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Hi-8 Users Group


The Hi-8 Users Group grew out of the first U.S. screening of Ricky Leacock's film "Les Ouefs à la Coque de Richard Leacock", which Ricky shot with his latest tool, a handheld Hi-8 camcorder. This pioneer of Cinéma Vérité and synchronous sound location filmmaking was now a fan of Hi-8.

As George Fifield (now the Director of the Boston Cyberarts Festival) tells it:

I first met Bob Doyle almost ten years ago, when a friend called me up and ask me if I wanted to see the latest video by Ricky Leacock. One of the inventors of cinema verite, Leacock had retired from his teaching post at M.I.T. a few years before and moved to France. His constant focus on small format filmmaking had led him to the new Sony 8mm video format that made "one handed shooting" as exciting in video as in film. His recent work was his first complete exploration of this new medium that also captured my heart as a video artist.

I followed the directions over to the home of Bob and Holly Doyle. About twenty of us watched "Les Ouefs — la Coque de Richard Leacock" by Ricky and Valerie Lalonde. At the end of the evening, Bob made a simple suggestion. Why didn't we meet again the following month and talk further about some of the issues that had come up. That was the beginning of the Hi-8 Users Group that later became the Desktop Video Group.

This was a heady time as the Hi-8 revolution morphed into the desktop video revolution.

At subsequent Hi-8 meetings we showed two more of Leacock's films in development, one was "Rehearsals" - about a stage production of "The Duchess of Malfi," and another a draft of "A Musical Adventure in Siberia," about Opera Company of Boston Director Sarah Caldwell's trip to Russia to conduct a world-premiere performance of the recently discovered Sergei Prokofiev opera "Eugen Onegin." Both films were shot in Hi-8.

One of the Hi-8 Users Group members was Stuart Cody. Stuart had a friend who was mounting an original two-hour musical/dramatic production on saving the environment at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center. It was called "Sejecho: Voice of the Earth - a transformational arts event that called together over 50 artists and at least that many support people to create a multi-cultural arts concert evening; a theater ritual with actors from diverse cultures."

Saphira Linden, the Omega Theater founder, wanted Stuart to film the event. We recruited five cameramen with Hi-8 camcorders. We used our 20-input, multitrack Tascam MidiStudio recorder, fed by microphones hanging down over the stage. This audio was supplemented by the audio from the five camcorders, one mounted on a Steadicam JR.

Post-production was done by synchronizing four Hi8 camcorders and a Hi-8 editing deck and passing the video through a Panasonic MX-30 digital video mixer that allowed us to transparently switch between the four sources.

Stuart Cody and I wrote up the techniques used for a cover story in Videomaker Magazine in May 1993.

One of the great success stories of the Hi-8 Users Group was Roberto Mighty. Roberto had shot Hi-8 footage from several Boston-area clubs and edited it into a pilot for a local television show. When he brought it around to the local stations, they rejected it when Roberto brought out his Hi-8 tape. So he decided to spend $50 to get a Betacam copy made of the program.

When he returned to sell the stations on the idea of a pilot program, no one balked and many admired Roberto's production values! He went on to produce the show "Food New England" and began a successful career with Roberto Mighty Productions as the Creator and Writer/Producer of several prime-time ABC affiliate Specials and four weekly television Series. You can now get his work on DVD or see his shows on Vimeo.

Here is a link to Roberto's film work:

FILMMAKING: DOCUMENTARY, DRAMA, COMEDY & COMMISSIONED
Independent Filmmaker Roberto Mighty writes, directs and edits out of his studio on the East Coast. He originates films and takes commissions. He is currently Directing "KolorGirlz," a documentary feature about the onstage performances and traumatic offstage lives of seven women standup comedians of color across the USA. He is also directing a film on post-Katrina New Orleans educational relief efforts. Roberto created the critically acclaimed "Chinese Lessons" documentary on world poetry, with the cooperation of Harvard University, the Emily Dickinson Homestead and Zhejiang Province TV.
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