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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.

Your wedding day should be one of the most unforgettable days of your life. But the celebratory drinks at the afterparty may have other ideas. Thankfully, with the trusty wedding video, couples can now preserve their special day forever.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, you may be one of the many couples who are reliving their special day by converting their wedding tapes to digital formats. In this article, we will dive into the origins of the wedding video and how it has become the home essential for every married couple.

Home Movie Genesis

The introduction of 8mm and 16mm film made shooting videos vastly cheaper, smaller, and more accessible. The film cameras were specifically designed for amateur filmmakers to use and began a new phenomenon: the home movie.

During the 1930s, motion pictures were still associated with the theatre. The idea of an established genre of ‘Wedding Video’ was still unheard of. Thankfully, as technology improved and cameras became smaller, families began filming special occasions with their 8mm or 16mm film. Wedding videos were restricted to 4-minute clips as film reels had to be reloaded after this time. Furthermore, wedding videos’ novelty was limited to wealthier families who could afford the camera and film reels.

The Rise of Super-8

The beginning of professional wedding videography came with the introduction of Super 8 film cameras in 1965.

Super 8 set out to remedy the many quality issues present in the existing 8mm film cameras. They utilised pre-loaded film cassettes rather than reels. This meant that those who were not gifted with dexterity or finesse (like me) could load new films with ease. Subsequently, wedding videos became longer in length; the video’s quality was higher in low-light settings, and weddings could be recorded with sound! The latter feature being introduced in 1973.

As some budding videographers’ general skill level improved, people began offering wedding video production as a paid service. A more convenient option for some – instead of forcing a family member to stand behind a camera while everyone else enjoys the occasion!

Wedding Videos Become Truly Professional

As the home video market grew exponentially, so did the development of new technology. Wedding videographers continued to use Super 8 until the early 1980s when JVC introduced a compact camcorder recorded onto a VHS-C tape. It could be operated by one person and changed the filming of home videos from Super 8 film to the VHS tape.

Wedding videography was now establishing itself as a genuine market. This resulted in the formation of various local and national organisations of videographers. Wedding videos became a mainstay in popular culture, and many families possessed documentation of their special day.

However, the videos lacked the fanfare and pizzazz of wedding videos we see today. This is because analogue media was restricted to a few hours of filming, and videographers did not have post-production technology to edit the films. The videos were simply a point and shoot of the bride and groom.

Style Evolution

The 1990s brought a boom in digital technology and with it came a swarm of digital cameras and post-editing equipment. This was fantastic news for wedding videographers who could film hours of footage of the wedding day and edit it to a tidy two-hour video.

The DSLR camera development began a whole new evolution of professional wedding videos as videographers developed their own style of filming and editing. Bride and grooms also had more of an input in how they would like to preserve their day. The couple could now decide on the style and budget of their film:

Journalistic

This is the most common form of wedding videos. The videographer would document the entire day from the morning preparations to the ceremony and reception. This video style aimed to remain faithful to life and required simple cuts to keep the video concise.

Short Form

This form was better for those on a smaller budget as the videos were more concise and once edited were under an hour of filming. It is essentially a montage of your best bits of the day. This video style is likely to include some more complex editing but is very versatile to the couple’s needs.

Cinematic

The name gives this one away. A cinematic style of wedding video is when the videographer can turn their tech dial up to 11 and flaunt their skills. This style can manifest itself in various ways and uses effects like slow motion, transitions, and emotive music.

The production of cinematic wedding videos was especially sought-after in the ’90s when editing was a practice mainly reserved for industry professionals who had the kit to create special effects.

The Modern-Day Videographer

In the present, many weddings are filmed on phone cameras owned by guests. Instagram filters are created for guests to use when posting on social media and are invited to create a joint video album documenting the day’s event.

Thus, professional wedding videos use a cinematic style that aims to tell the couple’s story. They tend to be shorter than the traditional VHS wedding tapes and use high-tech equipment (like 4K cameras, Steadicam rigs and drones) to show off the location, wedding outfits and decoration.

 

At Digital Converters, we can preserve your wedding video forever by digitising your wedding tapes and reels.

If you want to gift your wedding tape to your partner for Valentine’s Day but are pressed for time, why not buy them a Gift Voucher from our store?

 

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!