We ❤ Retro Media: Vinyl, VHS, Tapes & Film | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios

We ❤ Retro Media: Vinyl, VHS, Tapes & Film | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios


What makes vinyl unique and stand out is that it’s just there; it’s physical, it’s tangible. With an MP3, we can just discard it like it
means nothing. A tape, you have to want the music. The VHS is this weird, fetish object I think people really love because of its object-ness.
Super 8 has a very specific look. Nothing else looks like it. With respect to analog film, we want the photos to more closely match our memory. I wanted to start a photo project about a passion of mine, which is vinyl collecting. When you play a vinyl record, it demands your attention. And this is a way to connect to music. Digital formats are really convenient but they’re easily forgotten as well. I mean if you ask anyone what was their first
vinyl they bought, they’ll probably remember that. But I don’t think a lot of people will remember what was their first mp3 download. I think vinyl is more like an experience that you will experience more at home. You have to take it out. You have to put it on the turn table. You have to put the needle on. These are all like actions that demand attention from you and then
you have to like keep your attention and wait.. until the side is done. And then you have to flip the record. So it’s definitely for people who are into music, into art, into details. When cds came
out, it almost killed the vinyl industry. But now with mp3s and iPods full of music that you don’t even remember, I think this is actually causing vinyl to come back just because we lost touch with
music. It’s an archival format, it will stay with us forever. Eight millimeter came out as a response
to sixteen millimeter and Kodak came out with this format so middle class people
could afford to make movies. It looks so different from digital in
the sense that it gives it a dreamy quality because of the grain. There’s so
much pixelation that goes on with super 8 films that it really makes it look
unique. I think it’s actually aesthetic choice. If
you want to create an atmosphere that’s oneiric or other worldly, then super 8 film might be the thing for you. There’s a ton of movies that incorporate
super 8. Benjamin Heyden. He made a film called Pick and it’s basically a woman in a kind of
dreamy environment. It was just so easy to look at it and it was very compelling
and like nothing else I had seen. Richard Kern. Here’s another fellow that makes
super 8 films that were very very punky and he would scratch the film up on purpose.
Super 8 film will certainly make it even more gritty and interesting. The look of the film is, I think, it’s
main selling point versus the kind of hollow and empty
feeling that digital can produce. And I think that’s what drew me to it. Cassettes. A lot of people use the
argument that there’s a resurgence in popularity but I
think the format just moved somewhere else. In the early nineties, hip-hop culture
really relished in tapes. Dance music did. Tapes were a way you got your demo out. Now, I
would say a majority of where tapes go to are this very small, minute group of
people within sub-genres of noise music, avant-garde folk music, really experimental stuff, a lot of drone things, kind of field recording music. Things where the audience is very niche. So, a cassette is a cheap way to get music to these fifty people that will really appreciate this. If you’re pressing on vinyl, you
need at least a couple thousand people that are gonna care and it costs thousands of dollars. Same with cds. With certain avant-garde listening, the format really lends itself to that style of music. And then these pieces
tend to be a bit longer so, with cassettes, you can control a length. Home recording has made massive advances. Now I can make an album in a night, sitting on my bed watching tv, dump it on a
cassette and, voila, a release is born. So cassettes are an easy way for them to
get their music out, inexpensively, in a physical format to the people that are going
to care in short amount of time. VHS constituted nothing short of a
revolution and a sea change in how individuals related to television. The thing
for artists, they’re interested in the artifact that VHS has become. In the eighties, VHS won the format wars against a superior format, Betamax, mainly because of it’s low quality, it could actually boast a longer recording time. I think, partly because of this, it is enjoying a resurgence, especially within the horror
genre. Horror films like Paranormal Activity Three really pick up on what happens when you let a camera run
unattended for hours. In terms of aesthetically about VHS, it’s owing to
VHS’s very poor quality. As an example, Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers.
He really drew out, in that film, glitchiness. The bended image, the ghost stain, the color fading, the static disruptions, or the dropouts.
But I also think what comes through in Trash Humpers, in particular, is this idea of recycling VHS, kind of collaging things that you recorded on top of
the same tape so you’d have this really weird assemblage. There’s something really great and mysterious about VHS tapes; that like ominous black cassette tape and what it might hold. With Impossible instant film, we we’re really
interested in this idea that analog instant film has a sort of bridging between the film world and the digital world. Film and digital can exist simultaneously and
it gives you a choice. Digital has a very specific look and everybody has that look. So any kind of photographer that was looking to set themselves apart from
the mainstream went back to film or or picked up film for the first time. And
it still has all the warmth and chemical chaos that digital, still to
this date, lacks. Analog film has all these crazy things that can happen to it that make it really beautiful. Some people might call them errors. There
would be cracks in the film, there would be these little patches at the top where the paste didn’t spread all the
way because the rollers in the camera were a little bit loose. And black and white films use an
oxidation process which is like rust. and so if you don’t dry out the image an appropriate amount of time, it continues to
oxidize inside the frame and it starts to look kind of weird. Some people love this weirdness and they let
their pictures purposely go that way. This creates a situation where serendipity is frequent. You almost have to rely on it for a really beautiful photo. I like the choice of using digital or film
and I don’t think one is necessarily better or worse than the other. I just want
the choice. Film has withstood the test of time. In fact, a lot of my students like to shoot on film because it makes their work stick out. In
terms of VHS now, part of the fascination is that there is nothing really anyone can do to keep it from becoming this obsolete relic. We’re losing intimacy with music. When we play a vinyl record, we get to enjoy it in a different sense. Cassettes are really cheap and distributed pretty quickly. All you need is an idea.
We’ve made a medium and we’ve encouraged people to use the medium and to make it beautiful.

