News From The Woods - June 17, 2012


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published June 17, 2012

"A Good Karma day"

I want to tell you a story of something that just happened to me. But the story really starts years ago when I was hired to do a wedding video. Somehow, during the edit, a short piece of video was deleted which showed the family walking in at the beginning of the ceremony. My client was not happy after the first viewing two weeks later, but when I searched for the master tape of the footage I could not locate it. I felt terrible, like all the effort I put into producing the video could not make up for the missing 15 seconds of footage. He was very professional about it all, but it was clear he was not happy. There was nothing I could do so I just walked away from the whole affair with a bad taste in my mouth. In forty years of wedding videos I may have dropped the ball a total of three or four times. This was one of them.

But it was in an edit. Now, usually, you keep the master tapes of edited videos for some time period before gently placing them in File 13. If it was a one-time tape I generally use them on one more project before discarding them to the stack of tapes that I use for my own home videos, where a few dropouts won't happen on a client's job. After completely searching my tape stock shelf and playing a portion of each "dead" tape, I could not find this particular location video shoot. And before you ask, I don't mark those tapes because the footage is immediately put into the computer, edited, and the client already has their DVD master for their files. From that moment on, the original master tapes are of no use unless requested and arranged upon beforehand. I also keep a DVD clone of the master in the archives "just in case". But THIS problem was in the master edit, and the client waited an unusually long time before responding that there was anything wrong.

I cannot explain what happened to the master tape. I suppose after a thorough search I thought to myself "Well, if there was anything wrong they would SURELY have contacted me by now"……… and for almost a decade now every time I think of that beautiful wedding on the bluff all I can think of was the missing tape.

Today I was doing studio maintenance chores and cleaning up my camera packs and gear bag. For the first time in a long time I actually dumped the entire contents out and took stock and repacked the bag. It's quite an ordeal, and involves a few hundred accessories and tiny parts and gadgets. Tapes and batteries, wireless microphones, wide angle lenses, audio adaptors, Palm Pilot, power supplies, and more fill this bag out to about 14 pounds without the camcorder. Among everything else, I stacked 10 unmarked tapes from out of the bag.

After completely repacking the camera bag I took the tapes over to my tape deck and put them in to check and make sure there was nothing "important" on them before erasing them and returning them to stock. After marking a few tapes for erasing, I came across one that started with a long shot from the top of a bluff. It looked vaguely familiar but I could not place it. I watched as I zoomed down to the water and captured an eagle nabbing a trout from the river, and my heart raced! It's funny how a cameraman can remember every single shot he's ever taken in his career, and I knew in an instant where this video came from… it was the "missing tape" from that wedding years ago! I quickly scanned ahead in the footage and there was the family being seated before the ceremony! I was dumbfounded… How could this happen?

In reality what probably DID happen was that I dropped that master tape back into my camera bag after running it through the computer and then forgot about it. Days later I may have found the tape and thinking it was one to re-use I placed it in the bottom of the tape pouch in the bag and then covered it up with more blank tapes. I guess I never thought to examine the camera bag when I was later searching for that tape because I never place tapes back in the bag that are "work tapes".

By this time I couldn't even remember the clients name so I dug back into my invoices and eventually found the statement in my database. It contained the names of the bride and groom, so I immediately went to my archives and started looking through all of my safety copies of wedding DVD's until I found the right one. While I was searching for all this I eagerly placed the missing tape into the computer and started converting it to digital. When I got past the "missing part" I began loading the wedding video. Then I cut the video at the point where the 4-minute piece of footage was missing and inserted the new footage clip I had just transferred. You cannot imagine the relief I felt when it was rendering. It was if a great weight had been lifted from my conscience. After all this time to find this footage!

Those of you who are regular readers know of my fondness for believing in Karma. But just because I believe this does not mean I do not believe in God. My own personal religious experiences are that there is a little something in every religion to be learned. At the moment I viewed that footage and knew what it was, the very first thing that popped into my head was "Thank you, God", followed by "I must have had some good Karma coming". Since we all know that God does not communicate with us directly and individually (except for perhaps Joan of Arc and a few other biblical types), we have no real way to prove these theories, but that doesn't stop us from believing in them. All I know is that it felt pretty good to find that footage.

I made three copies of the DVD (and a new safety master for the studio) and sent them to my clients last known address, along with a note of explanation. My contract has finally been satisfactorily fulfilled! I hope they still live there, and I hope their kids are still married.


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