Geek Out on Home Movies

In Do, September 2020, Web Exclusive by Lauren Kruchten1 Comment

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WEB EXCLUSIVE An old wedding video, your child’s first steps caught on camera, a clip from a family reunion—these are all just some examples of sweet memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime. Unfortunately, these important moments from the past could live on film or VHS tapes you may not have the means to view anymore.

That’s where the A/V Geeks come in. A two-man operation with more than 30 years of experience in media digitization, the A/V Geeks have digitized tons of film and video for people and families, universities, government agencies, documentary filmmakers and others. Self-described A/V Geek Skip Elsheimer started the services in an effort to rescue old films and share them with the world. “Home movies are precious artifacts of our cultural past—not only for the family but ultimately for our culture,” he says.

About 18 years ago, a group of archivists realized families were throwing away their films (including 8mm and 16mm) after transferring them to VHS, as they didn’t know VHS tapes were of poorer quality than the films and that one day, of course, VCRs would be scarce. So they created Home Movie Day as a way to “celebrate home movies, educate the public about the films’ value to themselves and society and to have some fun,” Elsheimer explains.

In non-pandemic times, A/V Geeks hosts Home Movie Day in an auditorium and invites audiences to come with their films to inspect and project them on the big screen for all to watch. They’ll interview whoever brought a film in about what it depicts and any stories behind it, which helps the audience experience it as a family history, and often a regional history, too.

“[Home Movie Day] helps show that we have more in common with people than we realize,” says Elsheimer. “We all have joy, hope, sadness and fear. Home movies capture that and remind us, if we really watch them, that the past wasn’t some idyllic golden era. Every event has reinforced a sense of community.”

This year, A/V Geeks’ Home Movie Day will take place virtually via Zoom, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Twitch on Saturday, September 12 from 1 to 3 p.m. The A/V Geeks are asking folks to dig through their attics or call their relatives for any home movies they’d like to be shared during the event. A/V Geeks will digitize up to 10 minutes of footage or video for free, and after the event, you’ll get a digital transfer file emailed to you.  

“We are all so disconnected from our normal lives and activities right now that I think virtual Home Movie Day offers an amazing opportunity for people to connect with images of the past in a communal viewing experience,” says Marsha Gordon, a Home Movies Day co-organizer and professor of film studies at NC State. “It is fun and interesting to see glimpses of the past—how people dressed, what kinds of cars they drove, where they took vacations. Maybe it can provide some feelings of comfort to see the way things were in anticipation of the way things will be after this pandemic is behind us!”

A/V Geeks ask that all who want to have their home videos shared on Virtual Home Movie Day bring their film or video tapes (8mm, Super8mm, 16mm, Video8, or VHS) to the archive building at 714 Tyler Road anytime between 1 and 4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, by September 5. If you don’t have a home movie to share, you can always join in and look out for any people or places you recognize from other participants’ memories. The event will also feature a bingo game in which you can have fun looking for things like a mustache, Christmas tree or a parade.

To coordinate a drop-off time, contact A/V Geeks at avgeeks@gmail.com or 919-247-7752.

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