From the Braver Institute
I was looking over some old videotape footage a few friends of mine and I had shot shortly after high school and I was a little surprised at how much the world has changed since that time. Oh sure, there have been big changes in the world since then, and that is to be expected. The changes I am referring to are a little more subtle. We don’t look at videos today in quite the same way we did then.
Years ago it was a real treat to see 8mm films that someone was fortunate enough to have. There exists a roll of 8mm film that contains a few moments of me walking around the yard when I was two or three years old. It was amazing to watch that footage over and over again. Back then very few people had movie cameras and the novelty of watching homemade motion pictures never got old.
Videotape was around for decades but didn’t become a viable option for the public until the 80’s, and even then video cameras were out of the reach of most family budgets. During my senior year in high school I was enrolled in a television production class. I would check out video cameras to gather “news” but my real intention was to make movies. My good friend Ezra Hammer and I were always working on scripts and trying to rope our friends into our productions, which never seemed to get beyond shooting a scene or two.
There was a lot of equipment to set up with those video rigs. There was the camera and possibly a tripod, a recording deck (this was before there was such a thing as a camcorder) and a battery pack. Usually these three components had their own carry cases. There were also countless wires, and if you were shooting at night, there was lighting. Whenever we would set up in public, people would stop and stare as if the circus had just pulled in and was setting up. It was like a mini-major event.
After high school I no longer had access to all of this wonderful gear, but thankfully Ezra did. His parents had a video camera. It had the camera and the recording deck. The battery pack was built in! How nice and compact it was!
This leads me to the footage I had been looking at. A few of my friends were leaving town (Ez being one of them) and we decided to capture a day on videotape before everyone went their separate ways.
We mounted the camera in the back of our buddy Dave’s truck and we drove around our hometown of Marquette capturing the things that we thought were important.
What struck me most while looking at this old footage was the reaction of some of the people on the street. You would swear that Hollywood had just arrived. People would yell and wave, and do crazy things to get our attention.
Fast-forward to the present day. If we were to set up the same rig now, we would still get a lot of strange looks but for different reasons. Now we would be stared at for using such archaic equipment. Otherwise, someone shooting video these days is not only commonplace, it is almost expected.
A decade ago I attended a few Springsteen concerts and the only way for me to relive them is in my memories. The shows I saw last year on the other hand are widely available, most likely in their entirety, and from multiple angles. Within an hour of the show, videos started to show up on Youtube, and by the next day, with videos from different people, nearly every moment of the show had been posted. In the weeks and months to follow, even more videos were posted.
Nearly every event of our lives is somehow caught on video these days, for better or for worse. Video cameras are everywhere. I’m sure my daughters have a dozen of them. They are probably given away in boxes of cereal.
Once upon a time special moments were the only thing that justified breaking out the video camera. Now even the most mundane of activities are captured forever. I can’t help but think that the pervasive presence of video cameras and their widespread use for capturing meaningless moments has somehow cheapened the wonderful things we caught on videotape and film in the past.
A few moments of a three year old kid walking around in the yard doesn’t seem to carry the same weight today as it did back then.
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