Inspector Gadget

IMG_0205.jpg

New gadgets always excite me. When I first got married, my wife asked me what I might want for my upcoming birthday, I replied, “I don’t care… just as long as it is black and plugs in.” Since then, she has never disappointed me.

I’ve received just about every electronic device you can think of – from karaoke machines to kindles and everything in between. Maybe it’s the guy in me but I love me some gadgetry… even if I haven’t a clue how it works or what it does.

So I guess I found myself in the perfect business. Not only do I get to play around with old gadgets (like VHS machines and reel to reel audio tape players) but I also get to experiment with new technologies.  Take for example, my newest gadget: my Ronin-M 3-axis handheld gimbal stabilizer for DSLR cameras.

Try to hold your enthusiasm down to a low roar. It may not look like anything special but this is a much ballyhooed piece of equipment. And from what I can tell from just a few moments of working with it, it delivers everything it promises.

What it promises is a smooth and jostle-free video output without the limitations of having a camera tied to a tripod. I’ll be playing around with it some this week before I take it out this weekend for its first commercial run. I’ve been contracted to make a documentary style film for a client and will need a number of specialty shots that this device will enable me to make.

So if you see me around town and it looks like I’m grappling with a giant spider… don’t be concerned. It’s just me and my latest gadget figuring each other 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.

Advertisements

The Future Is Here

DVAgal1 (1).jpg

We finally did it. We cut the cord… to cable tv. And I wish we had done it years earlier. There is a bit of a learning curve because it does alter the way one watches televised entertainment but I’m slowly adapting.

I have been a lifelong channel surfer. Back before we had remotes, I used to wear out the TV dial by turning it to change channels constantly. That habit, honed over the last 50 years, has been deeply ingrained in me. I’m finding that it doesn’t serve me well with this new technology but the cost savings are so high that I’m making the effort to retrain my TV watching habits.

We’ve cancelled our cable service. To replace it, we bought an HD antenna which picks up some 60 channels of which maybe 5 has programming that we might watch (mostly local news shows). We also bought an Amazon Fire TV kit that connects to our Smart TV. I am an Amazon Prime subscriber and we’ve signed up for Netflix. The HD antenna and Fire TV were a one time fixed cost and the combined Netflix and Prime monthly subscription rate are substantially less than the monthly cable bill we were incurring.

But no more channel surfing. Streaming technology is more suited to binge watching. Pick a show and watch a season at a time. My wife just finished The Crown and is working her way through The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I just finished the last two seasons of Stranger Things and have yet to decide where to go from there. There is just so much to choose from.

It is a new world with new rules…but it seems to be where the future is heading.  That is one reason why we offer Digital Video Archive as a part of our Home Video Studio services. Digital Video Archive (DVA) is the streaming alternative for your home movies. We even have an app that works with the Amazon Fire TV and Fire Stick. Just bring your home movies to us, we will encode it to the DVA format while you download the DVA app to your Fire TV or Fire Stick. And in no time you’ll be watching your home movies on your smart TV, your smart phone, or your computer. And you can share them with all of your friends and family no matter where they live.

The future is here.  And you can find it at Home Video Studio.

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.

You Got A Problem? I Got a Joke.

tear hear out.jpg

One of the benefits of being a part of a franchise operation is the ability to tap into the collective knowledge of those who are providing the same services you are… even though they may be in different areas of the country.  Every so often, one of us will run into something that we haven’t seen before and it is comforting that we have the ability to learn from those who have been doing this longer and have probably run into the seemingly unsolvable problem that lies before us.

Sometimes.

Recently, one of our colleagues reached out for suggestions about a difficult file transfer he was trying to accomplish.  An android phone video file that needed to be accessed by a Mac computer. And none of the established procedures were working.  The colleague reached out to the Home Video Studio community. And the response was overwhelming.

Studio owner after studio owner offered suggestions as we have all had to deal with uncooperative devices. But all the suggestions offered had been tried to no avail. After multiple suggestions and multiple “tried that, doesn’t work” responses, there was only one recourse. I decided to chime in. After all, the studio owner seemed desperate enough to try anything.

“Take the android phone,” I advised, “Place it in a paper bag. Wave it over your head… And scream like a chicken!” When all is lost, I find it best to take comfort in the comedy stylings of Dick Van Dyke.

The good news is that the owner was able to reach a solution on his own. The difficulty was found to be linked to a faulty cable.  Personally, I prefer the scream like a chicken solution.

Here’s the link to the Dick Van Dyke episode entitled The Impractical Joke. Love me some Dick Van Dyke. He was my comedy mentor throughout high school.

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.

Time To Recharge The Old Battery

IMG_0176.jpg

Today was a pet peeve day. And it came as a surprise.  It was a pet peeve that I had almost forgotten about. Car troubles. I figure for the amount of money we spend on acquiring automobiles, once we acquire them, we shouldn’t have to spend another dime. They should just work… like, all the time.

This morning mine didn’t.  I love my SRX. It’s a 2012 and I haven’t had one iota of a problem with it. That’s been over 5 years and 95,000 miles. A perfect record. No complaints…. until this morning. I loaded it up; went to start it up to drive to work; and I heard a sound that I sometimes make whenever I try to get up out of the recliner after binge watching a favorite show for an episode too many.

