I have been quiet on the Reclaim Video front with everything going on with the Fall semester start-up, so before they become a distant memory I wanted to mention a couple of nice hauls of Laserdiscs and VHS tapes we got in the last couple of months. Back in late August I took a trip to the Fat Kat Records location in Ruther Glen, Virginia to stock up on laserdiscs, and that I did.
There are a lot of gems, I particularly enjoyed the Japanese import of Blue Steel (1990), which I proceeded to watch the next day, its cool to re-visit early Kathryn Bigelow after seeing her career develop as a filmmaker, althoughI think I most enjoy her early films like Near Dark (1987) and Point Break (1991)—but what a career.
I also picked up some VHS tapes on this trip to Fat Kat, and I was happy about that:
I wanna do a Quest for Fire/Waterworld double-feature at some point I even got a cassette tape:
And a book:
But the real score was a few weeks ago when I found a lot of 300+ VHS tapes on Craig’s List. Full blown lots like this are harder and harder to find, and this one was a total gem. Meredith went to Maryland on her way back from the Nationals game and after hearing about Reclaim Video the Ingram family donated the whole lot for free, including ton of empty VHS cases. This is a particular collection, I will get more pictures and add them to the ones below, but here is a small taste.
The back seat of Meredith’s car after pickup
6 Boxes of 80s VHS Tapes
Some VHS tapes from the Ingram Haul, love Turk 182, The Star Chamber, The Bad News Bears and Rambo, and even Night Hawks! (a personal favorite—we now have that one on laserdisc and VHS).
You had be at Mad Max
We still have to inventory it all, but our collection to a major jump with the addition of all these titles, and I have to think we approaching the 1000 mark for VHS tapes alone. I’ll need to confirm as much, but I have to think this haul pushed us over that number. Meredith also got the perfect card for the Ingrams, and now they have a lifetime membership to Reclaim Video
Thanks you card for the Ingrams for their generosity and support of Reclaim Video!
Thank you letter to the Ingrams
And beyond that haul, I got a 4-VHS set on Ebay featuring Streets of Fire (1984), the rock musical from the 80s you might not have ever seen. I was inspired by Paul Bond’s post on the film and his awesome GIFs—it’s a truly bizarre film.
Willem Defoe at his very best
One final note, we have a second part-time employee at Reclaim Video that started a bit ago, so it’s becoming more official everyday. I am pretty hands-off on the day-to-day (understatement), but I understand people actually rent videos on occasion And the big news is that there may be hope of telepresence via an iPad robot by as early as December, one can dream. I love Reclaim Video, and I don’t nearly blog about it nearly enough.
Last night I finally got back on the Reclaim Today train. The show has been on hiatus during September given the new semester was in full swing, but Reclaim Hosting is starting to come up for air and we all know the show must go on!
I’m pretty excited about this episode cause it connects a couple of things we’ve done over the last few years, with this blog being a touchstone. Back in May I got the following email from John Grahame:
Dear Professor Groom,
On your bavatuesdays “Total Recall” blog from Feb 28, 2015 <https://bavatuesdays.com/total-recall-panasonic-omnivision-vcr/> you post a jpeg of a 1981 Montgomery Ward ad for Panasonic VCRs. The bottom VCR separates the tuner and the VCR to enable the user to “Tape action outside!” I bought one of those (for about $1,050!) in 1981. I still have it and it still works. Looks nice, too. Do you have any idea if there is anyone out there who would be interested in preserving items like these? I guess I’m thinking in terms of a museum of technology of something like that. I’m 70 years old now and am feeling the need to find ways for certain things I own to have a future.
