analog video into a digital world
Tuesday, July 9 2013
In Charlottesville, Virginia, there is a movie-making workshop for teens (troubled teens?) that is interested in putting together a Ken-Burns-style documentary about Big Fun. They've already interviewed Jessika and will probably interview Sara and me when we go down there. They've also expressed interest in old video I shot back at Big Fun, so today I finally got around to looking to see what I have. It turned out that I had the so-called "Jehu End of the World" tape, which includes a lot of footage shot in the Big Fun kitchen as well (though much of it consisted of me waiting for something exciting to happen from above while filming though a vent in floor of Jessika's bedroom, though that exciting thing never actually happened). I finally got a chance to view the tape today while ripping it to a digital file using a small video digitizer between our cranky old VCR and a USB port on my computer. There have been ways to digitize this video the entire time it has existed, and I digitized small bits of it when it was only about six months old, but nothing was as easy as what I did today. More importantly, I didn't have to worry about hard drive space; I digitized the whole thing essentially losslessly and it only took up about six gigabytes.
While I had the VCR and digitizer set up, I continued digitizing other dusty old videocassettes, including one I'd made back in 1997 when Jessika, Deya, and I made dextromethorphan freebase in the kitchen of that place on the end of Observatory Avenue in Charlottesville. I also found a videotape of the time my college buddy Jason Meyers got snowed in with me in the Shaque during the Blizzard of 1993 (the clip features both my mother and Jason playing Pipe Dream on separate Macintosh computers while a videotape of me and Josh Furr playing speedcrunch "music" plays from a black and white television).
I also digitized a number of Gretchen's old videotapes, some of which had her as a televised talking head in her capacity as a union organizer (circa 1996, Milwaukee) or as an advocate for women trying to remain unharrassed at work (circa 1998, New York).
Most of these tapes had previously been used to record television shows, either broacasted movies or sitcoms. In the 90s, videotape was the only way to time-shift such programming, although recording programs was usually too much of a hassle to actually do. The sitcoms included several episodes of The Simpsons on my dextromethorphan freebase tape, and several episodes of Ellen on one of Gretchen's tapes (this would have been soon after Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian and while Gretchen was in the middle of a five-year relationship with her old girlfriend Barbara). Both in the sitcoms and in the fragments of movies (not all of which I could identify), I took note of how dated the fashions were, though they would have been contemporary in the mid-90s. Women no longer had 80s hair, but it still tended to look artificial, as though it was being pushed by an invisible hand in some improbable direction. And their clothes looked dowdy: overly-long shape-obscuring skirts with odd ruffles at the hem. It occurred to me that these mainstream fashions had yet to be influenced by punk, S&M, or even Madonna. It took awhile for those sexier, edgier fashions to go mainstream. Not that they ever did completely, but they did enough to make early-to-mid 90s fashions look musty and sexless.
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