Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Holidays and Observances for Jan 20 2015

Camcorder Day


Wherever you live in the world, chances are your country has a TV show that manages to both delight and irritate viewers whilst simultaneously making them feel a bit uncomfortable, but also a little more self-confident. We are of course talking about programs that revolve around home videos, sharing everything from embarrassing prom nights to dangerous stunts gone wrong, with some saucy accidents and Great Danes dressed in cargo pants thrown in for good measure.

Camcorder Day is a tribute to videography of all varieties. Perhaps you’re a professional and enjoy shooting wildlife (with a lens, not a gun), or an extreme sports fan who attaches a GoPro to their helmet before jumping out of a plane. Or maybe you just like recording memories that can be cherished forever more, from weddings and birthdays, to your son dancing like an Egyptian to the Addams Family movie’s end credits, for reasons that will never become evident. That last one may sound a little unbelievable but one of our web crew made a mistake when he was twelve, one that can’t be erased because he doesn’t know where his mum has hidden the tape.

Today’s camcorders are very compact and can easily fit in the palm of your hand. You can stick them in your pocket or purse. No matter where you are, on a plane, on a beach, in your house or on a mountaintop, it is easy to create your own high quality video productions.

Modern camcorders provide outstanding visual and audio capture qualities, are small enough to travel anywhere, and have impressive lens and zoom ratios.  Most provide a wide range of automatic and manual imaging modes, as well as a variety of input and output selections. Editing is easy. You can edit from camcorder to camcorder, you can use a dedicated editing box, or you can dump your video into your computer and edit using nonlinear technology. Soon you will be able to send your videos from your camcorder directly to the Internet.

But it wasn’t always like that. When I, and many other “old” videographers started shooting video, there really was no such thing as mobile video. Television show producers used large quad decks (about the size of refrigerator lying on its back) to record video onto 2 inch wide videotape. Then, as the seventies rolled around, these monster machines evolved into smaller suitcase sized machines that used one inch or ¾ inch videotape to record video. When you wanted to do a location shoot, you drove a truck full of the equipment, or lugged the decks, cameras, switching devices, tripods, and cables to the location and set it up.

Even worse, in those days, the cameras were using electronic tubes to convert the light to electrical impulses, not solid state CCDs.  Not only did the tubes burnt out from use, they needed to be constantly adjusted, calibrated and babied. Even during a shoot, the cameras needed constant attention.  As the tubes warmed up during a show, the colors would constantly shift and the tubes would wiggle out of alignment and would require re-configuring every hour or so. In addition, the tubes were not as light sensitive as today’s camcorders and chip cameras. You had to pour LOTS of light onto the subjects to get a picture. It got hot very fast.

According to Rik Albury who was doing video back in the early sixties at the University of Florida, “Mobile for us was dolly-trucking large cameras around the studio as far as our cables could reach.”

Albury adds that there were no such things as editing decks or nonlinear editing systems. He had to edit the two-inch wide videotapes by using razor blades and scotch tape. The editor had to manually roll the tape back and forth across the video heads to find the right spot, make a crayon mark, and then physically cut the tape into sections and scotch tape it back together. If he was lucky, the editor was able to get the slice between the electronic frames. If not, he got bad glitches and image rolling and had to do it again. There was a special solution that could be applied to the tape that would let the editors sort of see where the magnetic particles were so that they could cut between them.

Another early mobile video innovators was Walt Rauffer who is now with the Sesame Street Workshop. Back in 1962, Walt cut a 3” tube B&W Pye orthicon camera into two pieces to make it a bit mobile. According to Walt, “We used it to shoot beer commercials for the networks and edited on 2 inch wide quad tape using a razor blade.”

According to Rick Diehl of LabGuysWorld, an online museum of old video gear, the first home video system was offered by Ampex in 1963. Advertised in the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog, this system included a big camera, TV monitor, special furniture and was based around a 100-pound Ampex VR-1500 video recorder. Available for just $30,000, an Ampex engineer would come out to your home and set it up for you.

Prior to the introduction of the Portapak, there was no such thing as handheld video cameras. Most professional mobile and location work was shot on 16 mm film. Home users who wanted to document their parties and special events had to use 8 mm or Super8 film.

