BEFORE VIDEO THERE WAS FILM – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Video  and Ragtag Tuesday: Past

Garry should be telling this story because it’s his story, not mine. But since he’s busy elsewhere, I’ll tell the story — as I’ve heard it — and maybe he can write a better version later.

Garry started working in the business — television — before the switch from film to videotape was made — and he left the business just before everything went to DVDs, flash and SD cards, and hard drives. He was working at the end of the movie era through the early years of video when it was the “new kid in town. ”

He remembers the horrors of forgetting to load the camera and shooting only to come back with nothing. Not unlike me forgetting to paste down the full-page color advertisement from Sony that belonged in the middle of the magazine I was editing. Ah, the good old days of being young and stupid.

Or misfeeding the film into the camera and being unable to get it to run. Garry remembers racing back to the office so they could develop the film, edit it, and get it up in time for the news. Ah, more of the good old days!

Movie set

Film was touchier than videotape. If the light was wrong, it ran too hot or green. When it rolled, you wanted to hide under a table somewhere. Even though you didn’t do the shooting, it was still your work and when it was blazing orange or glaringly green, it was painful to see.

On screen, video looks different than film. Sometimes you see shows where parts are filmed and the rest is on video. You can always see the change from one scene to the other.

Film looks different than video. It’s both the texture and luster and crispness.  It’s hard to describe the difference, but you know it when you see it.

Film is also a sturdier product and lasts longer, which is why movies are shot on film, not video. Video tends to self-destruct over time and not a lot of time, either. We didn’t get our wedding video transferred to DVD soon enough. We lost a lot of the graphic portions. We were able to save the soundtrack, but a lot of pictures couldn’t be salvaged.

Thus, here is the message for all of you old enough to have videotaped important past events in your lives: Get the video transferred to DVD or you’ll lose it. If you haven’t already lost it.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

22 thoughts on “BEFORE VIDEO THERE WAS FILM – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. That was interesting to read how it all happened on the ither side with some good photos. I was away yesterday (in hospital will,write.later) so couldn’t write anything

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    1. I was worried when you were missing and wondered if something was wrong. We’re down in Connecticut — but I have my Mac with me and I have been checking in. Rain today, so more today than yesterday. Please take care of yourself.

      Garry has a lot more to tell on this subject. it was a very interesting time when they started to make that shift. all the equipment changed and everyone had to relearn how to edit. Eventually, it morphed from film cameras to video to all digital, which is mostly what it is now. The equipment got smaller and easier to carry, which made life a little easier for photographers. It completely changed how the news and TV shows were produced. Of course, it’s still changing.

      This is Garry and Tom’s story, really. They should write it together. Tom was a director at CBS and Garry was the reporter in Boston’s CBS (later, NBC) affiliate. They worked together from two different cities. Also very cool.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’ll work on this one when my brain and memory are functioning better. Lots to share. My career and the careers of my friends overlap many important changes in film and video. We were working “in the moment” of change. So exciting!

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  2. We transferred about 40 VCR tapes to DVD about 10 years ago, so we were able to preserve most of them. Now on those rare occasions when I do a video, I use my iPhone.

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    1. Now it’s all digital. It was just beginning to go digital when Garry retired in 2001. And now most reporters not only have to prepare for the news in their own city but for the network (depending on the story) AND for online services. The industry has changed HUGELY in a very short time.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. We all have. Just some of us were more involved with the technology. I was the LAST person who was supposed to get into tech, but it sort of worked out that way. And it turned out, I really LIKED it. I would never have expected that.

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  3. I had always wondered why some shows on TV looked different from other shows, and never realized until much later that there was such a difference between film and tape. I think it was when I was checking out a website dedicated to The Twilight Zone… there were a small handful of mid-series episodes that had experimentally been recorded on tape rather than film, and they did stand out. I just never knew why….

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    1. Videotape is much more realistic (sharper) than film, but many people prefer the “look” of film. There’s a difference not only in sharpness but also in texture and tonality. Film has a little more romance to it. AND it survives the years a lot better. After about 10 years, tape disintegrates. I discovered that the hard way.

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    1. I didn’t really think about it until one day I tried to play my wedding tape and it wouldn’t play. We salvaged what we could, but we also lost a lot of the graphics. I think we saved all the sound, though.

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    1. Well, it will move on and become something else … but that is technology for you. I suspect it will continue to be digital but in different formats. Digital hard drives will become smaller and smaller and little SD cards (or something like it) will hold in an incredible amount of data. I worked in tech for most of my life and while I don’t follow it nearly as closely as I did, I don’t think digital has finished developing yet.

      I suspect at some point, the nature of computers will change significantly and I’m not yet sure how. But it certainly is fascinating.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Anyone who processes film can usually do it. Or for that matter, shoots film — like for weddings. And if you have a photo store, they will probably either be able to do it or tell you who can. Don’t be surprised if you can fix everything. We were glad to be able to preserve the sound track at least.

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