Entertainment Archives - Digital Converters

Digital Converters
Unfortunately, your web browser is out of date. For the best buying experience, more security and better speed on the Digital Converters website, please update your browser.

Okay, let’s face it. Film photography is expensive and downright time-consuming. Even disposable cameras are more of a burden than a present these days. Many stores have stopped developing film, never mind the time and effort it takes to digitise and share the photos with friends and family.

Thankfully, app developers have also clocked on to the faff and inconvenience film cameras are for the consumer. So, with spring cleaning and fresh beginnings in the air, I have reviewed the most popular vintage photography apps to help you pick the right one.

These apps are free to use but may include in-app purchases (much to my dismay).

HUJI:

 

HUJI has been my go-to app for the last few years. It imitates disposable film photography from 1998 by changing your phone screen into the back of a disposable camera and date stamping your photos with 1998.

I love HUJI’s simplicity and filters. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have drunkenly recommended this app to one too many strangers on a night out. It can’t be helped – the filter detracts from all that HD ugliness your normal phone camera captures (and make your legs look great!).

The only downside is the time it takes to process a photograph. I would not recommend giving this app to your mum because the seconds it takes to process can be confusing and cause blurry photographs.

GUDAK Lite:

This app is the embodiment of someone taking a project brief a little too literally. GUDAK has caused controversy, and there is a good reason for it. The app is designed to completely imitate a disposable camera, with the time taken to develop the photographs included in its design.

Basically, this app is designed to bring back the element of surprise you get when waiting for your film to be developed. You must wait for three days until you can view your photographs as the app pretends to develop your film. Not only that, but you can only take 24 photographs per roll and must wait an hour before starting a new film roll.

However, it misses the beat.

The developing time means you cannot correct your photographs, forgetting the purpose of taking photographs on your phone. Also, the viewfinder is tiny and cannot be expanded! An infuriating function since it does not work as an actual viewfinder.

Perhaps this app’s novelty is better when taking photos at a party rather than photos of my house in lockdown.

CALLA Cam:

Photo edited on CALLA Cam

This app is different to the others I am reviewing because you cannot point and shoot on Android phones.

CALLA Cam is good for editing your existing photographs by playing around with film camera filters. The filters are easy to switch and play around with on your phone. Although, I did have to create a folder in my phone’s gallery to save my photos which were quite confusing.

The main problem with this app is the in-app purchases. It is very apparent how limited you are with the free app. They have included an advertising feature to give you a limited range of paid filters for free. However, you must watch 33 adverts before you can download them. That’s a TV show’s worth of adverts to watch for a film effect!

NOMO Cam:

 

In terms of novelty, this app blows the others out of the water! The app is designed to imitate a collection of film cameras. NOMO changes your phone’s interface to replicate the film camera you have selected and includes authentic sound effects to really take you back in time.

At first, I was disparaged by the subscription fee service to access all the cameras available. However, after scrolling through the menu, there are a few cameras for you to use for free.

NOMO takes other film photography apps’ ideas but executes them better by incorporating the phone’s functionality. For instance, their Instax-Mini camera imitates the processing time of polaroid film but gives you the option to speed up the process by shaking your phone (like a polaroid picture).

It is an enjoyable and creative app that I am definitely keeping on my phone!

FIMO Cam:

This app is like NOMO but offers a selection of film rather than cameras.

The interface of this app is what really makes it stand out compared to the other apps. Your phone screen replicates an old school camera (including the scratches). The viewing screen is big and easy to view on your phone screen and gives you the option to zoom in and out!

Unfortunately, the processing time when taking photographs is quite slow and tends to blur many photographs.

 

All in all, film photography apps are great for saving money and time. However, they never quite touch upon the authenticity of using a film camera.

If you have printed photographs that you would like to preserve and share with friends, get them digitised with Digital Converters.

The interest in neon sounds found in retro pop has had a resurgence much like how Stranger Things reminded us of freewheeling through the neighbourhood on an 80’s summer evening.

Music recording has changed a lot over the past century, and many elements that became synonymous with these eras of time have been lost to advances in recording methods. As a result, there is a huge amount of cutting-edge tech dedicated to replicating these sounds without the need to acquire any old gear.

We’ve previously touched on some modern artists known for their vintage sound, but what makes music sound vintage? 

To answer this question, we have to touch on how music is recorded in the digital age.

Digital Audio

Before digital recording became the standard in the music industry, most music of the 1950s to 1990s were produced using multi-track cassette recorders.

These came in the form of large desks with gauges and sliders galore, as well as a slot for a tape to record sound onto. A microphone plugged into the tape recorder would record each track onto a different area of the tape. Producers combined the recordings together to create the finished product.

As audio technology progressed through the Digital Revolution, studios began using increasingly high-tech methods to capture musicians’ vibrations.

This culminated in cassette recorders phasing out favouring computers with a program known as a “Digital Audio Workstation” (or DAW for short). The process of capturing sound remains similar but with huge improvements in cost and versatility. 

