Professional format transfers – now with added Teranex!

As another volume transfer assignment nears completion we have Blackmagic’s Teranex 2D processor to thank for the quality of the 10-bit uncompressed Quicktime master files.

Screen grab showing Blackmagic Design's Media Express capture and clip management software in use

Blackmagic’s proprietary Media Express video capture and file management software during the capture process.

As this post goes to press (so to speak) we’re close to completing a volume capture of approximately 86 hours of World War Two archive film on video for the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, Cambs. The unique and rare footage of USAF operations over Europe between 1939 and 1945 arrived at SimplyDV Towers on a mixture Betacam-SP, DVCAM and even MiniDV tapes. The brief from our client at IWM was to digitise the professional-quality wartime films and more recent videotapes containing interviews with veterans to huge Uncompressed 10-bit Quicktime YUV 4:2:2 files for master file archiving and also for later use in exhibition presentations for the IWM’s soon-to-be-refurbished American Air Museum on the site.

Tape sources were played back with either our a Sony DigiBeta or DVCAM VCRs using either YUV Component analogue or (where appropriate) SD/SDI video/audio embedded connections into our new BlackMagic Design Teranex 2D digital converter & processor which did the real-time conversion of the tape content to 10-bit Uncompressed video files. From there, the data was fed to high-speed SSD drives mounted in a newly-acquired Blackmagic Design MultiDock system. The two devices were daisy-chained by 10Gbps Thunderbolt connections into our main Apple Mac capture & editing system.

On reviewing the whole job, which is set for delivery to the IWM on Western Digital 4TB USB3.0 hard drives, the Teranex 2D unit has been fantastic and far exceeds our expectations – both in terms of the quality of the uncompressed video files and also in terms of its intuitive physical and software-based controls. Throughout the assignment, which has taken almost three weeks to complete, neither the Teranex nor the MultiDock SSD store let us down at any stage.

One major advantage of generating master files as 10-bit uncompressed Quicktime 4:2:2 files is that any post-production work can take advantage of each file’s 10-bit colour-space, which facilitates greater control for editing and also colour-grading where required.

Image of Blackmagic Design's Teranex 2D

Blackmagic Design’s Teranex 2D digital converter and processor takes up only 1 rack unit.

The Teranex, which was supplied to SimplyDV by Nottingham-based Jigsaw24, takes up a mere 1U (one unit) of rack space and connects to a Mac via the latest Thunderbolt 2 connections. Here’s a close-up of the unit in the rack, just above a RS422 Serial patchbay, which is used to route control of VTRs that have 9-pin DB9 connections for deck control via the Teranex and the software.

Very soon, we plan to post a short video showing how the Teranex can be used to create upscaled 720p, 1080i and 1080p HD video files from standard definition 4:3 videotape source recordings. The results are impressive – so watch this space!

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Helping to write “The History of DJ” for DMC

SimplyDV is helping to tell the story of the DJ by creating new ProRes422 master files from DMC’s archive recordings.

Image of Sony BVU-SP U-Matic video recorder and Apple computer capture suite

Digitising 1980s BVU-SP U-Matic archive video footage for DMC

Through the Summer months of 2014 SimplyDV’s Colin Barrett has been overseeing the job of creating Quicktime ProRes422 HQ digital video files from an assortment of master videotapes that have been in the archive of DMC (the Disco Mix Club) since the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The 3/4″ BVU, BVU-SP, Betacam, Betacam-SP and Digital Betacam format master tapes contain original broadcast-quality recordings of the now infamous DMC World DJ Mixing Championships that have taken place since 1986. The contest, which now takes place all over the world, was started by DMC’s founder and former Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg DJ Tony Prince, and it’s to his credit that DMC is now considered to have played a vital role in the development of DJ mixing.

When creating a series of retrospective video programmes, of course, it’s necessary to have all of the required source footage in a form that can be edited on today’s computer-based systems. With editing being undertaken on Apple Mac systems and using Final Cut Pro X software, DMC’s production team required the best quality transfers of the analogue composite and component formats possible. That’s where SimplyDV came in.

A mix of old and new video technology

SimplyDV’s operations rely on an intriguing mix of old 1970s, 1980s and 1990s legacy video technology and the latest digital video capture and editing hardware and software.

