NOTE: Effective July 1, 2004 we are no longer accepting any work originating from the State of Maine !
The State of Maine has levied a new "Service Provider Tax", which is in addition to the existing Sales Tax reporting requirements. The implementation of this new tax requires businesses such as Video Interchange, who sell both services and materials in various & often complicated combinations, to now track and collect two separate taxes, and report the taxes in two separate filings to two different State agencies. Furthermore, the classification of our services and the application and distribution of each item being deemed either Service or Sales taxable, is different for nearly every job, and depends upon a confusing set of rules often open to interpretation as to how each is to be categorized... So unique is this business in what we do, almost every job would require a written interpretation as to whether the lines items be deemed Sales or Service Taxable
After carefully reviewing the new laws and contacting Maine DOR several times for clarification, and each time receiving conflicting interpretations, we have reached the conclusion that the expense and time spent administering and reporting the new tax, will cost substantially more than the total amount of billings originating from the State of Maine.
Regrettably we have therefore decided we cannot accept jobs from customers residing in, billed to, or being shipped to within the State of Maine.
This situation is unique to Maine, and does not affect customers from any other state or country. It applies only to the State of Maine.
Viewing the rest of this web site should by default answer that question.
At the expense of sounding like we're "beating our own drum" (We are...) the following is an attempt to put it in a "nutshell".
The recovery, especially of older tapes, requires well maintained equipment plus most importantly, the technical knowledge required to accomplish that goal. We do not do mass conversions - we're not an "assembly line" but rather each tape is restored to the best quality that is currently available using a wide range of techniques gained by nearly 30 years of experience in the broadcast and high end production industry. (I've plenty of grey hairs to prove it !).
A degreed computer systems engineer and former member of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers).
Our former clients list reads as a "who's who" of many of the fortune 500 companies.
Also, many of our prices are based on the expense of keeping the many vintage machines we have in top operating condition. (This place looks more like a museum and electronics repair shop than a video transfer business !) Take into consideration that parts are no longer available for most vintage decks, so it often entails purchasing several used machines of each format to use as a "parts supply". For rare formats where even a broken machine rarely ever turns up for sale, it sometimes entails expensive machine shop work or re-design of the electronics if no direct replacement part can be found.
Taking all this into consideration, our rates if anything are priced very low.
In light of the above question, this sounds perhaps a bit confusing & somewhat of a paradox. First of all, we're located in the rural mid-coast area of Maine overlooking a small ocean cove on the Atlantic Ocean. (what better place for a business that deals in things called Vintage ! ).... Subsequently, our operating overhead is very low. We do not have to pay Manhattan or "LA" real estate/tax rates... If we don't have to pay for it, then neither do you...... which makes our rates quite competitive.
Naturally, the costs in maintaining the equipment, do not end up in translating our prices to being the lowest either...... However, we charge only for the services that are necessary to recover the vintage video. If the tape doesn't require re-lubrication, we honestly do not charge for something that is not required. Likewise, since most tapes do not require a lot of labor to recover, we do not automatically charge for restoration work where none is required to begin with. Even figuring these additional costs in should they be necessary, we still believe you'll find our rates quite low for the services we perform.
You simply pay only for what you need.
Will My DVD's be Copy Protected ?
NO ! Unlike some firms that force you to come back to them for additional copies by copy protecting the media, your DVD's are not copy protected in any manner whatsoever. With appropriate software such as Roxio Easy Media Creator ®, Nero or whatever else probably came with your DVD burner, you can "knock off" as many perfect cloned copies of the DVD's we provided, as you so desire.
Unlike modern day formats that are well known and straightforward, Vintage formats raise a number of issues
Vintage video recovery and transfer is a specialized field and you've probably already noticed that there's only a handful of companies specialized in vintage audio/video recovery scattered across the entire country, that have the equipment, technical skills or even the inclination to support the obsolete video formats.
Unlike modern cassette based formats where you just insert the cassette and hit "play", true vintage recovery of the older formats is not nearly as easy or straightforward.
Many video formats were developed before there were any standards - they varied from manufacturer to manufacturer - even across a single manufacturer's own product line. Sony model CV machines (skip field) are not compatible with the AV series (usually EIAJ). Certain machine models had their own unique format schemes. For example color video recorded on a Sony AV-5000 will not play on an AV-5000A... all use the same 1/2 inch reel to reel tape and are even completely identical in appearance, yet their recording schemes are incompatible. Thus unlike modern formats where "Life is Wonderful" is the norm (just toss a tape in and hit "play") vintage formats invariably raise a number of questions that must be addressed first.
To date, there have been over 105 different formats released since the inception of video recording technology - and that's just in the U.S. alone ! Add to that; foreign standards such as Pal, Secam and all their variations, and the numbers go up by a factor of at least 7. The client often times hasn't a clue as to what he/she has, which is pretty much the "norm". In many cases, the tape was handed down, inherited or found in Grandma's attic. The first step is simply to identify what format you might have. This is sometimes easier said than done, as many different vintage formats used the same media which all look EXACTLY alike, and no one ever seemed to label the tape with such necessary information such as the machine model number which it was recorded on. Even the date it was recorded sometimes offers a clue based on the formats' first release. (Often times that wasn't even noted...) Add to that the fact that sadly, we're not clairvoyant ourselves..... Any 1/2 inch reel to reel tape for example, may be any of 5 or more totally incompatible formats (not to even mention that it could be in European PAL).
It's also not uncommon for someone who has not grown up in that era and not familiar with the old recording equipment of the day, to mis-communicate the format. The earliest format most folks ever heard of was Betamax, or they ask their neighbor who says - "it's real old - must be a Betamax"...... I can't begin to tell you the number of inquiries we get wanting to transfer their old Betamax tapes to a DVD, only upon further investigation to find that it's a vintage reel to reel tape not even closely related to Betamax (which by the way was a newer cassette based format).