Loading an 8 mm film camera required opening it up and threading in the film and not exposing it by mistake. When you were done shooting the brief 3 minutes of film, without any sound, you had to rewind it inside the camera, carefully take it out and put it in a special light proof canister, and then send it off to be developed. When you got it back in a week or so, you had to pull out your 8 mm film projector and set it up in front of a big blank white wall or set up a projection screen. Then after threading the film onto the reels through the projector’s series of gears and pulleys, you could finally watch it back. Hopefully your projector was in good shape or you might rip or melt your precious film.

Some engineers and producers were experimenting with mobile video, creating their own camera and videotape recorder packs. Perry Mitchell, reports that he created his own portable kit by slicing apart the camera head and camera control unit (CCU) into two separate pieces, attaching the CCU to a backpack and lugging that around. The fifty-pound videotape recorder unit was then mounted on another backpack and was connected to the CCU backpack by a thick cable.

In 1967, Sony introduced the first Portapak, the Sony DV-2400 Video Rover. The first ”portable” video system, this two-piece set consisted of a large B&W camera and a separate record-only helical ½” VCR unit. It required a Sony CV series VTR to play back the video. Even thought it was clunky and heavy, it was light enough for a single person to carry it around.  However, it was usually operated by a crew of two - One shot the camera and one carried and operated the VCR part.

Unlike today’s camcorders and video-recorders that use videocassettes and cartridges, helical is like an old reel-to-reel tape recorder but a bit more complicated. The tape spun off of one reel, carefully threaded it around the erase, video and audio heads, and then onto the pick-up reel. It was easy to make a mistake or not get the tape tight enough.

The camera was a bit funky too. It had a single tube B&W vidicon camera that had a few problems. If you moved the camera too fast, the images would smear. You couldn’t point the camera at the sun or bright lights or you would burn a permanent hole in the tube.

Soon after, other manufacturers like Panasonic and JVC began making and selling their own portapaks as well.  As time went on, the cameras got better and better, smaller and smaller. The tubes got more durable and soon added color capabilities.

Even more importantly, editing improved. No longer did the helical tape have to be physically cut and taped back together. New insert and assembly editing technologies allowed editors to record electronically from deck to deck. At first, this was manual.

You had to learn how long it took your decks to come up to speed and then manually backwind them the correct distance, hit play and then, at the right moment, hit record to make an edit. Sometimes you would get a good edit, sometimes you wouldn’t.   I remember going back and forth on a single edit five times or more to get a stable edit that would fall between the video frames and would be stable, without any flagging, wiggling or jiggle.

In the early seventies, time code began appearing on professional editing decks and this greatly improved ease of editing. Not only could you lock in the frame number, you could also accurately do the required pre-rolls.

By the way, even with the improvements in the cameras, recorders and editing techniques, they were still capturing component analog video. This meant that every time you made a dub or copy for editing, you lost image quality and resolution. In addition, these were two piece units – a camera with tube inside and separate recorder unit.

The Sony Portapak, and other portable video gear from JVC and Panasonic that followed it, revolutionized the video business and opened up video to the masses, making it a medium that anyone could use. No longer was video and television limited to major networks or to those with big budgets.

This created an explosion of what became known as “guerilla video” and video art. In the late sixties and early seventies, the streets were exploding with counter culture and politics. Many people used these portable camcorders to document the times around them.  Video artists like Nam June Paik used portapaks to create “artistic” programs that didn’t have to have a story, just images and emotion and sound. As a side note, Nam June Paik is often credited with purchasing the very first portapak, from the very first Sony shipment.

These new portapaks were also grabbed up by businesses of all sizes and types, athletic departments at schools and universities, and government agencies, including the military. Even psychologists were quick to pick up on the implications of videotaping sessions that could be played back later for review.

In the early seventies, I purchased my first Portapak, a Panasonic 3085.  Aside from a few goofy video art exercises, I was soon heavily immersed in the counterculture and politics, documenting street art, guerilla theater and traveling to various protests and events. During the time of protests against nuclear plants, I recall marching up the beach, taping the protesters, and as they swarmed closer to the reactors, climbing over a 8 foot high chain link fence, lugging the 30 pound Portapak and camera.

