Keeping our heads clean

The trouble with old, obsolete video tape formats is that they tend to deteriorate after many years of storage.

Composite image of video head cleaning in Sony U-Matic Video Reorder

Keeping video heads clean in obsolete videotape recorders is a necessity

This 1977 Scotch 3/4″ U-Matic tape containing a video recording from the University of California has dropout problems and an edge crease from about half-way through its 50 minutes length.

Creases and dropout will often deposit gunk onto the tiny video scanning heads and drum assembly, which requires a thorough clean before transfer. That’s not such a hassle with one tape but when there’s a whole boxful to do it’s a pain performing a full clean between transfers.

Look at the technology required to perform transfer of a tape format whose maximum record time was an hour! I predict that one day we’ll be able to record and store video on tiny devices that can fit into one’s pockets. I know – I saw it on BBC1’s flagship technology show Tomorrow’s World years ago!

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Ringing in the changes for 2015!

Where did 2014 go? Who knows – but look out for some exciting new deals soon at SimplyDV.

This year we’re introducing some changes to the core services we offer, and this principally involves a shift away from delivering digitised video recordings on DVD to file-based media. Don’t panic – we’ll still be offering DVD, but soon your choices will be greater.

It’s not just corporate and institutional clients who are asking for video files on either hard disc drives, flash media or via web-based dropboxes, but a high proportion of our private customers are asking for their home video recordings to be written as MPEG-4 video files in this form as well. The result is that the bulk of work undertaken during the latter half of 2014 was delivered to clients on portable USB Hard Drives or USB Flash Drives (“USB sticks”).

DVD discs are becoming unfashionable in an era when files can be stored in a manner that renders them accessible via Wi-Fi based home “media centre” systems. And, of course, video files can more easily be shared with family and friends in different parts of the world.

Soon, we’ll be updating the main website to include some extra-special bundle deals that includes digitising (to a professional standard, no less) AND the media on which clients will receive the files.

So…. watch this space. Meanwhile, Happy New Year and all that.

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Now we transfer Half-Inch Helical Scan EIAJ videotapes to digital formats

Getting that “old video recorder look” in software? No – we have the reel thing!

How funny – we’ve just received an email from Pixel Studios promoting a plugin for Final Cut Pro X (video editing software) called “ProVTR” which enables editors to turn their pristine, perfect HD video footage into something that looks like it’s played off an old video tape recorder.

Image of Sony AV3670E half-inch EIAJ videotape recorder in our state-of-the-art video digitising facility

One of our Sony AV-3670ACE half-inch helical scan VTRs

Why would we need that? Here at SimplyDV Towers we actually have the reel thing!!!

Here’s the latest acquisition – a Sony AV-3670ACE 1/2″ EIAJ-format Helical Scan VTR (videotape recorder) dating from 1973 and just serviced – one of two picked up from a man called Peter who has the very rare ability to restore these 40-year-old machines to good working order.

Look at the image more closely and you’ll see this very old piece of technology rubbing shoulders with the very latest new technology (a Blackmagic Design Teranex 2D proccessor) designed to improve and digitise video recordings. These two items of equipment have an age difference of 42 years! Truly, the old meets the new in order to perform a job that for many is a “once and for all” exercise.

Image of a reel of Sony 1/2" V60H EIAJ Helical Video Tape dating from 1978

A reel of Sony 1/2″ V60H EIAJ Helical Video Tape from 1978

By the way, those of you involved in the local Milton Keynes arts scene will be interested to see the label on the videotape – “Linford Festival 1978”. I didn’t shoot it even though I was working with the Milton Keynes cable TV station at the time, although it’s possible that I was there at the time. I can’t run it yet because the tape hasn’t played since then and will need baking for at least 24 hours at 60c to de-hydrolise it. I can’t wait to see it after all these years.