Author:

52 thoughts on “We ❤ Retro Media: Vinyl, VHS, Tapes & Film | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios”

  • I think the comment on VHS is spot on. There is something ominous and exciting about that black, unlabeled VHS. What memories could be on it?

  • SunshineInLA420 says:

    You guys make me happy =) I love this channel all the people you have on it and the feel of honesty in your work. So thanks you =)

  • Brendan Bohannon says:

    internet: yes, especially. put the file up on a server somewhere and anyone can get it at pretty much no cost.
    CD-R's are similar: just get a stack of cheap CD-R's and start running off copies. likewise, most of the independent musicians I had seen had usually been selling music on CD-R's, not on cassettes.
    so, yeah, I think it is a lot more about nostalgia and similar, rather than about being economical.

  • I remember my first MP3 download. It was Leave It Alone by NOFX. I was 12 and it was downloaded from Napster. I still have my Napster MP3s! Hopefully this comment doesn't lead to me getting sued… PS I don't remember my first CD.

  • Michigan Record Club says:

    Excellent information. The journey of music is different than that of film. I would love more detail on music recording evolution.

  • i remember both my first mp3 and my first vinyl. nostalgia is cool, but i'll keep my mp3 collection over my old rack of cassette tapes any day, thank you very much.

  • I write with fountain pens and recently spent 75 monies on a new one, does this make me cool enough for this video? Also, I love getting digital recordings of records. All the benefits of a record without the excessive use of space, anyone who disagrees has either never heard a digital recording of a record or are just lying to themselves. TAKE THAT PBS!

  • Analog is the way!
    I started as a Vj with tons of VHS, and we use to make analog loops from one VHS recorder to the other : play, rec, pause, rewind, play, rec…
    _*_

  • "quality" can mean anything, if you mean fidelity then 1-inch tape is higher fidelity, if you mean noise-level, digital is less noisy. Vinyl is decent but highly dependent on your turntable and needles (and no 1200s aren't good because direct drive is too noisy). Vinyl is also very sensitive you lose fidelity everytime you play a record. but i agree with your last sentence, this offbook was a bit too mono-cultural for my taste.

