Converting Analog to Digital

Discussion in 'Professional Video Production' started by dvwool, Dec 20, 2006.

  1. dvwool

    dvwool Guest


    My company has a large quantity (~10,000) of analog tapes (3/4" Beta)
    that have been accumulated over the last 25 years. It's no doubt that
    some, if not many, of the tapes are bad, but I'm in the process of
    trying to determine if the remaining can be saved by converting to
    digital format (preferrably MPEG-4).

    Can anyone tell me if there is a company that can do mass conversion as
    I've described above. I'm aware that time, cost, storage will be major
    factors, but am interested in discussing those specifics if I can find
    someone who has the capability and could take on a project of this

    Thanks in advance for your help!
    dvwool, Dec 20, 2006
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  2. There are many companies listed in major cities who do all types of
    video, movie etc. conversion to disc. Try to google and include your
    country, city in the query. Good luck

    Max Haltermann, Dec 20, 2006
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  3. If you are going to that much trouble, you might want to
    consider something higher quality than MPEG-4
    There are lots of places that do dubbing, perhaps some
    in your own city (which you didn't reveal). For such a
    large quantity, you could certainly negotiate specialty
    dubbing (such as Betacam to MP4, etc.)
    Richard Crowley, Dec 20, 2006
  4. For this kind of volume, unless you need it done really fast, your most
    cost-efficient solution is to buy a playback deck and the realtime
    recorder of your choice and burn these to 1-hour DVD-R in your own
    place. If you lack the staff you can hire temps or local teens or
    elederly or someone from a sheltered workshop to process the tapes into
    disks. It is not the kind of job that requires an EE degree or 4 years
    of college. You can't transfer umatic any faster than real-time anyway,
    no matter what. The only way to go faster is to gang up multiple sets
    of machines in parallell, and the costs for that are prohibitive beyond
    two sets... Any solution that requires an intermediate step to hard
    drive is never going to work fast enough to suit your volume. IMO.

    My shop had a similar situation and that's what we have: a temp, a
    deck, and a Panasonic DVD recorder buring to DVD-R at the highest
    quality setting. Even though it's mpeg-2 it is still better than the
    umatic already. He reloads the tapes and disks on the half-hour or
    hour, labels and catalogs them, and does other office busy work in
    nobody special, Dec 20, 2006
  5. dvwool

    dvwool Guest

    Thanks for the replies everyone!

    I'll check with some local companies to see if I can find someone to
    partner with. It's likely that we will contract with several companies
    to reduce the conversion time. At this point, I'm really interested in
    determining who can do it, how, and cost. Then I can show the guys in
    ties what the bottom line is.

    I'm not sure that going the DVD route will suit us... my pipe dream is
    to get all of the footage onto a storage array... then ultimately to
    build a content database. I definitely see us using (er, burning out)
    many temps on this! ;-)

    dvwool, Dec 21, 2006
  6. dvwool

    Tony Guest

    This is completely incorrect:
    If yo copied the uncompressed U-Matic video to hard drive, 1 hour would take up over 60GB.
    One hour of your U-Matic tape to DVD takes up a couple of GB.

    Even better would not to go to DVD at all, which is crap. It looks good to average consumers but it
    really is just a massive compression that looks good to the eye. The next step would be to transfer
    to miniDV or full DV. Even that would cause a 5:1 compression loss.

    Anyway, mp2 is far worse than anything the u-matic recorded. The quality can never get better than
    what is on that tape. It can only get worse by compressing the info or to record analog. Go with
    the tapes (DV). They will last as long as the U-matics and VHSs out there, which is over 20 years if
    stored properly. One scratch on a DVD and say goodbye to the entire disk.

    Tony, Dec 22, 2006
  7. Agree completely. It would be a great tragedy to expend
    the resources dubbing all that content and end up with
    nothing but inferior MPEG (DVD, etc.) to show for it.
    Unless, of course it is inconsequential content, but then
    why bother dubbing?
    Richard Crowley, Dec 22, 2006
  8. You guys don't like MPEG2 (shrugs). There is "good" and there is "good
    enough". Heck, that's been microsoft's modus operandi for decades;-) My
    philosophy is you make a trade-off between quality and cost andm that
    mix is different for every person.