Sounds could now be edited in ways which were previously impossible due to the limitations of cassette recorders. DAWs use VST (Virtual Studio Technology) plugins – these are digital effects that distort your sounds any way you like. This could be adding echoes, delays, reverb or synth.

Now with context established, let’s go through some ways in which studios use plugins to replicate cassette recorders.

Tape Delay

One of the more notable subtleties saved by the magic of plugins is the sound of tape delay. Adding a delay to a sound makes it echo and repeat itself.

Tape delay has a different sound to the digital delay due to the wear on the tape, causing slight pitch changes. Before the tape delay, musicians would have to record in a naturally-echoing area to capture any delay sound. This was not cost-effective, hence tape delays being developed.

A physical tape delay unit would essentially record a sound onto a tape (for example, the sound of a guitar coming through an amplifier) and play it back alongside the live sound.

“EchoBoy” is an industry-standard plugin that recreates the sound of a tape delay. It features ready-made presets which replicate the sound of many of the most famous tape delay units of the 1950s to 1980s.

Wow and Flutter

Wow is a subtle pitch variation heard in music played on cassette. Tiny changes in the recording speed causes the pitch to change. This results in the classic, warbling sound of a vintage cassette.

Flutter is a similar occurrence, but at a higher frequency. The perceived pitch of the sound changes faster and can cauae vocals to sound more shrill. A worn capstan most often causes flutter in the tape machine itself.

Tech-drenched studios can recreate this sound with a plugin called “Wow Control”.

This plugin lets you adjust the amount of flutter and the speed of the “tape”. There’s even a randomisation button if you need some inspiration!

Record Scratch

What? You thought we’d do the entire article without mentioning the glorious vinyl?

Impossible.

Arguably the most iconic “retro” sound is the subtle crackling of a dusty LP. Static buildup or dust and dirt in the vinyl’s grooves causes the crackling sound heard on a vinyl record.

Of course, there are many plugins striving to give producers the option to add this iconic crackle to their tracks in the digital age.

However, there is only one plugin that does this and much more – iZotope Vinyl.

iZotope vinyl is a vintage sound titan. This plugin produces vinyls’ crackle sounds, the audio cutout caused by big scratches in a record, and the pitch wobble of a record warped out of shape.

Prefer your vinyl artefacts a different flavour?

iZotope Vinyl can even switch its entire sound to resemble LPs from the 1930s, ‘50s, ‘60s, 70s, 80s and 2000s!

With complex yet affordable technology, even a beginning bedroom-producer can create vintage music straight with digital plugins.

Of course, nothing beats the real thing, so why not use the UK’s number 1 media digitisation service to get your classic audio tapes/reels converted to digital!

The mechanical clicking of a slide projector is something familiar to even the most sheltered iPhone photographers. Of course, not many of us have frequent interactions with a slide projector, but the shh-kunk sound remains unmistakable. While the projector was a great source of entertainment, the fundamental mechanics of it remain a mystery. 

What Are Slides?

The innovation of slide photography begins with how it prints the picture onto the film. Unlike negative film, which inverts the picture’s colours when printing onto the film, the see-through film used for slide production keeps the colours the same. 

The film for slides was a much cheaper option for amateur photographers because they did not have to fork out for their film prints to be processed. Instead, the photographer had to mount their film into a glass frame. The slide could then be inserted into a projector to view the photo.

How Are Slides Viewed?

The main downside to slide photography is viewing the photo. You can hold the film up to the light to see what has been photographed. But, the photo’s size is much too small to see the photo’s beauty – or show it to larger groups. So, many observed the image through a projector. 

Once you insert a slide into a projector, a light shines through the film and into a lens. The lens works similarly to how our eyes do: it corrects the photograph by flipping and focusing the image for you. The photo is also enlarged by the lens and then projected onto a surface of your choice.

Funnily enough, the invention of projectors came before photography.

The Magic Lantern

You may have stumbled upon this article while reading about slide photography. In that case, you may already be aware of the Magic Lantern slide projector. But for those who are not experts in projection technology, I will give you a quick recap:

Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch scientist, developed the magic lantern in the 15th Century. Huygens was a little camera shy and regretted inventing the technology as soon as he realised its popularity. He even planned to sabotage his invention upon finding out his father had intended to present the lantern to the King of France, Louis XIV. Huygens reportedly urged his brother to make sure no one used the Magic Lantern.

Unfortunately for him, schools and theatrical productions used the magic lantern for centuries to come. It also remains a product of interest today – although mainly in the minds of vintage enthusiasts and collectors.

The Magic Lantern’s main mechanics remains the same in projectors. The components needed are the same: a light source, a lens, and the see-through slide image. The only difference between the original lantern and the projectors today is the content of the slide itself because the lantern used paintings and drawings instead of photographs. 

An example of a painted slide by Joseph Boggs Beale (1841-1926)

An example of a painted slide by Joseph Boggs Beale (1841-1926)

Two hundred years later, photography entered the world, and the magic lantern’s mechanics came back into the limelight.