This is currently being employed in the process of creating the Quicktime ProRes422 (HQ) video files from the latest batch of 30+ U-Matic source tapes with two videotape players dating from the 1980s; our trusty Sony VO-9850P and BVU-950P U-Matic SP players have been assigned to the task of playing in the source tapes to a G2 MSTC timebase corrector (video) and Soundcraft EP8 production mixer (audio) prior to be fed as Component Video to a BlackMagic Design Intensity Pro digital processing system. The resulting ProRes422 files are captured with a Thunderbolt-equipped Apple Mac using BlackMagic’s Media Express software before being written to an assortment of hard drives for supply to DMC in Maidenhead, Bucks (UK).

Great quality despite age!

What’s immediately noticeable from the playback of the master tapes – which range of camera source tapes recorded at the events to edited master tapes on BVU-SP, Beta-SP and DigiBeta – is just how well the quality has been preserved after a quarter of a century in boxes in an archive room! The VTRs have been providing a fabulous quality tape playback and we’re very pleased with the results in their new digital form.

Some of the digitised sequences already supplied to DMC’s Video Producer, John “Cutmaster” Swift (himself a former DMC World DJ Mixing champion) and Director Tony Prince and can be seen in Part 2 of History of DJ – The DMC Story here:

For more information on DMC’s ever-increasing digital video archive, see their website.

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New Price Structure

After holding our prices at the same level since 2010, we now have to increase them in order to absorb VAT

Although we have managed to trade without having to register for the dreaded VAT (Value Added Tax) since the current business came into operation in 2010, our costs have increased to a point where we cannot sustain business at its current and projected level without registering for the dreaded VAT.

We haven’t, however, used this as an excuse to bump up our nett selling prices; these remain the same, and all we have done is to add the 20% VAT element to all selling prices as we are required to do under HMRC regulations. It does, unfortunately, increase costs for our customers who are not VAT registered (and who can’t reclaim the VAT element) and it will undoubtedly impact on the ability of some customers to pay the increased costs. However, they have remained at the same level for four years and would have had to increase sooner or later as business costs increase.

We hope this doesn’t inconvenience you too much, and rest assured that we’ll continue to deliver not only a great quality product but also great service as usual.

Thanks to all our customers for your support to date and we look forward to being of assistance to all customers old and new in the coming weeks and months.

Colin (Director, SimplyDV Limited)

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Repairs to audio tape before transfer to digital file

In addition to the high volume of videotapes we’re asked to digitise, we also receive quite a few batches of audio tape that require transfer and digitising by clients.

Before we run a transfer of reel-to-reel audio tapes on either of our professional-quality Revox or Tascam audio tape recorders we routinely check the condition of the tape itself and ensure that there are no perished splices (joins) in the tape itself. The older these are the more handling care and repair work is required before we can actually run the transfer.

Image of tape splice having been applied to a quarter-inch audio tape on Revox B77

Repairing perished tape splices and replacing leader tape is a routine job before transfer can take place.

Many tapes that have been recorded by home recording enthusiasts in years gone by might also not have any leader tape at the head (the beginning) or the tail (the end) of the reel. It’s always a good idea if they do have leaders in and out, especially if the tapes are to be retained as physical archive artefacts (which is always the case where tapes have been sent to us for digitising by libraries and museums or personal archive collections.)

Volume audio tape transfers and digitising for libraries and museums

In the first few months of 2014, SimplyDV has been contracted to undertake a large volume of audio tape and audio cassette transfer and digitising for organisations as varied as Stevenage Museum, the Higgins Art Gallery & Museum at Bedford, University of Cranfield School of Management, The Open University and Bletchley Park Trust, together with a number of personal clients requiring their home recording libraries to be converted to either 16-bit WAV or AIFF audio files. In some cases, we’re also asked to make equivalent MP3 audio files to be used as access copies or for incorporation into exhibition displays via touch-screen technology, etc.

A key activity for us over the last 18 months has been the digitising of oral history collections; until very recently the recording of people’s life stories and reminiscences was undertaken using either professional standard audio cassette recorders (such as the Marantz Superscope) or portable quarter-inch reel-to-reel recorders (such as the Uher Report 4200 or similar) but now that we’re firmly in the digital age this can be achieved using a variety of digital audio recording devices. However, the older analogue audio tape transfers to WAV and AIFF files is something that needs to be undertaken by a specialist – and that’s why we have been approached.

High standard of work and great service

We’re confident that one of the reasons why we gain repeat business is simply because we not only get the job done to a high standard and within an agreed deadline (that’s something we consider to be vitally important) but our clients also like the nature of the working relationship; we actually like working with our clients – and we get on really well with our clients, too!

Will you be our next client? If so, you’ll find out for yourself.

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