Happy Belated Birthday

Do you remember your very first birthday party?

Odds are that you don’t. Who among us has a memory that good? This past week one of my customers was able to relive that momentous occasion, thanks to an old reel to reel audio tape she had discovered in a long forgotten storage place. 

And, to be honest, it wasn’t even the original recording. At the time of her first birthday, which occurred over seventy years ago, her parents were using an old wire recorder which captured sounds by imprinting them on a stainless steel wire about the width of a human hair. 

The technology was invented in 1898 by a Danish engineer named Vlademar Poulsen, although it did not enter into its popularity until WWII, around 1946. It quickly fell out of fashion some eight years later when, using the same basic technology, 1/4 inch magnetic tape became the recording standard. My client’s parents, at some point along the way, had transferred the original wire recording to the more accessible magnetic tape.

Regardless of the format, the point is that my client had never heard the recording before and even though she was present at the event, at one year old clearly had no recollection of it. To hear her mother and father, aunts and uncles, now long since gone, all singing happy birthday to her as she sat in her high chair… that is certainly a memory she can now always cherish.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora 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.

With A Song In My Heart

I used to think that my company produces the best emotionally charged gifts available. I still do. And if you want to give your family a present that will live long into the future, there’s nothing like giving them a gift containing the memories of the past. That’s what we do at Home Video Studio.

But, the next best thing would be to take the emotions of your heart and set them to music. And that is exactly what songfinch.com does. Once you answer a few questions and provide a couple of details, they will produce a professionally mixed original song specifically for you that will melt the heart of your significant other. I should know… I had one produced for my lovely wife for her birthday. And outside of the videos that I produce, it was the best gift I ever gave.

It was a random Facebook ad I responded to so I realized that it was a roll of the dice that could have gone badly south. But songfinch.com exceeded my every expectation and allowed me to give my wife an experience she will never forget.  Fortunately, I had my phone out and was able to record her reaction the first time she heard it.

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.

I Have a Short Snorter

I have discovered, among my father’s possessions, that I have inherited his short snorter. A short snorter is a single bill, or multiple bills that have been taped together and that, upon examination, are found to be covered with signatures.  It is a custom that apparently originated from or was popularized by Alaskan bush pilots and was eventually adopted by WWII aviators. 

As the custom goes, an airman passes around a banknote and asks those he is with to sign it. Then, if they should ever meet again and he is asked to produce the short snorter with the requestor’s signature and fails to do so, he must buy that person a drink (or snort). 

There are many of these around, some of them containing famous names. Marlene Dietrich collected one that contained 83 bills and over 1,000 high profile names including Ernest Hemingway, Irving Berlin and George S. Patton. My father, serving in the 8th Army Air Corps (448th BG), seemed most interested in collecting foreign currency as his short snorter consists of 14 bills taped together from a number of different countries: Portugese escudos, English shillings, French francs, German marks, Canadian dollars, Cuban pesos, and of course the US dollar bill. Each of them containing signatures of people unfamiliar to me but who, at one time, apparently played an important part of my father’s WWII history.

I can’t help but thinking that each one of these bills told a story to my father. I imagine he could not only remember each person whose signatures he obtained but the circumstances in which he collected them. (And I’m definitely sure he’d remember whether he ever had to pay out for leaving his short snorter behind in the barracks.)

But his short snorter is mine now. And if Lenny Burns, Arthur Bach, Eddie “Mulla Bone” Redlan, or any of the other dozen names from 1945 displayed on it should ever ask me to produce it, I’ll be ready.

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 Important Memories

I like to think that in my job, like everyone else, I have my good days and my bad days. The difference perhaps is that my good days are really, really good. And it is all because of the people I get to meet and the stories I have an opportunity to hear.

Today, in my studio, I had the pleasure to meet a gentleman in his 80s who had a number of film reels and videotapes he wanted transferred to a digital form. As we were talking, he disclosed that before he retired, he made his living as a professional cameraman. I’m talking high level… He worked on The Fugitive with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, Edward Scissorhands with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, The Untouchables with Sean Connery and Kevin Costner, and many others.

The stories he told… the behind-the-scenes look he provided… fascinated me and, I have to admit, I kept encouraging him to tell me more. He provided me with inside stories about how Hollywood movies are made, what the stars were like, how the unions operated, and what life as a camera technician in those days was like. He also shared professional tips on how to get the shot that was needed… and it wasn’t always a method that was taught in film schools.

