Bringing lost videos back to life

One of the most rewarding parts of my work is helping producers recover tapes they haven’t seen in decades. 1/2″ reel-to-reel videotape was the first portable videotape format that ever existed, and its development allowed for an explosion of independent expression and experimentation by artists and activists throughout the late ’60s and 1970s.
However, these tapes are now well past the end of their lifespan and there is no way for producers to play them or transfer them. Working 1/2″ players are now very rare, but actually the bigger problem is the tapes themselves, which were never designed to last for decades. They are simply falling apart.

Through a grant from the Bay Area Video Coalition’s Preservation Access Program, we have been able to transfer dozens of severely deteriorated 1/2″ reels that we never thought would be recovered.

This includes three reels of early experiments by John Anderson, an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker who has made dozens of documentary programs about musicians, including Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney, Patti Smith, Kanye West, Elvis Costello, and many more. Chicagoans will be excited to learn he edited the hit “Super Bowl Shuffle” video for the ’85 Bears! His most recent film, produced with Starr Sutherland, is “Sam Lay in Bluesland,” a documentary feature about the legendary blues drummer and 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee featuring James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite, Elvin Bishop and Iggy Pop.

In recent years, John has also been known around Chicago for his “From the Cutting Room Floor” presentations at CIMMFest, where he opens up his vault of unused and completely unseen footage shot for his documentaries. Media Burn believes deeply in the incredible historical and cultural value of “camera original” footage, and we are one of the only moving image archives in the world that is so committed to preserving and presenting these historical documents alongside completed programs.

Please enjoy these newly recovered videos that are documents of an artist’s excitement at the potential of videotape in its infancy, and the beginning of an important career.

Sara Chapman
Executive Director

Without further ado, here is John Anderson to introduce each of the pieces.

Bicentennial Golf Cart Parade

Intro by John Anderson

Watch Bicentennial Golf Cart Parade.

Flying Bob’s Midnight Circus

Intro by John Anderson

Watch Flying Bob’s Midnight Circus.

Skateboard Park 1 of 2

Intro by John Anderson

Watch Skateboard Park 1 of 2.



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