Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Blasts from the Past

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Three blasts from the past… I have this shelf full of video tapes full of nice films which I recorded when I was young. And as much as I love them (particularly as using DVDs sucks ass in comparison to VHS), it’s hard to deny that (a) I’ve grown out of many of those films, (b) I hardly ever watch them, (c) the tapes take up a lot of space and are a nuisance to move and (d) both the tapes and the VCR don’t get better over time.

So I went through my list and ended up with a nice and short list of shows which I guess I’ll actually watch again and which would be hard or impossible to rent on DVD or from download services in the future. And these shows I decided to just digitize and then just ‘retire’ the tapes.

Thankfully the ‘hybrid’ version of the eyeTV USB stick [I guess I should write on that as well at some stage – how it’s excellent and simple in some ways but is still quite weak other ways] besides being able to receive DVB-T and analogue telly, also has an adaptor to record other analogue sources. Quite a ridiculous thing that is, because it has a tiny plug from which three cables (S-Video, Composite Video, Headphone socket) come and with an extra included adaptor from the Headphone socket to dual Line In sockets you can actually attach pretty much everything – it just looks ugly.

So I had everything nicely lined up, I thought. Just one little detail was a problem: Sound was received well by the eyeTV, but no picture made its way through. Argh, crap! I tried different cables and adaptors (isn’t it scary how many different adaptors and cables you end up having… just never the one you need). And none of those helped. So I started thinking the eyeTV or its adaptor was broken. But as a quick check (plugging one end of an S-Video cable into the TV-out adaptor for the MacBook and the other end of that cable into the eyeTV – giving a window with the content of the second screen on the first screen…) verified, the secret fear I had all the way through was true: The problem was with the SCART link once more.

I don’t know why, but pretty much every single time in the past years when wanting to transfer video between a computer and a TV, there were massive problems as soon as a SCART adaptor came into play. We have tried loads of different adaptors, the soldering capable flatmates even did their thingy – yet we never managed to have SCART connector that ‘just worked’. And after all the tests I did, we also had some SCART problem here…

The low-fi solution to that was to just use a coax cable to transfer the film, thus possibly reducing quality a bit further. Uh, and after having to force eyeTV to rescan the whole range to find the VCR’s station to begin with. Somehow that took ages and I had plenty of time to carefully prepare a salad for dinner in the meantime (my flatmate made Quiche which was nice).

And then, finally, things worked. And I could do my first recording and watch the show while doing that. The episode of the (long-discontinued, sniff) indie music show Fast Forward which was done by The White Stripes. A fun show with plenty of great videos and some talking by Jack White. Great to see it again. And again and again in the future…

The recording went smoothly, although the MacBook had to work quite hard – 160% processor usage in computer-idiotic terminoloy – to do the real time MPEG compression. And it truely being a recording there is even a display of a ‘tracking’ message from the VCR at the beginning. Later on I cut out the ads (nice and easy with eyeTV) and currently I keep the MacBook’s fan running by compressing the film to a more efficient format. 3GB for an hour of film is just a bit too much for my taste – particularly when you’re talking about a VHS recording from telly.

removing the ads with eyeTV

After that, we watched Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point – a film we meant to see ever since watching Blow Up last year. To be honest, I thought the story with all the student movement stuff, with the shootings and the outing to Death Valley was a bit fuzzy but the film is still full of helpful advice for your private (if you want to impress a girl, just steal a plane and do some North by Northwest stunts above her car) and public (if capitalism starts looking bad blowing it up may make more of a difference than just protests) life.

All that said, I thought the filming and camerawork was superb and absolutely stunning. The film is full of extreme tele shots focusing on people at a distance and leaving a lot of room for out-of-focus parts of the screen. And sometimes the focus just shifts, giving a different view on things. Brilliant. Of course the landscape scenes are absolutely stunning as well and the closing scene is a gem.

One made more than three decades ago which makes that new overhyped Sony ad (which in my opinion neither look nice beyond a ‘haha, cool!’ level nor has much to say) look even more lame.

Things that remain to say on this are that Zabriskie Point seems to be in Death Valley but that I can’t remember having seen it nor could I find it in Google Earth (hints?). And doesn’t Daria drive from Los Angeles to Phoenix? Why does she pass there anyway? Ah well, never mind, the soundtrack was quite good as well…

Finally, I ran across some songs by Miriam Makeba recently. I must have heard them when I was little, at least they sound very familiar and I had never heard her name. Not really my usual music taste obviously, but still nice…

October 21, 2006, 9:25

Tagged as eytv, fast forward, film, michelangelo antonioni, miriam makeba, scart, vhs, zabriskie point.

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