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.

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Digital Video Archive

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It was a relatively slow day in the studio today. So I spent the time catching up on the video transfers in my queue. I find that more and more people are requesting transfers of videotapes to computer files on usb drives instead of getting DVD disks. And we are happy to do that for them. And we still process a large number of DVD disks. And we are happy to do that as well. But we do have a third option – developed specifically for us. We call it DVA, Digital Video Archive.

Last year, during our corporate getaway, a few of us teamed together to do a western tribute to our DVA product.  I have it posted below. DVA brings the best of the DVD features (chapter markers, authoring capabilities) to a streaming technology. It allows you the ultimate flexibility to watch and share your home movies – wherever you are, whenever you want.  Call us for more information.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, here’s the award winning short film: The DVA Kid.

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.

Happy National VCR Day!

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You’ll be forgiven if you let yesterday go by unobserved. Most people do. It wasn’t widely publicized but June 7th was National VCR Day. It was a day to celebrate that wonderful invention, the video cassette recorder.  Don’t have one?  No surprise there. There are few who do these days.

The video cassette recorder was an electro-mechanical device that recorded analog audio and analog video from television on a removable, magnetic tape videocassette.  The images and sound could then be played back at a more convenient time. At the time, the VCR was the main way to watch movies at home, and one could create their own personal movie library.

The first video cassette recorder was introduced in 1956.  The home video cassette format (VCR) was developed in 1970. 

The birth of VCR mass market success boomed in the mid-1970s and continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Today, most VCR tapes contain the precious memories of families who used the technology to record their children and grandchildren as they grew. But those memories are now locked away as few people have the means to play them back.  At Home Video Studio, we can not only play them… we can convert them to a digital format and give the memories back to the families on a format that they can play, save, enjoy and pass on to the next generation.

Or they could choose to keep those memories on an archaic device that will not even be recognized by future generations. Take a look at this video which was shot three years ago showing children of that time trying to understand how a VCR works. What will children ten years from now make of a VCR tape?

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.

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.

Invisible Damage

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I take great pride in the services we provide and the quality we work hard to attain. But sometimes, there are circumstances we are faced with that prevent us from delivering the clearest or sharpest images from the tapes tendered to us.

Recently, I had to deal with some “damaged” tapes that appeared outwardly to be perfectly fine.  It was part of a large order from a client. She presented me with VHS tapes, VHS-C tapes, digital-8 tapes, and mini dv tapes. Over the years, she would continually upgrade to the newest camera models as they were released so she had a large supply of different videotape formats none of which she could watch because the various cameras that recorded and played those formats were no longer available to her. She asked me to convert them all to digital files in order to preserve and protect them.

Her VHS, digital-8 and mini-dv tapes are transferring with no issues. Beautiful results. But almost all of her VHS-C tapes are giving me fits. They just don’t want to track properly on my equipment, causing the picture to “jump” or static lines to display on the screen. After working with the tapes for a while, I believe I know the cause. It is not my equipment. It is functioning properly because other tapes I play on them transmit clear and crisp images. And yet her tapes, regardless of which of my machines I use to play them, do not track properly even though the tapes themselves show no signs of external damage.

What I figure is that her original VHS-C camera that recorded the footage on these particular tapes, at some point, must have been dropped, resulting in its video heads being knocked out of alignment. The camera continued to record but with a misaligned head. This misalignment would be responsible for the tracking issues experienced during playback as the camera’s recording head and my players’ playback head would not be in sync according to the industry’s universally accepted calibration settings.

Because my equipment has the ability to adjust to some degree the alignment of its heads to match the variance of the source tapes, I feel confident that I will be able to capture and preserve the majority of her memories with a minimum of distortion. Just one more reason why it is a good idea to bring your most treasured possessions… your memories… to a professional for safe-keeping.

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.

Song and Dance Man

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I have been asked to digitally preserve a number of videotapes containing theatrical performances for a local actress whose career spanned decades and over 60 stage shows at various venues. Most of them musicals. I love getting these jobs.

As an actor, I always envied the triple threat people… you know, the ones who could act, sing, AND dance. Myself, I was more of a threat and a half kind of performer. I could act, and move across the stage without tripping over my feet. Singing was something I reserved primarily for showers and while stopped at red lights.

But the desire was always there. And sometimes desire, if left unchecked, will overrule common sense. And so one day I found myself auditioning for the lead of a musical – a community theatre production of They’re Playing Our Song. The audition song I used was one I had written for myself while in college, something I prepared in the unlikely event I was ever asked to sing in order to be considered for a role. I called it The Audition Song and it began like this:

I can act my way from a paper bag,
Quote Shakespeare til I’m blind.
But there’s one thing that I must confess:
I can’t sing worth a dime.
But I can sell it… any song that I sing.
Gotta sell it… just to make the voice ring.
I will sell it… so that you’ll never know
When I open my mouth, out comes a sound like a crow.