Slides in the Present Day

Of course, most people prefer digital photography nowadays. However,  nothing beats the sensory feeling of loading a slide into a clunky, vintage projector, clicking the switch and hopping in and out of worlds frozen in time. If you, or your family, have boxes of tiny, old pictures stored in the attic, these will likely be slides!

Unfortunately, the labs which previously churned out thousands of processed slides are now slowly disappearing. To save your slide photos from disappearing, get them digitised today with the UK’s #1 photo digitisation service! Digital Converters will ensure the preservation of your photographs for years to come.

Substandard is a harsh review of 3-inch reels. There is beauty in watching 4-minute home films recorded on small reels, and it stems from the beginning of cinema when moving images began.

Recently, it has irked me as to why 3-inch reels are still a popular form of media to have digitised. They are so short and meek in their prowess. Especially compared to the marathon-long VHS tapes or touch-of-a-button, high-definition filming available on our phones. I even enjoy watching these jittery, discoloured and (mostly) silent videos — even those that are overexposed and covered in dirt.

Something is enchanting in these incredibly short, moving images of documented life. I can only liken it to the beginning of cinema itself. When films were called moving images, and the spectacle was in the newness of video technology itself.

The Personal Touch of The Kinetoscope

It isn’t easy to pinpoint where the art of moving images began due to many people creating video technology around the same time. Yet, Thomas Edison’s invention of the kinetoscope in 1891 definitely began the capitalisation of a spectator watching a moving image.

The kinetoscope’s intimate and self-contained showing of moving images paved the way to why home filming became popular. It was a personable attraction designed for one person to view at a time. The kinetoscope displayed its films inside a cabinet with a window for spectators to peer inside and watch the show. The small size of the attraction meant the kinetoscope was installed in many tourist hotspots like amusement parks and hotels.

So, what has this got to do with filming onto a 3-inch reel?

Well, Edison genuinely believed that moving image technology would not make as much money if larger groups could watch the show at the same time. A faux pas on his part since cinemas and television are incredibly successful even to this day.

Yet, his belief did touch upon one part of the truth. That the technology of moving images is incredibly personal to the consumer. There is a love for creating films yourself, whether this is documentations of your life or Oscar-worthy dramatizations. The beauty of 3-inch reels is in the hands of the creator.

Yet, this is only part of the answer.

The Cinématographe’s Technological Amazement

The second answer to the question is the content of these moving image films.

The Lumière Brothers began the worldwide attraction of moving images as a spectacle of life with their invention of the cinématographe. It was a lightweight camera and projector that displayed short videos for audiences to engross themselves.

One of the most famous moving image clips was of a train arriving at La Ciotat station. Let’s be honest; if this video were at a cinema today, it would not entice audiences to flock to the screens. (Or maybe it would if it meant we were out of lockdown?) But, back in the 19th Century, the film’s novelty shocked many audiences, with some spectators hiding behind their chairs in fear of the oncoming train hitting them!

The novelty of watching menial moments on a screen captivated audiences and later introduced the market for home video cameras. Soon, everyone was documenting their own ordinary moments of life. There was a captivation in watching the variety of lives and cultures displayed on 3-inch reels. Their rawness in content and novel technology is a spectacle to watch even to this day.

The Sudden Burst of Presence

The sharp cuts and abruptness to 3-inch reels can feel like they lack in substance. Yet, similar to how the Lumière Brothers captivated audiences with their short clips, which lacked narrative, 3-inch reels have a familiar charm.

“Rather than a development that links the past with the present in such a way as to define specific anticipation of the future […] the attraction seems limited to a sudden burst of presence.” – Tom Gunning

Tom Gunning created the term “Cinema of Attraction” to categorise moving image cinema before the development of narrative storylines. These early shows enticed audiences with surprise through momentary appearances of moving images.

Much the same, home videos filmed on 3-inch reels have a “sudden burst of presence”. They contain 4-minute time capsules of the present. Most of the reels were documentation of life that lacked the temporal structure shown in films we see in later years. The videos would have people interacting with the camera or a voyeuristic approach where the viewer sees a glimpse into the camera holder’s life.

The beginning of home filming were private spectacles. They encapsulated moments in time and attracted others to watch what the camera holder had experienced. The beauty of 3-inch reels are in their abruptness: they erupt with the presence of a time once had and spilt with the ordinary person’s intimate documentation of the familiar.

 A film franchise 28 years in the making; Jurassic Park has reigned success again-and-again with each sequel it makes. With the third instalment of Jurassic World coming this year, we reflect on how the original film captured the public’s attention and became the 5th most popular VHS tape of all time. 

Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) is a culturally significant film in Hollywood for pioneering new visual effects and reflecting the changing political climate in America. In the opening weekend, Jurassic Park achieved a record-breaking $50 million box office sale. After a year of being played in the cinema, the film had obtained $916 million before being released on VHS. To know that their budget was only £96 million, you get an idea of the magnitude of this film’s achievement.