The other issue, is that vintage video as opposed to something that was just shot last week on a more modern format, is sometimes in poor condition. Due to the vagaries of Tape Stiction, Oxide shedding alone, some will playback fine and others are beyond any hope, or not worth the cost in attempting to recover them. It runs the gamut.
Luckily, most need only a little persuasion to get to play and there are very few that are totally beyond hope.... Most tapes from the mid 60's to the late 70's, suffer from the "sticky tape syndrome" and will require tape baking to restore the binder layer so they can even be capable of being played without jamming. Some that had an easy life in arid climates whereas others will not. It's impossible to tell until we thread it up and start playback. Other tapes may require re-lubrication of the binder layer.
In the case of vintage formats, we really don't know what you have or it's condition until we receive it - nor will anyone else for that matter, unless they're clairvoyant......And although I've heard of such individuals, I can't say as I personally know anyone who possesses this gift - at least as it pertains to vintage video anyways. (not me anyways...)
Plus, I wouldn't in light of the thousands of possibilities, even know how to go about designing even a simple order form ! (Only the IRS could conceive of such a thing)
So the best route inevitably ends up being to send it in for evaluation. We do not charge for this (other than return shipping costs plus a $5.00 handling/packing/tracking charge) as it's just all part of the nature in dealing with the vintage and obsolete video formats. Once your tape is next in line for transfer, we'll quickly determine the format and be able to tell whether the tape requires baking or restoration, what generally is on the tape, what condition and quality of transfer you can expect, and the final cost.
Please call or e-mail us first. Unlike many others, we prefer direct communications on a personal level. In light of the above, we've found it to be a necessity.
Thus the only form you will find on our site is a contact form.
Shipping Phonograph Records
We have an entire page dedicated on how to properly pack fragile vintage phonograph records for shipping.
Click Here to be re-directed to this page.
MiniDV tapes Pixelating - Block noise - missing or intermittent audio
We employ specialized equipment and techniques to recover most damaged MiniDV tapes
I have an old device that uses Vacume Tubes - How do I know if the tubes are any good ?
Up until even the late 1960's or so, most electronic stores (Radio Shack's & even the local corner drugstore) had tube testers on their premises - most of which you could use yourself.
Yes: your local corner drug store probably had a tube tester and sold vacume tubes ! - about as popular as the local drug store that sells batteries today !
Today, with the advent of the silicon transistor and integrated circuits, those testers are all but gone . But even if vacume tubes were still popular today, chances are that there would be none remaining one could use... The reason you ask ?
B+ anode voltages used for testing could be as high as 1.5 kv for some power tubes. That made those voltages potentially lethal. In our litigious society today, even a simple static "nip" could potentially elicit a multi-million dollar law suit. Consider McDonald's getting sued (and having lost) millions because some idiot without a lick of common sense, spilled a hot cup of coffee between her legs while driving). Back in those days, common sense and personal responsibility was the rule of the land.. Not so anymore !
So just how do you identify a bad tube without a tube tester ? Sadly, other than obvious physical damage, you don't.....
That means you'll have to "shotgun" (read: replace) them all at
once... Highly inefficient and wasteful perhaps, but there's no other choice
(short of finding someone local with a working tube tester anyways).
Shown here is our Hickok 539C - perhaps one of the best tube testers ever made.
Sadly, the answer is no. Although tape formulations have improved slightly, even the newest formulations are subject to the effects of hydrolysis and subsequent inevitable degradation. Tape was never meant to be an archival format.
More importantly, the smaller formats such as 8mm, MiniDV and Digital8 are especially susceptible to the least amount of tape damage. There is a LOT of information crammed onto a tiny amount of tape "real estate". The slightest amount of tape deformation due to stretching, creasing or common edge damage can spell disaster. In the case of digital formats, either the digital data stream read is valid, or it's been corrupted - it's often an "all or nothing" proposition. Digital format tapes, unlike their analog counterparts, do not degrade "gracefully".
We are however, able to recover many damaged MiniDV tapes that exhibit pixelization (pixelating) where the video appears to have either random or columns of mosaic pattern blocks along with missing audio.
Early vintage consumer/industrial formats such as skip field, EIAJ etc did not have broadcast quality sync signals. Sync timing and levels were not closely adhered to in these formats, as the only main requirement was that it be able to be played back on a standard TV or monitor. Add to that, capstan servo systems of the day were usually slow to respond owing to their larger size and mass - resulting sometimes in severe time base errors as the tape was pulled and dragged through the mechanism - exasperating the troubles even further. To make matters even worse, the early industrial/consumer formats were often monochrome only. There was no color burst signal... (some modern video equipment is expecting to find a color burst and will throw a "tantrum" if not found).
To overcome the mayhem and to set standards for synchronizing signals, the RS-170A specification was adopted by the EIA (Electronic Industries Association) and remains the broadcast spec in use today for composite video. It specifies a stable sync signal, with standardized levels and timing requirements, including a color burst. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) enforces compliance of this standard by all broadcasters. Early video formats didn't even come close to meeting the spec. As a result, the uncorrected b/w video is usually good enough for a TV to display, but not stable enough to allow a copy to be made, where the capstan servo system on the recorder is unable to track the wandering time base.
The use of a Time Base Corrector with a processing amplifier that meets RS-170A will resolve the problem. It effectively strips off the old unstable sync, and replaces it with stable broadcast RS-170A - including the color burst. (Yes, it's still a monochrome b/w picture, but the color burst is added to the sync signal to keep modern day video equipment "happy").
Most modern TBC's have difficulty tracking and processing old reel to reel video and many won't even pass it at all. By comparison, older rack mount style tbc's are much more forgiving, as they were designed to process the "sloppy" signals of the day. The Adda VW-2 is one TBC that will pass signals only resembling video if set up properly... One's in working condition are nearly impossible to find however...
All of our transfers are time base corrected to RS-170A specifications and will allow duplication, and use in any modern day equipment such as video mixers, switchers, DVE's, character generators etc etc.
