Memory Lapses

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Hey, it happens to all of us. We take great pains to record the special moments of our lives. Then we tuck them away to make sure they are kept safe and secure. After 30 or 40 years, we take them back out only to find that we can’t watch them any more because the technology we used back then is now obsolete.

So we find someone like Home Video Studio who can convert our old memories to a digital form that will play on today’s equipment. All well and good but we’re not out of the woods yet. As we are watching those memories play back… the ones we haven’t seen for decades… we discover that we don’t recognize some of the people or places that appear on the screen.

It happens more often than you think. I had an elderly couple watch some of their 8mm film that I transferred for them. The footage opened with a pair of toddlers under a Christmas tree. I could see their confused expressions. They looked at me and actually asked if perhaps I was showing them someone else’s film. They were so adamant that I began to doubt myself. I doubled checked but it absolutely was their footage.  As we continued to watch, they eventually realized that the toddlers on the screen were their own children — just 60 years younger then they are now.  It turns out, my clients had never seen that particular 8mm film before. It was shot but never viewed. Tears were certainly shed once we recognized what we were seeing.

Now sometimes, the mysteries are never solved. No worries. I’ve had people come back to me and ask me to edit sections of their movies in order to remove people or places that no longer have any relevance to their lives. Once the film or video has been digitalized, editing that footage is relatively easy to accomplish. We have the ability to shape your memories to your exact specifications, allowing you to enjoy your past exactly the way you want to remember 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.

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Why Two Are Cheaper Than One

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It is a question that gets asked frequently. So much so that I have posted a video FAQ addressing the issue but since it came up again yesterday in the studio, here’s the question and the short explanation.

“Can you put the footage from multiple tapes onto the same DVD?”

The answer is yes, if you want us to, but it will actually cost you more. It is less expensive to have each video transferred to its own disc. Here’s why.

There’s two methods of combining videos:

1- Via a monitored capture. I watch your first video as it is playing and at the precise moment it ends, pause the recording, eject tape 1 and insert tape 2, hit play and continue the recording process so the second tape is being transferred onto the same DVD. But that means that I cannot do anything else in the studio while tape 1 is playing. And so there’s an additional charge for the time spent monitoring the process and manipulating the controls.

2- Through editing. I capture video 1 and then capture video 2. I then take those two files to my editing desk, lay the two files down onto a single timeline and re-encode the footage to a new combined file and burn that to a disk. It is a three step process that carries with it a labor cost.

The most cost effective way to transfer your tapes to a DVD is to let my machines do what they are designed to do. Capture the video footage of a tape and burn that footage to the disk. Once I set up the machine for your tape, the rest is an automated process and I can back out any of the labor or time cost elements to give you the lowest available price.

Just know that most anything is possible to do but there there are price considerations for every option. We work with each of our customers to find the best solutions to meet both their needs and their budgets.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Everyone Has A Story To Tell

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It is the tagline we use in the marketing for our LifeStories product: “Everyone Has a Story to Tell.” And because of what I do, I am in the unique and privileged position to hear many of them. I found myself reflecting upon some of the people I’ve met and the tales they have told since I opened my studio.

There was the WWII fighter pilot who told me about the dogfight he had with a Japanese Zero during the great Marianas “Turkey Shoot.” At one point the Zero, who was out of ammunition, tried to ram him in mid air, passing so close over his head he could actually count the rivets in the fuselage.

There was the mom of a world champion waterskier who would fill me in on what it was like in the early days of competitive waterskiing with story after story of her daughter’s journey.

There was the ex-musician who was working as a laborer here in Central Florida who had just learned that an album he made some twenty years ago had become very popular in South America and was getting a lot of radio play. He was on his way down there to make a personal appearance.

There was the documentary filmmaker who was finishing up a project on powerlifters and had some bizarre encounters with some of the colorful characters who hang around the periphery of that sport.

There was the combat veteran who was involved in the Battle of Midway. He watched the entire conflict from his perch on a 30 foot searchlight tower armed only with a rifle. Mere days earlier he was sharing a bunkhouse with Hollywood director John Ford who would regale him and his other bunkmates with stories of his movies and the celebrities who starred in them.

And recently I sat with a woman whose parents bought a three masted schooner in 1948 and beached it by a NJ boardwalk in order to convert it to a unique gift shop/tourist attraction. It became the signature landmark of the entire community.

What’s your story? And how can I help you not only to tell it but preserve it so it can be retold to future generations? Call us to get started.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora 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.

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.

Sliding Into History

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I met with a prospective client today who seemed a little overwhelmed with a project she is beginning to undertake. She has discovered boxes of 35mm slides that contain the photographic memories of her family and her youth.

