The Gift That Stole Christmas

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I wanted to share this unsolicited post that popped up on social media last week:

“Christmas is coming! Last year I was able to give my parents an amazing present that was well received by the entire family. Old film, VHS, slides, etc that had not been played in 35+ years (and could not be played on any devices we had!) were brought back to life – we were able to watch Christmas’s, birthdays and other celebrations with loved ones that have passed and we were able to laugh and cry as a family. I also condensed an entire cabinet or two of unplayable media into a small digital drive…mom loved this. I highly recommend Michael Ondrasik at Home Video Studio in Mount Dora for the best Christmas present around.”

We see it happen year after year. The work we do for our clients have a tendency to stop their Christmas celebrations in its tracks. As soon as our gift is unwrapped, all other gifts are put on hold while the family gathers around the TV or computer screen to watch their memories begin to play back.

Watching the old footage sparks laughs, brings tears, and triggers other memories of days and times gone by. Christmas is best spent with families and what better way to spend that time than by reflecting on the experiences you had growing up together?

If you want to turn this Christmas holiday into something truly memorable, get in touch with us. Whether it is a home movie or home video conversion to a digital format or a specially designed photo video keepsake using images from your scrapbook or photo albums, we will make sure that you have something under your tree that will be the most talked about present of the season.

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.


Mysteries Solved


You’re doing some Spring Cleaning and you come across something you didn’t know you were storing. It may be an unmarked videotape. Or a reel of film that has no label on it. It could be some audio recordings you don’t remember ever making.

Whatever the case, in almost every home, in almost every state, there is some unmarked, unlabelled piece of media that can’t be viewed or heard because the equipment to play it no longer functions. No one alive knows what is on it and the current owners can’t play it to find out. But they just can’t bring themselves to throw it away because of what it might contain. So they continue to hold onto it. Move after move. Generation after generation. 

We are happy to say we can convert such items to a digital form so our clients can view what up to that point was un-viewable. We recently converted some unlabeled 16mm film and delivered to our client footage of his parent’s honeymoon vacation from the 1950s. Something he had never seen before.

On the other hand, we salvaged some badly damaged film from the 1920s for a client who had no clue as to what it contained. After we cleaned it up some and converted it,  we played it back to find that what we had captured was some silent movie footage (Harold Lloyd I think) as well as some silent video cartoons of that era. (Anyone remember Dick Tracy?) I was expecting the client to be upset that the film did not contain footage of his family. Instead he expressed his gratitude for delivering to him the footage that contained his grandfather’s great passion for the arts of his time. 

I suppose the point is, we all have these mysteries caused by obsolete media that we keep stored in boxes or closets. We can’t bring ourselves to throw them away but we can’t watch or enjoy them either. Home Video Studio is the solution. We take the old media and transfer it to a format that can be played on today’s equipment  Who knows what is contained on those old unlabelled tapes or film taking up space in our homes? It could be nothing… It could mean everything. We can help you find 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.

What’s in a Name?


All of my grade school life, I never sat in a classroom where there weren’t a few other boys who shared my first name. It turns out that there was a very good reason for that. According to the Social Security Administration, from 1954 until 1998, with the exception of one year, Michael was the most popular boy’s name in America. The exception came in 1960 where it came in second behind David. That’s still an impressive run of 44 years.

But it did cause some confusing moments. In the classroom, I could never figure out if the teacher was talking to me or one of the five other Michaels who sat near me. And at recess, out on the playground, I’d be forever turning around to find out who was calling me only to find out nobody was calling me… just my name. It happened every day…multiple times a day.

So I was tickled by a customer yesterday who had come in to the studio to have some old photos from the early 1900s restored. And as he was sharing with us who these people were that were in the pictures, ticking off their names, I commented on how unfamiliar their names seemed. It turns out it was a thing in their family. Their grandmother didn’t appreciate conventional names so she opted for naming her children with words that she would just make up. If it was in the baby book of names… she would simply come up with something else.

Over the years, the family adapted to their unusual monikers by taking their first and middle names and whittling them down to just the first initials. Thus Jerimillia Crimereo called herself JC; Podifer Amitelik would answer to PA; etc. That worked for most. Unfortunately, no one thought what it would be like for little Ventroy Delwhilm who, once grown, would to the family be forever known as Uncle VD.

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.

Gobble, Gobble

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Another Thanksgiving is upon us and while we should all take time to reflect on those things we are or should be thankful for, there’s no escaping the fact that so much of this holiday will be focused on or around the dining room table.

I got off easy this year. My contribution to the family meal will be met with a simple cauliflower dish. I plan to make a cauliflower ‘mac n cheese’ concoction which has been a big hit in my household.  Here’s how to make it:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water with salt.
  • Spray an 8×8  baking dish with vegetable oil spray
  • Cook the florets of 1 head of cauliflower in the boiling water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well and pat between several layers of paper towels to dry.
  • Transfer the cauliflower to the baking dish and set aside.
  • Bring 1 cup heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan, and whisk in 2 oz. of cream cheese and 1 1/2 teaspoons of dijon mustard until smooth. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of  shredded sharp cheddar cheese, salt, pepper and garlic (to taste) and whisk just until the cheese melts, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, pour over the cauliflower, and stir to combine. Top with an additional 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese and bake until browned and bubbly hot, about 15 minutes.
  • Serve.

