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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DIY?

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There’s a well-known truism about dealing with service vendors. There’s good; there’s fast; and there’s cheap. You can pick any two but you can’t have all three.  In other words, if you want it good and fast, it won’t be cheap. If you want it fast and cheap, it won’t be good. And if you want it good and cheap, it won’t be fast.

There’s a similar truism about the do-it-yourself option. Whether or not you should tackle a do-it-yourself project depends on three things: Do you have the experience? Do you have the tools? Do you have the time?

If you lack the experience, the finished project may lack some of the quality that a professional could bring. If you lack the tools to do the job, it may be less expensive to hire someone who already has invested in the equipment needed. And if you are short on time, you may never get around to doing the job in the first place.

I transferred a couple of videotapes for a client yesterday to .mp4 files on a rush request. When I asked the reason for the rush, she explained that she wanted to take certain clips to use for a family member’s memorial service video presentation she was going to put together. After expressing my condolences, I asked what program she was using to edit the footage. She didn’t have one. I asked if she had ever used an editing program before. She hadn’t. I asked when the service was taking place. In two days.

I gave her my card, and let her know that I give memorial videos top priority in my studio and to call me if she needed my help to produce something that can be played at the service. Something tells me I’ll be hearing from her. There are times when it just makes sense to use someone who has the time, tools and experience.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation (and editing) 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.

Color Me Amazed

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Michael Ondrasik is nearing the end of his annual training conference and will  soon be returning home armed with an abundance of new knowledge and experience to add to the tools of his trade. He is continuing to blog daily from the field. To have his blog delivered directly to your email, simply click on the subscribe button from his blog page.

As we are finishing up our week-long training, I continue to be amazed at just how much control we, as photo and video editors, have over the manipulation of images – whether they are still photos or moving videos. Over the past few days we received extensive training in many different features of Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Audition, Lightroom, and Davinci Resolve. The technology available to us has grown to unfathomable levels.

Techniques once reserved for Hollywood and their six figure editing suites can now be easily performed by individuals with a laptop and the proper software. Spielberg’s technique of colorizing a single red dress in a full length black and white movie (Shindler’s List)? I did that this week. Ken Burn’s technique of panning and altering the perspective of a still photo? I did that too. How about that shot of Roy Schneider in Jaws where his image zoomed closer to the camera as the beach background grew smaller when he first saw the shark? I learned how that was done as well and can duplicate it with the equipment I have.

I may never have the need to use many of the techniques we covered this week but knowledge learned is never a bad thing. The more I can learn how to use the tools I have, the more options I can give my customers to meet the needs that they may have.

I am looking forward to returning home and putting into practice much of the learning I received this week. I’ll be in the studio on Monday morning bright and early.  Hope to see you then.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Live Long and Prosper


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Michael is still at the Advanced Training Seminar for Home Video Studio owners but is continuing to blog from the field on a daily basis. Subscribe to the blog to have it delivered directly to your email.

Yesterday, at our conference, we held our traditional movie/pizza night where studio owners around the world were invited to bring and show a small segment of a video project that they have either worked on recently or are currently working on. It is always a fun event showcasing the degree of talent and creativity that exists within our franchise family.

For my part, I decided to bring a short, personal clip that I used to open a 90th birthday video for my mother-in-law. The family had decided that, as a birthday gift, each member should film a short selfie video telling a small story or recollection that would help celebrate the fun times shared over the years. I assembled the clips, and then added some photos and music to make a special 30 minute video presentation. We presented the movie at a family gathering, gave it as a gift to the birthday girl and she has watched it many times since. It makes her cry each time… happy tears.

The clips ranged from sentimental to funny and came from far and wide as our family is spread across the globe. I received video segments filmed from the deck of a Coast Guard cutter destined for Antarctica, from a desert in Arizona, from the beaches of Hawaii, from the hills of Tennessee and in my case, from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, the familiar setting of her favorite TV show.

As I often say, if you don’t know what to get for the person who has everything, you can never go wrong with a video of memories shared. And because each keepsake we produce is different – specifically tailored for the person to whom it is given – it can never be duplicated; it always delivers an emotional impact; and it will be treasured forever.

For the curious, here’s the clip I made for my mother-in-law that I showed my fellow studio owners last night:

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories (and in the creation of new ones). For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

How Many Balls Can You Juggle?

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I hate to break the news to all you alpha-type overachievers but there is no such thing as multi-tasking. I know many of us would like to lay claim to that ability but the sad reality is… it doesn’t exist.

It is impossible for the human mind to think two thoughts at the same time. Look it up. Scientific fact. What we think of as multi-tasking is not doing two or more different things at the same time. It is doing two or more different things in quick and ever changing succession. it is the ability to juggle tasks… oftentimes extremely rapidly.