In addition to Portapaks being big and unwieldy, the batteries were primitive and didn't last as long as they do now. Tobe Carey, a documentary producer living and working in Woodstock, NY, lugged his heavy Sony AV-3400 Portapak down to the Yucatan area of Mexico to shoot a video documenting the process of giving birth in a hammock. As part of the shoot, he had to climb up on top of a hut to document the making of a traditional thatched roof.

Not only did he have to precariously balance on the roof, he had to drape the VCR unit with a white cloth to keep the hot Mayan sun from depleting the batteries.  The documentary was shot in 1971, edited over the next two-years and finally played at the First Global Village Video Festival in NY City in 1974.  Cablecasting the tape was not easy either. Instead of just giving the finished tape to the local cable company to play, he had to lug his Sony Portapak to the cable station’s head end located in a small concrete block building at the end of a mountain dirt road. There he had to physically connect the portapak's video outputs to the cable company's channel-3 modulator. Then he hit play and reels began to revolve.

Various groups used these Portapaks to create their own counter-cultural TV programs. Groups like the Ant Farm, Videofreex and Top Value Television produced hundreds of hours of productions. Some of these were documentaries of the times; others were bitter satires and comments on society.  Ken Shapiro (no relation) used portapaks to produce a show called Channel One.  It consisted of short video segments that were then played back to an audience in a theatre setting. This series of vicious comedy sketches parodying TV evolved to become the hit movie, “The Groove Tube” that starred Chevy Chase, Richard Belzer, Paul Bartel and Carrie Fisher.

Broadcasters also embraced these mobile technologies. Prior to the introduction of portapaks, most TV news was shot on 16mm film. After developing and editing, it was run through a video projector device called a telecine that broadcast it over the air. By using these mobile video cameras and recorders, broadcast news organizations were able to go into the field and get news as it happened. As the technology improved, TV news mostly abandoned film and moved to video.

In 1971, Sony introduced their new U-Matic concept to the world. A single cassette, with ¾ inch wide tape, it made loading the tape much easier. Just stick the tape cartridge in and the machine did the rest. Most of the time.  The first units were large table sized machines, but they got smaller, and eventually become portable enough to be carried by a production crew.

At the same time, Sony and JVC were working on smaller ½” formats for home users. Sony’s product was called Betamax. JVC’s was called VHS.  Both used videocassettes similar to the larger U-Matic. These units used 2 hour length VHS cassettes that were much easier to quickly insert and remove than the older helical VTRs with their 20 and 30 minute tape reels.  In 1976, JVC finally introduced color VHS to the world.


As soon as I could, I jettisoned my old B&W Sony Portapak for the new VHS color format. Even though they were lot easier to use and not as bulky, these were still two-piece units, with a color camera with a built-in microphone and a separate VCR unit, connected via a cable. I remember, dragging mine around to concerts and events, documenting the politics of the time and early stirrings of the punk rock movement.

According to the Consumer Electronics Association,  in 1982, both JVC and Sony announced the “CAMera/recorder”, or camcorder, combinations. On June 1, 1982, JVC’s camcorder used its new mini-VHS format, VHS-C. In Japan five months later, Sony announced its Betamovie Beta camcorder, which was promoted with the slogan "Inside This Camera Is A VCR." The first Betamovie camcorder hit stores in May 1983. It was a record only machine without an electronic viewfinder.

In February 1984, photo giant Kodak introduced a new camcorder format, 8mm, in its first 8mm camcorder, the KodaVision 2000. In 1985, Sony introduced the first chip-based camcorders. Called Video 8, it was also Sony’s first 8mm camcorder. The same year, JVC introduced VHS-C, a compact version of VHS cassettes. The next year, 1989, JVC introduced S-VHS. Still analog video, it provided it separated the video signal into two distinct channels. This provided better color and higher resolution, about 400 lines compared to VHS at 220 lines.  This higher resolution enables users to actually edit and copy their videos without worrying that their second and third generation tapes would be fuzzy. About the same time, Sony also joined the s-video movement and introduced their first Hi8 camcorder, the venerable CCD-V99 camcorder.

