A MBS Special Presentation at Reclaim Video

This blog is pretty much all Reclaim all the time these days, and I am so very alright with that fact. Between Reclaim Hosting and Reclaim Video, what more could a blogger want? I already wrote about the first Summer Movie Night hosted by Reclaim Video, but I have not yet talked about Reclaim Video’s inaugural artist-in-residence guest, so let me do that now. In keeping with the spirit of the UMW Console, which was the inspiration for Reclaim Video, we invited Michael Branson Smith (hereafter MBS) down for the grand opening. MBS’s work manages an effortless sense of fun and popular whimsy that is undergirded by a deep technical acumen and a laser sharp eye for glitches in the veil of our contemporary mediascape. This is readily apparent in his remarkable number of glitch GIFs or his animated Hitchcock movie posters, but more on those in a bit.

A couple of months ago we asked MBS to help us create the Reclaim Video website, and he really killed it—which is no surprise. The coolest thing about his process is that he has been working diligently at learning Javascript for the last two years in order to a fill a hole in the curriculum of his academic program at York College (how awesome is he?). It is inspiring to see someone take on a new challenge like programming and use the experience as a way to learn with his students and through the art of teaching. What’s more, his efforts allowed him to further expand his artistic vision—which we hope the site above represents just the start of our future collaborations. Speaking of which, the controls for the TV, as well as the various videos on the shelf are all controlled via Javascript, and during our full-day Reclaim Video project marathon on Saturday, MBS took some time to explain how he developed the site and what he has learned about javascript along the way. It was really educational to listen to Tim (who is also teaching himself Javascript right now) and MBS discuss how the distinctions between CSS, HTML, and Javascript are beginning to blur. I need to dig into this more, because it really was eye-opening to hear them talk about this guy DOM all the time 🙂

My summer goal is to see if I can get a better understanding of how javascript is being used on the Reclaim Video site, and maybe even work to integrate a feed of blog posts into the design somehow. We’ll see, hopefully it is small and easy enough for me to get a sense of how the pieces work without too much shock.

Scared Stanley Kubrick GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

We also spent part of the day revisiting the Raspberry Pi Video Looper program which we used for the UMW Console as part of the TV broadcast setup. It was fun to revisit this project (one I’ve been dyingt o resurrect in one form or another for Reclaim Video), and thankfully MBS blogged his work so thoroughly 3 years ago that Tim was able to to get the Video Pi Looper working as we were talking.


Even cooler, while we were out shopping for RCA component cables and an input switcher to connect the 80s stereo and video equipment in the video rental store (more on that project below), we saw an off-the-rack 40″ flatscreen TV for next to nothing. Tim and I both had the same idea, and the first takeaway project of the day was born, who says digital signage has to suck? The Reclaim Video animated GIF movie poster screen is bucking the trend of boring as Dentist office product-laden monitors:

Vertigo animated movie poster matches the chairs @ReclaimVideo

A post shared by Jim Groom (@jim.groom) on

It’s pretty amazing, and currently it features MBS’s Hitchcock aniamted GIF movie poster series, and they rule, as you can see below:

It was wild how quickly we got this done, and that was just one project. There were two others! One was getting the stereo and video equipment in Reclaim Video streamlined.  We wanted the betamax, VCR, and lasersisc players all to run through the Aux input on the 80s Fisher stereo receiver so they would be in stereo! I was born for this after almost 3 years working at Audio Visual Services (AVS) at UCLA in the early 90s! I may understand nothing about Javascript, but the bava can wrangle an RCA cable setup like a champion.

I had it all mapped out cleanly and my schematic actually worked, save for a bad cable that MBS tipped me off on, using a 4 component RCA switcher running through the AUX input on the audio side and then converting the video signal from Coaxial to RCA so that we could run into our TV that only has Coax and RF—we are OG!

So, that was my contribution, and I was awesome. As a reward we enjoyed the Risky Business laserdisc in stereo, and Tangerine Dream never sounded better. “What happened to my egg, Joel?”

The final project, which is still under construction, is a project MBS mentioned many moons ago to me in passing that I have not been able to shake. This might be affectionately named the Fuck Shit Movie Database. The idea is working off the simple thesis that language in popular 80s movies was out of control, and what we would think of as R movies today (for language, but also adult themes, nudity, etc.) were often PG (or PG-13) in the 80s. So, we are collecting the data for the top 20 grossing Hollywood films from 1970 through 2000 and searching the subtitle (SRT) files for all instances of fuck and shit (we may expand our search for other terms, but we will start with those venerable staples of profanity) to see how often these terms were used over the course of 30 years and if we can gain any insight. We will also be able to track by rating and year, so it is the start of what could be a larger database and data visualization project, or so we hope. I just loved hanging out with MBS and hearing him say, “Did you know Stir Crazy had 34 shits and 5 fucks?”

The numbers in the mid to late 80s get crazy, trust us—but no spoilers 🙂 It was an absolute blast having MBS down to Reclaim Video for our grand opening, and really cemented for Tim an I how much this space needs to be about having fun, bringing in creative maniacs, and returning to some of the insanity that got us here.

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3 Responses to A MBS Special Presentation at Reclaim Video

  1. Pingback: Catching Up With Reclaim Hosting | bavatuesdays

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