Ghosts on Videotape

In my free time, I have been working on capturing all the videotape I have shot over the years.  I have been shooting video since 1981, so this is quite a task.  I estimate I’ll have nine terabytes – more or less – by the time I’m done.  I’ve been working on my 8mm videotapes from the early 1990’s.  I used it then for family vacations, Christmas celebrations and other get-togethers.  While I don’t use the original camcorder any longer, I still have the original head cleaner for it.  I ran it through my Digital 8mm camcorder before I started playing my tapes back so that I would have the best picture possible.

A head cleaner is essentially five minutes of tape.  The idea is any magnetic “gunk” on your video heads will be pulled off onto the tape as you play it back.  When I had used the cleaning cassette in my old Hi-8 camcorder, all I ever saw was a blank blue screen.  I assumed the head cleaner was packed with blank videotape.  However, when I cleaned the heads on my Digital 8 camcorder, ghostly images appeared on my little liquid crystal display.

The tape shows an older couple walking around stables, looking at horses.  I assume they are someone’s grandparents.  The video has to be around twenty years old.  8mm tape was invented in 1985.  I bought my camcorder in the spring of 1991.   Sadly, my guess is the couple on the tape probably passed away in the intervening years.  I wonder how someone’s grandparents ended up in the hands of the Kyocera Corporation, partially erased and stuffed into a head cleaner?  I wonder about their family.  Do they know where their memories went?  Do they care?

It reminds me of looking through old pictures at antique malls.  They are bought and sold because they are old, not because of who they hold on their sepia surfaces.  A picture can tell a thousand words, but these images are silent.  Their stories have been lost in the shuffle of life and death.  I can’t stop that progression, of course.  Already, many people in my videotapes are no longer around: my grandparents, my brother.  However, I hope to be able to digitize my memories; edit and organize them.  Then I can share them with friends and family, passing them along and allowing our mutual loved ones to live again, if only for a few fuzzy moments.


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