There is much info concerning the RS-170A specification on the web. Typing "RS-170A" on any search engine will produce a wealth of information.
Three words: Time Base Errors
This is an attempt to explain as simply as possible a highly technical subject. Hopefully, it is adequate !
All of our conversions are Time Base Corrected using a broadcast frame-store Time Base Corrector proven especially well suited for vintage video tapes. Old vintage video is often unstable and this often results in severe time base errors. Ok... so just what is a time base error you're probably asking yourself ? A time base error might be simply thought of as the tape either speeding up or slowing down owing to bad or degraded video, poor quality sync signals or another number of reasons we'll touch upon. Every VTR or VCR has a capstan servo system who's job it is, is to see that the rotating video heads track down the middle of the video information written on tape... that is; to be able to "find" where each track of information is recorded on tape. It knows where each track is recorded by reading what is known as a control track. You may think of the control track as electronic sprocket holes... or put another way: the control track is to video as sprocket holes are to film. The control track signal written on tape was generated from the vertical sync signal put out by the camera at the time of recording. Any disruption or instability of the control track signal will result in a time base error.
Industrial vintage video equipment such as EIAJ formats often did not meet broadcast specs concerning the synchronizing signals even the day the program was originally recorded. The errors may also have been induced as the program was being recorded, due perhaps to a not uncommon dragging supply reel. The errors may also be caused by stretching of the tape somewhere in it's past history. More than likely, it's due to the natural degradation of the tape whereby control track signals have been degraded to the point that the capstan servo system cannot consistently lock on and track the video information. Even a brief loss or degradation of control track signal forces the capstan servo to "hunt" for the video track, resulting in a severe time base error. Other causes are sometimes related to faulty or poorly designed vintage recording equipment or cameras, and resulted in bad video or noise getting in the sync part of the signal and throwing the servos for a loop.
Today's cameras employ crystal controlled phase locked loops and sophisticated integrated circuits to guarantee a stable time base. Thus color 525 line video with today's equipment is accurately recorded at 29.97 frames per second. Industrial grade cameras of the 70's were quite "sloppy" by comparison, sometimes ranging from 29 to 31 fps and more on the non AC line frequency locked portable cameras. This resulted in horizontal scan rates sometimes varying from 14,700 to 16,800 Hz instead of the fixed 15,734 Hz NTSC specification. Internal camera timing was done with simple RC (resistance - capacitance) timing circuits that were susceptible to temperature variations that resulted in drifting. Because of the inherent inaccuracies of the RC timing circuits that were also used for establishing the scan lines/frame, it was not uncommon for some non broadcast industrial cameras of the day to output something only close to 525 lines/frame. Though "close enough" to allow playback on a TV, today's modern recording equipment is not forgiving of such technical sins.
The job of the Time Base Corrector is pretty much as it's name implies. It stabilizes timing errors by digitizing the video and storing it in a buffer or memory if you will. There are two sides to a TBC... the input side buffer where the image is digitally stored and held for processing, and the output side buffer, where the processed data (image) is stored and held for output. Where the video pixels are placed in the input buffer is determined by the sync signals read off the videotape which unfortunately has time base errors. The output buffer is then clocked out, based on a stable reference timing clock and converted back into a standard composite or component video signal that can then be recorded. You might think of it as a variable video delay line... the delay employed being that required to correct the time base error. Synchronizing pulses such as horizontal sync, vertical sync, equalizing pulses, front porch, back porch, breezeway etc are re-generated to proper levels and timing from the source tape, and color burst is added - now all based on a stable time reference.
Early TBC's were were often limited to a correction window of only 1 line of video and would correct only the smallest amount of error (tiny amounts of horizontal jitter for example). The next generation of equipment increased the window of correction to 16 lines which was a vast improvement, yet still there were time base errors even greater. Time Base Errors lasting longer than the window could process, resulted in bad unstable video and sync being passed - a practice highly frowned upon by the FCC. The very last thing any TV station engineer needed, was a "friendly visit" from the Technical Standards Division of the FCC. What the broadcast industry needed was a TBC that would correct up to a full frame of video.
The next generation of broadcast TBC's met that need and are referred to as frame-store or infinite window TBC's. They increased the correction window from 16 lines or less, up to a full frame or 525 lines. They are also referred to as "infinite window" TBC's, as they would correct up to a full frame of time base errors. Yet many old tapes exhibit even greater errors lasting longer than a full frame owing to their age and other maladies. The "infinite window" frame-store TBC goes to whatever length it takes to ensure that a stable sync signal is re-generated. If severe timing errors are encountered lasting longer than a full frame, the TBC will freeze the last good frame of video and continue to freeze it until the bad area of tape passes, thus ensuring a stable sync output. The video may be frozen or there may be noise in the picture depending upon how it's programmed to respond upon detecting bad video, but the sync output will always be stable.
A common misconception is that a TBC will improve the quality of the video image itself. This is not the case, nor what it is intended to do. It's function is to provide a broadcast stable sync for the video. Without a time base corrector, most tapes cannot be copied reliably. In the case of a videotape recorder, the servos in the recorder need to lock onto the sync signals to be able to correctly write the video and control track information to tape. Unstable sync with time base errors won't allow this to happen, and copying will be either unreliable or impossible. Televisions unencumbered by the mechanical laws of momentum, are much more forgiving of time base errors.
Though a TBC re-inserts properly timed Vertical, Horizontal and Equalization pulses, it needs reasonably good sync to know how to re-generate the proper sync. (there has to be some reference from which to work from)... Severely damaged sync on the damaged master tape will not provide the TBC with a stable reference "starting point". It will clean up wandering time base errors - even severe ones, but will not correct masters that have damaged sync signals - often the result of tape edge damage or faulty recording equipment.
On older tapes we sometimes encounter a lot of head clogs as well - even after cleaning the old tape. The gaps and noise you see is when we had a head clog and had to stop and do a video head cleaning. Unless you chose for us to edit out the bad areas, those bad areas of tape simply get recorded. Editing of your video before burning to DVD is an additional cost and is billed by the hour, as it's impossible to predict beforehand the amount of editing involved.
