Archive for the ‘VHS Transfer’ Category

Digitise VHS Tape – Martin Smith’s Life Can Be Wonderful

Monday, May 20th, 2013

In February 2013 we digitised a VHS tape from Martin Smith, the 1994 documentary Life Can Be Wonderful. The VHS tape was the only copy of the film Smith owned, and it is quite common for Great Bear to digitise projects where the film maker does not have the master copy. This is because original copies are often held by large production companies, and films can be subject to complex distribution and screening conditions.

Life Can Be Wonderful is a film was about the life of his good friend Stanley Forman, a committed communist and major figure in British left-wing cinema, who passed away at the age of 91 on 7 February 2013. Forman’s dedication to communism remained a controversial issue until his death. Smith described his conflicts with his friend which ‘most often they centred on what I saw as his refusal to own up to the enormity of Stalin’s crimes. On camera he told me that I was his dear friend, “but not a dear comrade” and apologised for failing to convey “the spirit of the times”‘.

Stanley Forman is a fascinating figure in terms of the work we do at the Great Bear. He is described on the website Putney Debater as ‘the archive man.’ The site goes on to say

His company, Plato/ Education and Television Films (ETV), held a unique library of left- wing documentaries which amounted to the history of the twentieth century from a socialist perspective. Established in 1950 as Plato Films, the outfit was what would be called in Cold War ideology a front organisation, set up by members of the Communist Party to distribute films from behind the Iron Curtain. Under the slogan ‘See the other half of the world’, Plato provided the movement with a film distributor for documentaries from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, taking in China (until the Sino-Soviet split), Cuba, Vietnam and elsewhere, which would otherwise never be seen here.

The Educational and Television Films archive is held at the British Film Institute, and some material is available to view on the JISC Media Hub website.

The Grain of Video Tape

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

videotek-vtm-waveform-monitor-display

From U Matic to VHS, Betacam to Blu Ray, Standard Definition to High Definition, the formats we use to watch visual media is constantly evolving.

Yet have you ever paused to consider what is at stake in the changing way audio-visual media is presented to us? Is viewing High Definition film and television always a better experience than previous formats? What is lost when the old form is supplanted by the new?

At Great Bear we have the pleasure of seeing the different textures, tones and aesthetics of tape-based Standard Definition video on a daily basis. The fuzzy grain of these videos contrasts starkly with the crisp, heightened colours of High Definition digital media we are increasingly used to seeing now on television, smartphones and tablets.

This is not however a romantic retreat to all things analogue in the face of an unstoppable digital revolution, although scratch the surface of culture and you will find many people are.

At Great Bear we always have one foot in the past, and one foot in the future. We act as a conduit between old and new media, ensuring that data stored on older media can continue to have a life in today’s digital intensive environments.

 

 


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