Mule Train


As you might imagine, we here at Home Video Studio are blessed to witness a great deal of historical footage. People bring us their films, videos, audio recordings, photos, etc… and we convert them to a digital form to protect and preserve them against future loss.  And every so often, in between the birthday parties and vacation footage, we sometimes get to be witness to some incredible historical events.

This week, we’ve been transferring some 8mm film for a client. The earliest date on one of the reels was 1942. It turns out that a large portion of the film was taken from the battlefield of the European campaign of WWII. There was one particular section that captured my attention.

It was apparently shot in Italy. The footage was of a caravan of mules carrying supplies along a city street. I had never thought about it before but I’ve since learned that the mule train was a popular mode of transport during the war. The Mule Corp in Italy had the manpower of more than five divisions, and more than 30,000 mules, and was a vital part of the supply chain.

Without the mules, needed supplies, like ammunition, medical kits, food supplies… would not have reached the fighting men who needed them. There were roads or pathways in the mountainous regions of Europe that vehicles simply could not reach. And so the mules were put into service. The need for them was so great, infantry divisions would often commandeer every mule they came across, giving its owner a voucher that he could later redeem from the US Army. Near the end of the war, the Americans were paying up to $250 for each animal. Upon the war’s conclusion, all available mules were distributed to Italians who had fought alongside the US as well as local farmers.

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

Film or Videotape?


I had an interesting conversation with a prospective client the other day. He came into my office with a videotape and some reels of film and told me that some fifty years ago his father had already had the film transferred and put on the VHS videotape he was holding. He then asked what would be better – transferring the VHS to a digital form or using the original reels of film to do the transfer?

As I thought about my response it made me realize that it is a complex question with multiple issues to consider:

Cost: The cost to transfer a VHS tape up to two hours is considerably less than the cost to transfer 1700 feet of film (which would equate to approximately two hours of footage.)

Condition: Both videotape and film will degrade over time. But what degrades faster? A lot would depend on how they were stored and how often they were played or viewed. Most condition issues that I see in the studio comes from neglect or from faulty equipment that caused damage during playback.

Quality: Here’s the kicker – our technology has advanced exponentially over the last five decades. The methods used to transfer film to video back in the day now seem rather primitive by today’s standards. Even though his film has aged an additional fifty years since his father had it converted to VHS, converting those same film reels again using current technologies may produce a far superior result whereas converting from the VHS tape can only capture the quality of the tape as it exists today… it cannot improve upon it.

Our film transfer process is top of the line. We use a frame-by-frame image capture device which enables us to control or correct color issues, as well as film “noise” issues which can cause a movie to look “grainy.”  For more information, visit this link.

Bottom line, my prospective client has choices. And we’re happy to present him with all the available options and help him to reach the decision that best suits his purposes. And we can do the same for you.

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


Why Super 8 was super

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My very first venture into filmmaking was a high school project I shot and edited on Super 8 film. I’m in good company. Steven Spielberg did the same thing. 
Super 8 was a vast improvement over the regular 8mm film that was being used at the time. 8mm was nothing more than 16mm film cut in half… literally.  Camera operators would need to feed a 25 foot, 16mm sized film cartridge into their cameras, shoot their footage which would record on one side of the strip, then remove the cartridge, flip it over and shoot again so the images would record on the other half. When the the film reached the lab for processing, it was then split down the middle and spliced together to form the 50 foot 8mm film reel that has become so iconic. It was, in a word, a pain.
Super 8 simplified the matter and, by doing so, ushered in a new age of amateur filmmaking. Spielberg and I were not the only ones who cut their auteur’s teeth on Super 8 film. Directors J.J. Abrams, Tim Burton, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan and Michael Bay have all reflected fondly on their cinematic beginnings that started with a Super 8 camera. 
Here, copied from a Live Science blog of 2011 are some random facts about Super 8:
• Although Kodak no longer produces Super 8 cameras, the company still makes four different kinds of Super 8 film. (You can find used Super 8 cameras on eBay.)
• The last manufacturer to produce Super 8 cameras was the French company Beaulieu, which continued making the cameras well into the ’90s.
• Super 8 continues to be used in the film community as an inexpensive alternative to high-definition video. “It tends to be more for small films, commercials and music videos rather than the big blockbuster movies found in theaters,” Johnson said.
• Super 8 film was made using Kodachrome, a type of color reversal film that was manufactured by Kodak from 1935 to 2006. The color was used in motion picture cameras as well as still cameras, especially for images intended for publication in print media. Steve McCurry used Kodachrome for his well-known 1984 portrait of Sharbat Gula, the “Afghan Girl”, for National Geographic magazine.
• The new “Super 8” app recreates the experience of having an old-school Super 8 camera by letting you adjust different lens and filter effects while recording a video on your iPhone, iPad or iTouch. The app also contains embedded information about Steven Spielberg’s new “Super 8” movie as part of its marketing.
And in case you were wondering why I didn’t go on to direct films like Jaws, E.T., or Shindler’s List like Mr. Spielberg… here, for your viewing pleasure, is my Super 8 high school effort.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories, including films shot in 8mm, Super 8, and 16mm format. They can be reached at 352-735-8550.