End of the line for VCR production in Japan

As the last VHS video recorder rolls off the line in Japan, we have to consider the implication for those millions of video recordings that will soon be unplayable.

With the decline of VHS home video recorders now having been accelerated by the ceasing of production in Japan and elsewhere, it’s becoming even more obvious that people really need to consider the transfer of their analogue video tape recordings (on all formats – not just VHS) into a digital form.

See:¬†Japan ‘to stop making VCR machines’

There are lots of little businesses who’ll offer to do this very cheaply, but as lots of people have discovered you’ll not always get the best results. You get what you pay for, after all.

What’s needed for the best quality transfer is technology that operates to broadcast television standards; we use professional-standard videotape reproducers, ex-BBC TV timebase correctors and other quality control systems that maintain the technical quality of your precious recordings. We can even convert, in real time during the transfer, your old recordings into widescreen pictures that look good on your large flat-screen LCD TV.

According to major film and TV archives, the shelf-life of almost all ageing video and audio tape recordings is at best 15 years from now. Don’t leave it that long – contact us without delay!

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The risks of not digitising those home videos now

The clock is ticking for those old videotaped recordings. Soon you may never be able to view their precious contents.

Many UK households have a horde of old video cassettes. Some of them are full of off-air TV recordings of Neighbours or Home and Away but many of them might contain precious recordings of family members from years gone by. Did you know that time is running out for these taped recordings? Act quickly or you may never be able to view their contents.

VHS, Betamax, VHS-C and Video-8 Video Cassettes

Time is running out for those precious home video recordings.

It’s been said somewhere recently that we now have a maximum of 15 years to obtain digital copies of all of videocassette-based video recordings. This isn’t necessarily because of the deteriorating condition of the tapes themselves (although that’s certainly a consideration) but the mere fact that the majority of the videocassette recorders themselves will no long be in working order to play the tapes. This obsolescence of playback technology is undoubtedly the biggest threat to your video recordings. That’s why it’s important to act now.

When, like us, you provide a video digitising and archiving service to private and business users you find yourself in a position of having to maintain equipment that is – by any sensible person’s standards – obsolete in order play those old videocassettes reliably. It’s a battle, because the older they are the more likely it is that internal components likely to wear out or, worse still, fail altogether. That’s why machinery dating from the 1970s and 1980s really does need tender loving care and attention to keep running properly. Older machinery requires spare parts to remain functional; an equally big problem is that they require people with the expertise to service them. Both these are already in short supply – and this situation will obviously get worse with each new year. That’s why it’s estimated that we have 15 years to transfer all analogue videocassette recordings into the digital domain.

Image of Sanyo VTC5000 Betamax Recorder/Player

Betamax players are already a rarity

So, how does this impact on you? The chances that you or members of your family have video footage of family members at a young age, weddings, school performances and golden wedding anniversaries that risk being lost if they’re not brought into the digital domain very soon.

Common formats used for home video recordings include VHS (full sized cassettes and the smaller VHS-C cassettes that require an adaptor to fit into a full-sized VCR drive), Betamax, Video-8mm and Hi-8mm. VHS is obviously the most popular, but there’s a surprising number of home video movies on Video-8 cassettes; these have generally required a camcorder to replay the tape cassettes – but how many of these still work reliably? And who has a working model?

Reference to the 15-year window is perhaps slightly misleading because, in reality, the machinery required to replay the tapes will remain in the hands of professional users like us. For users like you it’s possible that the technology will have long disappeared.

Think about it – and contact us now. One day it will be too late.

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SimplyDV ends audio reel transfer service

In order to concentrate on doing what we do best, we’ve taken the decision to end our reel tape transfer service.

Image of a collection of studio master audio tapes in various sizes, including 10" NAB quarter-inch spools

A collection of studio master audio tapes in various sizes, including 10″ NAB quarter-inch spools

In addition to offering multiple format video transfers, which forms the core of our business, we have also been offering an audio transfer service here in Milton Keynes. For over three years we’ve facilitated the transfer to CD and digital file formats of 1/4″ reel-to-reel audio tape, standard audio-cassette and also MiniDisc and Micricassette. However, it’s proved to be a difficult service to offer alongside the video transfer business due to the constant attention demanded by ageing audio tape technology. In short, the cost of maintaining 35-year-old (and more!) tape machines is costing us more than the revenue we get from the transfers themselves, and as equipment becomes unserviceable at reasonable cost we are finding it difficult to maintain the service at all.

For that reason we have taken the decision to withdraw the facility completely. We’ll try to support existing customers where we can but regrettably we won’t be accepting new business with immediate effect. The reality is that keeping old analogue audio technology is expensive both in terms of replacement parts and the availability of the human skills required to keep these old beasts going properly.

It’s always disappointing to let people down when they have precious memories and valuable master tapes to preserve for posterity in digital form, and it’s a decision we haven’t taken lightly, but it’s something we have to do.

Apologies for this. However, if you need video transfer services you know where to come!

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More Broadcast TV specification equipment added

Some of our competitors will transfer your home video very, very cheaply. But ask yourself how – and why!

Image of Snell & Wilcox KUDOS TBC-11P Timebase Corrector

Our Snell & Wilcox KUDOS TBC-11P Timebase Corrector cleans up those dodgy off-tape recordings!

Believe it or not, there are people who will facilitate the transfer of your home video recordings to DVD for much less than reasonable pocket money. The secret is that they buy clapped out old video machines on eBay, hook a couple of cables into an old DVD recorder and present you with the results. But as we don’t want to give you nightmares we’ll leave it there.

Not at SimplyDV; we justify our prices by offering a professional result – and that means that off-tape video signals have to be properly stabilised and processed to ensure that the resulting digital video recording looks and sounds as you’d expect.

To that end, we’ve just acquired yet another bit of broadcast TV standard kit – a droolerific Snell & Wilcox KUDOS TBC-11P Timebase Corrector that not only strips and rebuilds the timebase and returns a sequence to broadcast TV spec but it also plays its part in reducing image noise too. It came from a regional TV broadcasting centre and was in use within 15 minutes of being installed today. It is helping to significantly stabilise and tidy up some very dodgy-looking off-tape VHS signals recorded over 25 years ago.

At SimplyDV we really do go that extra mile to ensure that our valued customers are happy bunnies!

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