In 1992, Sharp became the first company to build in a color LCD screen to replace the conventional viewfinder. In fact, their LCD screen was basically the entire camera with the lens assembly hanging off of it.   No longer did users have to squint through a tiny eyepiece.  This has become a standard feature of almost every consumer camcorder. Finally, today’s digital video technology first arrived in late 1995. Panasonic and Sony brought out the first Digital Video camcorders, soon followed by Sharp and JVC.

Today’s new camcorders incorporate the best of the evolution. Small and compact, large LCD viewfinders and high quality Digital Video recording. Go anywhere, shoot anywhere.  What’s next? Maybe batteries that last for days? No more videotape and the ability to record directly to flash memory? Wireless video recording directly to the Internet? Camcorders built into your head and biologically connected to your optic nerves? Who knows?  One thing can be guaranteed though, in another 20 years, your cool and hip digital camcorder, will be looked at as nothing more than a quaint and cute heirloom of primitive times.

So get out there and get filming, then upload it to YouTube or Vimeo and share it with the rest of the planet!

Inauguration Day


Inauguration Day occurs in the USA once every four years on January 20. It occurs in the year after presidential elections have been held. The new terms of office of the president and vice-president officially begin at noon in Washington DC.

On Inauguration Day the candidates, who won the elections in the previous year, are sworn into office as president and vice-president of the United States. The swearing-in ceremony takes place at the U.S. Capitol and is organized by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. It is usually followed by a parade along Pennsylvania Avenue.

The new president watches the parade from the presidential viewing stand in front of the White House. The route of the parade is often lined by thousands of people. However, many Americans watch the ceremony on television or listen to it on the radio.

Inauguration Day is not a public holiday and many people are expected to work as usual. Many schools, stores and other organizations are open as normal in many parts of the USA. Public transport services run on their regular schedules. There may be changes to normal broadcasting schedules on television and radio, as news stations cover the inauguration ceremony.

Inauguration Day is a federal holiday for some federal employees who work in the District of Columbia or the surrounding areas. This is mainly to reduce the amount of congestion on the roads and public transit systems of the area.

In and around Washington DC there can be considerable disruption to public life, both on Inauguration Day and in the days before and after the ceremony. This is not only due to the actual ceremony and parades that accompany it, but also the protests and demonstrations that are organized and the massive security operation that takes place. If you have business affairs in this area in the second half of January in an inauguration year, it is wise to check carefully that you will be able to do what you need to.

The head of state of the USA has been a president since 1789. In that year, George Washington was elected and inaugurated as president of the United States of America. He was inaugurated for the first time on April 30, 1789, and for the second time on March 4, 1793. Subsequent inaugurations were held on March 4 until the second inauguration of President Franklin Roosevelt on January 20, 1937. Since then Inauguration Day has been held on January 20 and the term of office officially starts at 12:00 noon on that date.

Usually the vice-president is sworn in first and the president at exactly 12:00 noon. After they have been sworn in, the president and vice-president are given four ruffles and flourishes. The ruffles are played on drums and the flourishes on bugles, which are simple brass instruments with no valves. The ruffles and flourishes form a fanfare before performance of the president's anthem, "Hail to the Chief", and the vice-president's anthem, "Hail, Columbia". There is then a 21-gun salute from the howitzers of the military district of Washington.

After the ceremony, the president and vice-president are guests of honor at a luncheon given by the United States Congress. Later in the day, they parade down Pennsylvania Avenue and walk part of the way from the Capitol to the White House. If Inauguration Day falls on is a Sunday, the presidential oath is usually administered in a private ceremony on that day and a public ceremony and celebrations are held on the following day.

On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama will be the first African American president to be inaugurated. The results from the USA election, which was held on November 4 in 2008, determined that Obama would be the next president to lead the nation.

National Buttercrunch Day


You thought the holiday season was over and that you would no longer have a good excuse to indulge in chocolate, right? Well my friends, I have good news for you. Today, January 20th, is National Buttercrunch Day. The origins of this unofficial national holiday are not well documented but we can still celebrate, right?

In case you are unfamiliar with this delicious confection, buttercrunch is a combination of toffee covered with chocolate. The texture is crunchy and the candy has a caramel flavor. Some variations of buttercrunch include toasted almond sprinkles. One of my favorite chocolatiers in New York, Roni-Sue, began her entire candy business with buttercrunch! Her delicious buttercrunch candy could easily become an addiction that would require more than 12 steps to cure!

