Ashtabula, Ohio - Flying Saucer Gas Station by Harold Brown

I have this converted Super 8 film on my YouTube and Vimeo site as well as a page on this blog. I am adding it as a post since it is so popular. I happen to have had my Super 8 camera with me the day I drove by the flying saucer gas station. I don't know how many people took a film or video of the gas station, but most people have said this is the only video they have seen and the lights are working as well. I feel pretty fortunate to have captured a piece of highway history all those years ago. Who knew? The guy hanging out of the car is magician Ed Ellis. He was a musician at the time (drummer), but he is more widely know for his magic skills. He has performed throughout the US, Europe, Korea and a frequent performer at the world famous Magic Castle. Who knew that would happen as well!

Also you might note that I said I shot the film on a Super 8 camera. It was not sound film. So where did the sound come from? I added it from my library of over 40,00 sound effects. By adding multiple layers the sound appears to have been captured at the scene all those years ago. As I mentioned in other areas of my blog site, I always add a little something extra to all my films. In this case it was sound.

Today more people take pictures and video than ever before. That's great, but what happens after that? Are you saving or archiving it? Will people see it 30 years from now? Record history, keep a journal, you can tell the real stories of the past someday. A past that you lived that is real, not a past that has been doctored or distorted!

Keep on recording history through the lens of your cameras!

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Hiking To The Top of Golconda Fort - Part 2 by Harold Brown

Hiking To The Top of Golconda Fort - Part 2

This is a continuation of the Part 1 post where we had just started climbing to the top of the fort and stopped a few times along the way to show you the sights. In part 2 we have made it to the top of the fort, and all we need to do is go to the top of the building on top of the hill! From the top you might certainly think of yourself as king! One of the most important features of the fort is its acoustics. The construction of the fort is such that any sound made at the entrance can be heard throughout the hill on which the fort stands. No sneak attacks! In the first post I mentioned the outer wall and moat. However, after the outer wall it has also a double wall that runs around the foot of the hill where the citadel stands.

Looking at the top most left area of the map above is where we have arrived, Darbar Hall. I took a few videos of the view from the top of Darbar Hall. From here you could also see the entire layout of the fort and where the cannons had been placed for the protection of the fort.

Golconda Fort - At the Top from Bhaga Video on Vimeo.

A few more scenes from the top before we head back down to ground level. Darbar Hall was actually very cool inside compared to outside.

Golconda Fort - Enjoying the View from Bhaga Video on Vimeo.

If you are in Hyderabad then Golconda Fort is definitely a stop you should make. There are a lot of steps to climb-up and then climb-down, so you will need to able to handle that.  You will also want to have some bottled water with you before starting the trip, you can get pretty thirsty climbing all those stairs in the sun. If you go later in the afternoon there is a light show that takes place after dark, you might want to consider that when planning your visit. Look for Part 3 with a few videos and pictures that I took as we headed back down to the grounds below. Get out and see the world!


Hiking To The Top of Golconda Fort - Part 1 by Harold Brown

Hiking To The Top of Golconda Fort - Part 1

My wife and I visited India for the first time in 2010. Our first stop was Hyderabad. On Saturday January 23rd we drove to Golconda Fort (a few miles west of Hyderabad). The city of Golconda was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Golconda. The city at one time was the center of the diamond trade. The fort dates back to the 12th century and was ruled by various kings throughout the centuries. There are actually 4 forts that make up Golconda. The forts are built on a granite hill and is 400 feet high. It was a three tiered fortification, protected by a moat, had eight entrance gates and a water supply system. I spent an 87 degree Saturday afternoon climbing the stairs to the various levels, stopping along the way to admire the architecture and imagine what it must have been like 500 years ago. On the way up to the top of the fort I shot all HD video, and on the way down I used my wife's Kodak Z1485IS to capture some still shots. The Nikon D90 stayed at the hotel for this jaunt. Just too much to carry, considering the climbing I was going to do.

