BSV 1172, Chapter 3: The Preamble and the Teaser Trailer

A 1982 Sony HVC-2800 Trinicon tube video camera, briefly used for a section of the BSV 1172 teaser trailer.


Before I get into the details of the teaser trailer for my short experimental doc, some backstory and perspective is needed, given the subject matter – the independent / neighbourhood video store – has been in a state of flux as the home video rental & sales business has undergone many upheavals during the last decade.

There are significant generations of filmgoers whose interests, tastes, and careers in the media were influenced by weekly visits to the local video store, be it a chain outlet, a franchise, an independent, or even the local variety store who kept a stack of new releases behind the counter, offering customers a movie alongside a pack of cigarettes, milk, newspaper, candies, or whatever odds & sods was needed before heading home.

For many years, renting a movie / buying a movie were part of the options for anyone living in the city, the suburbs, or a small town. I still remember visiting family friends outside of Aylmer, Quebec, and being told they now had a video store in their midst, ‘country style’: nestled between homes and farms off a 70 kilometer rated, single-lane highway was one of those combo houses / gas stations / variety stores, and propped up in their window was a big hand-crafted sign that read “Video is here!”

It was a big thing in a small town where cable and satellite TV weren’t accessible or really affordable, and in the local ‘burbs where trolling the landscape in a car mandated a stopover in the local mall (and by mall, that could mean one of those aging strip developments from the sixties & seventies; or the stubby ones built in the eighties to accommodate the spontaneous 24-7 needs of families shuttered up in snout homes in residential grids, shielded by tall noise barriers that still flank highways and major thoroughfares).

Buying videos also became normal when the studios had that grand eureka moment and realized some people actually want to own not only their favourite movies, but build a collection. Why they figured this was novel is a mystery, since music fans had been collecting LPs for years; building a library of movies was just a natural extension of the collecting bug that’s part of many peoples’ DNA (including yours).

At its peak – which I peg between 2005-2007 – people were buying and renting a lot. The grosses of stores were sweet, risky expansions (new franchise locations, or moving into bigger digs) from a few years prior had paid off, and the future seemed set, but as any manager and owner could candidly tell you, the video business was built on the need to keep product moving, and the shifts in media – VHS / Beta, laserdisc / CED, DVD, Blu-ray / HD-DVD – actually kept it alive when the technological shifts occurred over several years.

You jumped to new formats to get better quality, better extras, better variety, and in the long run, save personal space with more material packed on a smaller format, but as studios saw a shift in the way people enjoyed their wares – wanting portability, instant access, no frills, and strangely lacking a desire to connect and archive their own library of current and classic films from their immense film & TV catalogues – they also realized (the smarter ones, at least) the old distribution models for home video – if not the term – were fast becoming obsolete. There was no need to mass produce 90,000 copies of all kinds of movies when the ratio of unsold stock being returned by merchants was getting bigger.

The presumption was ‘physical media is dead,’ so supporting a DVD release was less vital unless it was a recent tentpole picture, or an older film that could be re-sold as a tie-in.

You can criticize studios for denying a new generation classics which would’ve engendered a sense of film history and a broader grasp of film / pop culture, but if the future shows less and less people want that physical experience – which includes visiting a classic bricks & mortar store, and rummaging through an archive of 26,000+ individual movie titles – then what do you do?

What you don’t do is write-off physical media as wholly obsolete, nor deny merchants stock needed to stay alive, but then studios have always been major players expecting major revenues within a shorter period of time. If they’re supporting (if not co-creating) a format, they want a faster return on their investment, plus working cash to keep it going in case it falters, as happened with Beta, CED, and HD-DVD.

When VHS debuted, the studios weren’t happy stores were renting titles they had originally intended for sale, so rental pricing came into effect to ensure they’d get that advance on a title which the merchant would eventually find profitable after that new release paid off its cost, and became a pure profit maker after migrating into categories like Drama, Eros, Comedy, and Action.

Flash-forward to 2012, and you have no chains – in Canada, Blockbuster was already dead, and Rogers shuttered its rental shops – but the studios have their own digital channels, license digital downloads, and have become libraries of movies whose content availability is wholly arbitrated by whomever cares and is willing to pay time-limited or set product replication rights.

That could be an indie label, or a streaming channel, or TCM. What they choose to play gives a perception of what exists, and as sharply detailed in Jason Bailey’s piece for Flavorwire, there’s a sense that ‘If it’s not on Netflix, then it mustn’t be important,’ which is a sad stance, but arguably understandable when so much product has been released in the last 35 years on home video alone.

Think about it: movies silent & sound, B&W and colour from Fox, Columbia, Universal, Warner Bros., Paramount, MGM, United Artists, Disney, RKO. TV shows, mini-series, and TV movies from ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and PBS. Indie studios, foreign title acquisitions, and whatever distribution rights continue to be owned in perpetuity by any of the aforementioned studios now owned by a handful of multinationals. Their wares and catalogue titles up to the year 2005. Then factor in direct-to-video titles and those shitty sequels which never came to movie theatres; original cable TV movies which were occasionally released theatrically overseas; foreign films never released outside of Europe; Asian films never acquired by the Hollywood studios.

With so much released on tape and disc formats, it makes sense successive generations find relevance with only a smattering of titles, and like prior generations, it’s what you first saw and grew up with which left an imprint. How you consume a movie no longer requires a trip to the corner store, and if it no longer exists, you look to what’s available, you adapt, and for many, settle for what’s available as leisure time keeps shrinking.