About the EIAJ Half-Inch Helican Scan “High Density” video recording format

This recording format was developed jointly by several main video brands in the 1960s and designed to give schools, colleges, businesses, military establishments and government agencies the ability to record and replay monochrome (black & white) video recordings at economical cost – at least compared to the technology used by broadcast TV companies at the time. Sony’s “High Density” format was the second format to be based upon half-inch monochrome technology, and was developed according to a specification agreed by the Electrical Industry Association of Japan (EIAJ) as a means of gaining interoperability between major manufacturers’ systems.

When used in combination with a second machine, the Sony AV-3670ACE recorder was capable of editing video sequences by re-recording clips supplied to it by the other VTR in playback mode and cutting clips together with minimal vertical sync interference.

What can we do for you?

If you have V30H or V31H reel-to-reel Sony half-inch videotapes dating from the 1970s that require transfer and conversion to a digital file format (DVD, MPEG-4/H.264 file, Apple ProRes422, 10-bit Uncompressed YUV 422 Quicktime, 8-bit Quicktime, Windows AVI, etc) for delivery back to you on DVD, hard drive, USB stick, etc., then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Colin at SimplyDV to discuss your requirements.


Please note that all old reels of the above will almost certainly not be fit to play when we first receive them. That’s because the tapes need a lengthy heat treatment process to fix the binder layer in the tape and to render them playable. Without this, our rare and precious machinery will be damaged. We there include the price of baking the tape in the total cost.

Price per transfer: £30.00 plus VAT per tape*. This excludes the cost of transfer media – such as hard drive, USB stick, etc., which is subject to separate quotation. Note that discounts will apply to transfer orders in excess of 10 units.

*Per hour of recorded material to be transferred. V62H reels run to approximately 60 mins, and V60H runs to approximately 40 mins. Please note that due to the amount of work involved in preparing EIAJ 1/2″ tapes for reproduction there is a minimum charge of £30.00 + VAT.

Credit where credit is due: Many thanks to Peter Smith of Crawley, Surrey, for the refurbs to these machines. Don’t retire Peter!

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Creating high-quality archive files with Teranex 2D

With the move to larger space now complete, we’re assembling a new Apple Mac-based video capture and editing system based around a Blackmagic Teranex 2D digital video processor.

Image showing the wiring up of our Blackmagic Teranex 2D video processing system

Wiring up the Blackmagic Teranex 2D video processing system

Although the Teranex 2D was acquired – and put to good use – before the move to our new suite at Milton Keynes Business Centre, it was hastily installed in order to enable the commencement of an important commission from the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. Now that we’re in our new home, it’s time to consider carefully how the system will be configured to suit our increasingly wide range of clients and their diverse requirements.

As has been observed by several visitors, SimplyDV achieves an interesting marriage of some very old video technology (some of which dates back to the mid-1970s) with the very latest new digital video processing hardware and software. Let’s be realistic; you need obsolete videotape recorders and players to reproduce decades-old recordings, but you need the latest processing technology to bring it to life in a digital world. So our new systems have to be designed in such a way that they can cope with the variety of tasks presented to us on a daily basis while at the same time facilitate ease of operability and control where fast-turnaround and quality control are also important considerations.

Upscaling from standard definition to high definition in real time

This revolutionary new video processing system not only enables us to convert videotape source material at very high quality (industry-standard television and professional library archiving formats) but also means that we can actually “upscale” good old-fashioned non-widescreen video (4:3 ratio standard definition television mode) into either 1280x720p or 1920×1080 “i” and “p” HDTV resolution video at 60, 30, 50 and 25 frame rates.

This does, of course, require the old-fashioned 4:3 ratio video to be stretched up to fill the much bigger screen resolution, but it does so in a way that doesn’t (for instance) turn a circle into an oval. Quite how it does it is anybody’s guess but the results are staggering. That’s why the Teranex system is now widely in use by TV companies, post-production houses, outside broadcast suppliers and of course us!

We’re currently in the process of creating some sample material which demonstrates the full power of the Teranex 2D system. If you’re managing an important video archive or simply wish to see what your personal video footage looks like at HD specification, please don’t hesitate to get in touch in order to discuss what we might be able to do for you.


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