Hiking To The Top of Golconda Fort – Part 1

In this video we have just entered into Golconda Fort through the main gate and we are following the pathway through the courtyard headed for the climb to the top of the fort. My friend and colleague Mohan was our guide for the day, but my wife kept worrying about me, so no matter  how many times I said not to keep looking back for me, she kept doing it. Kind of ruins the effect!

Golkonda Fort - Getting Started from Bhaga Video on Vimeo.

In this next video you can see the long climb we had to do, and we aren't at the top yet! You can also see more of the fort structures and outer walls. I would like to have spent an entire day there. Next time I will have someone drop me off and pick me up after dark, and most important be there by myself.

Golkonda Fort - The Climb from Bhaga Video on Vimeo.

Well, we aren't done yet, but we decided to take a break and enjoy the view from half way up. As you can see the city has crept up right to the fort walls edge. To take the video and pictures at Golconda Fort you have to pay an extra admission fee. Well worth the small price.

Golkonda Fort - Continuing The Climb from Bhaga Video on Vimeo.

We had just started to climb the stairs and trails again when we arrived at the Sri Jagadamba Mahakali Temple. Geeta went into the temple while I took a few videos of the temple and surrounding area. The Hyderabad Bonalu folk festival begins here at the Mahakali Temple inside the fort. On the festival day, women ware silk sarees and jewellery, and some of the women carry pots filled with flowers on their heads. This is done in a procession.

Golkonda Fort - Mahakali Temple from Bhaga Video on Vimeo.

If you found this post enjoyable look for part 2 soon. The view from the top of the fort is spectacular, and as you can see it is a play ground for a photographer. The fort and surrounding area is rich with history. You could do an entire photo shoot on just one section of the fort. If on the other hand pictures really aren't your bag but you love travel, then I highly recommend Hyderabad. Everyday is an adventure with thousands of things to see. You will be in an area of the world where it's people, traditions and religion date back thousands of years.


Mercalli V2 Pro by Harold Brown

Mercalli V2 - More than just a stabilizer

Mercalli V2 Pro
Mercalli V2 Pro

Important facts about Mercalli and V2 Improvements:

  • 3D stabilization of all 3 camera axis
  • Fully automatic rolling-shutter correction of jello/skew/wobble effects
  • Available Mercalli SAL stand alone application offers features not possible in a plug-in solution
  • Lower need for zoom-in than other post-capture stabilization products
  • Dynamic camera mode retains the flavor of the video during stabilization
  • Automatic scene change detection allows one stabilization pass for several scenes
  • Eliminates jitter in video, even in zoom/pan moves
  • Smoother results for all video records, from Handycam until Steadycam
  • Unlimited Multi-core CPU support for super-fast renderings
  • Full resolution preview for fast and efficient fine-tuning
  • No need for keyframes or time-consuming tracking points
  • Superior ease of use: Load video – stabilize – go!
  • Full 32-/64-Bit Support for the Standalone application as well plug-ins for popular editing solutions

I have been using the Mercalli plugin from proDad since it was introduced, and I have had great success with it. The fact that I could use it as a plugin with my NLE made it very convenient to use, and it worked great. I have used both Mercalli and Virtual Dub, but I have always felt that Mercalli gave me a slightly better final result. Of course that may be subjective on my part, but there are a few others that agree. This past year I decided to go total 64bit and not bother installing the 32bit NLE. As a result I needed to update to Mercalli V2 Pro which comes in 32bit and 64bit versions. proDad has done a great job provide several versions of the Pro stabilizer for the cost of the upgrade (32bit, 64bit and a Stand Alone Version).

John RoFrano has done an excellent job reviewing Mercalli V2 Pro. No sense rehashing what John has so thoroughly already done.

Warning: You may need to alter your work flow if you find yourself needing to stabilize a clip. For example if you split the clip in to two clips each segment will need to have the Mercalli plugin applied. That could result in a different border/zoom for each clip. The seamless flow between the split clip could cause what appears to be a jump cut, because the two clips most assuredly will have a different zoom (caused by the settings and unsteadiness for that unique clip).

