So long Michael Vitti
Day 1 of NAB of 2009 and the terrible news filtered through that Michael Vitti had died.
Michael was the leader of the New York City Final Cut Pro User Group , also known as the Moving Pictures Collective of NYC. He was an integral member of the digital video scene and the news blasted through the Final Cut community as details emerged that on the Monday morning of NAB, at 12.06am, Michael Vitti was found dead at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.
I first got to know Michael in 2002. The digital video scene was young, the enthusiasm was red hot for this medium which made fimmaking affordable and accessible to anyone keen enough to invest in the technology and spend the time to learn how to use it. New York already had a Final Cut User Group - though it stopped and started and didn't really kick off with regular meetings until Michael stepped in. From that point on, until this week, Michael ran meetings, he was active on web forums, the Moving Pictures Collective newsletter went out regularly, and New York City had a focus for digital filmmakers and Final Cut users to meet, keep in touch, and interact both in person and on the internet.
I was told the news by Daniel Berube, head of the Boston Final Cut Pro User Group. Dan had tears in his eyes as he told me the terrible news. Time stopped and NAB blurred and I couldn't care less about all the technology the world had to offer, jammed into the Las Vegas Convention Center. Could I really get excited about a product that converted video from one format to another, or lens adapters, lighting or anything else that the convention center halls had to offer? A friend and colleague was gone, and with his passing went so much enthusiasm and so much energy for someone who loved the image making process and loved to share the knowledge and talk about it and live it.
At first the news was so patchy it sounded like foul play or something sinister though the truth revealed that it wasn't anything as horrible as that. Michael had been taking stills at an event - and while doing so he decided he needed another lens. He literally ran through the corridors of Caesar's Palace back to his hotel room and whilst running had a heart attack... he died, age 42.
It's a cliché to say this but he really did die doing what he loved. For Michael to die using all his energy to get a lens to create more images seems nothing but a testament to his enthusiasm and love for producing images. This doesn't lessen the pain for those who loved and knew him, though at least it takes the edge off that pain as right up until his last moments he was putting everything he had into his work and his art and his love for photography.
Many people spoke words of tribute for Michael. At the 8th Annual FCPUG Supermeet for NAB 2009 the entire event was dedicated to Michael Vitti. Words poured out about how giving Michael was - how he always had something to contribute - his passion was there for image making and being a part of the community and giving whatever he had to the community which he loved and which loved him back.
I remember early 2003. I was marketing my first book which I had self-published. I sold 100 copies at one of the trade shows in New York and had another 100 in a box which weighed more than I could manage. Michael carried that box through the streets of New York City with me, into Grand Central Station, then noticing my train into New Jersey was leaving in 5 minutes he ran with me carrying that box down flights of stairs deep into the subway to get me on my train. I jumped through the doors and Michael pushed my box of books onto the train just as those doors slammed shut. I mouthed thanks and waved through the glass as the train moved away.
Now Michael's train has pulled away and he will be absolutely missed by everyone that knew him. I'm in New York in a week. I had fully intended to meet with Michael as I did a year ago in NYC after NAB 2008. He was talking at the time about what he could do to take his project further with the Moving Pictures Collective. He was enthusiastic and frustrated - wanting to do so much and yet limited, as we all are, by the means and resources available, yet so keen, so wanting to do more and more for the community and to make things happen for filmmakers and artists who love the creative process and technology which makes so many things possible.
So long Michael Vitti. May you shine bright from above looking down as we struggle forward remembering your smile, that camera swinging around your neck, and the love you shared for the community which you were a part of which has now lost something that is truly irreplaceable.