Note that the very beginning and end of tapes (especially the reel to reel formats) often sustain more damage due to exposure. The middle of the tape is usually in better condition as it's effectively more protected by the outer wraps of tape surrounding it. The very beginning of tape also takes the most physical abuse, due to the many constant cycles of threading/un-threading. The end of tape on the other hand will often exhibit mis-tracking (especially in the case of reel to reels), as the diameter of tape on the supply reel is small. This would result in the supply reel tape tension increasing and also varying if the felt tension band was the least bit dirty or out of adjustment on the recording machine...... which was not an uncommon problem in those days. As the tape degrades and signal levels drop (notably the control track signals), mis-tracking often occurs. Most professionals in the know, will avoid recording program material in the first minute or last 3 minutes of tape if at all possible.
Even so, the critical thing to remember is getting the recoverable video off the tape before it's lost forever. It can always be edited later if so desired.
This often looks like a simple tracking problem where the operator "fell asleep at the switch" and didn't adjust the tracking control on playback to compensate for simple mis-tracking.
Adjusting the tracking has no effect on the malady, as sometimes the symptom is not a tracking problem.... The problem is normally caused by a mis-load... The loading sequence (be it by manual threading or via an auto loading sequence in the case of cassette based formats) sometimes results in a mis-load. The tape is supposed to wrap around the head drum by a specified exact angular amount. In the case of most cassette based formats, a loading ring sense switch signals the system control logic when the loading sequence is complete to signal stopping of the loading ring drive motor. A dirty, loose, or mis-adjusted switch can result in the tape not being fully loaded around the head drum - the faulty switch prematurely signaling a successful load, when in reality it was only say 97% complete.
Another common cause is debris inside the machine that has jammed the loading mechanism (a fallen tape label for example). This results in poor or lacking tape to head contact either at the start or more often the end of the scan. The problem is exhibited as a constant noise band at the very top or bottom of the picture. The same tape will sometimes exhibit no problem in some scenes, or when a different scene was recorded necessitating a new load, the problem will instantly "go away" or return again, depending upon the success of each tape load. (Stopping the machine and then hitting "record" gain, usually results in a new load around the drum in most machines). Whatever the cause, adjusting the tracking control on playback will provide no remedy, as there was no video recorded on this scanned area of tape to begin with.
Manually threaded reel to reel machines were sometimes mis-threaded or sometimes the entry or exit guidepost was out of adjustment.
There is no remedy for partial tape loads around head drum that occurred when the tape was originally recorded or where filthy guideposts prohibited a good head to tape contact. We can't recover what wasn't written to tape to begin with !
There are many reasons but we'll touch on the two most likely......
As video tapes age, the recorded signal slowly gets erased due to stray magnetic fields or perhaps the tape having been repeatedly played in a machine that needed to be de-magnetized. As the signal on tape slowly fades away, the signal to noise ratio plummets - the noise accounting for a greater and greater part of the signal picked up by the scanning video heads. The first to "go" are the high frequency components of the image, resulting in an image lacking in detail with a grainy appearance.
Another likely cause is that when the video was originally recorded, there was not sufficient light present. Early cameras had nowhere the sensitivity and dynamic range of the cameras of today.... They all required LOTS of even light to make an acceptable picture. Wedding videos originated in churches for example, are almost always severely under lit. From the very start, the video suffers from a poor signal to noise ratio which is compounded by the tapes aging. By bringing the video levels up from "out of the mud", the video signal is effectively amplified as well as the inherent noise. There's no way to boost the video levels without also increasing the noise levels - they both get amplified. Thus it's a bit of a tradeoff. We boost severely underexposed video as much as possible, limited by the amount of resulting noise. However, video with some noise is a lot better than extremely low video levels recorded "down in the mud"......
We employ video noise reduction processing where required. This equipment will reduce the video noise, but may not totally eliminate it if too severe.
In the case of playing your own video tapes, noisy, grainy pictures are also often the result of nothing more than dirty video heads, compounding the problem of degrading tapes. Many times depending on the nature of the clog, the higher frequency color information components may be lost as well.
That's a 89% yes ! We record typically on DVD-R media which is the format most compatible with home DVD players. Players manufactured before 2001 may have difficulty, as they were released before the current standards were agreed on by the various manufacturers.. DVD players are getting quite inexpensive, so if that be the case, then we suggest upgrading your DVD player.
We record on DVD-R media which is compatible with the widest range of DVD players. Most (but not all) DVD players manufactured after 2001 should have no difficulty in playing a DVD-R. Equipment manufactured prior to 1999 will probably NOT support DVD-R - as the standards had not yet been set or implemented. The only way to be sure is to check with the manufacturer. We are not responsible for DVD players not being capable of playing a DVD-R.
Standard Commercial DVD's are pressed
and literally stamped out at the rate of 7,000 or more per hour. DVD-R's are instead
"burned" one at a time on stand alone DVD-R burners whereby a dye layer is "burned"
by a small laser. Thus a DVD-R is constructed quite differently than a commercial
stamped DVD. A DVD-R will have a greenish - Blue appearance on the recording side
which is the dye layer. A stamped DVD has no dye layer and will appear a shiny
metallic color. Thus
a DVD-R has a much lower reflectivity than does a standard DVD.
To enable reliable playback, a DVD-R capable player has an additional laser pickup, optimized for the lower reflectivity of a DVD-R. If a non DVD-R capable player has a DVD-R placed in it, the outcome can be unpredictable. A few DVD-s may actually play ok, or more likely will either skip - freeze or be unpredictable in operation. Most won't play at all.... Even though one DVD-R may play ok, the next may not. This is due to the sensor operating right on the edge of readability.
The best way to know if the DVD player supports DVD-R, is to read the owners manual. If it does support DVD-R, it will be clearly stated. If it makes no mention of DVD-R, then you can safely assume it does not support DVD-R, as it is a major selling point and is always well advertised & touted by the manufacturer !