The success of its box office and VHS sales were driven by the film’s production, marketing, and commodification. Combine this with a family orientated storyline of a group working together to escape the monstrous danger surrounding them – and you’ve got yourself a Spielberg blockbuster.

However, before we can understand Jurassic Park’s success, we first need to delve into America’s politics during the cinematic release.

The Republican Revolution

6 months before Jurassic Park’s release, Bill Clinton was welcomed in as the United States’ new President. Within the first month of his presidency, he had reversed the family planning restrictions prohibiting women from getting an abortion. 

6 months after Jurassic Park’s release, the Republicans won most of the seats in Office. There became a focus in American politics to maintain traditional American ideals.

Since the Republicans had won most seats, Clinton signed a bill called the “Defence of Marriage Act”. This act was designed to “protect” the institution of marriage as a union of one man to one woman – the conservative, nuclear ideal—an ideal which was heavily focused on Jurassic Park’s storyline.

“…those stories that become consumable by a large popular audience provide a good guide to the more conservative cultural narratives of the present.” – Laura Briggs and Jodi I. Kelber-Kaye, “There Is No Unauthorized Breeding in Jurassic Park”: Gender and the Uses of Genetics.”

Science fiction films tend to show us a narrative different from the Western cultural norm. Moreover, they highlight the dangers of living in a world different from the political situation that we live in. In Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs represent the dangers and uncontrollable nature of experimenting with genetics.

Life Will Find A Way

The dinosaurs represent the anxiety around the science of controlled breeding. Through being created in the lab, they represent the mix of being technological and organic. In the film, the dinosaurs were designed by extracting the DNA from a mosquito’s blood found inside an amber stone. The visiting characters learn that they created all the dinosaurs as females to prevent the dinosaurs from breeding and control their test environment.

However, the scientists used frog DNA to fill the genetic make-up needed to clone the animals. Little did they know that the frog’s DNA they had chosen to use was of an ambisexual breed – meaning that they had the capability of changing gender to procreate. The famous words of Ian Malcolm ring true as the female dinosaurs find a way to evolve and represent the uncontrollable danger of meddling with genetics and controlling breeding.

Natural vs Unnatural

Since Spielberg directed Jurassic Park, there had to be a family-friendly spin on an army of monstrous dinosaurs rampaging around an island. At the beginning of the film, the audience is introduced to Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler: a couple struggling with their differences over having children. Ellie being all for beginning a family, and Alan thoroughly against it. The couple’s arrival to the theme park brought new responsibilities as they (well, Alan) were landed with protecting the owner’s grandchildren from the danger of the dinosaurs.

“It’s like a treehouse. Your dad ever built you one?” – Alan Grant rescuing Tim after their jeep falls over a cliff edge and lands in a tree.

By the end of the film, Ellie and Alan are surrogate parents holding and leading the children to the helicopter to escape the island. The message is clear that their survival is based on the group of characters working together as a nuclear family; with Alan showing his paternal leadership, he puts his arm around the now elderly-appearing Hammond and guides him to safety.

Scientific progression with cloning and manipulating genetics is shown as threatening the natural and traditional family. Like the Republican anxiety about marriage and abortion, Jurassic Park tells us there is safety in tradition.

Captivating the audience

Without the political agenda, it is hard to deny that Jurassic Park’s attraction was the visual effects. The CGI was an iconic development in Hollywood’s film production. Hence, the original film trailer avoided displaying the CGI dinosaurs to lure film lovers into seeing the cinema’s pioneering technology.

The fascination, adoration, and apprehension created in Jurassic Park are a homage to the monster film. By limiting big spectacular displays of the monster, the audience’s imagination is left to fill in the gaps. The dark setting and stormy weather in the film plays into this as Spielberg purposefully uses partial, close-up shots or shadows of the dinosaurs to build suspense. In fact, by using clever camera angles and lighting, the film only had 14 minutes of visual effects – only four of those minutes were the iconic CGI we remember Jurassic Park for today. 

Spielberg captured the public’s attention and left them hungry for more by withholding the spectacular visual display of the dinosaurs.

The Mirror Image

If there is one thing Jurassic Park satirises, it is our capitalist desire to commodify anything new and exciting. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, it is at the expense of the consumer. Ian Malcolm outlines this problem after Hammond explains his idea to make a dinosaur-themed park:

“Yeah, but John, if Pirates of the breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.” – Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

The irony being Universal Studios building a water ride simulating the fear and adrenaline rush of being attacked by dinosaurs. This year also welcomes a new Velociraptor rollercoaster ride paying homage to the success of ‘Jurassic World’. It is an inescapable thought that experiencing a dinosaur-filled theme park is (and dare I say it?) sexy. 

The commodification of Jurassic Park is the final reason why the film has captured so many people’s hearts. The initial VHS release came with a special edition gift set of a DNA carry case, an educational book on dinosaurs, an InGen security pass, 3D hologram watch and map of Isla Nublar.  The gift set toys with the theory of dinosaur cloning being plausible as it mixes the factual with fiction.

