Providence Journal Article

Film technicians in Smithfield help bring the past into the future

Looking at an old commercial tape machine that was used in TV studios, Ed DiMeglio, of RetroMedia, in Smithfield, converts sound and images stored on obsolete media into digital media. Andrew Dickerman/The Providence Journal

Looking at an old commercial tape machine that was used in TV studios, Ed DiMeglio, of RetroMedia, in Smithfield, converts sound and images stored on obsolete media into digital media. Andrew Dickerman/The Providence Journal

Journal Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD — Retromedia’s studio is like a science-fiction portal, an opening surrounded by devices that retrieve fragments of the past and shoot them into the future.

In a commerce park, behind the Greenville A&W restaurant on Route 44, Retromedia’s single room is crammed with outmoded forms of moving-picture technology, all for transferring old movies, photos and music onto digital media.

“Technology has kind of washed over humanity like a tsunami,” said the president, Ed DiMeglio, 62, in explaining why he and Lou Leta, 49, started the company.

DiMeglio has worked in film since he was 10 years old and in broadcast journalism since 1982. He was an editor of television news when it had to be filmed in the morning, developed in a chemical process and edited for the evening broadcast.

He and Leta serve as guides to baby boomers who have grown nostalgic or have inherited boxes full of family photos, slides, movies or videos. Some of these images can’t be seen because the technology to view them has gone by.

Retromedia has all the old, outdated technology. Monitors, players, editing machines and projectors of every vintage are crammed into the 18- by 24-foot room.

DiMeglio can project a reel-to-reel film onto a mirror that turns it 90 degrees, then record it on a digital video camera pointed down a dark tube toward the mirror.

The old family film is then available for showing on a big-screen TV, or, if formatted another way, sending to distant relatives by e-mail, YouTube or social media.

“We take those obsolete formats and we convert them to contemporary digital media form,” DiMeglio said. “I try to prepare my clients to be the curators of their own family history,” he said.

Film can last 50 years, DiMeglio said. “Videotape, has a shelf life of, if you’re lucky, 25 years.” Videos recorded as AVI, or Audio Video Interleave, files have a life of maybe 10 years.

“The videotape itself, the glue that holds the brown oxide, begins to fall off,” DiMeglio said. “The more you play it, the more it falls apart.”

“Because the technology, that old tsunami, has just gotten bigger and stronger and before consumers in general could nicely settle into their AVI files,” DiMeglio said, “they came out with mpg files, the essential basic file from which DVDs are made.”

Even that is being overtaken by what he calls the wild west of the digital frontier. “Nobody knows what the preferred file is,” he said, although mpg4 seems to be king of the hill.

Windows people and Mac people still haven’t agreed on the universal video format, he said.

He has transferred footage of the pyramids with camels, hundreds of different views of the Statue of Liberty, many versions of the New York World’s Fair of 1964, and about three times as many of Disney World, especially the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” stunt demonstration.

He gets clients, who, “back in the day, were members of rock and roll bands, and they kind of want to remember what it was like to be up on the stage with their guitars, and being appreciated by an audience.”

Not to mention what it was like to have hair.

“It’s usually the women between 35 and 60 who seem to wax nostalgic first,” he said. “It may be because women are more sensitive to the changing of times than men are.”

By far the most common subject he has viewed while transferring memories is families opening presents around the Christmas tree.

“There will always be a need to convert some older media into whatever is the contemporary media at the time,” DiMeglio said. “Suppose we’re only at the beginning of the technology curve.”

Warwick Beacon Article

The audio and visual conversion specialists who give memories a new life.

Cue the music.  Cue the picture.  Onto the screen come your smiling parents, celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.  All are gathered around the TV to share in this nostalgic moment and just as you get to your father’s emotional toast, there is a jam in the VCR.  Everyone freezes while you anxiously pull the snarled VHS out of the system.  Another frustrating moment brought to you by your antiquated VCR, proudly purchased in the ‘80s along with your cassette tape deck.  Truth is, this moment could have been avoided if you had just considered bringing your outdated VHS cassettes to Retromedia in Greenville to be converted to a more current media format, such as a DVD.  In this ever-advancing world of technology, things like films and cassettes that hold cherished memories or valuable pieces of history, are becoming increasingly obsolete.  As Ed DiMeglio of Retromedia bemoans, “One of the casualties of the tech era is the VHS cassette – it is just very hard to find the equipment to play them on anymore!”  And thus, they are relegated to your attic forever.

Retro Media is a business that specializes in the conversion of all forms of audio and visual media into formats compatible with today’s modern devices and equipment, such as DVD or CD players.  If you have almost any form of visual media such as films (8 mm, 16 mm, Super 8 film), photographs, video cassettes from camcorders, slides, even old negatives– then bring them to Retromedia.  If you have your cassette tapes or vinyl records, then bring them to Ed DiMeglio.  Ed will take these “relics” and will edit them as needed, add music to them and convert them to a format that you can finally access.

Ed DiMeglio is not just your average “techy”, in fact, Ed is a two-time Emmy Award winning film producer and former owner of Equinox Studios, a successful production company.  This energetic man has spent his life in film and video production. His studio is filled with every imaginable piece of equipment a “techno geek” could ever hope for.  He has made it his business to keep up with all the technological trends, and has seen the frustration of customers eager to transform their outdated and often rare films and audio-tracks into a useable format.

In today’s fast paced world, it is important to preserve our recorded memories through the advances in modern technology.  If you have a special occasion you want to commemorate with an audio-visual presentation or if you just want to revive old films and records, then Ed DiMeglio of Retromedia, Inc. should be your first call.