Go to our Links page and follow the link to the DVD-R Compatibility List. It is the most comprehensive and up to date list we are aware of !
Sorry to say, but the answer is no. We cannot get more resolution or apparent better signal to noise ratios than what was initially recorded on your original tape to begin with. Your DVD in the case of a Vhs for example, will have no more than 240 lines of resolution, as that's all that standard VHS was ever capable of in the first place. If the original video was shot in black & white, then so will your transfer be in black & white. Bear in mind that video tape degrades over time and noise levels and time base errors increase dramatically as the tape ages. The DVD will be as close to the quality of your vintage tape we were able to play back.
Newer Digital formats (MiniDV for example) will yield a DVD quality recording if the image quality was DVD quality to begin with.
Put another way...... we can copy Lead and we can copy Gold....... but we can't turn Lead INTO gold. Alchemists have been working on this perplexing problem since the beginning of recorded history..... and sadly, we're no closer to a solution ourselves ! With that said, by setting proper levels and employing professional noise reduction equipment, we can often turn lead into polished oak though !
The answer is........ Most likely
Most of the equipment we employ is of higher quality than what the typical consumer may have. In the case of older vintage formats, the older stand alone broadcast full frame-store tbc's are much more forgiving of unstable video and will pass and correct video tapes that a more modern integrated circuit - chip based TBC will simply out and out reject. Often times we might have to try several different machines. More extreme measures involve "tweeking" a machine to get a badly damaged tape to play by matching the alignment of our machine to the mis-aligned tape. Depending on the type of tape damage, we might have to optimize such things as head amp gain, white peak clipping, frequency response, tape path or skew alignment, tape tension and make additional cleaning passes.
Flood - Water - Mold Damaged tapes: What are the chances for recovery ?
Perhaps much better than how the tapes physically appear !
Mud oozing out of the cassette for example, is far less harmful to the tape than are oils or solvents that may be present. Irregardless of the conditions, the quicker the tapes can be sent in for proper cleaning and baking, the better the chances of a full recovery.
Click here to read more......
Recovering video on damaged tapes is one of our specialties. It is invoked when it is absolutely imperative that the video be recovered such as in evidence for court cases etc. It's a "no holds barred" approach whereby we invoke every known trick in the book. We make 10 attempts before charging for additional labor...... those attempts owning usually to having to stop and clean the heads on our vcr/vtr that were clogged by your old tape. Time required to recover bad tapes beyond our 10 initial attempts is billed at an hourly rate and may necessitate more extreme measures and techniques employed. We will always notify you and solicit authorization if further efforts are required or recommended.
If the tape is too far "gone" and video restoration was unsuccessful (we were unable to recover anything on our first 10 initial included attempts) then there is no charge. Payments made will be refunded less return shipping costs. Luckily, this is rare. Any amount of video recovered we regard as success and all additional labor to recover such will be billed if previously authorized by the customer.
In all cases, customer authorization is always solicited before we attempt more extreme measures resulting in additional charges.
My Camcorder "Ate" the tape. Can it be recovered ?
If the tape itself sustained physical damage in the form of crinkles or creases, the damage is sadly permanent. If playable at all, the video can be transferred to DVD to possibly salvage what remains. Depending on the nature of the tape crease, the video will exhibit anything from simple mis-tracking, dropouts, horizontal bands of noise, vertical rolling or might be totally un-viewable where the tape damage occurred.
Luckily, the physical damage is usually localized in the area where the jam or mis-load occurred.
You guessed it ! - - - You clogged a video head. The tape is so old that the binder layer containing the oxide has started to separate from the substrate layer or it's been played so much that it simply wore off and the debris clogged the heads. This loose oxide will clog the microscopic gap in the video heads. You can try a cleaning tape, but when attempting to play back vintage tapes, the clogs can be quite severe and often well beyond what a cleaning tape will handle. Cleaning tapes won't usually clean a serious head clog caused by a catastrophic breakdown of the binder. Cleaning with Xylol or isopropyl alcohol (only use 99% pure - not the drugstore variety ipa, as it contains too much water) and a good air compressor is probably the only solution to a serious stubborn head clog. On tapes over 15 years old, this often becomes a real problem. In the case of older tapes on their "last legs" it's not uncommon for us to have to stop and clean the video heads many times even after running your tape thru a cleaning cycle first.
Head clogs can manifest themselves in a number of various ways depending on the nature and severity of the clog. Some clogs result in no picture at all - either complete "snow" or the dreaded "blue screen". Other times, there may be anything ranging from a barely viewable picture through the noise and snow, to one where the video looks just a little grainy. Some color tapes will be grainy and play back only in black & white. The symptoms are wholly dependent upon how the clog has distorted the RF signal envelope being read off tape.
Click here to learn how to manually clean even the most serious head clogs
Also see our page on Videotape for more general information.
As the binder degrades with age ( don't we all, huh ?), it first becomes "sticky". This is know as "Stiction" or also referred to as "The Sticky Tape Syndrome". It results in most cases from moisture infiltration into the binder layer from the natural humidity in the air. Eventually it claims all tapes, but those stored in maritime tropical environments (ie Hawaii, Louisiana etc) - damp basements etc etc ,are the first to exhibit the symptom. A sticking binder layer, is almost always the pre-cursor to oxide shedding.
Sticky Tape Symptom - Stiction
The tape will often make "squeeking" sounds, as the sticky binder seizes repeatedly to the head drum. (kind of synonymous with dragging your fingernails across a blackboard). In severe cases; the tape will not be able to be pulled free by the tape transport and will permanently seize to the drum, or wrap itself into a knot around the capstan and grind to a halt.
Audio - Video Tape Oxide Shedding
Oxide shedding is when the binder begins to de-laminate from the substrate.... It may result in a few head clogs in minor cases , to the tape being virtually unplayable in severe cases.