“…before you even know what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a lunch box” – Ian Malcolm speaking about the dangers on capitalising on dinosaurs.

The risk, wonder, and adventure: Spielberg’s film captivates us by showing a world we could never live in. The VHS to DVD releases combined with playful commodities has placed Jurassic Park into a staple part of Western film culture. Furthermore, its innovative visual effects and theorisation around the dangers of creating dinosaurs with a capitalist agenda cultivate a world in which Jurassic Park could exist.

Have you found your collection of Jurassic Park VHS tapes at home? At Digital Converters, we can convert your tapes to digital formats. Follow the link here.

It is evident everywhere humans go we pine for times long past and places long forgotten. Whether it is watching your favourite Disney films again on a rainy evening or running your fingers along the torn edges of your favourite book – we all love that hit of nostalgia. 

This, of course, extends to music too. (And I’m not just talking about blasting your old Robbie Williams CD in the car)Sometimes the medium takes a back seat to the sound waves themselves. A lot of our favourite music being produced today uses sounds and techniques plucked straight from legendary recording studios of the 1980’s and ignites that same nostalgia. 

From global acts, such as The Weeknd and The 1975, to critically-acclaimed indie darlings like Tame Impala, a huge slew of artists are aiming to encapsulate the sounds of the past. Whether this be the 70’s, 80’s, or other sounds which capture the essence of a world different to our own today. 

Here are two techniques used in music today which encapsulates that retro nostalgia which music fans love:  

The Snare Accident 

The drum sound of the 80’s is something unmistakeable: huge cymbals and punchy snare drums. Just listen to the drums tail off after each thwack on Phil Collins’ monumental hit “In the Air Tonight” and you’ll hear the quintessential 80’s drum sound executed to a tee. Usually, the sound of a record in the studio is something which is meticulously planned by the artist or producer, but this drum sound (which came to define the 80’s pop music scene) was something of a happy accident. 

A year before this smash record was released, Phil Collins had developed his own technique of drum recording with his former bandmate, Peter Gabriel. While recording in The Townhouse Studio in London, Gabriel recruited Collins to play the drums on his breakthrough third solo album ‘Melt’. In the studio, Collins’ drums were picked up by the overhead microphone used by the engineers to speak with the band.  

This microphone was not designed to record instruments, and as such was set up differently to recording microphones. The most notable difference was that this studio microphone included a noise gate and a compressor. Essentially, this means that the microphone amplified quiet sounds, turned down loud noises, and tuned into sounds when it hit a certain volume. It was designed to stop picking up sounds when they dropped below a certain threshold.  

While recording Collins’ drums, the studio microphone caused a massive, cacophonous sound that was abruptly cut off after no more than a second. Hugh Padgham, one of the music producers, explained it best as “going from all to nothing in milliseconds”. This drum sound became a staple of Phil Collins’ music, as well as the music of many other 80’s superstars. 

This drum recording technique is still used today! Lorde, a pop artist from New Zealand, adorned her latest album with retro drum sounds sprinkled over brooding pop evolved from her first hit album, ‘Pure Heroine’. Meanwhile, MGMT have been long known for using retro sounds in their techno music. But this is best encapsulated in their 2018 album ‘Little Dark Age’ which amplifies that typical 80’s rock drum snare. 

Synth Pop 

As technology evolved, synthesizers became integral to the sound that would largely dominate popular music for the past 50 years. This change in music began in the 1960’s swirling cauldron of countercultural attitudes, distorted guitars, and exciting new tech. Psychedelic Rock was birthed. Bands, such as Pink Floyd and The Doors, were early synth pioneers and set a lot of the groundwork that many popular artists have built upon today.  

Speaking on the synergy between rock and electronic music developed in the 1960s, Louis Marcheschi said:

“Rock and Roll is electronic music – because if you pull the plug, it stops”. 

This is largely due to the reliance on electronic effect pedals to achieve the spacious, echoing sound of the 1960’s. The sound produced by the guitar itself is manipulated and repeated so much that without the electronic tech and synthesizers, the music would lack the depth and produced sound. This kind of effect-laden sound manifested itself in different ways throughout the popular music of the 80’s, 90’s and present-day music.  

To understand the potence of this heavily produced sound listen to Beach House’s psychedelic modern music and Danish critically acclaimed synthetic “Space Pop” band Mew. 

Bands such as Depeche Mode and The Pet Shop Boys took it through its first boom in the 80’s. The torch was then handed over to Lightning Seeds who scored two UK Number One Singles – one of which being England’s Football Anthem “Three Lions released in 1996. However, the best modern-day practitioner of the “Synth Pop” sound is likely Tame Impala, who have created two albums in the last 6 years which have been in the Top 10 UK Album charts. Most recent of which is their 2020 albumThe Slow Rush’. 

As it stands, these retro revivalists are here to stay, and they bring a great soundtrack.  