Do I have any idea of someone who would be interested? You bet! The post from this here old blog, THE BAVA, was from 2015 and was part of my documentation of the UMW Console exhibit we created at UMW. It highlighted my purchase of an early 80s Panasonic Omnivision VHS player—which was the player my family had while I was growing up. It was (and still is) an awesome learning machine. In many ways it was an anchor of the 80s exhibit in my mind because it brought me back to the video 80s that were so formative. So, John’s email had me right away, and the image he is referring to with the dual unit from a Montgomery Ward catalogue was part of that post:
This was mobile video in 1981! Turns out this machine is a 1980s Panasonic Omnivision with Tuner and Recorder—and the tagline “Tape Action Outside!” provides a sense of the arrival of mass consumer portable video from the early 80s. When John shared the original manual and receipt it felt that much more real, technology with a very personal history.
$1300 in 1982 for this technology
I immediately responded to John with interest and we soon after got on a call wherein I explained Reclaim Video as an extension of the idea we started with the UMW Console in 2015. He was thrilled to contribute, and at this very moment the Panasonic Omnivision PV-4510 is en route to Fredericksburg to discover its new home in Reclaim Video. It’s due to arrive today, so hopefully pictures will follow.
But even better than the machine were John’s stories of exploring video in the early 70s throughout the 1980s. He started exploring video while a student at UMass in 1970 with Sony’s Portapak. I was not familiar with the Portapak and I looked it up after talking with John back in Spring, and it was a relatively inexpensive setup at $1500 in 1967 for this kind of technology (I was way off in the episode thinking I saw the price point at $120 or so, but it sounded as wrong as it was—so never trust me).
Sony’s portable video unit “Portapak” from 1967
The Portapak is interesting because as John noted, UMass had ten of them lying around, and given no one was using them he was able to hold onto it for two years and basically turn his mass communication papers into video papers. What’s more, from the Wikipedia article, the advent of this tecchnology during the political turmoil fo the late 60s meant it was being used by artists and activists alike to capture that moment:
The introduction of the Portapak had a great influence on the development of video art, guerrilla television, and activism. Video collectives such as TVTV and the Videofreex utilized Portapak technology to document countercultural movements apart from the Big Three television networks. The Portapak was also a crucial technology for the Raindance Foundation, a collective consisting of artists, academics, and scientists, motivated by the potential of the Portapak and video to develop alternative forms of communication. Because of its relative affordability and immediate playback capability, the Portapak provided artists, experimenters, and social commentators the ability to make and distribute videos apart from well-funded production companies.
It’s interesting to think that the introduction of video to a mass market was as far back as the 1960s, and John’s career as a video producer ranges from the 70s through the 80s when he got to work with Francis Ford Coppola on One From the Heart (1982). While often remembered as the film that sunk Zoetrope Studios financially, it is also remembered as a pioneering exploration of using video to create a film. Here’s a bit of context from the Previsualization Wikipedia article:
The most comprehensive and revolutionary use of new technology to plan movie sequences came from Francis Ford Coppola, who in making his 1982 musical feature One From the Heart, developed the process he called “electronic cinema”. Through electronic cinema Coppola sought to provide the filmmaker with on-set composing tools that would function as an extension of his thought processes. For the first time, an animatic would be the basis for an entire feature film. The process began with actors performing a dramatic “radio-style” voice recording of the entire script. Storyboard artists then drew more than 1800 individual storyboard frames. These drawings were then recorded onto analog videodisks and edited according to the voice recordings. Once production began, video taken from the video tap of the 35 mm camera(s) shooting the actual movie was used to gradually replace storyboarded stills to give the director a more complete vision of the film’s progress.
Instead of working with the actors on set, Coppola directed while viewing video monitors in the “Silverfish” (nickname) Airstream trailer, outfitted with then state-of-the-art video editing equipment. Video feeds from the five stages at the Hollywood General Studios were fed into the trailer, which also included an off-line editing system, switcher, disk-based still store, and Ultimatte keyers. The setup allowed live and/or taped scenes to be composited with both full size and miniature sets.
