Next, we move to the film and video side of my operation. I can transfer 8mm, Super 8 and 16mm film (with or without sound – which, in the case of 16mm, can be optical or magnetic) to region-free DVD. Correction can be applied to colour films that have tinted with age . With video (and, as a contributor to and sometime technical editor of magazines like What Video, Home Cinema Choice and Camcorder User for over 20 years I have gained a considerable amount of experience in this field) there is a plethora of formats to deal with.
I can transfer Sony CV2100 and EIAJ reel-to-reel video (the latter in colour), Philips N1500/1700 (‘VCR’ and ‘VCR-LP’) cassettes, all U-Matic varieties (including hi-band and SP), Betacam/Betacam SP, Funai/Technicolor’s CVC, Grundig’s SVR, Philips V2000, Sony’s Betamax and SuperBeta (with or without hi-fi or linear BNR stereo), all varieties of VHS and VHS-C (VHS/S-VHS with linear or hi-fi stereo, D-VHS), all varieties of 8mm (8mm, Hi-8, Digital 8), DV/Mini-DV, DVCAM and DVC-Pro. Wow, that’s a lot of formats; if you’re not absolutely sure what you’ve got, then please get in contact and I’ll try and identify your media.
Some of my machines – e.g, Betamax, U-Matic and Philips VCR/VCR-LP – have been custom-modified to give the best possible video output – separate colour (chrominance) and greyscale (luminance) feeds, rather than composite video or RF. It’s truly amazing the difference this makes! Most video is passed through a broadcast-quality timebase corrector (TBC) before being sent in digital component form to a computer (for file output) or professional DVD recorder. All machines are professional-standard with integral TBC (to hand is a variety of Sony, Panasonic and JVC machines) or, if unavailable, top-of-the-range domestic (the latter essential for LP or EP VHS recordings, which won’t play on SP-only pro gear!). Monitoring during transfer is done using calibrated broadcast-standard displays and test equipment.
If you require files, these can be supplied in the format/compression system of your choice; transfer starts with uncompressed digital video. Digital correction (such as audio/video noise-reduction, audio/video adjustments, poor A/V sync and the elimination of bad edits) can be applied on request; I can advise if need be. If you want material (film or video) on DVD, I would advise storing no more than an hour of material on each disc if at all possible to minimise DVD (MPEG-2) compression artifacts. However, up to 2 hours is more than acceptable under most circumstances (it’s also essential for feature-length content).
You can buy a VCR/HDD/DVD recorder from a big Japanese brand, or even a VHS deck with inbuilt video capture hardware and a USB interface. And second-hand VCRs of dubious condition are two a penny on eBay. The results from such hardware tend to be mediocre. That Japanese ‘combi’ machine lacks proper timebase-correction won’t even play S-VHS tapes properly; it yields VHS quality from them. If you want the best possible transfers of material that is of significant personal value (a wedding or memories of a deceased relative) then you need the services of a company with the right equipment and experience.