VIDEOsyncracies, Paul Gittelsohn
Business People-Vermont: VIDEOsyncracies, Paul Gittelsohn
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Since the mid-1980s, Paul Gittelsohn
has produced hundreds of instructional, promotional, and educational videos, duplicated CDs and DVDs, and transferred images and sound to CDs and DVDs from aging media like VHS, 8-millimeter film, and reel-to-reel audio tape.
He is the owner of VIDEOsyncracies Production & Duplication in Burlington.
You gotta have fun," says videographer Paul Gittelsohn, proprietor of VIDEOsyncracies Production & Duplication in Burlington.
Gittelsohn's characteristic expression is a wry smile, and when he's
telling stories - obviously a favorite pastime - he's
apt to interrupt himself and rewind his
tale to the beginning so he
can add a funny detail he'd forgotten.
has spent years accumulating equipment that enables him to provide these services efficiently and with high quality.
recalls stringing VCRs together in a "daisy chain," laboriously duplicating video products five at a time.
Now, though, he
has modern duplicating equipment and 25-plus years' worth of work - 24 metal drawers of DVD and CD masters; a wall 12 feet wide and 8 feet high filled with videotape masters; and 1,000 or more mini DV video tapes stored in former library card catalog boxes.
"It's my life's work," he
says, "like the warehouse archives.
For example, in 1991 a New York state woman with an affinity for camelids had written a book on llama and alpaca training and handling, and wanted to make an instructional video to sell as another product.
had no budget, but Gittelsohn
journeyed to her
farm and launched a partnership with her
that has lasted through seven videos and more than 20 years.
still selling those videos from her
website, and Gittelsohn
gets 35 percent of each sale.
can reproduce them at will from the masters he
Primarily, though, the fun for Gittelsohn
is in video production, a creative outlet that keeps him constantly learning new things as he
works with his
clients to figure out how to convey their specialized information.
Fun does not preclude long, hard, meticulous work at editing.
is like a mad scientist," says Francis (Rich) Finigan, a sometimes resident of Randolph and the founder of Environmental Safeguard Professionals
a highly intelligent guy with a dry sense of humor that he
can use to break the tension during those long hours of editing."
All this accessibility, and Paul
was really, always, my first choice."
Since starting VIDEOsyncracies in 1987, Gittelsohn
has produced hundreds of instructional, promotional, and educational videos.
projects fall into three categories: videos he
is paid to produce; videos he
produces on spec (llama training was one of these); and "event" videos for hire, such as a dance recitals and performances.
"Never, ever, a wedding!
Levine shot the footage, but hired Gittelsohn
for the editing.
exclaims, "with 10 exclamation points!"
Now 54, Gittelsohn
spent most of his
youth in a residential neighborhood in Baltimore, but his
ties to Vermont formed early.
father, Alan, was a professor of biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
, where he
formed a personal and professional relationship with renowned healthcare researcher Jack Wennberg.
The Wennbergs moved to Waterbury in the mid-1960s, and the Gittelsohns began spending summers here.
In the early 1970s Dr. Gittelsohn
and Dr. Wennberg formed a private health-statistics office in Burlington.
From then on, young Gittelsohn
had one foot in Baltimore and the other in Burlington.
attended high schools in both cities.
Playing with the Wennbergs' children at their 50 acres in Waterbury Center planted the seeds of Gittelsohn's
"Someone had a super-8 camera," he
"We would make tons of corny kid films - jumping out of the barn, making chickens disappear."
In 1974, still in high school, he
landed a summer job in Burlington as a projectionist for a college film study class and took a course in basic filmmaking, which gave him an opportunity to make his
elected to animate his
"I made everything come to life," he
"It was stop-motion animation.
You take two frames, 'click-click,' then move the object a quarter of an inch and go 'click-click.' Very painstaking.
The kitchen objects had a little funeral around a broken glass, and then there was a revolt.
I emptied the cupboard and the refrigerator and had them marching out the door."
Next stop was the University of Vermont
, where Gittelsohn
pursued a parallel interest in folk and bluegrass music.
"That was extracurricular," he
had a radio show on the college station, WRUV, and in selecting records from the station's vast library, he
stumbled upon The Cats & the Fiddle, a black jive/swing vocal quartet from the '30s and '40s who accompanied themselves on guitar, bass, and tiple.
That sent Gittelsohn
over the edge.
bought a tiple (an obscure, 10-string instrument) and moved to San Francisco to play on the streets.
"I did that for eight months," he
says, "and then got into this trio doing Cats & the Fiddle songs.
I earned my living doing that for a year."
He enrolled at San Francisco State film school, earning, he says, "about a year's worth of credits," but returned to UVM to finish his bachelor's degree in mass communication.
first real job behind a camera was with WCAX-TV as a news videographer and editor for a year and a half.
He left to teach video production at Harwood Union High School and Middle School in South Duxbury.
found himself shooting from rooftops at two in the morning and editing with borrowed equipment when he
could steal the time.
This seems an unlikely beginning for a successful company, but it was a harbinger of the varied and unusual projects VIDEOsyncracies has taken on since then.
Gittelsohn lives in Queen City Park in Burlington with his
wife, Ellen, a part-time librarian who helps with marketing at VIDEOsyncracies.
Their son, Isaac, is in 10th grade, and Gittelsohn
has two grown children from a previous marriage: Claire, 22, who recently graduated from UVM
, and Elliott, 24, a - drum roll, please! - professional contortionist in San Francisco.
collects oddball instruments like tiple, tenor banjos, and banjo-mandolins, and has played with the Onion River Dixieland Jazz Band since the '80s.
Things are changing in the video world.
"Everything's being put on the Internet," he
says, "and people are used to getting things for free."
Someone of a different personality might feel threatened, but Gittelsohn
is taking it in stride.