But the real reason he came to see me was not to tell me stories or relive his past glory days. It was because his granddaughter had asked him a simple question: “Grandpa, what was my mommy like when she was my age?” And he suddenly realized that he had all this old family footage on 8mm film and videotape that his grandkids had never seen. So he brought it to me to have me turn it into a digital form that could be played on today’s equipment.

He didn’t want to show off his Hollywood credentials, as impressive as they are. He just wanted to share the personal films he took of his family with his family members who had never seen them. I was thrilled to meet and speak with him. But I am more thrilled to be able to help him deliver to his family the memories he most wants to share. And I feel that way about every client who walks through my door. No matter what they did (or do) for a living. I am always happy to hear your stories, but I am happier to be a conduit for you to be able to share them with those you love.

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.

Memorial Day

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In observance of Memorial Day, we’re taking a few days off to reflect upon those who served and those we’ve lost.  We’ll be back in the studio on Tuesday. Until then, here’s a repost of a blog from last year about some of the military men in my family:

From left to right:

My father, Edward J. Ondrasik, who, with the Eighth Air Force, flew 24 missions over Germany as a bombardier during WWII. We learned afterwards that he flew each of those 24 missions without a parachute as he could not fit into the bombardier compartment with it on. He died in 2009.

My uncle, Charles C. Parish, served as Lt. Commander in the US Navy. Was a pilot of a #2 F-4J (Phantom) during the Vietnam War. He was shot down over North Vietnam and declared Missing in Action in 1968. His status was changed to Killed in Action in 1973. His name is among the tens of thousands engraved on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC.

My maternal grandfather, Herman O. Parish, who, as captain and commanding officer received the Navy Cross and the Legion of Merit for services rendered during WWII. He retired as a US Navy Rear Admiral. He died in 1989.

We honor their memory and thank them for their service and sacrifice. As we do all who have given service to our country.

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.

SAFER AT HOME – DAY THIRTY-EIGHT

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May 10, 2020

One of the benefits to owning a video transfer business is the opportunity we have to see and hear the experiences many of our clients took the time to record. We’ve learned to recognize the many scenes that repeatedly appear in a lot of the video we handle: Chuckee Cheese Birthday parties, trips to Hawaii or the Grand Canyon, visits to Disneyland, Sea World, Marineland, and more. But there’s one scene that keeps popping up in various films or tapes we handle which we could not identify.

I finally learned of its source. In 1957, a theme park in North Carolina was launched, supposedly the first in the state and one of the first in the nation. It’s called Tweetsie Railroad and it is still operating today (although it is currently closed awaiting the end of the Covid-19 pandemic).

It is home to two narrow gauge steam locomotives (No. 12 “Tweetsie”, and No. 190, “Yukon Queen”) which pull visitors along a 3 mile loop around a mountain near Blowing Rock, NC. Other rides, events, and family attractions were added over the years to make Tweetsie Railroad a perennial favorite among tourists and railroad enthusiasts or “foamers” as some call themselves.

The scene which keeps appearing in the videos of my clients is apparently filmed during the train ride. As the 100 year old steam locomotive pulls its cars around a bend, it stops in front of a lovingly recreated wild west town where cast members enact a brazen and entertaining train robbery/shootout. It’s nice to finally know where to go to see it live. It is just one more item to added to the bucket list.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora 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.

SAFER AT HOME – DAY THIRTY-ONE

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May 3, 2020

I try not to obsess over possessions… after all they are just things and all things can be replaced. But even I recognize the comfort that comes from being surrounded by the familiar items one has collected over a lifetime.

The above picture is the view from my reading chair, something which I have gotten quite a bit of use from over the past month. And I am struck at how much the various objects I can see from this vantage point brings me pleasure because I can recall where and how they were acquired.

My wife and I have pieced our furnishings together over many years, surprising even ourselves sometimes at how well they seem to fit, as if they were purchased at the same time.

The two buffets which are placed on opposite walls were bought at separate antique stores 3 or 4 years apart but give the impression that they are a matched set because of the intricate carving of the doors.

The settee in the foreground took us a long time to find as we were careful not to buy something that would overwhelm the space. We found it by chance one day while visiting the shops of Winter Park. We made the shop owner break up a 3 piece set because we did not want to part with the wingback chairs we use for our reading area and surprisingly, as unusual as the settee’s fabric is, the colors blend perfectly with the wingbacks we find so comfortable.