She wants to preserve them by moving them to a digital medium but is aware of the potential costs and wants to select only those images that will have meaning to her and her family.

It is a natural and understandable feeling. I told her that I’ll be happy to scan anything she brings me to create a digital file that will preserve and protect the memories they invoke but I quite understand that she may not want to bring her entire slide collection to my studio.

I always encourage my customers to cull their collection. Here are the tips I provide:

  • Look for people. One of the biggest mistakes people made back in the day when taking photos was to capture the scenery without placing a family member in the foreground. Getting a nice shot of the Eiffel Tower is great. But you can find better pictures of the Eiffel Tower online or in a book. When preserving memories, focus on the people in your past. Those are the pictures/memories that cannot be duplicated or found anywhere else.
  • Don’t worry so much about photo quality. If the colors have faded or bled a bit, digital restoration can often bring the picture back to its original quality. Our pricing includes color restoration and image enhancement. Don’t reject a slide or picture just because its dulled a bit over time.
  • Know how you want to enjoy and use these memories when the job is completed. We can provide you with .jpg files that will give you individual access to each image. We can also use those .jpgs to assemble a presentation DVD that will play your slides like a movie with motion, transitions and a musical soundtrack. Or you may choose to receive both.
  • The slides will be scanned in the order in which they are presented to me. So if having the slides appear in chronological order is important to you, take the time to sort them chronologically.
  • And for an extra special touch, we can have you add a narrative soundtrack or commentary along with captions so future generations can hear, from your own voice, exactly what they are looking at and why.

Those are just some of the considerations that come to mind. But always remember that our services are completely customizable. We will adapt our services to meet your needs and desires. You just have to tell us what they are.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studios 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.

Ready For My Closeup

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I spent the day primping and preening for the camera. It is not an everyday experience for me. Ask my mother… I would rarely sit still for a photo op. Most pictures of me as a youngster were just a red-headed blur.

I have decided to upgrade our corporate image now that my wife has joined me in the studio. We’re redesigning our business cards and updating our profile pictures on all our social media sites to include the two of us since we’ll be now working the business together. We hired a professional commercial photographer to try to make us look as good as humanly possible. Not the easiest task in the world (speaking of myself… my wife is breathtakingly beautiful and needs no outside assistance.) I on the other hand, do. Fortunately, I knew someone to call.

We needed him. No matter how much he reassured us that we were “looking good,” it is just hard to be at ease and feel natural when being posed and repositioned in what feels like microscopic degrees. “Tilt your head up,” “Close your fingers,” “Turn in just a bit,” “Not that much!” “Turn back a bit more,” “Look like you’re having fun,” etc… 

But in the end, the proof is in the pudding. I saw the raw shots and, all modesty aside, I have to say that we look like a stunning power couple. But our photographer still has some work to do.  We gave him a standing order as he left. Since he will be working with our images in post-production, we told him we expected our images to look 10 years younger and 10 pounds lighter. Hey, photo enhancements are much cheaper than plastic surgery.

In all honesty, the photo shoot was a lot of fun, largely because it was stress-free. The photographers we hired took care of everything and their eye for detail combined with a friendly and casual demeanor immediately instilled a level of trust that put us at ease. Or at least as much ease as we could muster with a camera pointed at us.

If you are local to my area and in need of a commercial photographer, I can highly recommend Flint Photography. Stephen and Sandrine Flint will exceed your expectations as they have mine.  I am excited to show you the results of our photo shoot and will do so as soon as they have been delivered to me. 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Pomp and Circumstance

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It is that time of year to prepare to say congratulations to the young men and women who are on the cusp of one of life’s great achievements – high school graduation. Putting together a photo/video keepsake to recognize and honor their journey is a great idea and I’ve done a number of them over the years. The importance of choosing the appropriate song to accompany pictures of your graduate in various stages of his or her life cannot be emphasized enough and there are a number of great songs to choose from.  Here are some client favorites along with some key lyrics that help explain why they are popular:

The Climb – Miley Cyrus 2009. “Ain’t about how fast I get there. Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side. It’s the climb.”

My Wish – Rascal Flatts 2006. “My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to…”

I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack 2000. “I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance. Never settle for the path of least resistance.  Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’…”

Graduation (Friends Forever) – Vitamin C 1999. “And so we talked all night about the rest of our lives. Where we’re gonna be when we turn twenty five. I keep thinking times will never change. Keep on thinking things will always be the same.”

Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield 2004. “Staring at the blank page before you. Open up the dirty window. Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find. Reaching for something in the distance. So close you can almost taste it. Release your inhibitions”

Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson 2004. “I’ll spread my wings, and I’ll learn how to fly. I’ll do what it takes till I touch the sky. And I’ll make a wish, Take a chance, Make a change, And breakaway.”

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) – Green Day 1997. “So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why, It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time, It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right, I hope you had the time of your life.”

These are just a few of the songs clients have used to tell the story of their graduate’s life. There are many others and I’m sure there’s one that would be perfect for the graduate in your family.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Go to Plan C?

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When you decide to become a videographer, you commit to the often impossible attempt to capture lightning in a bottle. Moments come and go and if your camera is not pointed in the right direction, focused, and turned on at precisely the right minute, you’ll miss it. And your clients won’t be happy.

To make matters worse, there are a lot of moving parts to a production shoot. And it is very easy to have something go south on you. Which is why it is important to have a backup plan to your backup plan.

Case in point: I was hired to videotape some high level animal experts who were presenting at a recent veterinary conference here in the Orlando area. I packed my bags, loaded the car, had an assistant with me, double checked everything. I thought I was ready.

As we arrived at the venue, a local convention hotel in South Orlando, I found that instead of filming a lecture at a live conference as I expected, the clients decided to recreate the presentations just for my camera. In a hallway… at the hotel. With people passing by… on their way to and from an open bar.

It was not what I was expecting but no problem. I adjusted my plan. I set up my equipment. I had brought my lighting kit so the lack of adequate lights was not an issue. I brought my lavaliere mikes in case we needed them which enabled me to reduce the amount of ambient noise distractions (i.e. well lubricated convention goers.)

I had an extra DSLR camera with tripod for B-roll and as a back up camera to catch the footage from a different angle in case I needed to edit in a cutaway shot during an unplanned break in the presentation.

To my utter dismay, what I didn’t bring was the DC cord to the main camcorder. No worries, I thought to myself, I’m glad I tossed in that backup battery for the camcorder just before I left.

I was there to record six presentations.  I recorded the first one and my battery went from 100% to 78%. I quickly did the math. I was going to have to switch batteries halfway through in order to capture all six presentations. But I wasn’t really worried… yet.

At the halfway point, I switched batteries.  The one I had been using was down to 30%. The new one I put in… 0%. It was completely dead.  I had 3 more presentations to record. And not enough battery strength to do it. Cue the sweat glands.

I did have the back up DSLR with its two full batteries so I knew I could get the video but the lav mikes needed my camcorder’s XLR jacks to capture the best audio. And the camcorder was going to die before the end of the next presentation.

I suddenly remembered that I threw my Zoom H4nPro audio recorder (pictured above) in my video bag on a whim. I didn’t think I would need it (in fact had never used it before on a production job) but I had space in the bag so in it went. This device accepts the XLR jacks of an audio cable so I could direct the lav mikes output to the Zoom’s SD card while the back up camera could record the main video signal. 

I completed the shoot and everything fell into place. It turned out great. Thanks to the Zoom H4nPro and to the people who suggested to me 2 years ago it might a good thing to have in the camera bag. To quote Hannibal from The A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Branded

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I stumbled across this piece of video the other day that reveals some of the clever “hidden in plain sight” images contained within many familiar logos. Who knew such thought went into branding a company or service.

Having once worked for FedEx, I was aware of the arrow contained in its logo. And once it is shown to you, it is pretty much the first thing you notice whenever one of their trucks rolls down the street. But I must admit, many of the other images were surprises to me.

I’m going to have to look closer at the Home Video Studio logo… maybe there’s a secret message in there somewhere.

Here’s the video for your viewing and learning pleasure (from Matthew Santoro)

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Space Savers

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The scene pictured above is a small illustration of one of the major benefits to digitalizing one’s family’s memories. The physical footprint is a lot smaller. All the tapes shown in this photo will fit on the hard drive in my hand and it will still have room for eight times the number shown here.

So, forget the fact that most analog storage devices cannot be played and therefore the memories they hold stay locked away.

Forget the fact that digitalizing the old memories make them look newer and fresher and more clear than you have ever seen them before because you’ll be watching them on newer and brighter screens.

Forget the fact that after digitalizing all your memories, making digital copies for every single member of your family is not just doable… it is affordable.

But forget all that stuff… just remember that what once took an entire closet or chest of drawers to contain can, after digitalization, fit onto a device the size of a deck of playing cards. If that isn’t enough to convince you that the time is right for you to take back control of your memories, I’m not sure what will.

What could you do with an extra empty closet in your house?  Come see us at Home Video Studio and we can make that happen for you.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio 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.