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"Over California: A Public Television Presentation" (1994)

A humble documentary overlooking the beautiful spots in California...back in 1994.

Over California title screen

"California—it is a nation in itself."
— Jim Cissell, Narrator


It's the thirty-year anniversary for the release of this VHS tape, Over California, and given all that has changed and is currently going on in this golden state, perhaps it's time we look at how this state was documented and portrayed back in 1994. A lot of us, especially current residents, would look and laugh while a few of us yearn to see the state it was, not seeing how it is. Anyway, let's take a look.

As you may have guessed, it's aerial shots and views of the lush areas in California. Many landscapes and areas have changed by now, but this showcases areas seen and seldom seen. This visual tour is broken down into parts and they are as follows:

  • The Natural North: St. George Reef Lighthouse, Humboldt State University, Ferndale, Mendocino, Crescent City, Redwood National Park, Lassen Park, Alturas, Lava Beds National Monument, Glass Mountain, Shasta Lake, Anderson Valley
  • Over California - The Natural North

  • The Bay Area: Palace of Fine Arts, City Hall, Golden Gate Park, Fisherman's Wharf, Oakland, San Jose, University of California-Berkeley, Candlestick Park
  • Over California - The Bay Area

  • The Sierra Nevada: Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Mono Lake, Sequoia National Park
  • Over California - The Sierra Nevada

  • The Central Valley: Merced, Sacramento, Redding, Chico, Fresno, Bakersfield, Tehachapi-Mojave
  • Over California - The Central Valley

  • The Los Angeles Area: Santa Monica, Malibu, Newport Beach, UCLA, Loyola Marymount University, Pepperdine University, University of Southern California, St. Mary's College, Corona Del Mar, Long Beach, Venice Beach, Pacific Palisades, Universal City, Pasadena, Knott's Berry Farm, Disneyland
  • Over California - The Los Angeles Area

  • The Desert: Lone Pine, Ubehebe Crater, Scotty's Castle, Furnace Creek, Artist's Palette
  • Over California - The Desert

  • The Central Coast: Morro Bay, Hearst Castle Pigeon Point, Pismo Beach, Santa Cruz, Pebble Beach, Carmel, Monterey, Santa Barbara, The Mission of Santa Barbara
  • Over California - The Central Coast

  • Southern California: Palm Springs, Salton Sea, San Diego, North Island Naval Air Station, Mission Beach, Sea World, Balboa Park
  • Over California - Southern California
I'm sure you, and/or someone you know, recognize these cities shown on the film. As someone currently [still] living in California, I recogize a lot of the area—namely the SoCal area since that's where I'm at. As shameful as this sounds, there are parts of California, mostly the northern parts and the desert, which I've never visited nor heard of. It's great that they get shown and documented on this film.

That's the best thing about films like this: Not only is the cinematography neat but you get a brief little history on the development and discovery of these places. Let's all admit: We take our city, or wherever you currently reside, for granted. There truly is many pretty places to see and explore. Once again, this film was released 30 years ago and some places have changed by then, but this VHS is a good companion to look back and see places as ideas to visit and bask in. We're sure YouTubers specializing in travel, along with those who drive and find food places to eat and review, will take note of films like this.

As for the cinematography, this was obviously before the days of drones and shot via helicopters. We're sure if they made a 30th anniversary updated edition of this, drones will be implemented and likely be shot and released in 4K. Speaking of resolution, according to the VHS description, this was originally shot in high definition but letterboxed for this presentation. Why not standard definition widescreen? Anyway, the musical scores fit nicely with the shots and the narration; They're nice to listen to.

I'd say this is one of those tapes shown in classrooms teaching California History, Geology or one of those films playing on loop at a small convenient stores selling these niche VHS tapes (DVDs didn't come until later).

Looking at the credits, it seems this movie was shot using both Sony and Canon cameras. I make mention of that because both the cinematography and photography communities make baseless, and time-wasting, arguments about which brand and their cameras are better—"Sony vs Canon." Seriously, how uptight and how low is one's self-esteem in order to make such arguments? Are these "content creators" unhappy about their purchases? I could go on but it's great this film gave credits to both brands and used their cameras indiscriminately. Also, big credits to the [online] video editors for color-matching the footage using different-branded cameras! The film then credited Pinnacle Systems which I believe was the software they edited this on. I was expecting Avid, or even Edius, but hey, the editing still looked good regardless.

I could make time to talk about the scenic views but they are better seen than read. We'll let you enjoy that part.

I'd say this was a great one-hour documentary looking at California back in the days when it was the place to live. Given the current social, economic and political situation, let alone the high costs, it's either relocating somewhere else or taking back the beauty this state was known for. I'm no expert in social and political commentary so we'll leave that to those who know. I mean, look at this:

"San Francisco has one drawback: It's hard to leave."
— Jim Cissell, Narrator


Oh Jim, if only you knew...thirty years later. I wish all the best and extreme safety to those residing in San Francisco, given the goings-on right now.

Another thing Narrator Jim said bares quoting, and this was near the end of the movie:

"One Californian simply put it this way: 'California IS America.'"
— Jim Cissell, Narrator


You be the judge of that.