 

Have you got a collection of Psychedelic Rock cassettes that you want to revive? Digital Converters brings your most loved music back to life by transferring your audio cassettes to CD, memory sticks or onto a cloud download.  

 

Follow this link to start future-proofing your favourite audio now! 

 

It is coming up to Christmas 1995: you are weaving around shops finding presents for your children. That’s when you stumble into the video aisle in Woolworths. There you see it: orange and shining in all its’ Disney glory – The Lion King on VHS.

You know it’s a hit with your children because you were dragged to the cinema to see it (and let’s be honest – you loved it too). So, you buy it. Along with the 32 million other people across the globe who made this film the top-selling VHS tape ever.

26 years after the release of The Lion King, the success of its VHS sales and box office numbers have not been forgotten. Last year, Disney released a photorealistic remake of the film which played with fan’s nostalgia and made Disney over a billion dollars. In fact, it did so well it surpassed the original film’s box office numbers and became the 7th highest grossing film of all time.

But how did the original Lion King gravitate such a huge success?

The Underdog

With the film being released in 1994, it was Disney’s 5th success in their renaissance period. This collection of films brought back Disney’s classic hand drawn animation style and focused on telling well-known stories. Only this time was an exception: The Lion King is the first original story created by Disney.

(Now, I know that anyone who has studied Shakespeare will stand their ground and say that The Lion King was based off Hamlet. And yes, you would be correct for saying that. However, when storyboarding the film Scar was not the brother of Mufasa. It was only when the creators saw the resemblance between their story and Hamlet that they decided to take inspiration from Shakespeare’s tragedy.)

The interesting part is that Disney never expected The Lion King to be such a huge success. Moreover, that it would topple Pocahontas on box office numbers and VHS sales. When Disney decided to split the studio between producing Pocahontas and The Lion King many of the top animators worked on the former believing it was the more prestigious film. This left codirectors, Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, with new animators and the chance to experiment with new 3D effects in the film.

Thankfully, this new opportunity to experiment with new techniques, such as the Rack Focus technique (changing the field of focus of the lens in a continuous shot) in their animation. When comparing the two films, there is a clear difference in how The Lion King pushed to be innovative and use new animation styles. Unlike Pocahontas which reflect the traditional Disney style and darker colour palettes.

Incredible Soundtrack

In terms of pushing boundaries and changing the sphere of Disney, The Lion King was immediately seen as unique from their first theatrical trailer release. They released the entire four minute opening scene of the song ‘Circle of Life’ which highlighted the films new 3D effect and Rack Focus technique.

More to the point, it advertised the cracking soundtrack composed by Elton John and Tim Rice.

At the time, it was strange for Disney to collaborate with a celebrity musician and it wasn’t easy to organise. Tim Rice had to argue his case against Roy E. Disney (vice-chairman of Disney at the time) for why he believed they should collaborate with a rock star. Unfortunately, a large part of Disney’s grudge was based on him not liking popular music.

As the film developed, new challenges arose with the soundtrack: one being how ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’ should be sung and presented in the film. Initially, it was proposed that the two comedic characters, Timon and Pumbaa. However, Elton was not happy with this exclaiming that it is supposed to be a traditional Disney love ballad and should not be sung by a “big, stinky warthog”.  He even had to argue for this song to be kept in the film after watching an early screening of the film and noticing it had been cut. Praise be that he did, because that song earnt The Lion King the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Without Elton John’s involvement the soundtrack would never have been as successful as it was. It is still the best-selling album of an animated film and the success of involving Elton began a new era of collaborating with celebrities on animated soundtracks.

Merchandising

One aspect of marketing which really drove the sale of VHS tapes of The Lion King was through its merchandise. A great perk to selling animated characters is that they are exceptionally adaptable and amenable when creating toys and other commodities. Since the film was aimed at children and based around animated animals, merchandising toys and collectibles became, well, child’s play. For instance, when McDonalds and Burger King included toys from The Lion King in their kid’s meals their sales soared. Children loved collecting those cuddly, cartoon characters.

More so, the reason why VHS sales of The Lion King topped the charts is because it’s a children’s film. Unlike adults, children love to watch films and television shows on repeat. It  is comforting for them to re-watch films and an easy way for them to learn new vocabulary and understand the story. Studies have shown that children predicting the plot of a repeatedly watched film is a win for them and a confirmation that they have grasped the story. The Lion King even had musical numbers for children to learn new song lyrics and copy dance movements.

For parents, buying the VHS was an easy option to keep children entertained. The best part being the sturdy, plastic casing of the tape which prevented too many accidents from happening to the film – unlike the fragile DVD which came after.

 

Have you got a collection of Disney VHS tapes lying around your house? You can transfer all your VHS to digital formats and have all your favourite films on a singular memory stick!

Follow the link here to get started!

We all know how the Hi8 handheld camcorder changed the way we saved memories. But, how has it changed the landscape and theory around professional filmmaking?

