The Magic of Home Videos


Instead of reading my post this week, you get to watch it!  YAY! (It’s just like how everyone always says they liked the movie better than the book!)

I made this little film for my Senior Capstone art piece in 2010 before I graduated from OU. I loved making it because I got to linger on all of the interesting aspects of family video documentation, AND throw in all of my favorite scenes from my family’s home videos as well (including the famous “Big Crash of Chrissy!”) and some terribly 90s commercials.

If you have a spare 10 minutes, give it a watch. If you don’t have that long and/or you need to keep extra quiet right now, OR you just straight up generally prefer the boring version of things, go ahead and read my transcript from the video below. But seriously, watch the movie. You’ll like it.



Video Transcript:

OTR: One Touch Record. Apparently that was a really nice feature in a VCR when my parents were out shopping for one. Unfortunately all it really did was provide a way for crawling children to instantly record over whatever tape was in the VCR at the time, be it irreplaceable family memories or some sweet 90s TV programming my parents wanted to save forever.

While I wonder what kinds of home video gems have been long erased from those tapes and, consequently, our memories, I find myself captivated by the random programming that is forever labeled as part of our “home videos” collection.

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It’s intriguing that a glimpse into an evening’s television programming would seem charming and even a little bit cute, when I couldn’t have been more than 5 years old when it was initially broadcast.

Considering that almost all of my young childhood memories consist of what’s been captured on video, it’s surprising to me that our collection amounts to only four tapes, spanning less than five years.

Years later, my parents invested in a new camera with “VHS-C technology”, which was basically exactly the same as VHS technology, but the tapes were smaller and were impossible to watch without the aid of a VHS-C camera or a VHS-C to VHS converter tape.

I think during the VHS-C era of our home videos, we documented our time living in England and California, where I’m almost positive we made a tape for our “Year 2000 Time Capsule,” which is ironic because everything on those tiny tapes is essentially a time capsule, since its been about ten years since anyone saw any of it. Thanks a lot, technology.


Since my younger siblings didn’t get to grow up watching themselves in home videos, they feel a little bit gypped in the whole “memories” department. I think my parents stopped feeling responsible to document their kids’ lives as soon as us older kids started getting digital and video cameras of our own. Although, I’m not so sure they ever felt all that responsible for preserving anything because they never did do anything about that OTR button, or those tiny VHS’s that, to this day, nobody knows what to do with.

I love watching home videos from other families. They’re obviously all unique, but there are undeniable universal qualities as well. I find the aesthetic interests of the family documentarian very appealing.

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In a familiar setting, like home, the videographer can focus on documenting the event and the people involved in it, usually without too much distraction. But, as soon as a new backdrop is introduced, the eye guiding the camera always seems to stray a little. My dad was one of those guys who read all the informational plaques at all the museums or historical sites we ever went to, so… that’s what he filmed.

If we were at the zoo, he filmed the animals. Occasionally he’d pan or zoom out enough to get some of us kids in the shot too. And I know part of the reason he did that was so we could watch it back when we got home and double our zoo-going experience. But, I’m pretty sure that little kids would almost always prefer to watch themselves in a “movie” than pretty much anything else.

When video technology became readily available and cheap, home movies got a lot longer. And, I don’t know if it was partly because of Americas Funniest Home Videos, but there seemed to be an urge to document everything, just in case.

How this translated into our home videos was the use-household-furniture-as-a-tripod aesthetic. This resulted in thirty minute-long, out of focus shots that were way too boring to ever watch. Although a couple of times something unexpected and interesting did happen and it was caught on tape. Unfortunately though, none of it was worthy of Bob Saget’s eyes.


Now, to me, it seems unfair that a family member should have to miss out on family activities in an effort to preserve memories that they won’t even appear in. This is part of the reason why we hire photographers and videographers for weddings and things like that.

I wonder if some day there will be a photo-video nanny that just lives with you and documents your family’s life for you. But then it would become an issue of what to shoot and, underneath that, the problem of “What is important to document?” and “Who should we trust to make that decision for us?”

Who’s job is it to document family events? Should it be an assigned chore like doing the dishes? Or is it more of a privilege?

It seems to me that if it’s so important to a family to have their lives documented, it should maybe more of a job, like, that has to be applied for. This would ensure its getting done the right way. But then who’s to say what the right way is. Should the mom and dad have more of a say than the kids? Because isn’t it supposed to be documenting the parents and the kids?

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I recently found a video taken with the movie mode on my digital camera. It was a tour of my parents house in Florida, taken by my 8 year-old brother. Despite the fact that it gives me a headache and a little nausea, I almost wish more of the documentation of my childhood was taken from a child’s perspective. It just seems a little silly that all of our documentation is from an adult perspective and conforms to grown-up ideals of how it’s supposed to look. Then again, if more children ran around with cameras, there would likely be significantly less surviving home videos.

We want documentation of our lives because it creates and preserves memories, which often fade with time. Ultimately though, I think we do it because we want to be documented.

There’s something unique about the 24 images per second accompanied by synchronous sound that captures the essence of a person better than any other medium. What else captures looks, voice, mannerisms and personality so effectively and instantaneously? Video can be like a self-explanatory journal, preserving your essence for as long as someone cares to continue updating the technology.


Unfortunately that’s the problem with film and video. It can never be an actual physical item. It will always require technology. Unlike a painting or a journal. Of course it makes sense that the best form of self-preservation is inevitably doomed to the fate of being lost forever, but at least for a few generations of family history, it seems to work fine.

And in the future, there will probably be some way of making video tangible, which will solve the perfect medium’s only problem.

Until then, though, well just have to hope that our kids and grandkids care about us enough to convert our movies every 10 years or so.

Man, I can’t wait for the future.



  1. Christine says:

    I loved this. So. Much. My dad is the documenter in our family and we have so much wasted tape of him narrating or filming plaques. It was fun to see your family so little and see your Mom with all of you.

  2. Stephanie Sloat says:

    Well done, Chrissy! I especially loved The Big Crash of You! Even though you were driving with your feet on the dashboard, you were obviously “pushed” into the tree :) Thank heavens for your cat-like reflexes…

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