Glossary of Terms:
VHS is 240 lines of resolution. DV is 520 lines. HD is 720 to 1080 lines.
More resolution means a sharper image and greater detail. Hi8 and S-VHS are 400 lines.
Aspect Ratio: Refers to the display format – Square TV/SD = 4X3 while Rectangle TV/HD = 16X9
SD = Standard Definition or DV/Digital Video, while HD = High Definition or HDV/High Def.
Analog: Refers to a media source that is not digital, generally played back on a device.(VHS)
DVD/CD = Digital playback on a media disc. DVD’s hold 4.7gigs while CD’s hold 700 megs.
DVD/CD Burner: A stand alone deck that plays discs and records analog sources to discs.
DVD Drive: A disc drive in a computer or external that reads and may burn discs from files.
Digital Video/Audio Files: Archives and provides playback of media by computer or device.
(Partial list of these: .mov, .mp4. mp3, .wav, .avi, .wmv, .mp4a)
Media Player: A program that creates a tape player on your computer screen to play files.
Editing Software: Allows you to trim and arrange video or audio clips to make a master file.
Basic Summary of Media Formats and how they compare to each other:
Both DVD’s and Digital Files can vary in quality of image and ease of Indexing/sharing/playback.
BluRay discs play back in HD or SD, depending on the TV/Monitor and cable you are using. The device resolution can factor into the picture quality of an SD/HD file playback about as much as the format of the file itself can. BluRay or HD files played back on an HD TV/Monitor will look the best, while compressed SD files on small devices like phones will look the worst. Beauty is usually in the eye of the beholder, but side by side playback comparisons on the same viewing device account for the differences in cost of transfer and file size and archive rating.
DVD’s can record up to 6 hours of video footage. They can be made from a stand-alone DVD burner or a computer with a DVD-Writer disc drive. The best quality is the 1 hour setting on a DVD burner, and the worst is the 6-hour setting of a DVD burner. There is no difference in quality between a 2-hour speed DVD burner recording vs a computer made DVD from an uncompressed digital .mov file. Here’s the link to the Glossary of Terms if helpful now. A DVD burner recording of more than 3 hours is actually lower quality than a 2 hour speed VHS. You may remember VHS had 3 different speeds at one point. As with DVD’s, the 2-hour speed VHS recording is much higher quality than the 6-hour speed recording.
Only Re-Writable DVD’s do not need to be finalized for playback or file transfer, although we have been able to playback not finalized Mini-DVD’s from Sony camcorders on our Sony DVD burner which is used for playback of DVD’s only Some DVD’s will playback at least partially in a DVD burner that a computer will not recognize at all.
Digital files can be SD or HD. Most consumer tapes recorded in the 4x3 aspect ratio, which means a square-ish TV. HD changed to aspect ratio to 16x9, which matches Hollywood movies. You all remember letterboxing of VHS movies while we waited for switch to 16x9 TV’s.
A full quality SD file is in found in Apple’s .mov format uncompressed. This means an hour of video will take up about 12 gigs of memory. This is hard to share and usually requires an external hard drive to store these files. Most people who want to share movies through devices like phones and laptops will need the files to be compressed – usually to the format of Youtube which is MP4, which is also a version of .mov, but it only uses about 500 megs for every hour of video footage. The smaller the file, the lower the quality of the playback.
HD MP4 files are slightly higher quality than a full sized SD .mov file, but the difference in aspect ratio can make 4x3 transfers to HD not worth the extra expense and trouble. We use special capture settings to achieve more compatibility between aspect ratios if you are going to be editing the two of them together as part of your project, but it is priced higher due to software costs. HD files use up around 45 gigs for 1 hour of video footage.
A DVD is also a compressed version of the original playback, with a few tricks to make it appear the same quality as the original tape or the full sized .mov file, but it is not. A DVD can be also be “Ripped” using the correct software and hardware and converted to .mov or .avi or .wmv, usually for editing the footage. This is usually easier on a Mac vs a PC. To make a file that is compatible with some PC’s, we have to interview you on your computer and windows versions to make sure the file can be edited when that is your goal. This step costs extra, but you can do it yourself if you are really good with formats and running file conversion programs and apps.
