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.

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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.

All Tapes Are Not Created Equal

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The image above was taken yesterday. This is a new order that just came into my studio. At first glance there doesn’t seem like anything is amiss. These are 8mm tapes – could be Hi-8 or Digital 8 – but definitely something that we should be able to convert into a digital form.

Most people are aware of the evolution of video tapes. First came the Betamax. Closely followed by VHS at which time the two of them battled for dominance in the market. VHS-C was introduced shortly thereafter allowing for the production of smaller camcorders. Then various versions of the 8mm camera and tape were introduced. Followed by the mini-DV tapes and cameras. After that, digital cameras that were able to record onto memory chips or sticks became the rage.

But what was brought into my studio did not fall into one of these categories. True, they are 8mm tapes containing home movie footage of my client. But my client was raised in a European country and so these tapes were recorded with a PAL camera. They will not play on US machines which use the NTSC format of video recording.

Fortunately for my client, I have a PAL playback device that will not only allow me to play his tapes… it will allow me to pass them through an international converter to capture the files in the NTSC format thereby allowing him to watch them with his US equipment.

If you ever discover media that you aren’t sure about… bring them by the studio. I’ll be happy to take a look and let you know what it is that you found. And if I don’t know, so much the better… I love learning about new obsolete media.

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

What’s Coming Next?

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Many of the videotape transfers that I do are actually 2nd generation transfers. They contain footage of family memories that were previously on 8 mm, Super 8, or 16 mm film. As videotapes became more popular, families would move their memories onto them so as not to lose them.

Now, as the videotape market has given way to the digital age, more and more people are realizing that to keep those same memories safe, they have to be transferred once more… this time to a digital format.

What people may not know is that there are choices as to what kind of format to use.

In my area, people still seem to be most comfortable receiving DVDs and we produce quite a bit of them. We use archival quality disks, complete with menus, chapter markers, and titling on the face of the disk. They look and sound great as we only use professional encoding equipment. But there’s no guarantee that the DVD market will not go the same way as the videotape market did. In fact there are signs that the transition is already underway.

It is our business to provide memory loss prevention for families and we are prepared to offer our clients an alternative to the DVD. We call it DVA – Digital Video Archive. We can convert your memories (whether they are on film or videotape) to a digital format to be stored in your account on a server. This enables you to stream your memories directly into whatever device you have… wherever you are. It works across all platforms: you can watch on your computer, your smartphone, your tablet, or your smart tv. And, because it was designed to be a sharing platform, it is the best and easiest way to share those memories with anyone on the planet.

We still produce DVDs for anyone who desires them, but we also offer DVAs for people who might want to avoid the need to save their memories once more should the DVD technology ever become obsolete. Here’s a little explainer video we put together to introduce our newest service.

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

The Best Compliment Ever

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I received a compliment yesterday. I actually receive them most days but I don’t often mention them. I am basically a modest and reserved person (although you may find people who think they know me who will disagree with that assessment. Go figure.) Regardless, I am generally not inclined to bring undue attention to myself.

But yesterday’s compliment struck home with me. It spoke to what is probably the one attribute that I strive hardest at maintaining. I received a call from an out of state individual who has been following me for months on Facebook. He spends part of his year in my area (winters generally) and the rest of the year he spends in northern climates.

He called me to let me know that he has chosen to bring his videotapes to Florida next time he comes down for one reason only. He trusts me to transfer his precious family memories to a digital form in the best possible manner. Through following me on Facebook and by reading my blogs, he said he could tell that I was a person of integrity. That hit my heart big. Because it is true.

I may not always be the smartest guy in the room. I may not always be the most talented guy in the room. But I hope I can always be the truest guy in the room. Ask me a question. I’ll tell you what I can do and what I can’t do. I’ll tell you what I think would be the best solution to your problem and I’ll advise you whether it makes financial sense to chose one way over the other.

Why? Because that is what I want service providers to do for me. Service providers can always make money just by providing the services they do. They don’t need to pad their coffers giving people services or products they don’t want or need. I vow never to be that guy. I want to be the guy people trust to do right by them. My integrity is everything. I’m just glad someone noticed.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of older media like film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Half Full or Half Empty?

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So much of what we get out of life is what we put into it. I recently helped a woman who had called me because she was ready to rid her house of the equipment her late husband used for his side business. He offered many of the services I offer so she thought I could use the video equipment she no longer wanted in her house now that he was gone.

I met with her because I could sense that she was ready to part with that part of her life. It had been 18 months since her husband died. I really didn’t need the equipment, nor did I necessarily want it. But from our conversation, I could tell she really wanted it out of her house so I paid her a visit one evening and took some pieces with me. Whether they work or not, I still don’t know. And it is really besides the point. She was frustrated because she found that she couldn’t even give this equipment away. So, in compassion, I took it off her hands. I most likely will not be able to use it for my transfer work due to its age and condition.

What surprised me was her statement that her late husband confessed to her — he often would get depressed watching the home movies he was transferring. He said it was because it reminded him of the brevity of our lives.

I have never, ever, felt that. I feel nothing but joy when transferring tapes or film of home movies. Images cross my screen that speak of love, family ties, and the bonds of friendship. Through watching your lives pass in front of my eyes, I have recognized that, while each life is unique and different, there is more that unites us than divides us. We record the same events. We treasure the same memories. Our experiences are shared.

Memories are not to be mourned. They are to be treasured for the precious commodities they are… reminders of the happiness we experienced in years past. At Home Video Studio, we are honored to covert your memories to a format you can access and enjoy today. A format that you can bring into the future and leave as a legacy to your children’s children.

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.