In John's video he shows you the zoom change between Mercalli 1 and 2. In my clip I decided to use the borders option which does not zoom. This example allows you to see how much more of the picture Mercalli 2 displays than older V1 when applying an almost exact same amount of stabilization.

In the above video clip Mercalli Expert is applied to the left half of the video and Mercalli V2 Pro is applied to the right half. I used the border option so no zoom would be applied. As you can see the stabilization is very close to matching for each half, but notice how much more of the image can be seen on the right side using V2. Well worth the investment! I was able to upgrade for $111.20. After the purchase it took about 6 hours to get the license key and links to download the Mercalli software.

In the video below Hyderabad traffic was captured on a Sony HDR-XR520. I then applied Mercalli V2, color correction, unsharp mask and a small amount of saturation.

Traffic Stabilized by Mercalli V2 Pro

Roll Compensation: 50%, Horizontal Tilt Compensation: 50%, Vertical Tilt Compensation: 50%, Glide Camera w/Rolling-Shutter Compensation, Pan Smoothing: 40%, Avoid Border set at 30% zoom.

Here is a split screen comparison of the stabilization.

Traffic Stabilized on raw footage Vs Stabilized (Mercalli V2 Pro).

To see stabilized video from my Nikon D90 using Mercalli V2 Pro Stand Alone follow this link.

Nikon D90 Side by Side Edit Comparison by Harold Brown

Nikon D90 Side by Side Edit Comparison

A hand held clip shot with a Nikon D90 at Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad, India on January 26, 2010. I stabilized the clip using Mercalli V2 Pro SAL and then imported that into my NLE. If you have read any of the comments on my other pages you know I like blue skies. The sky wasn't blue enough for me so I decided that I would try out NewBlue V3 "Gradient Tint Bluer Skies". On the left is the raw footage. On the right is the Bluer Skies version. It isn't as simple as drag and drop and it takes some experimenting to achieve the results you see. While I was at it I decided to punch up the saturation a little bit and sharpen the image. You could make the sky bluer using saturation, but the amount of blue I wanted would have impacted the other blues in the scene, and made for a very unnatural look. To achieve the bluer sky I needed to use the gradient.  The D90 doesn't auto focus and my eyes aren't so good anymore. It looked in perfect focus when I shot it!

Here is an earlier version of the video without split screen or stabilization applied.

Ramoji Film City Main Ticket Gate - Hyderabad, India


8mm Conversion Thoughts by Harold Brown

Me editing a home movie in 1976
Me editing a home movie in 1976

I was surfing the net today looking at the "how to" videos for film conversion (16mm, 8mm and Super 8) and was amazed at what I saw. Obviously you can convert your films however you what, but personally I would never put one of my films into an old projector and watch it. Too many dangers with that. People can say whatever they want, but I have seen film sprocket holes just shredded by projectors because the film was just breaking apart. Next comes the big burn hole in a couple of frames from the old "hot" bulbs. That still brings on flashbacks for me. Projectors converted for film transfer use "cool" light sources that also distribute the light evenly over the film rather than the typical hot spot you see when projecting film from a standard projector. Treat your film as fragile and valuable. Please do not capture your video off of a projected image on a wall or sheet of paper. That's like filming your wedding on your cell phone.

Typically the biggest problem projecting your old films is splices coming apart, and it isn't unusual to see scotch tape used instead of splicing tape. Film can be pretty dirty as well. Cleaning it helps for a better transfer so you don't see all that "stuff" clinging to the film. The Buddy Rich film on this site had a scotch tape splice on it that I didn't touch. I had to edit around it rather than try and fix it. It is also why you have to inspect the film before you project it. Over the years your film can have mold embedded into it that cannot be removed. There are a few ways that you can work around this after the film is digitized, follow this link to read more. The prep work done before converting helps for a better end product. For an overview of transfer methods see my Film Conversions page.

I really enjoy taking one of my old Super 8 films and bring it back from the coma it has been in since the 70's. Ask your parents and other family members what film they may have stuck in the corner of their house and get started bring them back from the brink.