School Anniversary Videos: Hong Kong in the Seventies and Eighties

These are videos I made to celebrate various school anniversaries of SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School.

1. 45th Anniversary Video: How to Build a School

This short video looks back on the first 45 years of SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School. To cram 45 years of school life into the two-and-a-half minutes, I chose to present the video as a kind of how-to guide for developing a strong school. A school should start with a sense of vision and mission, and there needs to be a campus, caring teachers and dedicated staff. However, a school is really about the students, about the things they experience, the things they learn, the things they discover and, most importantly, the people they become. Therefore, this video is dedicated to all the students who have joined us over the years.

One of the scary but satisfying things of being a teacher is to see students grow up. They arrive here when they are around 12 years old and before you know it, they have graduated and are off to pursue further studies, develop careers and follow their dreams. They take with them their memories, but they leave behind a kind of shared culture, they leave behind a tradition for the next generation of students to build upon. This is the message I tried to express at the end of the video. There are tons more photos I had wanted to include, but time was limited. I was asked to produce a two-minute video so the images fly by quite quickly at times and I was forced to leave out some interesting photos. Hopefully. I will be able to add them in future videos. I hope you enjoy this video.

The music is Kate Kwok’s performance of her own piano arrangement of I Vow to Thee My Country by Gustav Holst (which he had adapted from the main theme of the Jupiter movement from his orchestral work, the Planets). We recorded that the year before making the video.
Kate Kwok: I Vow to Thee My Country. The intro song is from one my own songs: Dreams.
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1970s School Memories

This is a video I created documenting the school life of a secondary school in Hong Kong during the 1970s. It was produced for the school’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

Things I Learned

The video was an interesting project to work on because it gave me some insight into some of the changes that had taken place in Hong Kong since the 1970s. When editing the sports part, I used a lot of long shots (in terms of both distance and time) because the backgrounds were interesting. The community sports stadiums had dirt running tracks that seemed to be nestled up against tenement buildings. Some of the images feature what looks like a time-keeping van from the Omega watch company. Nowadays even the most basic stadiums have artificial tracks and automated time-keeping systems, and a lot of the tenement buildings seen in the photos have long since been torn down.

It was also interesting to see how the school rules have become more controlling over the years.  Nowadays, male students must keep their hair short, female students with shoulder-length hair or longer must tie it up and dresses must be below-the-knee (the teachers in the discipline section at our school our kept very busy monitoring uniforms and punishing offenders). In the photos from the 70s, in contrast, a lot of the boys have long hair, few girls have tied up their hair and the skirts are sometimes way above the knee.

Teenagers in Hong Kong in the seventies were also a lot more tanned! When I was retouching the photos, I was always thinking “”Why are the people so dark? Are my settings for brightness, exposure or levels wrong?” I eventually came to the conclusion that most students just had darker complexions back them. The seventies would have been before before PCs, widespread use of air-conditioning and shopping malls in every district. There weren’t so many reasons to stay indoors, so my theory is that students were just outside more often. As well, in the last couple of decades the cosmetics industry in Asia has been focusing a lot more on skin-whitening products, emphasizing an existing cultural bias towards fair complexions.

It was fun to remember the 70s fashions. I’ve always been unfashionable, so I never got into any trends when I was growing up during the seventies, but it was interesting to see all those staples of 70s fashion—bell-bottoms (even the school uniform trousers were flared), long and wide collars and boldly patterned jackets.  There were also a couple of fashion trends that I don’t remember or that were unique to Hong Kong; I don’t recall eye-glasses being so big or white turtlenecks being so popular.

Here is a shorter video showing just the fashions:

Producing the Video

The video was edited using Premiere Pro CS4.

When editing the video, I aimed to create a nostalgic feeling by creating a montage of video footage and photographs of the school during the seventies accompanied by Hong Kong music from the 1970s. The first obstacle I encountered was that no such video footage exists. There are a few rolls of Super 8 film from 1980 (I will get some of these developed this summer) and a collection of video tapes starting from 1990.

The collection of photos was also problematic. There weren’t that many photos, most of them were unlabeled, a lot of them were tiny (just slightly larger than the size of passport photos) and many were in rough shape—covered with scratches, tears and dust marks. The negatives were in even greater disarray, so I chose to scan the photos using a flat-bed scanner set at a high resolution (600 dpi) and 200 percent of the original size. The resulting files were huge, but the large sizes made it easier to retouch the photos.

The photos were retouched in Photoshop using various methods:

  • I adjusted the brightness, contrast and levels, sometimes altering things like exposure and gamma (and sometimes doing colour correction for the few colour photos).
  • All the photos needed noise reduction to reduce speckles, spots and scratches. This was done by using the ‘dust and scratches’ filter and the. clone tool. Occasionally, the smart blur feature was used to get rid of speckles on plain backgrounds.
  • Sometimes drastic surgery was required. For, example if an image of someone was missing a right eye, the persons left eye would be copied and moved to the appropriate place and reversed.
  • A couple of  photos were covered in white spots produced by the light from the scanner highlighting the grain of the photo paper.  The technique used to remove most of the spots was to scan the same image upside down, rotate it 180 degrees, paste it as a layer over the original image, auto-align the two images and then change the blending mode to darken.

Some of the images needed to be rotated, but this was done in Premiere Pro because I did not want to worry about having to crop important parts of photos.

Music

The music soundtrack includes English and Cantonese songs recorded in the seventies by Sam Hui (Hui Koon-kit), Paula Tsui (徐小鳳), The Wynners (溫拿), Frances Yip (葉麗儀) and Roman Tam (羅文). Needless to say, compiling the soundtrack required a fair amount of research. If you are interested in learning more about the music selected for the  video, I’ve written an article on that here: Soundtrack to School Memories in the Seventies.
 