The table and chairs (partially hidden by the settee) was an auction find that still causes some controversy in our house. I overruled Kate’s uncertainty and bid $100 for the antique set (dining table and six chairs). No one else bid against us so we brought it home. It still garners the most compliments from guests and visitors (much to Kate’s chagrin.)

Even the knick knacks and decorative items on surfaces or shelves can make me smile as each one has its own story as to how it arrived to find a place in our home. That has been the secret key to our decorative style. We never buy anything for the sake of buying it. We look for things that will have meaning – something that can represent an event or time in our lives. So I guess that makes them more than mere possessions. They are memories… and memories are precious.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora 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.

Safer at Home – Day Twenty-Four

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April 25, 2020

Transferring other people’s video and film has given me a great opportunity to witness the customs and traditions of families from various cultures. There’s a practice that is often repeated by families celebrating the first birthday of a child: the smash cake.

I don’t recall it as a custom when I was growing up but it has certainly gained in popularity since then. I was surprised to learn that it may have its origins south of the border. Mexican families will gather around the birthday child singing Mordida! Mordida! Mordida! (Bite, bite, bite). Then, after the candles are blown out (and hopefully removed) one of the parents will approach from behind and gently shove the kid’s face in the cake. This is followed by much laughter and picture taking.

The US version of the smash cake typically will be a second, smaller size version of the birthday cake set in front of the 1 year old. While the adults enjoy their neatly sliced pieces of cake, the child, without the benefits of utensils, will eventually begin to dig his hands into the dessert and even manage to get some of the sugary goodness into his or her mouth. This, once again, is followed by much laughter and picture taking. 

I can’t say I understand the rationale behind the tradition. The child is too young to remember it and there will be some major cleanup to do afterwards. Why does this make me think it was all probably started by some dad’s idea of a joke?

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora 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.

Safer at Home – Day Twelve

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April 14, 2020

Maybe it is us, but a dozen days in “isolation” has flown by. Of course, we don’t have the parenting responsibilities to deal with as our kids are grown and out on their own which I’m sure makes it easier for us. We can focus on things we like or want to do.

I can say that our house has never been cleaner. Kate has wiped down, scrubbed, or polished just about every surface within her reach. And she still has time to study her Italian, read up on George Washington (one of her favorite historical figures), get in her 40 minutes of cardio, and stay connected with our family and friends while continuing to look as sharp and beautiful as she has always been, even though I’m the only one who gets to enjoy that now.

On the other hand, I spend most of my days writing out these blog posts, and working on some video projects that people dropped off. Right now, I’m working on a lovely wedding video that is being pieced together from multiple cameras that captured just about every moment of the ceremony and celebration. I’m pulling clips from each camera and editing them together so it depicts the event as it unfolded. When done, the newlyweds will have a wonderful detailed record of their special day. I think they’ll be pleased. What can I say, I like what I do… and time flies while I’m doing it.

No one really knows what our lives are going to be like as we move forward. But I have to say that I loved the life we had before… I’m loving the life we’re living now… so maybe it isn’t circumstances that control our happiness? As a wise person once said, “You can’t always choose what happens to you, but you can always choose how you react to it.” I hope we can all learn to make good choices.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora 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.

Safer at Home – Day Eleven

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April 13, 2020

We announced our Savers of the Family Archives sale today. Big discounts are available on all the services we offer. This sale, which runs until the end of April, highlights a benefit that isn’t discussed as much as it probably should. Namely, we can save people tons of space.

Cans of film, boxes of videotapes, whole shelves filled with photo albums or slide carousels all take up room. Early in our marriage, I asked my wife a question to start a conversation that I think most people have at some point. “If there were a fire in the house, what one thing do you want me to grab on my way out?” Her answer was immediate: “My photos.”

So I took a look around in order to come up with a plan to sweep through the house collecting all the family photos she has displayed in every room. It was not going to be an easy task at any time but during an inferno it was going to be near impossible. Still, my bride asked me to make sure I saved her photos so I was committed to try.

Until I discovered that not all her photos are on display. In our master bedroom closet sits a six foot cedar chest packed to the brim with photo album after photo album. It must weigh 300 pounds. So I went to my wife and said, “Bad news, hon. I’m going to be going up in flames with the house.”

Having a digital backup of one’s family history – stored on a hard drive that can be kept in a safe deposit box or easily carried in one hand – eliminates the need for self-sacrifice, and insures that the irreplaceable memories of life can always be saved to be re-lived and enjoyed another day.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora 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.