Barry Smith: Irrelativity
October 18, 2010
I’m 19 and have been hired to videotape a wedding. It’s 1985, so video cameras are not the convenient, hand-held devices that are so commonplace. Nor do people’s phones have video capability. No, people’s phones are all back at their respective houses, many of them still leashed to the wall with curly wire.
The home video camera of this era is an involved ordeal. The camera itself is so big that you have to rest it on your shoulder. And it’s JUST a camera – it doesn’t do any actual recording, it just looks at things. The recording happens in the VCR itself, which has to be powered by batteries and worn over your shoulder like a comically large tricorder.
I’ve embraced having a video camera. I’ve spent countless hours video taping holidays, birthdays, Easter egg hunts from start to finish, day-long skateboarding sessions, encroaching forest fires. I was born to point a video camera at stuff. And because of this the battery is just about worn out. I have a replacement battery, but it’s even more worn out. This is not a big deal if you’re just taping yourself learning to do a backside boneless on a mini-ramp, but it can be a problem if you’ve been hired to videotape a wedding. Which, as you may recall from the first sentence, I have.
So I’m 19, in the company of complete strangers on this most specialest of all days, in the guise of the “professional” video guy. I’ve been offered $100 for my services. A staggering sum for me at the time. I plan to use the money to buy a new skateboard, because I’m a shrewd financial planner. I’ve got the batteries all charged up, and I have a place right up front, close to the altar. Everything is going fine. I’ve done some good camera work thus far, I think. Nice slow zooms, steady pans, and I’ve been careful to not mutter sarcastic comments into the camera mic. I’m a professional.
It’s a generic church ceremony, not too extravagant or long-winded. In fact, it’s already winding down…
“And do you, Cathy, take Herbert …”
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Suddenly the “low battery” light inside the viewfinder begins to flash.
“… to have and to hold, for ever and ever …”
Oh no! The camera has been doing this lately. It’ll just suddenly say “low battery” and then it shuts itself down. I need to change the battery at once, but there’s no way I can do that now. That would mean putting down the camera, taking the VCR from my shoulder, popping out the huge battery, opening several velcro pouches while trying to locate the other battery – a big, clunky production even when people are NOT about to be pronounced man and wife. Which, as you’ll be reminded in the next sentence, they are.
“And do you, Herbert, take …”
– CLICK –
That clicking noise you just heard is the sound of the camera shutting itself down. Whatever happens next will not be included in the official wedding video, but there’s no way I can let on. It’s bad enough to not capture the moment, you don’t want to ruin the moment as well. So I just stand there as if nothing is wrong, pretending that I’m recording for all eternity the most blessed moment of this young couple’s life. But I’m staring into a pitch-black viewfinder in a useless camera. I may as well be pointing a Tonka toy in their direction.
“I now pronounce you …”
They kiss, turn to face the crowd, then walk down the aisle. I follow them with this powerless “camera.” Nice, smooth, steady pan. Very professional.
I swap out the battery when nobody’s looking and get a few shots of the couple dodging rice and the crowd milling around. I pop out the tape and hand it to the father of the bride without saying a word. What could I say?
“I figured you didn’t want this tape to be too long, so I made a few editorial choices. I think you’ll be pleased.”
He gives me a check for a hundred bucks. As soon as he watches this tape he’ll see the astounding degree of my failure. There’s only one thing to do in this situation.
I need to get the check to the bank before he gets that tape to his VCR.
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