My Complete Video Oeuvre, Part 1 of 3: the Chinese Acrobats

Some people are skilled with video cameras. Some are talented in front of cameras. Those who lack proper training for either side will see their amateur attempts at moving pictures yield mixed results. This three-part miniseries will clarify for the record why I’m not a vlogger, even though nobody asked.

I’ve never owned a dedicated video camera in my life, never even held or operated someone else’s. My camera has a video function, but it wasn’t a consideration when I bought it because I’ve never been a fan of home movies. I was under the impression that the average camera owner dedicates its use largely to birthday parties, Christmas Day in the living room, and grade-school recitals starring children who aren’t mine. Perhaps other families turn their gatherings into elaborate stage productions, complete with musical numbers and action scenes worth immortalizing for future generations. Our family, not so much. We’re big on photos, but minimalist on real-time recordings.

One sweltering August day at the 2009 Indiana State Fair, I was struck by one of my frequent random whims that always start with the question, “What happens when I do this?” My wife and I had been enjoying the fairground attractions and decided to sample one of the live entertainment options, a troupe of Chinese acrobats who were appearing gratis and weren’t prefaced with stringent disclaimers forbidding A/V recording devices. Just for fun, I decided to see what would happen if I tried filming them instead of merely photographing them, using the camera feature I’d never accessed before.

This was the finished product:

(For curious tech geeks out there: I wield a Canon PowerShot A590, which wasn’t a cutting-edge model as of 2009.)

Having conducted zero tests with the video function prior to that day, I expected far worse. I was surprised that the results included any sound at all, and that my hands had held slightly more steadily than a Blair Witch spasm-cam.

I learned at least one vital lesson about filming: find a proper vantage point. By which I mean: next time, get better seats. The side view offered an unusual perspective and a better look at the assistants, but most viewers prefer the front-row head-on experience. Viewers are funny that way. Alas, the better seats were taken by the time we arrived at that particular corner of the fairground. Aiming off-center was an intentional idea to mitigate some of that awkward angle by capturing more of the assistants as they came and went with various props. Again: mixed results.

I realize zooming might also have made a difference, but the camera’s zoom performance with still photos is prone to blurring. I wasn’t interested in testing too many limitations on my first attempt. I just wanted to see what would happen. The attempt was somewhat fun, but I wasn’t quite ready to boast that my next production would be even better.

Also, no one had warned me that uploading such clips to YouTube could take hours on a DSL line, our connection of choice at that time. I’m glad the video impulse didn’t strike while we were still on AOL dial-up.

To be continued!

[Today is Day Three of the seven-day WordPress.com Daily Post’s “Just Do It!” Weekly Writing Challenge, in which WordPress bloggers have been dared to post-a-day for the next seven days. Thus do the acrobats make three. Thanks for reading!]

4 responses

  1. I’d say that’s a pretty good effort for a first try. About my only video-graphic credit was the first week of my first-born’s life. I filmed it on an $800 monstrosity of a Sony (and a VHS tape). About the only action was her crying when my wife gave her a bath. I did put on a song in the background and tried an open-air miked MTV-style video which I thought of sending away to some Hollywood producer, but thought better of it.

    I just noticed by the way that you are a fellow Hoosier! For all I know it, you live next door. If that is the case, would you replace your Purdue doormat with an IU one, or at least the Colts?

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    • I remember those giant-sized VHS cameras. One year my high-school social studies class took a field trip to film scenes for a project, and only one classmate knew how to use the teacher’s camera. Unfortunately, he wasn’t quite the cinematographer we’d hoped — he had the speed settings all wrong, so the final footage turned us all into super-speed Chipmunks.

      As far as the doormat goes: my wife’s degree is from IU, but my son was recently accepted to Purdue. It’s made for interesting times. 🙂 We’re also one of the very, very few Hoosier families who don’t follow sports, though I can promise that sports will play a major role in part 3 of this series…

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  2. Pingback: My Complete Video Oeuvre, Part 2 of 3: Bear on Scooter « Midlife Crisis Crossover

  3. Pingback: My Complete Video Oeuvre, Part 3 of 3: Live from Super Bowl Village « Midlife Crisis Crossover

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