The release of 8mm camcorders in the 1980’s paved way for a new era of home filmmaking in which everything could be recorded in the palm of your hand. The alteration in size began a new fashion of filming “anywhere, anytime” with the best part being the easiness of watching 8mm transfer onto a television without the added need of a video player.

Within 10 years, everyone seemed to be documenting their lives with the help of their nifty handheld camcorder. The novelty of having a smaller camera formed a new style of taping. Videos consisted of long, continuous takes which jittered through time documenting the normal, unseen moments of our lives. Without realising it, the camera owners were changing the sphere of documenting history. Each special moment became a filmed documentation of our culture and the way we lived in the late 20th century.

As the Hi8 camcorder developed from 8mm video to digital, amateur film recording of grainy pictures, shaky framing and raw content became instantly recognisable. It was looked down upon by professional filmmakers who had skilled the art of developing beautiful pieces of film and used a repertoire of semiotic language to tell their story. The main criticisms of home camcorders being the low quality footage compared to photographic film recording, and the constant reminder of the camera’s presence due to the hand of the person filming causing the frame to shake.

Little did they know they were knocking a new type of collective auteur generated by our society’s culture and shaped by the flaws of a handheld camcorder. Each video held an awkward intimacy that could not be captured through professional filming. Moreover, the rawness and unplanned nature of the filming made the videos feel authentic in their documentation of events. Professional filming no longer held the same authenticity as these recreational videos. And thus, began a new style of directing to construct an ‘authentic’ reality through the lens of a shaky camera.

In 1999, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez effectively exploited, fetishized and commodified reality through the marketing and release of their film The Blair Witch Project. It broke so many conventions in filmmaking as the film mimicked a group of students documenting their findings on the Blair Witch. The film was captured on an Hi8 camera held by the actors themselves and was edited to look like the audience was watching evidence of the Hi8 transfer found by the police. It consisted of trembling shots which pulled the audience through the story by limiting their perspective with extreme close-ups and grainy, dark shots of the woods.

Yet, it was their marketing strategy which brought the success of this film. The producers divulged themselves in falsely creating the appearance of a true documentary by using the newly formed online chatrooms to spread rumours of missing students and myths of the Blair Witch. On IMDb, the actors even had the dates they died written on them to leave the public wondering whether the film was genuine. By obscuring the truth from reality, the film made a killing in the box office (248.60 million USD) and altered the conventions of mimicking reality to sell a film.

The distance between conventional filmmaking formed by semiotic codes, expensive cameras and perfect shot-takes was broken by filmmakers trying to replicate amateur, handheld camera recording. Throughout the next twenty years, there became a novelty to creating horror and sci-fi films through a character’s documentation of the events. The camera became part of the film and the audience would not forget its presence.

By having a person behind the camera, directors could use it to obscure what is happening on screen and limit the amount of information given to the viewer. In 2008, Cloverfield a film about a monster attacking New York City, was released. The marketing campaign followed in the same pursuit as Blair Witch by using the internet to release snippets of information on the film. However, Cloverfield did not pretend to be real documented footage. It gleamed of a Hollywood marketing team and captured the nation’s attention by withholding key information on the film – including its’ name.

What we do know is that the film was recorded through a handheld camcorder and it is set in New York (drawing similarities to 9/11). The shaky-cam filming created the characters to feel authentic as they reacted to the events. The long takes and sharp cuts mixed with the shaking, raw footage of characters running away from the threat is a constant reminder of the camera’s presence and limited perspective given to the audience. Mix this with the character’s ignorance on the monstrosity unfolding in front of them, it replicated the grainy videos seen online of the twin towers covered in smoke when 9/11 struck. The film’s footage mimicked exactly how the digital era would have witnessed a monster’s attack.

Ironically, whilst promoting the film Paramount capitalised on fan’s amateur filming by asking them to film their own version of events. The mimicry of shaky-cam filming had turned full circle as fans attempted to show how “authentic” filming should be done.  And this convention of filming has continued: it is seen in films like District 9 (a film which documents aliens held in an immigration camp), Chronicle (teen boys filming their newfound superpowers) and continues with the development of the mobile phone’s camera.

Essentially, the origin of the shaky-cam proves that all types of recording can be used professionally if marketed well. The conventions of filmmaking are constantly changing, and it is not limited to big budget production companies to change it. As consumer camera’s change from the classic Hi8 so does the filming industry. Watch how social media has already changed the conventions of reality in films or television shows.

Do you want to relive your own shaky-cam work?

At Digital Converters, we transfer all 8mm tapes (Hi8, Video 8 and Digital 8) to digital formats. You can choose to have your tapes converted to DVD, USB, or a cloud download to watch on your television, phone, or computer. Our technicians can repair your tapes and ensure that you receive the best quality version of your videos.

Follow this link to get started!

“Unprecedented times” has been knocking around the news for the last year and with another set of rules to help stop the spread of coronavirus coming into action, anxiety around the future can be felt within us all. Looking towards the future is beginning to feel like a tireless charade. Which is why I’ve been taking comfort in the past by watching old camcorder tapes.

