Final Cut

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There was a Robin Williams film made in 2004 called Final Cut.  It was somewhat panned by the critics but generally liked by the movie-going public. In it, Williams played a man known as a “cutter.” In this futuristic reality, people would pay to have microchips installed in their brains that would record everything they saw and heard during their lifetimes. Upon their death, the chip would be extracted and given to a “cutter” who would then edit all that recorded information down to a viewable video summary of a life lived, cutting out any of the negative or emotionally troubling memories the surviving family members wish to forget.

In a way, it’s kind of what I can do for people – except for that creepy “install a microchip in your brain” element.  People bring me their films, video, photographs, audio recordings, etc. to digitalize them. Once they have been converted to a digital form, many clients take the extra step and have me edit out the unwanted aspects of their past – or edit in a missing aspect.

Do you have a family photo that is absolutely perfect except for the fact that Dad was behind the camera and therefore not in the shot? I can add him to the picture and blend him in so it looks like he was always there. Are all the videos of your children growing up painful to watch because your ex’s voice could be heard throughout as he “directed” the kids? Keep the images of the kids and replace the audio track with a more pleasurable musical score.

I often tell my clients that with today’s digital technology, we are limited by only two things.  Budget and imagination. If we can think it and afford it, it can be done.

I often check out this site when I want a good laugh. James Fridman has mastered the tools of the trade and people will send him their photos requesting specific changes. But it is how he interprets their requests that always makes me laugh.  Take a look here.

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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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.

Viva La Similarité

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I have been asked repeatedly, “Do you write your own blogs or did you hire someone?” When I assure them that I write all my own stuff they quickly follow up with “Where do you find the time?” or “Where do you get the ideas on what to write about?”

If you haven’t picked up on the theme of my blog as yet, it is based on a simple truism. Memories matter. Each one of us is a walking encyclopedia of experiences. We wake up, experience life, go back to sleep. And repeat day after day.

When I started my Home Video Studio business, people started bringing their memories to me for preservation. And it struck me, in an age when our differences are continually being magnified or exploited in what appears to me to be an orchestrated attempt to keep walls or divides between us, how similar our memories are. Despite all the cultural, racial, economic, philosophical, political, or gender specific labels that can be used to highlight our differences, our memories seem to prove the opposite. They unite us in a deeply personal and profound way.

We tend to record the same kind of events and for the same reasons. Our memories spark the same emotions within us; bring the same smile to our lips; cause the same tears to be shed. When a customer comes in and tells me what memory he or she is looking to have preserved, it is never hard for me to relate. I have the same kind of memories and I know how important they are to me.

Most if not all of my blog posts come directly from a shared memory that I have been reminded of by working with or talking to my clients. I never seem to have writers block because we all have a vast memory vault from which to pull treasures.

Yes, we are all different because we are all unique individuals. But within our differences there is plenty of common ground upon which we can stand. Share a memory with someone today. You may be surprised to see where it will lead.

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.

Cry Me A River

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Tears are shed relatively freely in our studio. Most of the times they are happy tears… but not always. Memories can dredge up emotions and can bring back the pain of loss or hurt. Our clients know they will always find a compassionate ear or empathetic shoulder on which to lean at such times. And we stock a large supply of tissue.

We’ve seen octogenarians shed tears watching footage of their now adult grandchildren as kids and being reminded of how quickly life has passed.

We’ve had people break down simply by hearing the long forgotten voice of a family member who had departed this earth decades earlier.

We’ve helped families plan memorial video presentations for their loved ones even as they grapple with the deepest emotional pain they’ve ever experienced.

We get it. We understand. And we are right there for you. Because as sometimes painful as they are, memories do matter.  Because with the passage of time, our sadness will eventually fade. And when it does, it is the memories that we have worked to save or preserve that will bring us comfort, joy, and happiness. Sometimes, it feels like they are the only things that can.

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.

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.

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.