While I may have been crazy to think I would ever be considered, I know with all certainty that the directors were crazy when they decided to cast me. I was now the lead of a musical. It was my Gene Kelly fantasy come true.

Truth be told, I had a blast working the show and my performance of the titular number was, in all modesty, the evening’s showstopper. My singing never did improve but boy did I “sell” the heck out of my numbers. One reviewer put it like this, “Mr. Ondrasik does not let his untrained voice stand in the way of enjoying himself onstage.”  I took that as a compliment. It was, wasn’t it?

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.

Oh, The Things You’ll See

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“You must see some pretty wild stuff.”

I get asked that question a lot. People are generally disappointed by my response.  “Not really,” I say. I see interesting stuff; heartwarming stuff; funny stuff; but not that much that would be called wild.

When I first started transferring people’s home videos to digital form, I quickly began to recognize patterns. I realized that deep down, we are all pretty much the same. We all seem to want to record and preserve the same kind of memories. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, vacations, holidays, and a lot of videos of kids just being kids until they aren’t kids any longer.

Now I don’t mean to say that all videos are alike. All of my clients’ tapes are special because they contain memories specific to them and their lives. Some even have historical significance. I’ve transferred film from a European vacation a client had in 1937 that captured the motorcade during the coronation of King George VI. I once transferred a video of a presidential inauguration. The camera never got close enough for me to see which one but Gov. Ronald Reagan was definitely in attendance. I even received film taken during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

I believe that every video transfer job I do is an opportunity to peek into the past and keep a memory alive. But there is a side effect that happens when your job is to help preserve the memories of others. And I have definitely experienced it.

There are times when an adult will come into the studio to pick up the order their parents had placed with me and I will recognize them as their 10 year old self. It is weird to have a sense of knowing someone you have never met. So you’ll have to forgive me if I act overly familiar. For me, it is like seeing an old friend again after many years.

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.

Keeping In Sync

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As many years as I have been transferring home movies for families, I would have thought I had captured every sporting event known to mankind.  I have transferred baseball games, football games, soccer matches, volleyball games, lacrosse matches, field hockey games, martial arts exhibitions, and more. But yesterday was a first. I transferred a videotape that had actually contained a client’s family member performing a synchronized swimming performance.

Now, let me first state how appreciative I am at the discipline needed to effectively pull off a synchronized performance of any kind. It requires great concentration, skill, and practice to move in unison with another person. Just ask the Rockettes. But, in this particular instance, there is a problem… the elephant in the room if you will…

I discovered through the watching of the tape I transferred that I am incapable of seeing a synchronized swimming performance without bringing to mind the Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Martin Short and Harry Shearer. First aired in 1984, it has arguably been declared as the best sketch ever to have appeared on SNL.  That is high praise. There may be a few sketches that I would personally rank higher but I can’t argue with the impact it had upon my brain because this sketch will invariably come to mind whenever when I see a legitimate synchronized performance no matter how good it may be.

In the sketch, Shearer and Short appeared as brothers who pursued their passion for the sport even though, in Short’s own words, he is not that strong at swimming. For your viewing pleasure, here’s a link to this classic SNL routine:

 

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

Here Comes the Bride

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One of yesterday’s jobs consisted of a tub filled with video tapes (mainly VHS and hi-8) that contained all the family’s memories of their years together. The mom and dad brought them to me with a rush request. Their daughter is getting married soon and they need to put together a video presentation with footage of the bride as she was growing up. It is to be featured during the reception planned for after the ceremony.

Unfortunately, all those memories are trapped on the obsolete format of videotapes. The problem is how to put them into a medium that can be viewed, edited, reassembled and exported into a playable form. The solution: bring them to Home Video Studio. This happens to be our specialty. Rush jobs don’t scare us. We like the challenge.

In fact, as they were leaving, trusting me with all their tapes, I showed them an example of a quirky little service we developed to use for graduations, milestone birthdays, and yes… weddings that they might want to consider including in their presentation.

We call it Face to Face: A Video Portrait. All we need is a series of photographs of the same person in different stages of their life. Headshots work best. School pictures, if they were saved through the years, are perfect. But any clear picture of the subject that has the face in focus against a neutral or non-distracting background will do.

We do the rest. We set the pictures on a video timeline, but instead of cutting from one picture to the next, we force the picture to morph into the next one. It gives the illusion of the face actually growing from childhood to adulthood before our eyes. With the right song playing as its soundtrack, it’s a clever and unique way to commemorate a special milestone event and will certainly delight those who are there to celebrate with the happy couple.

Here’s an example of a Face to Face presentation:

 

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.