John relates his experience filming Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinski on the streets of Las Vegas without permits on the streets of Las Vegas in video. How cool is that, and here is an image of John (the man with the camera) and Coppola during the shoot:
John Grahame with Francis Ford Coppola while shooting One from the Heart in video
These connections blew my mind, and I knew I wanted to have John on an episode of Reclaim Today once we started it cause this kind of insight to the long history of video during the 60s, 70s, and 80s was a big part of why I was so excited about Reclaim Video, and here is that history being recounted by one who worked intimately within it. What’s more, it provided another moment to reflect on that bit at the end of the documentary Heart of Darkness wherein Coppola has a pretty brilliant of vision of what the advent of cheap, ubiquitous access to video could do for movies as an art form.
The long history of video just became that much more interesting to me, thanks John!
It’s a solid 10 minute video highlighting a few of the reasons why framing one’s personal online presence around web hosting represents an important shift for higher ed from the various third party, data sucking services that everywhere monetize digital identity. And while I am admittedly biased about both the topic and the folks interviewed, I dig JÃ¶ran’s style. He’s an edtech consultant from Germany who really pushes to capture as much of the conversations happening around OER throughout Europe in a variety of media: his blog, podcasts, videos, Twitter, etc. His intense work ethic and fun-loving spirit are integral to what makes him such a good interviewer, he has a way of getting you to open up and chat more freely. What’s more, he truly produces the media he creates, which takes a ton of time and energy to do right. The above video is a good example of this, he reached out to me during the process to secure a Reclaim Video TV image in order to use the screen to highlight the various topics discussed—which is a really nice touch.
JÃ¶ran is one of the many good folks that are thinking through the broad implications of open education for Germany as that country works towards a national policy for OER.* So, special thanks to him for taking the time to sit down with Reclaim at OER18, and helping to make us a small part of that very important conversation.
*Another person doing some important thinking is Christian Friedrich, whose recent post “Is open the new organic?” is well-worth your time.
Lauren posted about this back in January when we first got the art because she is better than me, but Reclaim Hosting‘s site has undergone a subtle re-branding from vinyl to VHS. We launched the new art for our site back in April when we unveiled the Reclaim Video project at OER18. The idea is that the shelf is getting a bit more cluttered Next to the vinyl you have those upstart VHS tapes demand some of the real estate. The new logo is a VHS tape, but if you look close enough, all the elements of the vinyl are still there, which was quite brilliant on Bryan Mathers part—surprise, surprise.
The tape is now replacing the record on the site, but the easter egg is still fully operational:
The art is pretty much inline with our look, so perhaps rebranding is too strong a characterization—but it does feel like a new look for me. I particularly like the way shared hosting packages are re-imagined:
Almost works better than the albums, and the single VHS tape with a blank label is something we still need to play with. Bryan worked on a tool that would basically right a URL on the label, something like this:
Or even better , this
So, when you create your site for the first time at Reclaim Hosting the splash page could be this VHS tape with your domain name This might be something we need to return to sometime soon As usual, I am completely enamored with Bryan Mathers handy work, and it is the collaboration that just keeps on giving.
The road to Reclaim Video has been both an interesting and telling one. Less than a year ago it was still just an idea baby lurking menacingly under the surface of Crystal Lake. The “vision” was hatched while we were renovating our newly leased office space last Spring. The space is part of an 80s strip mall that effectively has two storefronts. The one we were renovating became CoWork, and the other was being used temporarily—but every time I looked at it I couldn’t help fantasizing about an 1980s video rental store. The fantasies were also inspired by the awesome experience of working on the Console Living Room exhibit we created at UMW in the Spring of 2015.