In years past, when I’ve been on turkey duty, I’ve relied on Giada’s citrus-stuffed recipe which results in a moist and flavorful bird.  It’s my go to recipe whenever asked to provide the main course. If only she would show how to carve the darn thing. I make the family leave the kitchen so they aren’t witness to the carnage when I attempt it. Here’s a link to that recipe.

Turkey with Herbes de Provence and Citrus

But my most vivid Thanksgiving memories are courtesy of my maternal grandmother whose house hosted most of our turkey dinners when I was growing up. The one thing I most looked forward to was the Thanksgiving giblet gravy which was made only for this particular meal. It’s a southern variation using the giblets of the turkey and hard boiled eggs and it was all I could do not to drink it right out of the gravy boat. 

It’s been a while since I have had it. I may have to rectify that next year.  Here’s that recipe.

  1. Remove liver from giblets and refrigerate.

  2. Place the remaining giblets into a saucepan and cover with 4 cups cold water; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the giblets for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. At this point add the liver to the saucepan and simmer for another 30 minutes.

  3. Place a mesh strainer or colander over a bowl. Drain the giblets and set the liquids aside to use in the gravy, if needed. Let the giblets cool. Remove the meat from the neck and chop with the rest of the meat

  4. Melt 4 TBs of butter in a heavy saucepan and stir in 4 TBs of flour. Cook and stir for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the roux just barely begins to turn golden.

  5.  If you don’t have drippings from a roasted turkey or chicken, or if you only have a small amount, add the giblet broth or chicken or turkey stock to make 2 cups. Slowly stir in the drippings and/or broth into the roux. Add 1/2 cup of milk or half-and-half. Continue cooking and stirring until thickened.

  6. Taste and season the gravy with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  7. Stir in two chopped hard-cooked eggs and chopped giblets and serve.

  8. The recipe makes about 3 cups of old-fashioned gravy. Enjoy!


To all my readers and clients, may you have a Happy Thanksgiving! We hope to see you after the weekend!

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.

Note; Home Video Studio of Mount Dora will be closed from Thursday Nov 22 through Sunday Nov 25. We will reopen at 9:30am on Monday, Nov 26.

What’s Important


It is sad to say but sometimes it takes a tragedy to get us to recognize the true value of things.  We often take things for granted until faced with the real possibility that we just might lose them.

I’m working with a woman whose parents own two homes just outside of Paradise, CA which has been devastated by the wildfires that are ravaging that part of the country. Thankfully, their parents heeded the evacuation orders and they are safe but they have not been able to return to check on their properties. They are preparing themselves for the possibility that everything they own may have been lost to the fire.

The one saving grace is that a few years ago, the parents shipped to my client a box filled with Betamax tapes. They are old, unlabeled and nobody seemed to know what’s on them or what to do with them. My client has just been storing the box for her parents all this time. Suddenly, due to the recent events, she has realized exactly what she had been sitting on. That box potentially contains the only evidence that exists of the long life her family has shared together. It has gone from just one more piece of clutter under foot to the most precious possession in her house.

I feel privileged to unlock the memories that may be stored on these tapes and deliver them back to the family. I hope it provides some solace or comfort for the family as they prepare to face whatever they find awaits them.

Here’s a link to a site that describes how people can best help victims of the California wildfires.

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.

I Work In a Time Machine


One of the best things about my business is the environment in which I work. It is kind of like stepping into a time capsule every day. Our studio may not be as snappy as a modified DeLorean fitted with a working  flux capacitor, but it often provides the same effect… we constantly find ourselves going “back to the future.”

This past week we spent a lot of time converting old audio recordings to CDs and mp3s. It was a blast from the past hearing a high school graduation ceremony – class of ’63. The students who graduated that year will be celebrating at their 55th reunion this year. I’m sure they would be mesmerized to hear their thoughts and dreams for the future (now the past) expressed on audiotape so many years ago. Thanks to our work, they’ll be able to.

I also had the pleasure of listening to one of my client’s parents encouraging her to talk while she was just a babe. She now has children of her own and will be going through that process again, this time taking the role of the parent teaching the child.

Time is a treasured commodity at Home Video Studio and a day doesn’t go by that we don’t recognize the importance of the many moments that have been recorded for posterity. There’s a reason we, as a people, do it. And there’s a reason we all keep schlepping boxes of these treasured memories around with us from house to house… even when we no longer have the equipment that can play them.