Buttercrunch was made famous during World War II when a buttercrunch candy called ALMOND ROCA, made by Brown and Haley in Tacoma, Washington was shipped in tins to U. S. Troops. Harry Brown developed a recipe for the crunchy candy IN 1923 and his business partner, J. C. Haley named their confection ALMOND ROCA at the suggestion of a local librarian. “Roca” is the Spanish word for “rock” - which seemed appropriate for the crunchy center of the candy. In 1927 ALMOND ROCA became the first candy in the world to be put in a sealed tin. Since the candy could be packaged in airtight tins, it retained it’s freshness when being shipped to the troops overseas. Understandably, the candy was hugely popular. In one account of events it is said American generals would not turn over responsibility for an occupied country to other Allies until three railroad cars of the candy could be taken with them! I often feel the same way about my chocolate, don't you?

To celebrate this little known, but incredibly important holiday, you should definitely indulge in buttercrunch.

National Cheese Lover's Day


Today is National Cheese Lover’s Day! Did you know that the average American consumes about 31 pounds of cheese each year? That may seem like a lot, but for the average French person it’s 50 pounds!

There are more than 900 known cheeses in the world, and they can all be classified by texture. Here are the primary classifications and some examples: fresh cheese (ricotta); soft cheese (feta); semi-soft cheese (Fontina); semi-hard cheese (Gouda); hard cheese (Cheddar); double or triple crème cheese (Brillat-Savarin); blue cheese (Gorgonzola); washed rind cheese (Limburger); and bloomy rind cheese (Brie).

According to ancient records passed down through the centuries, the making of cheese dates back more than 4,000 years.

No one really knows who made the first cheese. According to an ancient legend, it was made accidentally by an Arabian merchant who put his supply of milk into a pouch made from a sheep's stomach, as he set out on a day's journey across the desert. The rennet in the lining of the pouch, combined with the heat of the sun, caused the milk to separate into curd and whey. That night he found that the whey satisfied his thirst, and the cheese (curd) had a delightful flavor which satisfied his hunger.

Travelers from Asia are believed to have brought the art of cheesemaking to Europe. In fact, cheese was made in many parts of the Roman Empire when it was at its height. The Romans, in turn, introduced cheesemaking to England. During the Middle Ages-from the decline of the Roman Empire until the discovery of America-cheese was made and improved by the monks in the monasteries of Europe. For example, Gorgonzola was made in the Po Valley in Italy in 879 A.D., and Italy became the cheesemaking center of Europe during the 10th Century. Roquefort was also mentioned in the ancient records of the monastery at Conques, France as early as 1070.

Cheesemaking continued to flourish in Europe and became an established food. In fact, the Pilgrims included cheese in the Mayflower's supplies when they made their voyage to America in 1620. The making of cheese quickly spread in the New World, but until the 19th century it remained a local farm industry. It wasn't until 1851 that the first cheese factory in the United States was built by Jesse Williams in Oneida County, New York.

As population across the United States continued to grow dramatically, the demand for cheese increased and the industry gradually moved westward, centering on the rich farm lands of Wisconsin. In 1845, a band of Swiss immigrants settled in Green County, Wisconsin and started the manufacturing of foreign cheese in America. Most Wisconsin farmers began to believe that their future survival was tied to cheese and their first factory was a Limburger plant which opened in 1868.

The wholesale cheese industry was thus born and showed phenomenal growth during the latter half of the 1800s. By 1880 there were 3,923 dairy factories nationwide which were reported to have made 216 million pounds of cheese that year valued at $17 million. This represented almost 90 percent of total cheese production that year. By the turn of the century, farm production of cheese had become insignificant. The 1904 census reported only factory output, which totaled over 317 million pounds. As cheese demand continued to grow and spread rapidly, manufactured and processed cheese production increased dramatically. Total natural cheese production grew from 418 million pounds in 1920 to 2.2 billion pounds by 1970. Rising demand for cheese throughout the 1970s and 1980s brought total natural cheese production to more than 6 billion pounds by the beginning of the 1990s. Processed cheese also experienced a surge in consumer demand with annual production exceeding 2 billion pounds a year by the beginning of the 1990s.

