to spend that time than by reflecting on the experiences you had growing up together?

If you want to turn this Christmas holiday into something truly memorable, get in touch with us. Whether it is a home movie or home video conversion to a digital format or a specially designed photo video keepsake using images from your scrapbook or photo albums, we will make sure that you have something under your tree that will be the most talked about present of the season.

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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Ah, Sweet Mysteries of Life

 

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Customers come into our studio all the time with little mysteries they want us to solve for them.  It might be an unmarked VHS tape that they are unable to play; or a reel of audio tape from a long forgotten tape recorder the family used to own. They appear to be simple, innocuous objects but they could very well turn out to be a precious family treasure. If only there was a way to play them to find out.

Fortunately we specialize in that. And like I said, it happens all the time. But I never thought that it would happen to me. I had thought I converted all my families memories long ago. I was wrong. The last time I was visiting my mother I happened upon a small unmarked reel of Super 8 film. “What’s this?” I asked her. “No idea,” was the response.

Home Video Studio to the rescue. After we got through transferring the footage to a digital form, we were treated with a glimpse of our lives that took place in the late 1970s.

The movie opened with a neighborhood party that looks like it was a combination of pot-luck and clam bake. Adults only and I only recognized a few. This was my parent’s crowd and I’m sure will help my mom bring back some memories.

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The scene then shifts to my younger sister, now in her 60s but back then fresh-faced and clad in her graduation cap and gown, patiently enduring the requisite photo op in the backyard.

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The movie ends with a little puppy action. A cute terrier playing fetch with someone (we can only see the legs below the knees.) I don’t think I ever met this pooch but I suspect it might have belonged at one time to my sister (the graduation girl).

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These forgotten images of a life that seems so long ago are not particularly memorable… until they become so. Anything that helps connect us to our past is valuable. I can’t wait to show them to my family to see what further memories they might trigger.

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, visit our website, or stop by our studio now located at 930 N Donnelly St Mount Dora FL 32757.

A Tall Ship with a Tall Tale

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I happened to visit the neighborhood where one of my clients from last year lives and, thinking that I would be seeing her, decided to bring along the Hanley Award that her project won.

Muff Ewer Pettinos was the eldest daughter of Nat and Betty Ewer, retailers who owned a shop in Beach Haven, NJ. In 1947, in an attempt to solve the annual problem of flooding that took place on the island where they lived, Nat Ewer bought at auction a 166 foot wooden three masted schooner and had it towed to the shores of New Jersey where it was beached, dragged ashore and converted into the most unusual gift shop anywhere in the United States.

The Lucy Evelyn and its surrounding collection of retail beach shacks or shanties was purely a family affair. Muff, her parents, and her three siblings all had various responsibilities and obligations as it pertained to the family business. They each would have their turns learning various aspects of the business up to and including running their own retail store. At one point some 6,000 people a day would come on board the Lucy Evelyn to shop and sightsee. 

Muff had contacted me and asked me to help them tell their story. It took 9 months, hours of interviews, and many more hours of reviewing archival photos and film footage. But at the end, we were able to craft together a 60 minute documentary that the family now owns as their own personal family history. It won the award for best documentary at the Home Video Studio gala event last July but, more importantly, it is now a family treasure that will be passed down through the generations.

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.

Dearly Beloved

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In my lifetime, I have been blessed to receive many honors. None have touched me more than the honor bestowed upon me this past weekend. My son and his fiancée asked me to officiate at their marriage ceremony. It is always a joy to watch your children as they take that momentous step into wedded bliss. It is another thing altogether to be the one to usher them into it.

Here is the advice I imparted to them just before declaring them as husband and wife:

“You are surrounded by friends and family – the people who most love you. And that’s important. But here’s the thing…if you ask each of them to tell you the secret of a successful marriage… if you ask 100 people… you will find that you’ll receive 100 different answers. The bottom line is that the two of you are going to have to figure out what works for you. Marriage, while it is clearly defined, is also extremely intimate and personal. No two marriages are exactly alike because no two couples are exactly alike. So while the “what” of marriage can be quickly grasped, the “how” of marriage can be elusive.”

