t120

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where am i?
t120 is an informational resource dedicated to analog videotape and all aspects of its utilization and digitization.
here you will find informational guides explaining how to work with videotape, as well as a directory of video artists making tomorrow's distortions for your visual cortexxx.
about

Welcome to T120.

Growing up, I was homeschooled. My education was somewhat self-directed, in that I could choose topics that interested me and then seek out resources to help me understand them better.

When I was 14 or so, I decided to take on the art of filmmaking. I had carried around my dad's MiniDV camcorder to enough places that I started to think about the finer points of image composition and the ability of film to tell a story. In my case I became particularly interested in documentary filmmaking and started filming my friend's punk bands playing at our local batting cages.

Now I don't know about you, but I've never been able to find an HD camcorder (DSLR, Handycam or anything else) that could make it more than about 15 minutes without either splitting the file it's recording to, or overheating and shutting off altogether. Combatting this problem was what led me to my first Hi8 camcorder. It was $20 at a thrift store together with a few tapes and although it wasn't anywhere close to HD, it had a specific way that it handled light and color saturation that was intriguing to me. Not unlike the MiniDV camera I had played with growing up, but also different in a certain way. I used this camera, and a small army of other secondhand standard definition camcorders, to capture my friends' performances; then, eventually, after the acquisition of a battery and the resultant freedom from being plugged into an AC outlet, other things. I slowly started to learn the different results that I could expect from different tape formats and camera manufacturers: not only in color representation but also sound quality, and in many other ways that eventually led me to look at videotape as a kind of canvas. In the same way that a painter might choose acrylic over oil paints for reasons that affect the end result of the work, as I became more experienced with Hi8, VHS, and (S)/VHS-C I learned to think about what contexts to use each in and the different textures they would each impart.

At the same time I started to notice some troubling myths about certain aspects of working with videotape. A fantastic example of this would be most results of a web search about digitizing your tapes. Getting analog video material into a computer at its best quality, extracting the image at its full potential for digital use, is something around which a horrifying amount of misinformation abounds. In some cases, people follow flawed methodologies and then destroy or abandon the source tapes, forever saddling themselves with an inferior digital file full of artifacts and errors that perpetuate the idea that "VHS just looks bad." This is not the case; a well-transferred representation of a videotape recording is a beautiful thing, with depth to it, that records our memories in much the same way as the human mind. It isn't perfect or precise, but it is warm and comfortable and to me, the way it looks "makes sense" in that X-factor way that people always attribute to vinyl records. "It just feels more organic..."

This website was created to disseminate the knowledge I have picked up over many years of working with different videotape formats and recording equipment, so that the content of the tapes in your possession may be preserved for the generations to come as the vibrant, unique canvasses that they are.

-- L. Moody

May 2019



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