A new toy -- 07/29/08

I've got a new toy...

A Flip Video Camcorder...

It's shirt pocket size... not much bigger than a pack of king-sized cigarettes... and it will record sixty minutes of video on internal memory. Runs on a pair of AA batteries. Absolutely awesome...

When I was a kid I always dreamed of having a movie camera -- 8mm -- and it was always one of those impossible dreams. I did finally get one when I was in college. I remember shooting at night with my brother -- driving around town -- have this recollection of shooting him through the windshield of his little sports car, driving through the semi-enclosed bus loading area at the Trailways bus depot in Kingston (NY) with the reflections of the overhead lights moving across the windshield. Later that night (i.e., early on a summer morning) taking pictures of dawn on the Hudson River, the sun coming up next to the structure of the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge.

During the early winter of 1966 one of my housemates and I took a course in mass media. The reading list included (of course) Marshall McLuhan (and the professor frequently quoted him). We read newspapers and magazines (people were assigned to read things we would not ordinarily read. Guys would read women's magazines (fashion, gossip, true love, homemaking, etc.) and women would read Sports Illustrated and Popular Mechanics and Playboy. We would listen to the radio, watch television, read various newspapers. We had to analyze articles and advertisements, determine the audience, determine the various subtexts and underlying assumptions, etc. There was a required major project for the course. Mike and I decided to work as a team and make a movie. It was called Badland Billy Gets Religion and it consisted of a series of rather bizarre episodes, short blackout pieces. [I keep thinking that I must have told about this before, but I can't find it... so please forgive me if I am repeating myself.] For example, a young woman is gazing adoringly at a poster of Spiderman on her wall... suddenly Spiderman comes to life, steps down and takes her in his arms [Mike played Spiderman -- a couple of weeks earlier he and I and our other housemate Ed had all gone to a costume ball, each of us dressed as Spiderman... and our dates also had each been costumed as Spiderman.] Another scene shows a young man (my brother) walking along the road when a Volkswagen Beetle sneaks up behind him and eats him. [This all dates back to about the time that photograph on my index page of me and my Beetle was taken.]

Bandland Billy Gets Religion was shot on 8mm film. Hours and hours went into editing it. We came up with a soundtrack recorded on reel-to-reel tape (so the tape player and the movie projector had to be started at exactly the same time). This editing took us so long that we had to take grades of Incomplete and turn our project in during the spring term (SUNY/New Paltz was on a quarter system instead of semesters). The professor loved it. He carried on at great length about all of the wondrous deep meanings he saw in it and we just nodded in happy agreement with his analysis.

And in the summer of 1967 I got a summer job at the state college at New Paltz (by which time I was a full time teacher in local schools and also a part time graduate student at the college) where I worked as a camera operator in their television production studio, videotaping episodes of a course on New York State education law (and building the sets and doing about anything else that needed to be done). I was so into wanting to be a director! Months went by before I was finally able to watch a movie or a television program without noting the various camera angles and panning and tracking and zooming and second-guessing the director's choices.

When Jill and Jeremy were little Nancy and I bought a video camera and VHS video recorder (two separate pieces of hardware... having the video recorder and its heavy battery as something you could sling over your shoulder made the camera lighter and easier to hold than with the all-in-one units) and it only cost (in 1986 dollars) about eleven or twelve times as much as this Flip Video unit cost me (in 2008 dollars). Yet another way in which the advance of technology is truly amazing.

I'm hoping to have a lot of fun with my new toy.

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