“This much I can tell you. Marriage is not always easy. It will be full of challenges, obstacles, bumps in the road and hiccups along the way. It is not always easy. But it is always worth it. Marriage can be the single most important, fulfilling, and rewarding relationship that one person can have with another human being.”

“Some people view marriage as a 50/50 relationship – equal parts of give and take. Don’t limit yourself to that because it can be so much more. Go for 100. Love unselfishly. Devote 100% of yourself to doing those things that will bless your spouse. Give 100% to learning and meeting their needs… 100% to recognizing and fulfilling their desires… 100% to anticipating and providing for their wants.”

“I know, it sounds scary. ‘If I give 100% of myself, there will be nothing left over for me.’ But consider this… if you are each successful… if you each truly give 100% of yourself to the other, you each will receive all the other has to offer. No one gets missed; no one is deprived or neglected; it’s a win-win. And the important thing is that by doing this, you will be forced to think and act outside of yourself. You’ll have to adopt a positive mindset of giving; an attitude of service which will affect not only how you treat each other but how you interact with the world around you. I have found from experience that it is the healthiest way to get through this life.”

“Granted, it may not always be attainable but if you genuinely strive for it, I promise you that there is absolutely nothing you cannot accomplish together… fueled and strengthened by the sheer power that will be present and evidenced within your marriage.”

Words from a proud father and father-in-law. Take them for what they’re worth.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

Owie, Maui… What a Gift

 

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We love our clients. And sometimes we get an inkling that they kind of like us too. The object pictured above was a gift – given to us by a client who appreciated the job we did for his family.

We recently completed an hour-long, documentary-style movie about their unique nautical story. And in appreciation, they gifted us with this desk set designed in the Maori style of hei matau.

I had to do a little research to learn the significance of this gift and I have to say that I am both touched and honored to have received it.  A hei matau is a stylized carving in the shape of a fish hook and is most closely identified with the Maori people of New Zealand. The carving is said to represent strength, good luck, and safe travel across water.

In Maori cultural tradition, it is said that the North Island of New Zealand was once a huge fish that was caught by the great mariner Maui using a woven line and a hook made from the jawbone of his grandmother. The Maori name for the North Island, Te ika a Maui, literally means “the fish of Maui.”

To own one is a great treasure. To own this one, which was hand carved by my client, an incredible craftsman by anyone’s definition, makes the treasure even more dear.

We only hope that they treasure their family video to the same degree. I know we do.

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.

What’s in a Name?

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All of my grade school life, I never sat in a classroom where there weren’t a few other boys who shared my first name. It turns out that there was a very good reason for that. According to the Social Security Administration, from 1954 until 1998, with the exception of one year, Michael was the most popular boy’s name in America. The exception came in 1960 where it came in second behind David. That’s still an impressive run of 44 years.

But it did cause some confusing moments. In the classroom, I could never figure out if the teacher was talking to me or one of the five other Michaels who sat near me. And at recess, out on the playground, I’d be forever turning around to find out who was calling me only to find out nobody was calling me… just my name. It happened every day…multiple times a day.

So I was tickled by a customer yesterday who had come in to the studio to have some old photos from the early 1900s restored. And as he was sharing with us who these people were that were in the pictures, ticking off their names, I commented on how unfamiliar their names seemed. It turns out it was a thing in their family. Their grandmother didn’t appreciate conventional names so she opted for naming her children with words that she would just make up. If it was in the baby book of names… she would simply come up with something else.

Over the years, the family adapted to their unusual monikers by taking their first and middle names and whittling them down to just the first initials. Thus Jerimillia Crimereo called herself JC; Podifer Amitelik would answer to PA; etc. That worked for most. Unfortunately, no one thought what it would be like for little Ventroy Delwhilm who, once grown, would to the family be forever known as Uncle VD.

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.