Reclaim Team in NYC Diner dreaming of VHS
I think I first articulated the dark fantasies of Reclaim Video to Tim and Lauren in some kind of thinly veiled joke as early as May, but the intense preparation surrounding the conjunction of both the opening of CoWork and the launch of our first Domains conference meant it was summarily dismissed. What’s more, it was little more then “I want to turn that space into an 80s video rental store. hahahaha.” As brilliant as the idea seems now to just about everyone, hindsight is 20/20 It was not as fleshed out as one would hope, and while I kept on returning to it over and over again throughout the summer and fall, it did not become a reality until early November (so only 6 months ago). The idea came up again while we were enjoying a Reclaim NYC trip. Tim, who was trying really hard to make heads or tails of the idea, finally made the connection between Reclaim Hosting and Reclaim Video in his mind, namely evolving the record store idea [“Video killed the radio star”] as well as being a way to host a fun marketing campaign for Reclaim Hosting. And, with that, everything moved into overdrive. We all agreed to the idea in NYC over a delicious diner breakfast (pictured above) in early November and by March we had gutted the storefront and created a full-blown video store circa 1984—it took all of 4 months once we committed. And that last point encapsulates my experience at Reclaim Hosting for almost 5 years now. There’s really little in the way of bullshit; we are a lean, mean academic hosting machine and once we decide to do something we lock-in and get it done. #TCB4life!
We’ve documented the process of getting the store up and running over the past few months, and we now have all those blog posts aggregating to Reclaim Video’s blog Room 237. Given that, I’ll spare you re-hashing that process here so I can actually get to my point.
And what’s that, you ask? Well, our coming out party at OER18, of course! I’m not sure when, but at some point in December or January we got the notion of transforming Reclaim Hosting’s sponsorship of OER18 into Reclaim Video’s. The conceit being that this new Ed-Tech start-up, Reclaim Video, was delivering an innovative and timely disruption to the Higher Education market: VHS!!! We approached ALT’s CEO Maren Deepwell with the idea, and she was fully onboard. Those of you who know Maren will not be surprised by this, and I fell in love with the folks at ALT when I spoke at OER16 because I deeply related with how such a small, focused crew could bring so much goodness to so many. After that we decided to do our part to help fund OER17 and now OER18, but we had no interest in the usual vendor trappings—the sordid depths of which Adam Croom’s recent post about OLCInnovate highlights quite brilliantly alarmingly. So, Reclaim Video provided us a way to still do something fun and actually be part of the conversation, even if from 30 years ago
OER18 took place at The Watershed, an Independent Cinema and “Creativity Centre” in Bristol, and all the presentations were in movie theaters. As luck would have it, this was perfect for what we wanted to do. We had made a mad rush to finish the Reclaim Video storefront in March so we could create a short film that we would debut at OER18. And, we did! I’m not sure what it is titled, but it provides a kind of alternative reality wherein the employees of both Reclaim Video and Reclaim Hosting find themselves in a 1980s era storefront talking VCRs and websites. Synergy baby!
And that was how OER18 started, Maren put the tape in the VCR, lights went down, and 5 minutes of magic ensued It was fun, and the fact there really is a Reclaim Video in Fredericskburg, Virginia that will be sending folks all over the world copies of this video on VHS tape over the next 3-6 months makes me smile. Faith in a seed.
We also had a booth, and the amazing crew at Watershed supplied us with a CRT monitor and a region-free VHS player—I think they were the most excited about Reclaim Video’s presence at the conference. The booth was awesome, and it just played films like Blade Runner, Xtro, Amadeus, and more. We also had a stack of shirts and stickers for those swag-minded retrotechs.
Another piece of the OER18 sponsorship was an ad in the program, and, well, we remixed some OG “OER.”
Tim’s design prowess was responsible for the logo, and it’s amazing how much goodness can follow on a solid logo. What’s more, I already mentioned that a major reason for doing Reclaim Video was to have some fun. And, if you think about it, Reclaim Video is kind of a mashup of ds106 and the Living Room Console—which are two of my very favorite things. And while we fully understand Reclaim Video is not a viable business, its value as an indulgent, nostalgia-peppered space filled with fun and whimsy should not be underestimated. The space has already helped us all divert some of the intense work that running Reclaim Hosting requires into a joyous alter-ego company. Reclaim Video is a creative release that the good folks at OER18 did not bat an eye about incorporating into their proceedings—and that’s open education in action! To quote Yo La Tengo: “It’s a waste of time if I can’t smile easily.” Smiling at Reclaim Hosting (and now Reclaim Video) has not been an issue these last 4 years or so—and cultivating that fact should not be an afterthought to any venture
The Reclaim Video website designed by Michael Branson Smith
Oh yeah, we also launched a brilliant website that will be an central node of Reclaim Video that Michel Branson Smith brilliantly put together for us. But I am saving that for my next post, cause the website is going to be an ongoing, evolving piece of Reclaim Video that I am very interested in taking some time and energy to think about here.
