US: Tape Head

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We began expanding our family in 1986. At that time, portable video cameras were available, affordable and a necessity as we prepared for the arrival of our first child. We were excited and clueless about what the actual birth day would involve and were pretty sure it would be nothing like it was explained to us in birthing classes provided by the hospital. So to cover all of our bases, the first event we filmed with our new camera was a trial run of Hope going into labor, being led to the car and then leaving the house for the hospital. My dad was the videographer and, even though Hope and I displayed some promising, albeit raw, acting talent, the continuous laughing and voice over of my dad giving us direction gave away the inauthentic effort.

Fortunately, the actual birth day was successful and my dad was once again available to tape my reports from the birthing room and capture the first announcement that William Jacob Colle IV had arrived. And that was the last day that I was not behind the camera for the next 26 years.

Our first camera was big, many times larger than the portable video cameras and smart phones that people shoot with today. I had to balance the camera on my shoulder, peer through the eyepiece and try to keep the picture in focus which was almost impossible since the early cameras liked to lock in on everything but the intended subject matter. Nothing like watching your baby take its first, blurry steps while the latest episode of Knott’s Landing is clearly seen in the background on TV.

Since the media used was VHS tapes, we had to tote the camera as well as a bag full of accessories including extra tapes and a wall charger in case the battery ran out before the event ended. And we taped everything. I recently went through all of our old tapes in order to transfer them to DVD and I was amazed and embarrassed by the amount of film burned on William lying on his stomach, trying to flip himself over. It was a riveting hour (and he never did manage to get to his back until tape three).

I was the official videographer for our family and my biggest fear throughout this time was that my children would have no idea what I actually looked like. That they would see an ad for a video camera and point and excitedly shout, “Da da.” The positive of shooting so much is that we were able to capture precious moments in time, events that we may remember but without near the clarity that a video will provide. First giggles and first steps. Discovering a leaf and feeling the grass between their toes. The joy of opening a gift and the struggle to use a spoon. Yes, we remember but getting a chance to watch it unfold before you once again is a gift. So, parents, video often and save those files for a rainy day. You will enjoy the trip, repeatedly.

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