Semi-Ancient History

Recently, my wife ‘unearthed’ a few old U-Matic video cassettes from a closet. U-Matics were a broadcast standard in the early 80s… and are all but unknown these days. So, I had to find a regional source to have the contents digitized for web use (and, simply, for archiving). I came across The Archival Company in Bedminster, New Jersey. They turned it around rather quickly and the fee was exceptionally reasonable.

Among the few things found on the video was a copy of Dan Hartman’s first music video he asked me to do for his single, Heaven In Your Arms. Danny and I grew up together in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and became friends in high school. Danny asked me to shoot this video after he’d left The Edgar Winter group and was promoting his fourth solo album, It Hurts To Be In Love (I’d done the photo shown on the album cover, as well). Danny came down from NYC for part of a day to shoot in Harrisburg. At Third and Market Streets, the Fellers Men Clothing Store had recently closed, so a nice open space was available to shoot. For some reason, I’d thought Venetian blinds would make a nice background and texture for the video. The budget wasn’t large… maybe $5,000… but it could’ve have been even less (my memory isn’t good for such things). Point was, I spent a few hundred on the blinds alone. And, in those days, we shot in 16mm film and that equipment had to be rented. Suffice to say, there wasn’t much profit left, especially after renting editing space and getting to a final print (I do NOT miss those days of everything being way out of range financially). I was going for a red/black/silver motif for the look of the video. Fortunately, Eddie’s Men’s Store a few doors down allowed us to track down a black shirt and a couple of ties… one red. I remember having only a couple of lights and one assistant. I had to hire another guy to play back the song repeatedly via his quarter-inch Nagra field recorder over a PA system for Danny to lip-sync to.

The quality from the U-Matic was rather bad (having more to do with the technology of the time than the digital transfer). I beefed up the chrome on the image inside Final Cut Pro X, sharpened it a bit, and added clean black edges to frame it on the 16:9 ratio required these days. The audio was simply atrocious (again, that old technology wasn’t friendly). So, with the help of my buddy—and keeper of the flame known as—Jonathan Creaser, I was able to replace the audio with a clean track he supplied. It took me playing around to keep it all in sync. It seemed to stay in sync for about 30 seconds before I had to snip out about 4-6 frames to bring it back into sync. I did this in 4 different sections. I snipped frames from non-singing scenes. The result is adequate… or, at least, better than if I hadn’t done any of that. Danny’s on-camera charm still holds up.


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