*This is a problem I have, fantasizing about the strip mall haunts of my past. Intensive therapy hasn’t helped.
I’ve been back in the Burg for the last 10 days working from Reclaim’s HQ on a range of stuff. As a result the bava has been a bit quiet given the push to get as much done as possible in a relatively short time frame. I’ve been able to get some of my stuff out of storage on the first day of my return, which has been on focus of the trip. I’ve been going through boxes of toys, books, movies, and more which is always a fun past time for me. I’m figuring out how to get my stuff overseas in the next month os so, but until then I am using CoWork’s unclaimed spaces as a temporary waylay station.
We have also been working quite diligently on making Reclaim Video a reality, which has been quite a blast. I’ll post more on that soon, but we did a pretty intense carpet and tile rip as well as began painting the store, which Lauren blogged about earlier today. Watching the space come together has been a dream come true—I’ve pretty much wanted to run a VHS store since I was a pre-teen, so this is pretty exciting.
I have also been doing some shopping for VHS tapes, laserdiscs, game consoles, and more. I went to Fat Kat Records 20 minutes south of here in Ladysmith and picked up a ton of mint laserdiscs as well as a mint Pioneer DVL700. I even tested it out with a showing of Red Dawn …. WOLVERINES!
I was a little sad to learn that Culpepper’s 1938 State Theater had closed after only being re-opened for two years. There was a major funding drive to get investors help refurbish and re-open Culpepper’s movie house at the tune of $13 million dollars, It was an impressive remodeling to restore it to its original glory. I had the good fortune to see Independence Day there in 2014. But that was then, since it has gone defunct and just a few weeks ago it was auctioned to the highest bidder for $700,000.
I was also able to rekindle my ds106 roots with a quick stop by UMW yesterday to record a video for The End 106 with the great Martha Burtis. She’s a genius.
And later that afternoon I actually got back in the classroom after a long hiatus to talk to to an awesome group of students in Eddie Maloney’s graduate course Technology Innovation by Design, which is part of Georgetown’s new Masters program in Learning and Design. It was a thrill to talk to student who want to think critically about the future of educational design, and I’ll write more about my approach in a follow-up post. I do miss the classroom, it is always a lot of fun for me—but damn I tend to talk a lot.
Anyway, if nothing else, this post serves as a roadmap for all the posts I need to write after taking a bit of a hiatus from the blog in order to dig in a bit while here in the US. it’s been quite nice to work alongside Meredith, Lauren, and Tim in CoWork—it’s been a welcome change to reconnect in person with the awesome crew that makes Reclaim so damn good.
I’ve been on a bit of a blogging sabbatical the last month or so. It’s been nice to take a break, but at the same time I have never had more to write about between the Domains 17 conference (total blast), a cross-country trip on Route 66 to LA, the community work Tom Woodward has been developing with Reclaim, a position paper I’ve been procrastinating, and an impending trip to Melbourne, Australia in just over a week. Life moves pretty fast when you’re a Reclaimer.
I tried to capture as much of the UMW Blogs migration as possible in my previous post (a temporary breaking of the blog hiatus) for fear it would all be lost, but that’s always the fear with blogging. the more time that passes the less that gets blogged. Not always a bad thing for the two or three remaining readers given I make no pretensions towards quality here, this blog has always been about quantity. So taking a month-long blogging break wreaks havoc on the numbers. Continue reading “Reclaim Video”