Such is the case during a normal day in my studio.  I go from station to station, checking on works in progress, adding input, correcting errors, and moving on.  At any given time, I can be working on three video transfers, an audio transfer, a slide transfer, a video editing job, answering phone calls, greeting customers who drop in, responding to email requests and so much more… but I have to handle them one task at a time. 

To be effective in what I do, I have to juggle them, giving priority to the task which requires the most immediate attention. If I am working on a video transfer and the front door opens, I leave one task to respond to the more immediate need.

If an audio transfer still has another 15 minutes to go before completion but a slide transfer is ready to move to the next stage, I’ll address the needs of the slide transfer.

Juggling tasks is the proper way to describe what many call multi-tasking. Fortunately for me and my clients, I am an excellent juggler. I learned the skill in high school and once learned, it is never forgotten. Ask me next time you come by. I’ll be happy to demonstrate.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

The DVA Kid

I always like to know where my customers heard about me or what brought them to my studio. A lot of time people mention a Facebook post or my link from a Google search. Sometimes they were just driving by and noticed my sign on Donnelly St or they clipped out my ad from the Daily Commercial. But yesterday was the first time that a new client simply said, “I saw that western you did.”

Last summer at a convention for Home Video Studio owners, we were challenged to craft, shoot and edit a small movie under 3 minutes using techniques and skills we had developed. The only other limitation was that it needed to be centered around a western theme as the convention was being held in Tucson Arizona.

I teamed up with John Montgomery of Home Video Studio in Newark OH and Peter Galluzzo of Home Video Studio in Apex NC and we decided to make a western commercial for DVA, our cloud-based streaming solution for home videos. Armed with our love of spaghetti westerns and using a western ghost town belonging to the El Conquistador Hilton Hotel, we set out to do just that.

Here are some trivia facts:

  • Shooting this little two and a half minute mini-movie required a day and a half of production (shooting in front of the camera) and more than two days editing the footage we shot.
  • We used a Canon EOS C-100 DSLR as our primary camera and edited on a laptop using Adobe Premiere Pro software.
  • The actress playing the saloon keeper, Stella, is my wife, Kate.
  • The actor playing The DVA Kid is Vernon Walker, a local actor and horse trainer who made himself available for our project as well as other projects that were in development that week. He’s included The DVA Kid as part of his demo reel on IMDb. 
  • The uncredited voiceover at the end of the film belongs to Jay Carneal of Memory Box Archives, Richmond VA.
  • The DVA Kid won for Best Backlot Video at the 2017 Hanley Awards. The trophy is on display at our studio.

I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Happy Birthday Sergei Eisenstein!

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I don’t know if anyone noticed that Google paid homage to Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein yesterday. It would have been his 120th birthday.

I studied Eisenstein’s work when I was in college – particularly his masterpiece silent film “Battleship Potemkin.” His primary contribution to the film world was his development of the film montage – editing disparate clips in a way to evoke emotion and add to a story in a brief period of time,

The role of a film editor is often largely overlooked by the general public but there are few other contributors that have as great an impact on the final product. The editor, more than anyone else is tasked with capturing the heart of a film and delivering it to an eager audience. If he does his job well, no one notices him… they’re too involved in the story he pieced together.

Eisenstein’s work today may seem dated or even antiquated. But there is no mistaking that it was revolutionary in its time. The Odessa Steps sequence in Battleship Potemkin (filmed in 1925) is still studied in film classes today. It was even successfully copied in many other films decades later including: Brian DePalma’s The Untouchables; Terry Gilliam’s Brazil; George Lucas’s Star Wars III; and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.

As someone who edits video, I can appreciate how a film is enhanced and improved through the work of someone who takes raw footage and converts it to a finished product. It takes skill to shoot video. It takes a different skill to shape the video shot into a final product that will engage an audience.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. We also edit those memories to tell the story you want future generations to remember. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

 

 

 

The Final Cut

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I spent most of yesterday at my editing desk. People are learning more and more that digital technology provides almost limitless possibilities in how one’s movies can look or sound.

In the past I have sped footage up, slowed it down, and had it played in reverse. I’ve added soundtracks, suppressed noises, zoomed in closer, or eliminated scenes entirely. I’ve restructured the timing of events, merged scenes together from two different sources, and added subtitles to help with understanding dialogue.

Today’s digital equipment provides editors with a vast array of tools that make it look like they can do just about anything. But it remains a labor intensive process and most editing jobs are still priced out using an hourly rate.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when contracting with a video editor that may help keep your budget in check.

