My dad bought a video camera in 1983. The camera was a relatively small size for the time, but it had to connect to the VCR itself, which was carried in an awesome space-age looking silver shoulder bag. To watch videos, you’d reconnect the VCR to the its separate tuner component, which stayed attached to the TV. Everyone was completely amazed. This thing was awesome, even if hauling the VCR around was a pain. It had to have weighed ten pounds easy.
But it did allow us to record moments in our lives as we lived them. It was nearly instant gratification. There wasn’t the ride into town and multiple days waiting for pictures to be developed at the photo lab. We could see what happened and get a wider perspective on our lives. It was like the Parker reality show, with all the happiness and awkwardness and excitement and slowness of whatever moment we were recording at the time. It was plug and play memories. The drawback, like what seems like so many of the early family video efforts, was that we recorded absolutely everything. Six to eight hours of Thanksgiving, birthday dinners, and basketball games interspersed with Thornbirds… it became kind of unwieldy. These tapes just went into a box.
My dad and Uncle Butch admire the new camera. Easter, 1983.
From my VHS playlist on YouTube.
I made tapes off and on all the way through high school, mostly teenagers sitting around reading comic books, or reciting terrible poetry. Then, I think for high school graduation, I got a Hi-8 camera, and used that throughout college. At this point it mostly stayed in a bag in my room because I still didn’t really have any idea how to get the video out of the camera into something watchable. It was more put the tape on max length, hit record, and then store it away. I did tape some good rock shows and fun times though, and those have become kind of cherished here almost 20 years later. There was also a super 8 course with Jim Herbert. These were the first “narrative” pieces, though my projector has long been broken down and I’m not even sure what’s on those reels anymore. Think 1990s black and white college art and you’ll have a pretty good idea. Also, things on fire.
Elf Power, Temporary Arm, at the Shoebox, Athens Ga., 1994.
Eventually I moved to Portland, Oregon and picked up a new camera. It was another Hi-8, but a few years more advanced and smaller. We had a lot of fun with this one, I took it on some mountaineering trips and we even made a crime thriller, edited by Chilly Savage Melon using the camera and VCR pause > record > pause > record method. “Criminy” is a classic of the period and as soon as I find the link, I’ll add it in here. I know I’ve posted it somewhere.
When I moved back home at the end of 1998 I started work at the Savannah Morning News. There we were focused on this new “News on the Web” thing happening, and video was a great way to add value to stories. We got a Canon XL1 and I taped a Clarence Thomas speech at the DeSoto, Richard Armitage at Armstrong, and started a never completed video profile of all the bars in Savannah (likely an impossible task anyway). There were a lot of projects. One I wish I could find is the yearly Oktoberfest weiner dog races. Maybe on one of these tapes, one of these days. Finally, I’d begun to learn how to get the video out of the camera, edit out the junk, and make a story that people would want to watch. This is also when I made my first television appearance, as “Webmaster” for Lowcountrynow.com.
In 2003 I left the SMN to go to Georgia Southern and pursue the Master of Eduction degree in Instructional Technology. One of those classes, for some reason in the paper (like, making paper) school, was digital media. There I made a “My Life in 60 Seconds” video, which is still kind of fun. And I got an A on it.
“My Life in 60 seconds,” for a project at Ga. Southern, 2004.
Finally, I was getting it. I could plan, shoot, edit, and produce a video from beginning to end. iMovie made it all accessible. I’d tried working with Premiere at the SMN, but just didn’t get it well enough to do much with it.
After completing that degree I went to work in the eLearning department at SCAD, and focused on photography in my personal projects. Video was still complicated and time consuming, and with my new job, thrilling recent marriage, beginning the MFA photo program, and my ongoing triathlon career, it was just too much. This was another kind of quiet video period.
[this is a longer post than I’d expected it would be, so I’ll wrap it up next week.]