The journey

Steam Media Productions had their beginnings because of Tony "Ashcat" Marsden's desire to share his passion for South African steam locos with other rail fans. Tony had worked on these giants during 1974 and 1982. The magic spell of the African continent and its railways operated with big time steam had enveloped him. Following a 1991 African filming trip, with encouragement and support of his two best friends Paul 'Hoppy' McDonald (who also fired SA steam in 1974) and Yuri Sos, Tony produced two VHS titles covering the 1991 South African Steam Festival. With Paul narrating Tony's footage, two sixty-minute productions chronicled regular service and heritage (preserved) steam locos on the 250km Kimberley - De Aar section of line.

These tapes were released in 1993 and sold Australia wide by ABC shops and in Victoria by the Railfan Shop and other rail hobby shops. They sold extremely well and their popularity meant that Steam Media had found the right formula for top selling rail videos. The underlying philosophy was to 'take the viewer trackside and let the trains do the talking'. Coupled with an informative yet unobtrusive narration, loco sound dominated. Music never has been, and never will be, used to drown out the loco beat or substitute for a lack of quality train sound.

Following the success of the SA tapes, "South East Salute" was released in 1994. It featured video footage shot by Tony in Victoria since 1983 of the then recently closed Yarram line. Regular service diesel hauled passenger and goods trains and steam hauled special trains formed the vision. Early in 1995 Tony and Yuri got together to watch footage of Victorian steam operations they had shot during 1994. Throughout the year when videoing a steam tour, the pair planned shooting locations to avoid both being in the same spot. As such they had great coverage of the year's steam operations on main and tourist lines. This viewing resulted in Tony, a tertiary trained video editor, producing a two-hour program which they called '1994 - The Victorian Year In Steam'. When watched by friends, the overwhelming consensus was that adding a narration by Paul would result in a very marketable product. A script was written and edited onto the footage. "The Steam Team", as the trio call themselves, had been formed and thus began what has become an annual production - with 2006 being the "lucky thirteenth" in the series and 2009 the sixteenth compilation. Each new release is eagerly awaited by railfans and for many it is a "must have" title.

Over thirty outlets now sell the productions which are also available for purchase "online" via PayPal.

Contributors and Equipment

From these humble beginnings, VYIS became the biggest selling locally produced steam video in Australia within two years. It has become a vehicle for videographers, who otherwise would not have had the chance, to publish their work and share it with others. Producing videos or DVDs for a small niche market is an expensive process. The generosity of the contributing videographers has meant their work can be enjoyed by a large number of people at a fair price.

Over the past 15 years we have been proud to showcase the talents of many of Australia's finest railway videographers and photographers via our productions and video covers. Most remain with us, however some have retired, moved interstate or are persuing other rail-related interests. New videographers are joining each year and we now have some 30 plus 'camerapersons' able to supply vision. Our principal videographers have included Tony Marsden, Yuri Sos, Trevor Staats, Bruce Williams, Geoff Hann, Asheleigh Marsden, Roger Tralaggan, Steve Molloy, Robert and Russell Withers, Dan Hancock and Rowan Kinnane. Contributors included Keith Buckland, Andrew McDonald, Colin Pike, Norman Crothers, Roni and Simone Marsden, Mike and Phil Etherton, Greg Goold, Warren Turner, Harold Blum, Chas Bevan, Peter Sweetten, Darren Olin, Chris Johnson, John Phillips, Graham Knight, Brett Greer, Adrian Power, Ian Bowles, Gavin Orr, Darcy Petersen, and Bianca Giri. The contributor's age spread is from teenage to septuagenarians.

Our cover slicks and disc faces are also an important aspect of our product presentation. We have also been privileged to have some of the top names in Railway photography allow us to use their works. Stuart Turnbull [Railscape], Peter J O Ralph, Bob Wilson, Steve Molloy, Geoff Hann, Alan Williams, Greg Tripplett, Paul and Andrew McDonald, Yuri, Christopher and Michael Sos, Peter Sweetten, Asheleigh Marsden, Peter Hann, Steve Bucton and Shane Moore have all provided photographs. The age spread here is from seven, YES seven to seventy! We are now also using still frames taken from High Definition video tape for slick pictures.

Our narrator for all productions has been Paul McDonald. Paul's understanding of rail operations and his intimate knowledge of steam locomotive working have greatly enhanced the narrations and the complete product. He has a real 'feel' for the work.

The videographers have always used "state-of-the-art" cameras, using digital cameras since 1996 (in fact taking delivery of the then brand-new Sony VX-1000s in 1996 from Sony's very first shipment to Melbourne). Currently our videographers use High-Definition (HD) Sony, Panasonic or JVC Digital Cameras with Sennheiser or Rode directional microphones. Our edit suite consists of a Mac Pro Tower computer with Superdrive and uses Twin Quad cores using Final Cut Pro & DVD Studio Pro software. Artwork & printing for the cover slicks is handled by Splitting Image Colour Studio in Clayton North.

Yuri and Susan Sos have been absolutely invaluable with business and marketing strategies. Yuri is also our website guru and you are now enjoying the fruits of his labour.

Above all, our wish is to share the excitement of steam with our viewers. Many railway staff ranging from administrators to footplate crews, tour operators, service crews, tourist railways and rolling stock restorers provide absolutely invaluable assistance with each production. Without them there would be nothing to film. We thank them most sincerely for their superb efforts to keep steam running - often in adverse circumstances. We also have very cordial relations with officials at various levels of State Government departments in the transport area who support our recording of the history. They arrange occasional access to areas not open to the public so that we may film notable events.

Tony Marsden is an accredited member of the Australian Video Producers Association.

Steam Media Productions is a registered business name and a trading name of Digital Directions Pty Ltd.

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