In the early stages of oxide shedding, baking - cleaning and sometimes burnishing plus some other "tricks of the trade" (applicable only if most of the binder is still intact), allows us to make a transfer
There is no cure for the later stages of oxide shedding, whereby the oxide layer has de-laminated.
Do Not attempt to play/Fast Forward/Rewind and
tape exhibiting the symptoms of either.
Either symptom means binder of the tape is especially weak...... DO NOT attempt to force any further tape motion.
Instead: eject it right where it is. Attempting to force a tape to Play/FF/REW with a weakened binder, will most likely result in permanent damage .
For tapes NOT exhibiting any signs of stiction or oxide shedding, then you should first do the following:
Before playing back an old tape that has been stored for years, you should first fast forward to the end of tape and then rewind it BEFORE ever attempting to play it.
(AGAIN: ONLY ATTEMPT THIS IF THE TAPE DOES NOT EXHIBIT ANY SIGNS OF STICTION OR OXIDE SHEDDING )
Fast Forwarding/Rewinding repacks and retentions the tape and will greatly reduce the number of inevitable head clogs encountered. Though not a substitute for professional tape baking/cleaning/burnishing we just know you're going to try and play it yourself first .
Read Even More.....
It depends upon whether it was just one head that was clogged or both of them, as most earlier analog recorders (VHS - 3/4-U - Betamax etc) use 2 rotary heads that are switched during the vertical interval. If just one head were clogged while the other remained clog free, we have a modified Framestore TBC that will repeat either the odd or even clean field to "build" a clean frame from a single good field. Since only 1/2 the information is actually recovered, the video will lack some resolution and color fidelity - but even so, still makes a surprisingly good acceptable picture....... - much like the old skip field format.
If it turns out that both heads were clogged (as is usually the case) then what you have is there to stay. There's simply no good field of video for us to select from. Note that Skip field recovery only works for the 2 head analog formats such as VHS, S-VHS, Betamax, 8mm, Hi8 and most of the other vintage analog formats. Because of the way digital data is recorded in the newer digital formats, Skip Field recovery techniques are not possible.
For a better understanding of interlaced video: fields and frames: Click Here......
Surprisingly, there is very little difference in quality between consumer MiniDV and the professional DVCAM format. In fact, the video data stream of MiniDV is identical to that of DVCAM, and thus image quality is likewise exactly identical. The format structures are so similar that most DVCAM machines will happily play MiniDV tapes, as well as record in MiniDV.
There are two important differences between the consumer MiniDV format and the professional DVCAM format however....
First, the track pitch of MiniDV SP is only 10 microns, as compared to 15 microns for DVCAM. The less data density and larger effective guard band, means that the DVCAM format is much more tolerant of tape deformations often resulting from the tape being stressed during the editing process if being edited tape to tape. The lower data density per square millimeter of tape resulting from the wider track pitch of DVCAM, also results in fewer dropouts. Simply put, the less data recorded per square millimeter of tape, the more robust the format & the better life will be ! ....... Though DVCAM format can be successfully written to standard MiniDV tape stock, Sony ® recommends against this practice. DVCAM tape stock uses a DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) top coat protective layer not usually found on MiniDV tape stock, that better withstands the "pounding" the tape takes during the editing process. (Editing tape to tape can be physically brutal on a tape... - especially in the hands of an experienced editor making a rapid succession of rapid back to back cuts.)....... Anyways, thus results the disparity & reason for the much greater cost of a DVCAM tape as compared to MiniDV stock.
Secondly, DVCAM supports "Audio Lock Mode", whereby the audio is referenced exactly to the video. MiniDV on the other hand, does not support Lock Mode, but instead records the audio in "Unlock Mode". In Unlock Mode, the audio is not referenced directly to the video, but rather to an independent audio time base clock that's allowed to wander by as much as 25 samples per line. Though, closely matched to the video, the audio to video synchronization is not precise. In terms of audio synchronization to the video, the difference is very slight and not even noticed on a casual cut edit, being typically being off by only 1/3 a frame over the period of an hour. However, this very small potential time base difference has serious consequential side effects..... The audio lock mode of DVCAM specifies a precise number of audio samples that are to be captured per video frame. The unlock audio mode of MiniDV, since it referenced to an independent clock, can vary slightly in the number of samples per frame. Thus the data structure of the audio data streams are incompatible between the two.
What this means in practical terms, is that you CANNOT make digital transfers from consumer MiniDV decks to professional DVCAM format equipment. Nor can you attempt to "cheat" by placing your MiniDV tape in a DVCAM deck and attempting to digitally copy it to another DVCAM deck... ie: Once MiniDV - then always MiniDV ! The only way around it, is to break the high quality digital transfer pathway, and make the transfer as analog, to effectively convert it to DVCAM. Doing so won't magically re-sync the MiniDV audio to the video however, but future DVCAM transfers will lock the audio to the video as they were originally captured when transferred from MiniDV.
If all you intend is to use a DV tape as a feeder into your computer based editing system, MiniDV often makes sense, owing to the much less expensive media & equipment utilization costs. Unless you're doing critical lip-sync insert editing requiring perfectly transparent audio matching, using MiniDV instead of DVCAM as a feeder, often translates into a substantial cost savings.
Despite most MiniDV based camcorders being able to record in longer LP mode, it is HIGHLY SUGGESTED that this never be done. Increasing the data density per mm² is just begging for future troubles.
Thus If editing tape to tape, or where critical lip-sync insert editing is required, then DVCAM is the much better way to go.......
Though no manufacturer of MiniDV equipment will admit it, MiniDV recordings by definition employ a very narrow 10 micron track pitch and thus operate on the "thin edge of success", as I like to describe it.... There is little latitude for error on reading a good DataStream from a MiniDV tape...... Consider the width of a human hair is on average 67 microns wide. In the case of MiniDV that means nearly 7 tracks of information are recorded in the width of a human hair on the tape. Record in LP mode and the track pitch is even less (6.7 microns), resulting in 10 tracks written in the width of a hair. Doesn't take much tape deformation to yield a MiniDV tape unplayable !
