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 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.


SmugMug for Photographs and Video by Harold Brown

I started out having photos on my website using a flash album. Unfortunately I quickly discovered that a flash album wasn't really what I wanted. It was OK to display a few pictures, but I have thousands of pictures that I share with family from four continents. To accomplish what I wanted would take months to develop, and I wouldn't come close to all the features that several websites already deliver. Once I realized that I needed to look elsewhere, I jotted down a few requirements. I was looking for a photo hosting site that gave me:

  • Presentation Options
  • GPS Support
  • Clean Look
  • No Advertising
  • Video Support
  • Affordable Packages

I looked at several of the popular photo websites options, and after a few days of reading and visiting the various sites I decided on SmugMug. I did a trial run on SmugMug before I signed up for the Power account. I liked what I saw and have been uploading pictures ever since. Take note that you need to think through how you want to build your galleries. In mid July 2010 I ended up doing a complete re-org of my site including reloading most of my pictures. I did this after purchasing Lightroom 3, but that is another post for another day.

For me, my photo website is about my life and experiences in pictures and video. Since all of our lives are touch by many others, the site cannot help but also include the lives of my family and friends. A feature I like, that SmugMug provides, is the ability to "Collect" a photo. For example, I have a gallery on my 2009 safari in Kruger Park, South Africa. That gallery contains pictures of animals, but also pictures of family, friends, buildings, rivers, etc. Through "Collect" I am able to create a subset of the Kruger gallery containing just the pictures of the animals. Strangers can enjoy the pictures of the wildlife without looking at my pictures of the evening cookouts. That is a great feature and I use it a lot.

Since SmugMug provided the essentials that I needed to create and organize my photo website, the rest was up to me to decide how to organize my photographs. I knew I needed the flexibility to organize my site, but I didn't know exactly how to do that. I have thousands of photographs of all sorts of things. How do you break that down into a few categories? It took me almost a year to really evolve to the structure I have today. Since I am a big nature lover I knew that I needed a master category for Nature. I do a lot of traveling so I created a vacation category which I later regretted and changed the name to Travel (I did this in my big re-org).  I also love cars so I created a category just for cars. The Movie category I added is dedicated to the videos that I have created over the years. This structure process shouldn't be overlooked or down played. It is very important how you organize your photographs, otherwise no one will be able to find the pictures they are looking for, including yourself. The big thing is to know who you intend your audience to be, and what you want to accomplish. I have two messages. Get out and see the world and capture your interests and loves so they can be remembered and shared for years to come. Your photo site may be to sell pictures and therefore organized completely different than mine.


Regardless of your intent, SmugMug can provide the tools you need as an amateur photographer, or a professional displaying or selling their work.

Save $5 on a SmugMug subscription by using my personal coupon code (PKCMh9ndQs5rA) in the Coupon field at the end of your trial. Or, you can use this link to try out SmugMug:

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.

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.

Super 8 Film Before by Harold Brown

This Super 8mm film was shot under poor lighting conditions at an awards banquet in 1978.  It isn't unusual to see film in this condition after 30 years of storage. Typically films made in the 50's and 60's are actually in better condition than films made in the 70's. However, it is hard to predict what the true condition of the film is until you transfer it. During digital capture the camera was adjusted to minimize the red shift, but as you can see it didn't help. This was a Super 8 sound film, probably Ektachrome (introduced in 1971). In the film you can hear the camera motor running. Something you would never notice because typically you hear the projector which is much louder.

This is after applying fixes in post. There is still some work that can be done on the audio. How good the fixed video will look is very dependent on the quality of the original. Low light and the high amount of grain makes the task very difficult. There is a lot more editing that could be done to this film to improve its flow and make it more watchable.

This is a video of my friend Roger Henry who passed away just before his 35th birthday. This is the very first post I made on my Blog and I dedicate it to him.