Given that this film was in dedication to Chas C. Pingry, I'd say this movie was well done. Well edited, and the presentation stuck with its goal. This is one of those movies you'd watch and cozy up to on a Friday night, while everyone is out partying and getting in trouble with the law. We rather have peace and quiet, and this movie fits the bill. Given that this was originally shot in HD, we're sure this was released on Blu-ray. If that's the case, we will watch and review it here on KCU Network!

Thank you Jeff Gentes, Tak Yamada, KCTS Television and the rest of the crew! Highly recommended!

Full broadcast of Over California on KCU Plus!
(Click image above to watch the full documentary here at KCU + Plus!)

FEATURE PRESENTATION5/5

ARTWORK5/5

CONTENTS5/5

QUALITY5/5

PLUSES
  • An underrated documentary showcasing the beauty of California.
  • Released and previously aired on public television.
  • Amazing aerial shots via helicopter.
  • Great narration with a brief history about some cities.
  • Beautifully crafted—editing, musical score, voiceover and cinematography.
MINUSES
  • Despite being originally shot in HD, the presentation is in letterbox format, not true widescreen.
100% (A+)
Fan Rating
PROFILE
Title Over California: A Public Television Presentation
Description "All scenery in Californa requires distance to give it its highest charm."
- Mark Twain, Roughing It

OVER CALIFORNIA is an exhilarating journey above a landscape of contrast. Photographed entirely from the air over the course of a year, powerful high-altitude images reveal the special beauty and magic of the mountains, deserts, vineyards, coastline and cities that are the state of California.

The intimate sense of place is enhanced by the original stereo soundtrack. OVER CALIFORNIA was originally shot in High Definition Television. To retain its panoramic perspective, it is presented in letterbox format for home television use.
ISBN / Bar Code number 1-882949-28-5 / 7 51601 90063 2
Video Format 1.33:1 (4:3) / Letterboxed
Audio Format Stereo
Tape Count One (1)
Genre Documentary / Travel / Special
Length 58 minutes. Actual time: 1:02:59
Language(s) English
Subtitles --
Closed Captioning ???
Rated --
VHS Release 1994
Specification Color
Executive Producer Jeff Gentes
Director of Photography/Producer Marc Pingry
Music Director Denny Gore
Photograph ©Reg Morrison/Wingstock/Comstock.
Production / Company KCTS Television in affiliation with Weldon Owen Publishing, San Francisco
Product / Item Number ???
Copyright © 1994 KCTS Television, 401 Mercer Street, Seattle, WA 98109.
1-800-937-5387. All Rights Reserved.
Other Formats DVD, Blu-ray (???)
Quoted Reviews --
Other The OVER CALIFORNIA television special was produced by KCTS Television in affiliation with Weldon Owen Publishing, San Francisco. Other programs in the series include OVER WASHINGTON, OVER NEW ENGLAND, OVER FLORIDA and WASHINGTON, D.C.: OUR NATION'S CAPITAL.

Major funding for OVER CALIFORNIA was provided by Kendall-Jackson Vineyards and Winery. Additional funding was provided by public television viewers.
Credits
Executive Producer
JEFF GENTES



Director of Photography/Producer
MARC C. PINGRY



Music Director
DENNY GORE



Narrator
JIM CISSELL



Field Producer
LESLIE RUGABER



Video Engineers:
CLIFF HILLHOUSE
C.R. CAILLOUET
TAKUYA OKADA



Helicopter Pilots:
GLEN BELL
RICHARD WHITBECK
WAYNE RICHARDSON



Fixed-Wing Pilot
ROBERT CAMPBELL
Helio-Vision



Composer/Arrangers:
ARMANDO COMPEAN
MICHAEL LYNCH
JEFF TASSIN
JIM COILE
SCOTT MacGOUGAN
TOM KELLOCK
JAMES VARLEY



Additional Musicians:
TOM HOPKINS
ROBERT PUFF
JAY ROBERTS
MATT HARRIS



Audio Post & Mixing
BILL FAST



Graphic Designers:
ELLEN DITMANSON
TAMAKI SHIMURA



For NHK Hi-Vision/Tokyo:



Executive Producer
TAK YAMADA



Senior Producer
NOBUO ISOBE



Producer
ELKE TITUS



NHK Enterprises Post Producer
USHIO OTSUYAMA



NHK On-Line Editors:
DAISUKE MAENO
TAKURO AKAIDA
KATSUHIKO ITO



Special Thanks to:
HD VISION / JON McDONALD
TYLER CAMERA SYSTEMS / CHRIS TYLER
PUGET SOUND HELICOPTERS
LAS VEGAS HELICOPTERS
JETCOPTERS
SONY HDTV / MARC DAIGLE
CANON USA / JOE PATTON
PINNACLE POST PRODUCTION
LAVA BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
HEARST SAN SIMEON
STATE HISTORICAL MONUMENT
ST. FRANCIS YACHT CLUB
NAOKO TAKEDA / TOMOKO YAMANE



Dedicated to
CHAS C. PINGRY



A Production of
KCTS Television/Seattle
in association with
NHK Broadcasting/Tokyo



© KCTS Television 1994
All Rights Reserved

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