DVCAM or DVPRO broadcast formats write a much wider track pitch (15 microns in the case of DVCAM and 18 microns in the case of DVCPRO). The wider track pitch of these professional formats allows for a much wider latitude in terms of successfully reading damaged or degraded tapes.
I most cases we can recover damaged audio and video from badly pixelated tapes utilizing specialized recovery techniques/
Unless the tape is marked with the format or the machine model it was recorded on, then it's anyone's guess. The only way to find out is to try it on different format machines to identify it, as EIAJ-1, EIAJ-2, Skip Field, Pilot Tone, Pilot Tone A, Concord 12 ips, Shibaden or Craig, all use the same half inch reel to reel tape stock. The only way to find out which one, is to try and play them back on the appropriate format machine and see what works... Sounds a bit crude perhaps, as it's nothing much more than the process of elimination. Crude or not, it's proven the quickest and most effective method.
Transfer houses familiar with the various formats need only thread a tape up on an EIAJ machine to accurately determine the format. Though not an EIAJ tape, Shibaden, Skip Field, Pilot Tone & Concord tapes, all have their tell-tail signatures.
The vast majority of these tapes are either EIAJ - 1 or 2 format owing to the large numbers of these machines having been manufactured and sold in the US by 1974. (EIAJ was released in 1970). If the 1/2" tape was recorded prior to 1970, then it is either the Skip Field (also known as CV), Pilot Tone (sometimes referred to as MCR), Shibaden, Concord/Panasonic 12 ips or Craig helical format.
You need windows media player or other third party software installed and running on your pc. You can download the latest version of Microsoft Media Player from www.microsoft.com
Our viewing of the material is limited to spot checking for quality and copyright infringements only. Your tape and any information / audio / images it may contain is kept secure and strictly confidential.
A DVD allows 2 hours of high DVD quality 720x480 MPEG-2 compressed video and supports authoring if so encoded. The format also supports XP mode using less compression that results in only 1 hour of recoded video per disc. There are several extended play modes offering up to 6 hrs to be crammed onto a single disc. The high compression required results in poorer quality with noticeable artifacting. Thus we typically only record in SP mode (2hrs/DVD) or XP mode (1hr/DVD)
To read more on DVD construction and how a DVD works.... Click Here...
Employs MPEG-1 compressed full motion video to be recorded on a less expensive CD-R, but is limited to only 74 or 80 minutes playing time depending on the capacity of the CD (650 or 700 mb). Video quality of a VCD is no where near the quality of a DVD - only 352x240 lines or approximately that of a standard Vhs tape. Most newer set top DVD players from 2002 on will play a VCD.
A SVCD is very similar to a VCD..... it has the capacity to hold on average about 40 minutes of full motion 480x480 video on standard 650/700mb CD's. Image quality is not that of a DVD owing to it's lower resolution encoding, but is vastly superior to that of a VCD. It supports up to 2 stereo audio tracks and also 4 selectable subtitles. A SVCD can be played on many standalone DVD Players and of course on all computers with a DVD-ROM or CD-ROM drive with applicable software. It is also possible to use menus and chapters, similar to DVDs, on a SVCD and also simple photo album/slide shows with background audio. Not all set top DVD players support the SVCD format
Both have the same features as their parent formats (VCD or SVCD) but these variations allow the use of higher bit rates and higher resolution to achieve higher video quality. Neither however fall within their parent format standard be it VCD or SVCD. XSVCD is not currently supported by any set top DVD player and support for XVCD is rare. Thus, the formats are fine for personal use on your pc but are not widely supported.
CVD is basically the same format as an SVCD but just encodes at a lower resolution. Using a lower resolution but encoding at the same bit rate yields less MPEG motion artifacts as compared to a SVCD with the same bit rate. By standards agreement, SVCD capable standalone DVD Players support CVD even though they usually do not list it as doing so.
Divx is an acronym for the MPEG-4 codec developed by DivX Networks, Inc. ®, and was developed using the code name Project Mayo. Divx is just slightly inferior to the quality of a VCD, owing to the difference in resolution. The divx codec provides wonderfully small compact files allowing a complete movie to usually fit on just one CD. Of course there is a price to be paid for this super highly compressed format. First of all, the quality appears similar to a VHS tape, just with the addition of some noticeable motion artifacts. Second of all, very few of the standalone DVD players support the Divx codec, so playback is often relegated to your computer screen. On the plus side, none of the other codec's render anywhere's near such compact files, making Divx the codec of choice for sending full motion video over the net.
Note: Due to the poorer quality of the higher compressed formats, we record only on DVD-R's using either SP or XP compression.
For more info on this topic, refer to our Links Page and follow the links to DVD De-Mystified® and DVD FAQ
Yes ! - You can order as many as you like at a greatly reduced rate per each copy at the time of your order. Since the video files are huge, we don't save them forever and clear them from our hard drives typically after 60 days .
Please call for a quote on quantities over 50
Our specialty is in the recovery of vintage, obsolete or damaged video. Thus, we concentrate only on what few other operations can do. There are many other houses probably within your local area that offer editing services.
There are different television standards used throughout the world and none of them are compatible with the other. A Pal tape from Europe for example, will not play on American (NTSC) equipment here for example.
We can convert any standard to any other world wide standard. To learn more, refer to PAL Conversions.
Yes ! We handle everything from broadcast formats to VHS.
I came across some old VHS tapes and none of them play
The picture won't lock in or I get a blue screen. Are they all bad ?
Chances of them all having the same exact "problem" is remote. Aside from having clogged heads, you might have come across some rare tapes recorded in Panasonic's M format which was an early cassette based broadcast format. The early M Format machines used standard VHS tapes, and unless marked (which few people ever did) they appear as defective tapes when played in a standard VHS machine. Don't toss the tapes. They probably contain some broadcast quality treasures !