“What’s The Best Way to Digitize Your Video Tapes?”
Basically there are 2 options: DVD or Computer File (Like a Youtube video)
Advantages to DVD:
- Easy to organize, more universal to share, safe from hard drive crashes
Advantages to Files:
- Easier to edit footage, easier to share on social media, all in one place.
You have to consider the technical level of the people who you will be sharing the media with. Some people do both DVD and files to cater to multiple age groups and media preferences.
Files can be in multiple formats, but some formats take up more space than others, and some are more compatible with certain types of computers and operating systems. We will match the format to your equipment and include copies in formats that will work for others as well if you have an older computer or require a certain format for your editing software.
We can also help you figure out what is best for you, just contact us. We offer complete or partial services and will study your situation to determine what options will be best for your goals and uses. Generally, converting to files will be a bit more expensive.
Why choose us? Your order will be done by one of three owners/technicians who have a vested interest in the quality of work and reputation of this small company, and have actually used these formats and have learned the best ways to get the optimum quality out of the playback/format. This is very important because the quality of the tape transfer is mostly determined by the playback machine and it’s compatibility with the tape.
Filmstrips are transferred by using a projector and a Tele-Cine apparatus which employs a special glass mirror and diffuser. The projector is variable speed to allow for matching the frame rates of the broadcast camera used to capture the image. Since the movies are in 4x3 aspect ratio, the cheapest transfer is in using a 4x3 SD format professional camera. We use the JVC GY-5000 because it was the best low-light camera every made in the SD line, and it can pick out images in film that you can’t even see with your eyes when projecting under exposed film, and it’s color processing CCD’s are incredibly vibrant and crisp. The film can be shot with a broadcast HD camera as well, and if you are going to make photos from or blow-up the footage, or you want the very best, the higher cost may be worth it. We use the JVC HD 200 and convert to H.264 for maximum compatibility.
Here is a comparison of our transfer vs the company that does conversions for the national drug store chains:
In the world of audio, a CD holds 79 minutes of audio content or 700 megs of data. Some cassettes and reel to reel tapes hold a bit more than that, so fitting that perfect mix tape onto a single CD may not be physically possible. We usually do what fits on the first CD and side B in it's entirety on a second CD unless you specify that you would like it a different way.
Making MP3’s will allow you to keep any length programs together in the same playback, but you do sacrifice some audio quality over the .wav file that a cd generally uses for fidelity. Wave files are usually 10 times larger than MP3 files of the same length, which is why itunes and other digital music providers sell songs in this format. You can make a CD from MP3’s, but it will not make the music sound any better. LP's are usually around 40 minutes long, and in some cases you can .
We can use special software to final-process vinyl transfers that greatly reduces cracks and pops without sacrificing much of the original fidelity, and some think these recordings actually sound better than the CD’s that were originally made in the 80’s and 90’s. Adding tracks to audio CD’s costs more than just recording a cassette/LP side as a single track. Reel to Reel tapes can involve speed changes and editing to extract the good content, and we work with you to identify what is valuable and what is not. We also have playback equipment for DAT and Mini-disc recordings, as well as micro and mini cassettes.
Movie films, slides, photos and negatives are all transferable here as well, and each requires different equipment and procedures. We also offer image restoration which is different than our professional optimizing which is applied to all slides, negatives and photos. There are no transfer limitations on number or various sizes of originals, and you can mix and match between formats when making picture to music movies or family history movies. Images larger than 8x10 will cost more than the standard fees.
The basic service involves scanning your images and creating JPEG images that store on your computer and can be viewed on the computer monitor/tablet/phone and loaded into slideshow software for display on these items as well. These can be emailed but usually returned to you on a flash drive or CD/DVD.
The other option is to take those files and make a movie of the images which is often set to narration or music. There is an additional charge for this additional work, but if you have ever seen one of these you know the impact it can have for someone. Generally the image appears for 2-6 seconds depending on the music and type of presentation. A youth sports highlight slideshow will generally move quicker than old black & whites of the ancestors.
Photo Restoration or general Photoshop work is billed at $30/hr and you can send us a picture or scan of the original for an estimate of how much we can improve it and the approximate cost.