    Just a quick back of the napkin calculation, assuming 20-minute umatic
    cassette tape loads, you're looking at over 3,300 hours of material.
    Assuming a 40-hour workweek and not figuring in time to load, unload,
    rewind, clean heads, potty breaks, lunch, holidays, etc, I make it
    something over two years to get all this transferred by one person on a
    full-time basis. Of course, if you're in a hurry, you could hire more
    staff and gear working in parallel. Umatic decks and spares are
    getting harder to find. I am really curious as to what the program
    material is you're working to archive, and whether it's value justifies
    the expense of the transfer operation. 3,300 hours is a hell of a lot
    of hard drive storage any way you want to slice it, too. Lose one drive
    in an array that doesn't have redundancy, you've lost all the episodes
    on that drive. So what, you mirror the drives? To 6,600 hours of
    storage? What the heck are these programs? Maybe the first step is to
    cull what really needs and deserves to be archived from the rest?
    Interesting article in the latest WIRED magazine on how NASA lost the
    best live footage of Armstrong's moon landing, covers many of the same
    nobody special, Dec 22, 2006
  9. dvwool

    dvwool Guest

    Thanks again for the replies.

    DVD won't cut it for us... it needs to be accessible in a more
    immediate manner and of better quality than MPEG-2. The content is
    historic video footage that is important to our organization and that
    will be used for many different purposes.

    I've done those calculations myself and agree, it will take a long time
    and cost a lot of money... one of the reasons for my initial post was
    to try to find a company who would be interested in taking on the
    project and could discuss specifics and ultimately cost. I need to
    hear the real numbers so that we can determine how we want to proceed.
    We may end up reducing the scope of the project to a subset of the
    10,000 tapes.

    Regarding storage... we have a partner who will be taking care of the
    required capacity. They build high-end storage arrays and most
    definitely won't be slapping together a box with mirrored drives. I'll
    be sure to look under the hood though to make sure! ;-)

    Sorry to be so secretive... I need to keep this project under wraps at
    this point. I'll post back and let you know what we're doing once/if
    we get started.

    Thanks again!
    Have a great holiday!
    dvwool, Dec 23, 2006
  10. dvwool

    Bernie Guest

    Agree with the others - stick to tape, and get it on to a well used
    digital format - DigiBeta if you can afford it, DV if you can't. Both
    these have hugh professional user-bases which will future-proof them
    for a good long time.

    Puuting them on high quality arrays means you have to store the arrays
    - big lumps of machinery - and at (say) 13Gb per hour of DV you'll be
    putting 23 hours of material on a 300Gb set of drives. That's a lot of
    eggs in one basket. Of course you could compress more than DV - Xvid
    or whatever - but such compression formats are ever changing and
    transient, and makes for even more eggs. Can I still use the audio I
    digitised on my Atari ST? No I can't, it's gone, dead, and so will your
    stuff be if you put it on discs. And, of course, a couple of years on,
    someone new goes into the library and steals a drive out of one of
    these old dusty stacks for something he needs right now, and goodbye to
    your archive. Or knocks it off the rack - same result.

    Stick to tape, but as is obvious, it's going to take you a really long
    time. The BBC converted much of its huge archive from 2" to 1" just in
    time for digital to make it out of date - and then it chose Panasonic
    D3, which lasted all of five years. Now it's all on DigiBeta, which
    should last a while yet as long as they maintain a few players.

    Bernie, Dec 23, 2006
  11. It may be your project is one of those that makes sense for Blue Ray.
    However by the time the last tape has been archived to it, it is likely
    to have been itself made obsolete. If you decide to put these to
    individual disks, be sure to plan for and buy plenty of backup
    hardware for accessing it down the road. How many of you guys can still
    read a larhe floppy, normal floppy, winchester cartridge, hell, even a
    JAZ cartridge already?
    nobody special, Dec 24, 2006
  12. "nobody special" < wrote ...
    Assmuning it isn't obsolete already.
    Well, all except for Winchester (which I hever had.)
    Richard Crowley, Dec 24, 2006
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