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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?
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.
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.
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.
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.