Currently, more than one-third of all milk produced each year in the U.S. is used to manufacture cheese. Recent increases in the overall demand for farm milk have in large part been due to the continued growth of the cheese industry. As consumer appetites for all types of cheese continue to expand, so will the industry.

Visit your local cheesemonger and pick up your favorite kind of artisan cheese or cook a cheesy dish for dinner tonight in honor of National Cheese Lover’s Day!

National Disc Jockey Day


National Disc Jockey Day is an underdog holiday for those who just can't stop playing tunes for crowds big, small, and over the information airwaves. The hope of this page is to bring light to my favorite personal holiday that is shared by others. I know the page photo isn't the snazziest, but it my DJ equivalent to fresh bake cookies from home. Gotta start somewhere so I thought better place than never.

A disc jockey (abbreviated D.J. or DJ) is a person who mixes recorded music for an audience. Originally, "disc" (sometimes spelled "disk", although this is now uncommon) referred to phonograph records, not the later compact discs. Today, the term includes all forms of music playback, no matter the medium.

There are several types of disc jockey. Radio DJs or radio personalities introduce and play music that is broadcast on AM, FM, shortwave,digital or internet radio stations. Club DJs select and play music in bars, nightclubs or discothèques, or at parties or raves, or even in stadiums. Hip hop DJs select and play music using multiple turntables to back up one or more MCs/rappers, perform turntable scratching to create percussive sounds, and are also often music producers who use turntablism and sampling to create backing instrumentals for new tracks. In reggae, the DJ (deejay) is a vocalist who raps, "toasts", or chats over pre-recorded rhythm tracks while the individual choosing and playing them is referred to as a selector. Mobile DJs travel with portable sound systems and play recorded music at a variety of events. Some mobile DJs also serve as the master of ceremonies or MC directing the attention of attendees, and maintaining a room-wide focus on what is included in the event's agenda. According to a 2012 study, there are approximately 1¼ million professional disc jockeys in the world.

The title "DJ" is also commonly used by DJs in front of their real names or adopted pseudonyms as a title to denote their profession and the music they play.

Penguin Awareness Day


Penguins do have their special day and that is on January 20th every year. This is the Penguin Awareness Day, the day when the adorable tuxedo-clad birds are celebrated. The day is a scope for all to know a bit more about these little creatures and to pledge to protect their endangered existence. Not a lot of people know that not all penguins love snow and cold climates; Galapagos Penguins are found near the equator.

One should never confuse between Penguin Awareness Day which is observed on January 20th and World Penguin Day that is celebrated on April 25th because both of them sound almost the same.

Some Facts about Penguins
  • Penguins are kind of amphibians, and their wings, over a period of time has evolved into flippers.
  • They thrive on a diet mostly comprising of krill, fish, squids, etc.
  • Among all the species of penguins, the Emperor penguins are largest in size. The adults may grow up to a height of 1.1 meters and weight more than 35 kgs.
  • The Little Blue Penguin is the smallest of the penguin species. They grow to a size of 40 cms and weigh 1 kg.
The Penguin Awareness Day is the perfect occasion to know something about these cute natives of Antarctica. Grab a book on penguins or search for facts in the internet. Watching a documentary like March of the Penguins is another great option of observing the day. To honor the penguins, you can also pay a visit to the local zoo or aquarium where they have housed these creatures. If you have kids, animate features like Happy Feet, Madagascar and even Surf's Up is going to be great fun.

To celebrate the Penguin Awareness Day, here is a list of the activities that you can do to mark it special than any other day and create awareness in your children about the penguins:
  • Go for a penguin hunt, in the internet. You may come to know many exclusive facts about them.
  • Send penguin day e-cards to your peers.
  • Have a dinner comprising of sushi, shrimp and squid like the penguins.
  • Wear black pants and white shirt. That may help you look like the penguins. A red bow tie is optional.
  • Walk around pretending that you are a penguin.
The penguins are the beautiful snow-loving creatures who are now being threatened by the acute climatic change. Make this Penguin Awareness day all the more important by supporting a conservation group such as SANCCOB or the Penguin Foundation. If you are a lover of wine, buy some nice ones made by The Little Penguin as the sales from them are donated to the Penguin Foundation.