Thursday, April 12, 2007

epic gamble















Ben bought a capture cam off Craigslist for seventy-five dollars, pretty much never used. Same day he brought it home, an error message occurred--"CONDENSATION, OPERATION PAUSED"--locking the camera up completely.

As he had purchased it locally, Ben went back to the seller, who agreed to refund his money. Then, on a whim, he offered her five dollars for the now valueless item; she accepted his offer.

Googling the error message proved fruitful. JVC's, it turns out, are famous for their oversensitive moisture sensors and terrible customer service. With nothing to lose, some folks had attempted to troubleshoot the problem themselves, and one website provided a hopeful solution. The site directs the camera owner to disassemble the housing and to unplug a certain wire from the circuitboard: a "hard" reset.

And with that, Ben had his five dollar, almost new, capture cam.

I was bidding low on a lot of "as-is" eBay cameras and losing, when I came across a promising Craigslist post for a JVC camcorder with error message. Asking price: $100. I inquired hopefully as to the specific model and error message, and it proved to be exactly the same as Ben's. So, same afternoon, I drove to the seller's house.

He was a teenager, and this camera was in rough shape. It had seen a lot of use. I calculated its actual value to him ($5) and its secret value to me (~$75), and made my offer: $25. "How about forty?" he countered. Next room over, within view, his mother was washing dishes and eavesdropping. I asked how much he had paid new. "Umm, about three hundred."

"It was a lot more than that," Mother chimed in, without looking up from her work. She wasn't going to let her son be taken advantage of, and she was also utterly clueless.

So I paid forty, knowing that if the hard reset worked, I had scored a tremendous deal, and if it didn't, that I had been beaten by a fifteen-year-old. But I could not have left without the camera, wondering. I had to know. That's what I was paying for, really: knowing.

...

I unplugged the wire and waited the prescribed five minutes before re-plugging, installed the battery, powered up, and no change: "CONDENSATION." Powered down, removed battery, unplugged, waited. Patiently.

After a full hour, I plugged in the cord. I installed the battery, and the camera made its familiar "Battery installed" chime. Then it chimed two more times, glitchy sounding, and then nothing.

Camera never turned on again.

...

I gave it to Ben, who intends to eBay it for scrap. In the meantime, he's loaning me his cap cam. However, Final Cut (the video editing program) has stopped working and needs to be reinstalled, and I left the disk in St Louis. Ben sent that out yesterday.

Once it arrives, I think things will move along swiftly. After everything is captured, I will throw together an "Editing Has Begun" trailer and post that up.

For the time being, I wait.