3. Super Video: 10th Anniversary Celebration

This is a video I created in October 2010 using old Super 8 footage from SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School’s 10th anniversary celebrations held in in November 1980. The video was produced for the school’s 40th anniversary celebrations and is the second in a series of promotional videos

These Super 8 video clips were recorded during the school’s tenth anniversary celebrations in November 1980. It is the only video footage from the school’s first thirty years (the camera operators are unknown). This video features almost every clip from seven of the eight original reels of film (each real contained about two-and-a-half minutes of film). The type of Super 8 film used for these recordings cannot record sound. All sounds and music were added in the editing process.The following tracks were used as background music:

  1. Dustin O’Halloran – Opus 36
  2. Gackt – Returner
  3. Epik High – Forest
  4. Joe Hisaishi – Theme from Princess Mononoke
  5. Kostas Pavlidis – Spread Your Wings and Fly
  6. 楊庶正 – 祝福太平山 (performed by the Lam Woo’s Intermediate Girls Choir)
  7. Hon See-wah – Erhu Solo
  8. Michael Nyman – Peeking
  9. The Brilliant Green – Goodbye and Good Luck

Related Videos

Here are silent versions of individual scenes:
Lam Woo Pom Poms

 

Lam Woo Lion Dance

 

Gymnastics Dance Routine

 

The following footage did not suit the 10th Anniversary Celebrations, so I uploaded it separately:
1980 Speech Day (Unedited footage of the school’s speech day held during the anniversary celebrations. A recent version of the school hymn being performed by the school’s mixed voice choir is used as the audio track.The film quality is not good because the lighting conditions were not suitable for shooting with that kind of camera at such a distance (the camera appears to be have been positioned on the balcony at the back of the hall). In addition, the film has deteriorated over the last thirty years and almost all colour information has been lost (the whole film had turned reddish). Basically, I just tried to make the scene visible by working with various effects relating to light (mainly luma correction).

 

Photographs

The scanned photos seen during the end credits of the main video can be downloaded from the following flickr page:

www.flickr.com/photos/43402751@N08/sets/72157625071330071/

 

About the Editing Process

The images were edited using Premiere Pro and After Effects CS4. The photos were retouched in Photoshop CS3.

In June, I found eight small reels of developed (and very degraded) film in a paper bag, at the bottom of a big plastic container full of old photographs from the 70s and 80s. The container itself was at the bottom of a cupboard. Our TA, Cherry, helped me track down a local company that could do a telecine transfer (i.e., create digital files from film stock)—Last Coyote Productions. When I looked at the converted ANI files, I was really disappointed. Ideally, Super 8 film should be stored in cool (just above freezing) and dry temperatures. Thirty years in the steaming climate of Hong Kong had taken its toll on the film stock. The pictures were grainy, muddy, dark and purplish—basically just shadows moving around in a purple murk—and marred by scratches, flickering, bright red flashes and squirming lilac squiggles. And there was no sound. (I didn’t know that only some kinds of Super 8 film record sound).

Each reel contained about two-and-a-half minutes of film. This is why the editing sometimes seems a little choppy. A lot of the shots were very short (just a few seconds), presumably because the video camera operators were trying capture long events in a few minutes of film.

Almost all the usable clips from seven of the reels are included in this video. The eighth reel features the speech day, which mainly consists of recordings of (silent) speeches and students receiving awards. That has been uploaded separately.

I’m still not satisfied with the images (the colours seem washed out), but they are a lot better than they were at the beginning. Fortunately, I soon learned to appreciate the flaws in the footage. The graininess gave the shots texture. Squiggles added movement and colour to the scene. Flashes could be synchronized to musical cues. Once I learned to embrace the decay and degradation, all was well.

Original Film (Left) and Final Product (Right)

I did learn a lot about the different colour applications in Premiere Pro and After Effects.


~by longzijun

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4 thoughts on “School Anniversary Videos: Hong Kong in the Seventies and Eighties

  1. Regarding your comment on the students being darker before because of reasons which also pertain to that ever so known asian skin bios, I saw the same in South East Asia. Being a mixed raced western this once in Cambodia a make up artist made me look white, and I had to ask her to remove the make up in the end and give me my money back when I saw the result. When cultural just means that it’s prejudiced and backwards you do not have to respect one dime of it, it’s quite the opposite to that in fact! Cambodian women themselves have already gone through enough discrimination because they are tanned, for me to get there and accept to be whitened myself! I am moving to Hong Kong now and I swear to God that if someone does the same to me there I will snap like big freaking time!!
    Nice article by the way, very interesting indeed!

  2. Interesting post. I am dark-brown-skinned and was in Hong Kong just last week for vacation. It’s a very civilized place, technologically advanced and all that. However, the people though cultured and law-abiding tend to come across as ruder than Chinese mainlanders, which is probably because of their busy lives. The mainlanders seem to me to treat most foreigners with respect compared to Hong Kongers. It began with people at the customs asking a lot of questions about my intent of visit, how much cash I was carrying etc. Of course, I didn’t notice the Europeans being asked anything. When my Chinese girlfriend asked them why were they asking so many questions they stated that it was just random. Yep, very random. Then, the people serving at the restaurants hardly smiled. The people at stores didn’t even look you in the eye when you handed them cash.

    Progress at what cost?

    • Quite a few people have complained about discriminatory treatment by custom’s officials. About staff behaviour at restaurants and shops–that is more or less the local style. I guess it is viewed as “not standing on ceremony” and as being more “sincere” (e.g., not saying ‘have a nice day’ when you really don’t care whether the customer has a nice day). Personally, I prefer friendlier service. Though there is still a lot of room for improvement, customer service is already a lot better that when I first came here about twenty years ago.

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