Visiting the VHS Swap Meet

Be kind, rewind. On Sunday, Houston, Texas's Insomnia Gallery hosted the VHS Swap Meet where 21 sellers gathered to hawk VHS tapes. Jason Champion, 37, who operates a VHS video store out of his garage, organized the swap. From The Chron:

“For me, it’s pure nostalgia,” (attendee Tayvis) Dunnahoe said. “When I watch a tape, it’s not always about just (watching) the best-quality version of the film. A lot of times it’s just kind of going back to that root of how I saw it the first time I watched it.”

Dunnahoe, who’s known among VHS collectors as Benny Junko, is all about “keeping physical media alive.” He and his wife, Nancy Agin Dunnahoe, operate the online shop Video Sanctum, which specializes in horror.

In fact, just about every vendor Sunday had at least a small collection of horror films, from the rare to the classic to the campy.

“We’re horror fanatics,” said Debra Santos, 32. She and her husband, Nasario Santos Jr., bought a bag full of videos Sunday, from 1979’s “Nosferatu the Vampyre” to “Cujo,” based on the Stephen King novel.

“A lot of people who are into VHS are primarily horror collectors,” said seller Ryan Allison. He said he recently paid a dollar at Half Price Books for a trashy horror thriller called “Slash Dance,” then sold it to a collector for $150.

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Weekend Tunes: The Pogues Live at the Town and Country

The Pogues were my entry point into punk. They caused a massive shift in my understanding of music: they made my growing up to play the mandolin, tenor banjo and bodhran feel cool. The music I played needn't be something from the past. As much as I loved and continue to adore traditional Irish tunes, The Pogues showed 15-year-old me that there was new life in the tunes I knew; new themes to explore. Discovering A Pair of Brown Eyes, Thousands are Sailing and The Broad Majestic Shannon kicked open other musical doors for me. It wasn't too long until my Discman was pushing The Waterboys, The Levellers, Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span into my skull.

I've got fond memories of The Pogues Live at the Town and Country. When I was 18, I skipped my high school prom in favor of shipping off to Halifax. I'd fallen in love with a girl there, the summer previous. She was waiting for me. The relationship smouldered itself out, as flames that burn too hot, too fast, often do. Before we parted ways, she bought Live at the Town and Country on VHS for me as a birthday gift.

I watch it and listened to it until there was nothing left of that tape. Read the rest

VHS is making a comeback

Free VHS rentals are part of the planned fun at Video Vortex, a new venture by Alamo Drafthouse. The first one is under contstruction in Raleigh, North Carolina. Read the rest

Micro documentary about VHS video horror art

From Entertain the Elk: "A love letter to video stores, horror films, and the AIDA Advertising Method that made the artwork on their VHS covers so effectively grotesque and memorable." Read the rest

1993 New York City recorded in high-definition DVHS format

This remarkably clear VHS footage of Clinton-era yuppies who are now retirement age will either take you back to a more innocent time, or give you a good glimpse of what yuppie scum looked like back in the day. Read the rest

The best video store in the world carries only one movie

Remember those bygone days when certain stores would decorate their walls with movie titles for us to pick through? Well, just imagine a magical place that cuts out the celluloid chaff and delivers only what we really want to see.

Last weekend I stumbled upon the finest collection of cinema classics I‘ve witnessed since the early 2000s.  It was stocked with everything I needed to scratch my entertainment itch for drama, romance, and even sports flicks.

And the place I’m talking about ONLY carried the classic Jerry Maguire movie and get this… it was all on VHS tape! Read the rest

Surviving Edged Weapons, fabulous police training video from the VHS 'n' Crack era

"Of course, you're aware of the balisong," intones the deep-voiced narrator, "... or butterfly knife."

Awesome, terrifying, paranoid and goofy, Surviving Edged Weapons is a relic of another era, an age of fishhook earrings and razor blade-impregnated ballcaps, where reality itself stars Charles Bronson. Which, of course, it did. Read the rest

Recovering Teletext data from VHS recordings

Teletext was an early mainstream precursor to the web that became successful in the UK and France: hundreds of low-res pages a day streamed in the invisible overscan margins of the TV signal. It died with analog television; archivists are finding the original data can be recovered from VHS tapes.

Technology is changing that. The continuing boom in processor power means it’s now possible to feed 15 minutes of smudged VHS teletext data into a computer and have it relentlessly compare the pages as they flick by at the top of the picture, choosing to hold characters that are the same on multiple viewing (as they’re likely to be right) and keep trying for clearer information for characters that frequently change (as they’re likely to be wrong).

It's an interesting study in horsepower: it takes such "phenomenal processing power" to accurately and reliably scan VHS recordings of text that we're only now on the cusp of being able to do so.

That hundreds, even thousands of frames of each teletext page are required to OCR each one is also a powerful tribute to just how astoundingly awful VHS is. Read the rest

VHS Camcorder app makes iPhone video look like 1980s tape

Record the world through a 1980s lens with Rarevision's VHS Camcorder app, currently available for iOS with Android coming soon. Don't forget to please be kind, rewind.

WATCH: Fantastic Four as a direct-to-VHS trailer

The fine folks at Vulture took clips from the doomed Roger Corman Fantastic Four and made a retro-style trailer. ICYMI, here's what they're parodying: Read the rest

V/H/S review: The buzz was way more exciting (and likable)

As a big fan of horror, as well as the found-footage subgenre, I was really excited to see V/H/S, a found-footage horror anthology. After it screened at Sundance, it got a lot of buzz -- people were passing out, leaving the theater, men and women gnashing their teeth, etc. So you can imagine my disappointment when I realized I was glad I'd stayed home and paid about half the price of a theater ticket to get it on demand. Despite a few genuinely scary moments, it was hard to get past the fact that I wanted every single character in V/H/S to die a horrible death so I wouldn't have to watch them anymore.

If you have your heart absolutely set on seeing V/H/S, then by all means, see it. But if you're on the fence or having any doubts, let me share what I didn't like, and maybe you'll share my opinion. (If not, that's also cool.) Read the rest