  • Motile Intellections says:

    i agree. i think that if the music is good, you'll remember it no matter the format of consumption. …and there have been studies done that prove that CDs did actually have a higher quality of audio than that of vinyl. i don't think MP3s qualify, as they are really compressed comparatively. I know that audiophiles that like digital formats used to like FLAC and other lossless file compressions, i don't know if that's changed in the past few years… i just use MP3s and i'm happy with them.

  • bbdigital youtube says:

    How can that guy possibly argue for cassettes being a cheap and fast medium? Recordable CDs are $0.10 a disc and can be burned in a matter of minutes. Ridiculous argument…his view is not based on cost / efficiency, just sentimentality.

  • Madlyn McAuliffe says:

    The argument presented in this video for cassette tapes is that they are a quick, low-cost vehicle to get music out to a very small, niched, select audience that will be looking within the cassette-loving community of here and now for music like that being produced on these tapes. For other artists, such as Rihanna or Jay-Z or Taylor Swift, cassettes are wildly inefficient and would cost far too much money. Even CDs are expensive. Digital media is their domain – cassette artists get lost.

  • bbdigital youtube says:

    True, but if that's the case, then it's the ONLY choice. You can't produce vinyl records in real time or for a short run. It's just the retro appeal then, not convenience. Again – a CD is $0.10 and can be burned in 30 seconds…

  • bbdigital youtube says:

    (it's a matter of only appealing to that small niche – that's the only part of the argument that's valid…you have an audience which craves cassettes, then the only thing that would appease them is cassettes…there isn't anything more to it than that)

  • Cassette tapes suck. I think the only useful purpose a cassette serves to me is recording music from the radio. I listen to vinyl, I just like the quality and dynamic range to it (not to say a few records have that loudness wars shit applied to them). MP3 players were meant for on the go more than at home listening.

  • I get it. All of these formats just induce nostalgia. You can easily re-create the warm fuzzy picture quality in digital. I think what most people miss is the handling of the media and that's the key here. I have a feeling that in 20 years or so people will miss handling SD cards, DVDs and external HDDs.

  • I doubt that. Analog mediums are very different from digital, whereas digital doesn't change much (gifs & jpgs have been around for a long time). Digital images don't fade over time and rarely do they glitch (though there are artists experimenting with that). Analog allows for a lot of experimentation using your hands and materials vs. digital which you do all on your computer. Some artists enjoy doings things with more than just your computer.

  • Thor Arne Hopland says:

    I agree to some extent, but I also beg to differ. I have a concentrated collection of mp3s on my harddrive(s), mostly hip-hop albums which will never see the light of re-release in LPs (underground, avant-garde, international groups, etc). I remember having lost part of my mp3 collection (a little under 150 albums) in 2005 which I still am in anguish over. Hip-hop has kept LPs alive for a long while and will still continue to do so, even tapes. Do a YouTube search for "JonWayne casette".

  • No one liked 8-tracks, ever.

    Do you have any that have gone shitty? Where the small wheel has turned gooey? That shit sucks.

  • Austin Boatwright says:

    I actually like VHS better than a DVD. Why? You may ask. Because I have bought DVDs new that don't work, they just glitch up and then you can't play it at all. Also every time you play a disc it starts to pixelate and degrade in quality. I know that if I buy a tape and put it in my player it will work.

  • Joshua's Recordings says:

    My first MP3 download was 5 Seconds by Canton Jones and I bought it on Amazon! Their that is my first MP3 download. You think that good quality means it is hollow? What?

  • I remember the days before mp3 and the internet and I also remember how difficult it was to hear good music never mind even knowing that it existed. The real question today is how do you recreate that listening experience of past in an attention deficit era.

  • I'm 35 so it's just what I grew up with. I never trashed my VHS or VCR and now collect media but VHS is my drug of chose. I got into it cause I was looking for some horror films and found out they were only available on VHS. Then I found out about the eBay market. I love how I can go to thrift stores and garage sales and people are almost giving away VHS, cassettes, and other older media. I buy for $.50 what can go for $50 online.

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