To read more on the M Format. Click here.....
Sadly, the answer is no. Video recovery of an erased or recorded-over tape is not technically feasible.
Re-iterative sampling techniques can often "find" data buried in the latent noise. It is the same technique employed in all GPS receivers, whereby data is successfully read from an extremely low level signal embedded in high levels of background noise. The high degree of stability and thus repeatability of the signal to be processed - plus the ability to search for a known as well as simple data structure, makes reiterative sampling to find the "buried" signal possible. Also the task is much easier in the case of GPS signals, as the signals are very simplistic.
By comparison, video data is massive and complex. Note also that even the highest broadcast tape format is highly unstable (the signal never plays back exactly the same way each time) and this behavior is endemic to all tape formats. Since the video images are unknown, every field is different, and the data structure of the video image is also unknown; deep reiterative pattern searching is not possible. (It's hard to search for something when you don't know what you're looking for).
In any event, once the control track and the video tracks have been erased, there is no hope of recovery. Though there may be faint traces of the original video in the guard bands between the video tracks if it was an insert edit that did the damage as opposed to an assemble edit, the recovered video from the guard band would be a picture not even discernable thru the noise - even if we could somehow manage to track it.
The only way to prevent this from happening in the future, is first to remove the record lock tabs (such as those found on VHS cassettes) or slide the record locking selector to the record inhibit position immediately after making any recording you wish to preserve. Then make a backup copy of the tape or have it archived to DVD, as VCR's are notorious for "eating" tapes when they become old and worn out.... (We have observed over the years that the chances of a tape being "eaten" is exponentially proportional to the value of the recording ...... for reasons not fully understood).
Secondly, LABEL THE TAPE ! .... Unlabeled tapes are easy targets to being mistakenly taped over.
We can often recover damaged video, but we nor anyone else including the CIA with seemingly unlimited resources for that matter, can recover missing video that has been erased or recorded over. Alas, no technology exists to recover recorded over video, nor is there ever likely to be......For what little it's worth at this point, we receive typically 3 to 5 calls a week asking this question, with most folks almost pleading for a solution. Thus you aren't the first, nor sadly, will you be the last to have done so..... You have plenty of company...... (You may want your life partner to read this section, as knowing it's happened to many others, somehow makes it more understandable - (it's the "misery enjoys company" concept.))
* * * * * * *
The only remaining suggestion at this point, is to visit a Home Depot or the like, and purchase or acquire the materials to build yourself a LARGE Dog House. Just a hunch, but think you'll find it'll come in quite handy in the very near future.....
Other than that debatably semi-worthwhile suggestion, the only other one I have, is that you SAVE the recorded over tape..... DO NOT TOSS IT.... Might be sorta neat (in a twisted sort of way) to let your child see, for example, what episode of "Seinfeld" or the like, "Ole Dad" thought was more important than his or her Birth video..... Who knows ! .... in later years (MUCH later to be more exact) your son/daughter and your wife (assuming presumably, that she hasn't divorced you over this) probably will get a kick out of "Ole Dad In Action" ! ......... Thus (though you can't comprehend it now) that tape might even be almost as precious to both your wife and child if "sold and packaged" properly. (GE sells refrigerators to Eskimos, right ???) Albeit, not the greatest solution, but might "salvage" part of the damage !
May sound like I'm kidding about this - but I am quite serious. When all ya got is lemons, tis' best you make lemonade !!! .....
(Suggest you still go get the Dog House though....)
Q: Is making a copy of a copyright work legal ? - Can I copy music or a video ?
A: Yes ! - but 2 conditions must be met.
must own the original recording - it must NOT be a copy
Second: The single copy will be solely for your own personal use. You may not even give it away or offer it as a present.
If the work is in the public domain or you are the copyright holder then there are no restrictions
The copyright laws as they pertain to this issue, state that a person who has purchased a musical or video recording is allowed to make a single copy of the material they purchased on a different medium. For Example: you buy a CD, then record it on a cassette to listen to in the car. That is perfectly legal - live it up ! It would not be legal if you then sell or even give the cassette tape to anyone else.
The "Fair Use Doctrine" of the copyright laws also allow a person to make a Single copy of the recording for safekeeping (or archiving).
Copyright law as it applies to audio and video is a complicated subject filling 100's of pages - well beyond the scope of this page. We are not lawyers, but this is our condensed understanding of it. There's a wealth of information on the web as applicable to copyright law.
It will take you many hours to "sift: through all the "legal-eese"....
You are responsible for all material submitted, and by the act of doing so, you're certifying that either the material is non-copyrighted, you are the copyright holder, have purchased the rights of copy, or are abiding by the provisions of the copyright Fair Use Doctrine which allows ONE copy to be made for archival or transfer to a different format for personal use ONLY.
We will not accept any material submitted for conversion or duplication for which you don't have the legal rights to copy (such as illegal uses not meeting the requirements of the Fair Use Doctrine). We will not knowingly copy or convert copyrighted material to any format in violation of copyright law - period ! We reserve the right to refuse any copyrighted material and those materials will be returned to you and any payments refunded, less return shipping plus a $5.00 handling/packing/tracking charge.
We do not accept ANY commercial copyright movies in any format or copyright music recorded on CD or other digital formats for transfer that are currently available for legal purchase in the marketplace.
We will however, accept any type of vintage media...... Copyrighted vintage 78 records, micro-groove records, wire recordings or analog magnetic tapes for restoration, recovery or transfer for personal use under the Fair Use Doctrine as long as those recordings are not currently in print ! In no event will we make more than ONE copy of this material.
Naturally, we accept anything in the public domain or any media not copyright and those can be copied as many times as you wish.
Put another way, we respect the rights of the copyright owner. Illegal copying of protected media denies the owner of the material their very livelihood. We are all too aware of the time, effort and expense that goes into mastering a CD/DVD..... It is something we choose not to be a part of.....
Last Modified: Apr 15, 2010
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