Transferring your precious VHS video tape cassettes to DVD involves more than our just copying whatever’s on the tape to a blank DVD disc.
When we convert your VHS video tape to DVD or to computer file here at SimplyDV in Milton Keynes we do more than just insert the tape into a domestic-standard VHS player (one that’s probably seen better days) and then copy the output to a blank DVD in a standalone DVD recorder that’s been bought from eBay. Oh no!
We actually perform a range of corrective processes to the video and audio as it’s being digitised to ensure that the picture and sound information is as it should be.
Videocassettes in standard PAL VHS and S-VHS recording formats, which come in large and small VHS-C type cassettes, and of course they’ll be of varying ages. In the main, VHS has always been a fairly robust videocassette format that has survived the test of tape – providing that the tapes themselves haven’t been stored in conditions that are are either to hot, too cold or (worst of all) too damp. If kept in normal domestic or commercial/academic environments the chances are that the quality of playback of sound and vision will be good.
However, they do need careful handling before loading to a professional-standard videocassette machine such as our trusty JVC BR-S822E Professional S-VHS VCR. This machine was designed for use in professional studio environments and was previously used in a videotape editing facility.
Initial tape care – what we do
When we receive videocassettes from customers who require the contents to be transferred to either DVD discs or to Windows PC and/or Apple Mac computer video files, we firstly check the actual tape in the cassette to ensure that there are no traces of moisture or white powder (the result of the shedding of the magnetic recording layer on the tape itself). We then insert the tape into a spare QA machine and fully wind, then fully rewind, the tape on the spools to make sure there’s no physical damage. If we’re in doubt, we’ll do this a couple of times. If there’s a break in the tape we’ll attempt to repair it by removing it from the cassette casing and making a clean splice.
Time-base correction and image processing
All videotapes – whether old analogue recordings or later digital ones – are dependent upon the belts and drive mechanics functioning properly when the tape is transferring from one spool to the other. However, tape itself is inherently unstable – and all videotape playback contains instability errors. If we were to copy direct from this with no corrective treatment then this would be re-recorded. That’s not acceptable – and will not improve the quality of your recordings in any way.
That’s why the off-tape signals need to be Timebase Corrected. We use a broadcast TV industry standard TBC from the British G2 Systems company; this strips the off-tape sync pulses and other control information and writes completely new ones.
That way, the signal to be re-recorded is like new – as it was before being recorded to the VHS tape in the first place.
At this stage we’ll also adjust the colour, black level and saturation (the amount of brightness in the image) prior to saving the new digital file into the system from where either a DVD disc or computer video file is saved.
Transcoding videocassette recordings from other countries
Our multi-standard timebase corrector, the G2 MSTC unit, enables to convert recordings made in other countries (eg: the USA where the NTSC video standard is used to make VHS recordings) into the European-wide PAL standard.
The electronics employed to make this possible are of broadcast TV standard and help to preserve all the recorded picture information contained on the original tape during transfer.
It also corrects the unstable off-tape playback characteristics described above.
If you’d like to know about the range of professional quality techniques employed at SimplyDV then please don’t hesitate to get in touch using the Contact page above.