Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My video

In 1963, I heard a single by the surf rock band, the Marketts, called "Out of Limits". I like the fast paced, heavy bass of the music and somehow visualized jets taking off from an aircraft carrier. Most of my visualizations at the time involved airplanes. Surf rock fell out of vogue in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but every once in a while the tune would come up on a radio and once again I saw the Navy jets being catapulted off a flight deck. Then with the advent of digital downloads I got my own copy and it went with me in the truck and then through to iTunes and mobile devices. I had a copy on the computer.

Then I was given a link to a video put together by some Navy guys and posted online which already had some music. Having just mastered (sort of) the home movie application I tried my hand at mixing music and video. Here it is (I think).

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Home Movies

I just completed a couple of desktop home movie projects, another genre of the technology revolution. I was a participant in the growth of amateur movies starting with silent Super 8, graduating to sound, then to video tape, then to digital. Now I've done home movies, really good quality, on my phone. How great is that?

Thomas Edison gave us the motion picture, but it was a commercial and industrial mystery with little being done by the amateur. Camera equipment was expensive as was film. Then the film reels had to be carefully loaded and unloaded to avoid being damaged by light. Once safely "in the can" only certain facilities could process the exposed film into a movie. Then the movies could only be shown on expensive projectors (assuming there was electricity). Only Hollywood, news agencies and governments could afford the equipment, processes and the people to run them. Still, some amateurs managed to do home movies in 8 millimeter, Some of the only moving images of Seattle before about 1939 are by an amateur.

One of the recent projects was to take my wife's family movies from 1945 to 1968, and make them ready for prime time. My mother-in-law turned 90 this month and I wanted to treat her to the memories. All the movies came on ten reels in old-fashion silent 8mm.

In the old days, the 1970s, I had a little viewer/editor and hand cranked my film through looking for good frames, spliced out the junk with a special device, and spliced back together good stuff. I had fun with a few scenes where I connected the projector to a LP turntable and dubbed in some music. That might have still been possible. I could have cut up thousands of feet of film, taped each scene to the wall with a label, then selected scenes, edited them down, then spliced them together in some order. But the sad fact is that no one has the editor/viewers and projectors anymore and I didn't have the patience. I took the ten reels to a service that does the transfers along with a disk drive and the movies came home ready for a computer.

The gold of christenings, birthday parties, vacations, and children waving at the camera was buried in amongst shots of nearly everything else. Who needs a tour of Adventureland or Marine World ca. 1959? Or the flowers in the garden? There are even shots of the runway rolling past an airplane window and clouds. All went to the virtual cutting room floor.

But the programs have a learning curve. I had to figure how the optimum length of a clip, how to snatch a still image, how to do transitions and titles, and then the sound. My biggest tool was "undo". The work is in the watching again and again the same clips and to remain interested. I learned to give the project about an hour at a time.

After run throughs ad nauseum I got the movie into final form with music, titles and even some cutesy sound effects. The big premier was Saturday night at Kay's 90th birthday gathering. It was a big hit. Here is the opening.

The interesting thing is that I have modern digital movies, very high quality, with sound made in the last ten years on dedicated video cameras and other mobile devices. Guess what? Most gets edited out.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


I am posting this from the lovely California coast south of San Francisco. I grew up in California, moved away at age 18, came back at age 36, and moved away again at age 50. That means the Golden State has figured into about half my life, early on to imprint me and then later to contribute to financial security. As I visit here in typical balmy weather I am also reading the autobiography of William Tecumseh Sherman who was stationed here and traveled extensively in the 1840s when this was still a Mexican province. So it's interesting to contrast Sherman's accounts of bear hunting near Monterey and skies over San Francisco Bay almost black with waterfowl to today when ducks and geese avoid the region and bears exist only on the state flag. Sherman was at Yerba Buena - San Francisco - when a couple of guys came in from Sacramento with some shiny rocks found in the American River.

What a place this was as Sherman traveled between Los Angeles and Sonoma. As the United States undertook to transfer ownership of the province from Mexico by force (in a war contrived by slave interests) the land showed little impact from Europeans. Native Americans could still gather their livings from the mudflats of the Bay and the beaches of the coast. The Central Valley was a verdant grassland home to white tail deer and Tule Elk. And, of course, the grizzly was in the last years of his command of the quiet valleys and hillsides of the Coast Range. The Californios wanted no part of these massive beasts which feasted on their cattle. The grizzly went down hard and did not officially go extinct until 1922.

The bears and the tule elk weren't the only species to succumb to newcomers. The Californios found themselves pushed aside by avaricious Americans who dismantled their land grants and suppressed their language. An irony is that Spanish has made a comeback. The first state constitution was bilingual.  Then it was English only. Today the constitution is still in English, but just about every bit of public signage and most official forms are bilingual.

This weekend I looked at the hillsides once covered in Redwoods (which grow only on the Northern California coast) and now exist only in parks and preserves. The vast mudflats of the Bay are developed with concrete and asphalt with only a tiny percentage remaining to support the sea life that supported the natives.

I see much that is familiar from natural to man-made. The great bridges are still there and the cities. I used to be good at recognizing geographical features from an airplane. I could nod off in Burbank and wake up over Monterey Bay and immediately pick out Santa Cruz and Sunnyvale as we turned onto final approach. I could tick off the names of cities and even neighborhoods. No longer. I mistook Mount Diablo for Tamalpais. The Bay Bridge has been rebuilt. I see little that says "home" to me. Like the Californios.