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.

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What’s in Your Time Capsule?

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We, at Home Video Studio, are kind of in a time capsule business. People bring us items that have been buried for 50, 60, even 70 years or more and ask us to unearth their secrets. And sometimes, after we’re done, they let us keep some of the old capsules themselves.

The camera pictured above was given to us by one of our clients. It belonged to his family, most likely his grandfather.  It is an Agfa Movex 16mm camera circa 1930s, complete with leather case and light-gauge. It was a German camera and what makes it remarkable to me is the film that we transferred for the client that brought it in. There were 4 reels of 16mm silent film and after transferring the footage and watching it back we were mesmerized to find that our client’s grandfather, most likely with this camera, was seated in the stands of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, filming the games.

The final reel was taken much later and showed a jeep ride through the rubble-strewn street of post-war Berlin.

I’m not able to show you the actual footage we preserved for our client but I found a website with some pretty spectacular still photos of that historical event.

https://historycollection.co/a-look-inside-hitlers-1936-nazi-olympics-through-amazing-photographs/

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.

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

April 2, 2020 – the eve
Our statewide initiative of “safer at home” because of the COVID-19 virus begins at midnight tonight and ends April 30 so I thought I would document our activities for the next 30 days.  We’ll see how long I can keep it up without getting a little buggy. 
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This morning, I “met” with my BNI (Business Networking International) chapter using a Zoom account. It feels good to still be connected to others even while we are preparing to disconnect and operate from home during this time. I have a feeling we will all become teleconferencing experts before this is all over. But meeting with them did give me some ideas as they all began to explain how they were adapting their varied business models during this pandemic.
Kate and I took what might be our last trip (for a while) to the studio today to determine what we might bring back with us that would be helpful.  Other than cleaning supplies, some coffee pods, and an extra roll of toilet paper, we figured that our two stand-alone devices would be the easiest to relocate.  Moving forward, we will have the ability to scan, crop and color correct 35mm slides and be able to capture and transfer 8mm and Super 8 film all from the safety of our home. Those captured files can be converted to a digital format (mp4) that can be stored on a usb drive. So we will obviously be marketing those services during the next month.
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We can accept new orders by mail or overnight carrier to our home address. We will process those jobs at our home and ship them directly back to our clients. Call for more information.
Our videotape and audio tape transfer service requires multiple machines that are interconnected therefore we did not opt to bring those home with us. However, if I read the governor’s instructions properly, there is nothing to prevent me from leaving my home, traveling alone in my car to my empty studio that is five minutes away to process videotape/audiotape orders as long as I do not come into contact with anyone else. We are working up a no-contact dropoff/pickup protocol. Call us at 352-735-8550 for more information.
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On a personal note, while we are in self-isolation, we’ll be looking for TV watching opportunities. We’ve already blown through Picard season one; discovered and finished the third season of Designated Survivor; finished all episodes of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and there’s no more Downton Abbey on the horizon. I’ll let you know what our next TV guilty pleasure is going to be.
Stay safe. I’ll touch in tomorrow.

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.

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.

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.

Film or Videotape?

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I had an interesting conversation with a prospective client the other day. He came into my office with a videotape and some reels of film and told me that some fifty years ago his father had already had the film transferred and put on the VHS videotape he was holding. He then asked what would be better – transferring the VHS to a digital form or using the original reels of film to do the transfer?

As I thought about my response it made me realize that it is a complex question with multiple issues to consider:

Cost: The cost to transfer a VHS tape up to two hours is considerably less than the cost to transfer 1700 feet of film (which would equate to approximately two hours of footage.)

Condition: Both videotape and film will degrade over time. But what degrades faster? A lot would depend on how they were stored and how often they were played or viewed. Most condition issues that I see in the studio comes from neglect or from faulty equipment that caused damage during playback.

Quality: Here’s the kicker – our technology has advanced exponentially over the last five decades. The methods used to transfer film to video back in the day now seem rather primitive by today’s standards. Even though his film has aged an additional fifty years since his father had it converted to VHS, converting those same film reels again using current technologies may produce a far superior result whereas converting from the VHS tape can only capture the quality of the tape as it exists today… it cannot improve upon it.

Our film transfer process is top of the line. We use a frame-by-frame image capture device which enables us to control or correct color issues, as well as film “noise” issues which can cause a movie to look “grainy.”  For more information, visit this link.

Bottom line, my prospective client has choices. And we’re happy to present him with all the available options and help him to reach the decision that best suits his purposes. And we can do the same for you.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio 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.

 

Sticker Shock

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I can sometimes be my own worst enemy.

We were in the studio on Saturday. It was an active day with customers streaming in throughout the morning and afternoon. We had a Brazilian couple stop by with a box of memories: film, slides, and videotapes. After a bit of small talk, the husband wanted to get an idea of cost.

So I started looking at the film.  And I was counting aloud as I handled each reel.  “400… 500… 900… 1200…” I caught a glimpse of my wife in the corner of the room. She was animatedly pointing to the client. So I turned in his direction.

I think the proper expression is bug-eyed. I had to stop what I was doing and address his obvious distress. “Is there something wrong?”

He looked at the film and said, “This is going to cost over $1200.00?”

I was puzzled at first and then I realized why he was thinking it might.  “No!” I quickly exclaimed. “I’m just counting how many feet of film you have here.  Our prices are based on how many feet you tender to us so I need to get a count of how many feet of film you have in order to tell you how much its going to cost.  It looks like you have 1350 feet of film.  Based on that, I can now give you an accurate price to transfer that much film to a digital format.”

His sigh of relief could be heard counties away.

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.