Recently, I have fallen into watching Scrubs for the billionth time. It began whilst I was listening to “Fake Doctors, Real Friends”, a podcast series where the two lead actors of Scrubs re-watch the show. But, with the outbreak of television series being released on Netflix, it had me questioning why I’ve been choosing Scrubs over something new.

In all honesty, with the pandemic changing the future day-by-day, it has been soothing to watch something where I already know the ending. Likewise, my family (and many other people) have taken this time to watch their old memories after choosing to convert their camcorder tapes to digital. At Digital Converters, we have never been busier as the public choose to take comfort in the past, and with the winter season approaching there is no better time for you to follow in pursuit.

The beginning of lockdown surprised everyone with (what felt like) endless free time and no more excuses to put off those chores. It was time for spring cleaning and decluttering the houses. No longer were those tapes going to sit uselessly in closets or attics. By using a videotape transfer service, families could take their 100 camcorder tapes and save them on a singular memory stick. An easy solution to declutter the house.

After choosing to use a video to DVD service, families and friends can share their better times on the big screen. Personally, I loved watching my brother as a pre-schooler prance around the house in an over-sized fireman’s outfit. It has been a nice reminder to see how far we have grown as a family. Soon, this pandemic will be a strange memory to the start of a new decade. Meanwhile, it has been fantastic converting our camcorder to digital formats because of the cloud download option. Although we couldn’t be together physically, we could still bring the family together virtually.

For younger families, if you are worried about schools closing again, transferring your video to DVD can be a fantastic opportunity to get your children or grandchildren interested in history and geography. Transferring your camcorder tapes to DVD’s means you can watch your holiday videos and documentations of your family history on the television which can bring great excitement for your children. They can learn about new countries whilst watching your younger self potter around them!

As we approach the winter season, it is time to think about bringing the family in new ways for Christmas. One way could be through using a camcorder to DVD service and gifting your family with special memories of the past. Many families have years of Christmas videos captured and now is a great time to bring them into the present. Choosing to transfer your videos to DVD’s means that everyone can come together to watch your collection of home videos. Or, if you are worried about not seeing your family, you can now watch your videos on Zoom by converting to cloud!

Now has never been a better time to embrace the past and with the help of Digital Converters it has never been easier.

If you’ve been buying albums recently, you may have been confused as to why bands are now offering cassette tapes. Cassette tapes are making a comeback and it is time to embrace it!

In a trend that has flummoxed the nation, cassette tapes have had a 103% sale increase in 2020 compared to 2019 (according to The Official Chart Company). It is a similar trend seen by vinyl records which have now surpassed CD sales in the US this year. Physical copies of records are becoming more popular than downloads. But, it begs the question why someone would choose a cassette rather than CD or vinyl. When comparing the cassette tape to CD format, there are many reasons not to buy a tape: the poor audio quality; the smaller file space and let us not forget the faff of having to switch sides! Perhaps it is because they are cheap to make. Yet, if you are an upcoming band, I can’t imagine releasing music on a cassette would increase your popularity.

Some music companies (NME, Official Charts, Billboards) have suggested that the new trend for cassette tapes is because many fans enjoy collecting physical copies to display in their homes. Cassettes have become a music fan’s commodity. And, since they are so cheap, it is an easy option for fans who cannot afford the expense of vinyl.

Recently, to tackle the competition between cassette to digital formats bands have released their music on cassette and advertised them as a collectible. For instance, Glass Animals have released four cassettes for their new album with different artwork on each one. To entice their fans, they liaised with record stores and offered fans tickets to a limited release concert if they pre-ordered a CD, vinyl or cassette. The cassette being the cheapest option for fans to access these tickets. An easy way to persuade loyal fans to buy physical copies of their music.

What is fascinating about the rise in cassette sales is that it is mainly under-25’s who are buying them! After the release of Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014 (which based their soundtrack off a mixtape saved on a cassette) the sale of cassettes began to rise and a trend began to set. A pursuit of films and television series followed (Stranger Things, Baby Driver, 13 Reasons Why to name a few) which defined their setting through the legendary audio tape. There is a nostalgia for the 80’s and 90’s – and perhaps, a novelty for those who never owned a tape.

So, what does all this mean for you?

Well, if you are in possession of cassettes now would be the optimum time to rekindle your love for them! Since cassettes are now a collectible, you might be in possession of a rare tape which will sell for a small fortune. Although it is the aesthetic of a cassette attracting people into the market, the crackling audio has a charm to it as well. Transferring your audio tape to CD or download file will give you the option to listen to the music without needing a cassette player and give you the chance to relive your favourite albums in the car again.

At Digital Converters, we offer a premium cassette to CD service to help make transferring music into digital formats easier for you. This service is particularly handy if you are wanting to listen to and share old recordings you made before the new millennium. Now is the time to pull out your tapes and revive all those recordings you saved – follow this link to get started.