But the sound is irrelevant. The point is, it didn’t start. No time to mess with it. I had my wife drive me to the studio and she took me home at the end of the day. Thinking that maybe my car had become something of a late sleeper, I tried it when I got home. Absolutely no sound. In my mind, I could not stop the thought… it’s dead. After all, it would not be the first car that breathed its death rattle in my presence. My beloved Jeep Cherokee comes immediately to mind… may it rest in peace. But that’s another and much longer story. Still, even with all the car experiences I’ve had, I could not help thinking… she’s gone too young.

I attached jumper cables between my car and my wife’s. (That sounded a lot easier than it was.) It took me 30 minutes in Florida heat just to find the battery on the SRX. It was hidden under a device cover I swear I saw once on Star Trek (Next Generation, not the 60s original.)

I took a beer break while I let it charge another 30 minutes before I gave it a try. I turned the key or, more accurately, pushed the button. IT LIVES! The engine started and continued to run on its own. I immediately drove it to the auto parts store for a battery diagnostic. They could find nothing wrong with it. I mean, absolutely nothing. I came to them with a perfect battery.

So suddenly… all eyes were on me. I must have done something stupid. I must have done something really lame-brained to drain a perfectly good battery. To their credit, the store employees said or did nothing to make me feel this… they didn’t have to. I’m well aware of my own inadequacies. Which is why this is a pet peeve. I hate being thrust in situations in which I am ill-equipped to succeed. My lack of knowledge of auto mechanics is rivaled only by my lack of knowledge of astrophysics. But since I am rarely called upon to solve problems dealing with quantum theories, the latter never embarrasses me. The former is a sore spot residing squarely upon my masculinity.

But the good news is that I left the auto parts store with the instruction to drive the car around for 30 minutes to recharge the battery. And other than the loss of points on my man card, there was no other out of pocket expense.

So all’s well that ends well… until we wake up tomorrow and try to start the car.

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.

You’ve Got Mail!

c64.png

Who can forget that iconic greeting or the soothing but irritating dial up tones you heard when accessing your America OnLine account? For those old enough, the odds are that AOL was your first introduction to the wonders of the Internet.

AOL began in 1983 and went through a number of transitions before hitting it big by becoming America’s gateway to the Internet. I first used it with my Commodore 64. The Commodore 64 was an 8 bit system and took its name from the fact that it possessed a whopping 64 kilobytes of RAM. It was far from being blazingly fast but we didn’t care. Back then, we were amazed at the world it introduced us to.

This comes to mind because I had a woman in my studio yesterday with a dilemma. She had a box of old floppy disks that contained a bunch of .art files. These files could not be opened with any program known to her.

.art is a file format that AOL used for graphic images to facilitate transfer speeds. It was a highly compressed file format that is unfortunately no longer used in today’s gigabyte world.

I was unable to help her recover the files that were on those floppy disks because the programs used to read those files are no longer in existence. I asked if perhaps she still had access to the computer which made the files or a backup of the original computer’s hard drive. But she did not. And unfortunately, no other program that I know of can open the files, uncompress them and render a readable image that can then be exported to a different format that can be accessed, stored or printed with today’s equipment.

I truly hate disappointing people. But it served as a rude reminder that technology is continually advancing and as it does, it makes our old technical standards obsolete and unsupported. We can and do work wonders with many of the old formats that were once popular decades ago. But as time continues to advance, our abilities to access older and more obscure formats will grow less and less. It is, unfortunately, the way of the world. If you have memories stored on devices or in files that you currently can’t access, you may want to think about getting them transferred soon before that option is taken away from you forever.

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.

Can You Hear Me Now?

pager.jpg

It was a slow day today. I came to find out that it was due to a nationwide outage of my landline telephone provider. No calls in/no calls out. Thanks Comcast.

But as frustrating as the day was, it made me reflect on other times when I was “cut off” communication-wise from the rest of the world. I had a strange epiphany.

I realized that being “cut off” from the world is a relatively new experience.  In this age, with our smartphones and 24/7 tv coverage, we are literally plugged in to almost every corner of the world at any given time.  It was not always so.

When I was growing up, news came on at dinner time and was over before we were finished eating. We would read the newspaper to catch up on the news of the day. Sure, the news we were reading was a day old but the reporters had that time to check for things like accuracy.

We had one phone line coming into the house and we had to take turns to use it. And the phones we were using weren’t smart. They weren’t dumb either. They were just phones. You used them to dial a number (on a dial!) and they somehow magically connected you with the person you wanted to speak with. And if you couldn’t reach them you just wrote them a letter and mailed it off. And you would most times get a letter back in response.

The first step I took to full access connectivity to the world was my pager. I had a job where the employers thought it would be good if I could be reached anytime, anywhere, by anybody. I felt important when I was first given the device. I was stupid. It took less than a month for me to learn to hate the pager. But that was only the beginning.

Technology evolved at a rapid pace. Cell phones, Email, Internet Messaging, FaceTime, LiveStream… we eventually reached a place where we can touch anybody at any time, anywhere they are… and they can touch us.  I’m not so sure that’s an improvement.

If memory serves, we were pretty happy when we were less plugged in… less accessible… less connected. At least less connected electronically. We were more connected physically and emotionally. And that isn’t a bad thing at all.  Thanks Comcast for the downtime… and the reminder that human connectivity beats electronic connectivity every time.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specializes 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.