As the title of my blog says… Memories Matter. And because they do, we stand ready to help you ensure that your recorded memories can stand against the test of time. So instead of keeping all those memories locked away on archaic media that can no longer be accessed, bring them to us and give us the opportunity to deliver your past back to the future.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora 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 Say Po-tay-to, I Say Po-tah-to… Turns Out We Both Like French Fries


It is sad to say… but we live in a world that is becoming increasingly polarized. And that is a shame. Why must our focus be on the differences that keep us apart when there is so much that we have in common? As Yul Brenner once declared in The King and I, “It is a puzzlement.”

Four years ago, when I started my Home Video Studio business, I can’t say that I expected it to teach me any major life lessons that would affect my perspective of the world and its denizens. So the epiphany came as a bit of a surprise.

People would come to my studio with tapes or films or audio recordings… and they would ask me to digitalize them. And as I accepted their order, they took the time to tell me about the memories they wanted to preserve. As I listened to them, I noticed a familiar anomaly that occurred time and time again. Within their stories, I started recognizing details that were familiar to me. Experiences that I shared. Locations that I have visited. Emotions I have felt.

As more people came into the studio to share their memories with me, I started expecting their memories to somehow intersect with mine. Their ancestors came from Italy… so did my wife’s. They just retired from a career in public education… my father was a public school teacher and my mother once edited the county public school bulletin. They were military… my grandfather was a Navy Rear Admiral, my father was an Army Air Force bombardier, my son is currently serving in the Coast Guard as a diver.

The point I am making is that if we decide to look for the commonalities between us, we will find them… regardless of the socio-political sides that we may take. It is far healthier to draw people to us because we relate to their experiences than to shun or keep them from us because we disagree with some of their beliefs.  Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to… it doesn’t matter how you say it… it still makes a tasty french fry.

Memories matter. They unite us like no other force can. Start sharing yours with others. Who knows? Maybe it will start a trend that will lead to a lessening of the rancor and the bellicose posturing that is accepted as “normal behavior” in today’s world. If you have a better suggestion on how to resume a more civil society… I’m all ears.

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.

Gone Too Soon


Our clients will often compliment us on our customer service and the friendly atmosphere that infuses our studio. What they don’t seem to understand is that whatever “vibe” they are getting from our studio most often originates from them.  We genuinely love hearing the stories of our customers… both the experiences they’ve had and the memories they’ve accumulated. The more open and animated they are in telling them, the more excited we get in hearing them. Our “customer service” mindset is firmly based in a curiosity and interest in the lives of the people who cross our threshold. We are honored that they have selected us to help preserve the memories they have made.

This past week, we have been particularly touched in getting to know one of our clients – the wife and partner of a true country music star who has sadly departed this earth. We have been helping her prepare an edited compilation of his many television appearances to be used in a memorial service. While the situation that brought us together is a sad one, learning of her husband’s life and legacy has been joyful.

I don’t profess to know what mystical element propels performers into the rarified stratosphere of super-stardom. It can’t just be talent because, if it were, this gentleman would have topped any A-list. He certainly spent decades performing with many who were considered to be the best of the best.  His winning personality coupled with a remarkable musical talent allowed Ronnie Prophet to carve out a place in the country music ethos. He has left a legacy that will not be soon forgotten.

I did not have the pleasure of ever meeting the man. But after meeting his wife and hearing of the life he lived – both on and off the stage – I feel a genuine loss in having missed that opportunity. I look forward to rectifying that loss in the next life.

Rest in Peace, Ronnie Prophet.

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.


Now, What Did I Come In Here For?


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.

Viva La Similarité


I have been asked repeatedly, “Do you write your own blogs or did you hire someone?” When I assure them that I write all my own stuff they quickly follow up with “Where do you find the time?” or “Where do you get the ideas on what to write about?”

If you haven’t picked up on the theme of my blog as yet, it is based on a simple truism. Memories matter. Each one of us is a walking encyclopedia of experiences. We wake up, experience life, go back to sleep. And repeat day after day.

When I started my Home Video Studio business, people started bringing their memories to me for preservation. And it struck me, in an age when our differences are continually being magnified or exploited in what appears to me to be an orchestrated attempt to keep walls or divides between us, how similar our memories are. Despite all the cultural, racial, economic, philosophical, political, or gender specific labels that can be used to highlight our differences, our memories seem to prove the opposite. They unite us in a deeply personal and profound way.

We tend to record the same kind of events and for the same reasons. Our memories spark the same emotions within us; bring the same smile to our lips; cause the same tears to be shed. When a customer comes in and tells me what memory he or she is looking to have preserved, it is never hard for me to relate. I have the same kind of memories and I know how important they are to me.

Most if not all of my blog posts come directly from a shared memory that I have been reminded of by working with or talking to my clients. I never seem to have writers block because we all have a vast memory vault from which to pull treasures.

Yes, we are all different because we are all unique individuals. But within our differences there is plenty of common ground upon which we can stand. Share a memory with someone today. You may be surprised to see where it will lead.

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.