We binge watch TV series not exclusively due to a show’s addictive content, but because there’s also limit on personal time. It’s as though we’re motivated by a huge sense of guilt for taking time off to watch TV; that seems to mandate a force-feeding of material over the weekend because the work week cannot allow enough time to watch even a few 2-hour movies, let alone travelling to a physical store to get a movie and bring it back on time to avoid a late fee.

When Blockbuster nuked its late fees, it hobbled itself and sowed its definite demise. The more monopolistic Rogers had a cable TV system it already owned – right down to the physical wires in the ground – so closing the rental shops was no biggie, especially since the shops’ wares shifted from renting a film to cellphone sign-ups and accoutrements.

But with those two chains gone – a scenario more than likely replicated in other cities & towns internationally – that leaves the independent to carry on a method of film-going and selling which is more than ever uniquely catered to local neighborhoods and communities.

In articles on surviving stores, you keep finding statements about the community that keeps a business and its distribution and dissemination model alive – a facet that one can see even in that 1985 magazine article I scanned & posted two weeks ago. Go ahead and call a classic bricks & mortar establishment (a store) obsolete, outmoded, ancient, retro, or whatever negative buzzword rolls immediately off your tongue. Or call it vintage, novel, unique, a hidden gem, or a filmgoer’s utopia where material shunned by the arbitrators of what’s relevant survives, as curated by an eclectic and often eccentric pool of film fans and business people. Proof of a vast film & TV history that always existed but never made it, nor likely will, to Netflix.

In a way TCM is kind of a dumping ground for everything for which the studios couldn’t justify a DVD or Blu-ray release, but like streaming, you’re limited to just the film with no extras (the rare SAP track excepted), and a level of compression determined by how important the cable provide feels it ranks among the hundreds of other stations it carries; more room is likely to be given to a National Geographic show shot on RED than a 1932 B&W sound film mastered from the only surviving 16mm print.

CD buyers, LP buyers, and home video buyers & renters often raise the issue of quality resolution, which alongside extras, are what inherently come with a DVD and Blu-ray. For some, it’s also the browsing / discovery experience which isn’t admittedly for all.

Sometimes you just don’t want to leave home and will settle for what’s online, and that’s one of the key reasons I chose to shoot a documentary on an increasingly outmoded form of filmgoing.

The letters and numbers in the title BSV 1172 refers to Bay Street Video and its old address before it took over a bigger retail space inside the adjacent mall, and surrendered its old space to Tim Horton’s. (If you stand near the mall entrance, close to the coffee store, you can see a door Tim Horton’s never uses. Marked with a ‘use other door’ stop sign, you’ll also see a small mail slot to the locked door’s left side. That’s not a mail slot but what would’ve been BSV’s DVD drop slot had the video store not taken over twice the retail space formerly occupied by a beautician’s clinic.)

The doc was shot in the fall of 2012 after hours, using gear going back to home video’s early years – tube cameras – because like the store’s owners and its customers, the cameras represent something that’s been marginalized as new gear and new ways of acquiring and ingesting information / entertainment kept coming round the bend.

I also felt there was some aesthetic value in capturing the classic video rental experience using so-called outmoded gear, and like any of the less than 10 surviving video stores in Toronto, I found it took some time to figure out how to adapt things so analogue could be absorbed into the digital realm of a workstation and be processed to suit a HD world.

(If you check out the tally of participating shops for the recent Video Store Day, you’ll see Toronto is blessed with what seems like an abundance of bricks & mortar stores; there may be comparable blocks of merchants in other cities, but even if that tally were halved, I live in a pretty lucky city.)

Unlike the prior blogs at, BSV 1172 isn’t a nostalgia piece; it contains no talking heads, no customer / staff / owner interviews, nor provides a narrative that traces the evolution, success, and unwinding of a distribution & dissemination system from the late seventies. Other filmmakers have done superb jobs on that front, including the Canadian-made Rewind This! (available digitally, and soon physically), and the in-the-works Plastic Movies Rewound: The Story of the 80’s Home Video Boom.

It’s about the environs insidea store; the minutia of its physical workings; and an impression with somewhat fetishistic details of what used to exist en masse, and now survives through the wisdom and stubbornness of its owners & managers & staff & supportive customers.

BSV 1172 is also an experiment in narrative using images, colours and textures, and a blend of digital and analogue gear, and the teaser trailer sets up what lies inside the film, which I expect to finish in time for the HotDocs 2014 deadline in early December. Hopefully it’ll get in, since it would be neat to be on the other side of the auditorium, after reviewing films for quite a while.

The trailer should (ideally) be watched on a decent screen in a dim room with good sound reproduction, either through headphones or a surround setup to ensure it looks & sounds good. Of the two sources, the Vimeo upload has less compression (the full HD version is available only from Vimeo’s site directly), but you might find YouTube easier to stream.


BSV 1172 (2013) – Teaser Trailer from Mark R. Hasan on Vimeo.




After you’ve seen the trailer, come back here for Chapter 4 and read an overview of the gear used in the film, snapshots of the trailer’s editing layout in Adobe Premiere, and some stills of the vintage gear used to create the images.





Mark R. Hasan, Editor
Big Head Amusements


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