  • Be specific in what you want the final product to be. The more information you provide the editor, the easier it will be for him or her to deliver to your expectations.
  • If possible, provide the time code of the sections that need to be edited. A lot of wasted time (and dollars) can be spent simply trying to find the piece of video that needs to be altered. Knowing ahead of time that it appears fifteen minutes into the hour long video allows the editor to narrow the search.
  • Editors work faster alone. While most will allow their customers to sit with them as they edit, understand that the process will take longer and therefore become more expensive.
  • Recognize the difference between what is available and what is affordable. Some requests, while achievable, can only be accomplished if some extensive man hours are put in. The result may not add a value that matches the cost.
  • Know that some things are simply not possible. A video editor cannot reshoot your original film to refocus, change the angle, or capture something that happened offscreen. What we can do is to insert additional footage or “B” roll to give it that illusion.

There’s an old saying that people “can’t change the past.”  While that remains true on an existential level, we can change how it was recorded and thereby change how it will be remembered.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd

The Story of Yellow Feather

 

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I don’t know how I ever found the (courage, arrogance, stupidity… insert your favorite word here) but I enrolled in college as a theater major with a concentrate in acting without ever having set foot on a theatrical stage.

My first role as a college freshman was certainly one to remember. I was cast in the Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald musical spoof, Little Mary Sunshine, as the villainous Indian, Yellow Feather. He doesn’t appear at all in the first act until the final seconds but the character is talked about with such impending dread that the audience is expecting to see evil incarnate. Here’s what actually happened (mind you, this all happened opening night of my very first theatrical performance).

  • My first entrance was to be a dramatic onstage leap onto a 3 foot platform where I was to strike a menacing tableau pose as the first act curtain was falling. I somehow made it up on the platform without tripping and struck my pose with my tomahawk held high. The music built to a crescendo… and the audience howled. I discovered that I was holding my tomahawk backwards so the little dinky tip was facing front and the sharp blade was pointed towards my own face.
  • My next scene was a solo dance number to cover for a scene change. As I got into place, the scrim upon which was painted a mountainous background was to fly in behind me. It got hung up on one of the stage lights and in trying to force it free, the backstage crew managed to dislodge the 30 pound Klieg light which came crashing down at my feet, narrowly missing my head. I had the presence of mind to kick the light under the descending scrim but forgot the steps to the dance number. Instead of an Indian war dance it looked more like an uncoordinated Boogaloo.
  • Next, I was to kidnap the female star, Little Mary Sunshine, and tie her to a tree. I got behind the musical beat and didn’t have enough time to complete the task so I handed her the rope and the poor actress was forced to hold it up and “pretend” she was tied to the tree.
  • Then, the hero, Big Jim of the Forest Rangers was to arrive and save the day, after a fierce struggle with me. During that choreographed struggle, I broke the blade of my plastic knife on Big Jim’s wrist. My next move was supposed to be to threaten him with the knife but since I now only held a hilt, I decided to choke him instead. I probably should have first consulted with the actor playing Jim. Surprised, he threw me off so violently I ripped the seam of my buckskin pants, leaving me wearing a pair of yellow leggings and exposing my lucky bikini blue underwear I wore underneath. (This was the fashioned challenged 70s after all.) I finished the fight scene with my thighs held so tightly together I probably looked like I was channeling Jerry Lewis.
  • At the end of the play, to show my conversion from bad guy to good, I was to walk out during the curtain call waving a large patriotic flag as snow gently fell from above. The crew lost control of the snowbox and ended up dumping a carton of shaved styrofoam directly on top of my head.

That was my theatrical debut. But I have to say, it got better. I think back now with the fondest of memories of my time spent in front of the footlights. And I’m very happy that a number of those performances have been preserved in a digital form so I can revisit them from time to time. Even the embarrassing moments.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd. And don’t forget, we’ve extended our end of year sale for one last week. Big discounts can be had on orders placed between now and Jan 13.

Countdown to Christmas IX

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#It’s just four days till Christmas… I hope my true love gives to me…

Our family’s movie highlights#

I see a lot of home movies and while they are all different and unique to each family, there are always similarities.  One that I’ve noticed is that on just about every videotape or reel of film that I transfer, there’s always a moment that stands out. That one section where fortune smiled down on the cameraman who happened to be at the right time and the right place with the camera running and caught the video equivalent of lightning in a bottle.

It might have been a poignant moment, or a turning point in someone’s life; an incident that became the family’s running joke, or simply a tradition within the family that was repeated every year. Whatever it is, on every tape there’s usually one segment that people tend to remember and really enjoy.

The beauty of digitalizing one’s memories is that it becomes so easy to isolate all those moments from your collection of tapes and “splice” them together to form a special highlight reel – without affecting the original footage that will remain intact.

There are few limitations in the world of digital video editing. If you can imagine what you want to end up with, more than likely we can make that happen. And what better gift can be had than to present your family with all their favorite moments gathered together and packaged in an easy to view format?

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit us at www.homevideostudio.com/mtd