Tapes to USB or DVD by Tapes2USB
Tapes2USB has been converting tapes to USB or DVD for many years now and specialise in providing our clients with a fast, efficient and discreet service. Primarily aimed at customers who are looking for a local company to carry out their tapes to USB or DVD conversions who prefer not to trust their precious memories to a postal service, we take great pride in helping our clients preserve and archive them on a more convenient and up-to-date format.
With day and evening time drop-off facilities in Loughton, Essex – we regularly carry out tapes to USB or DVD conversion services to clients throughout Essex, London, Hertfordshire and beyond.
What is the benefit of tapes to USB or DVD conversion?
The most common reason for our customers wanting to convert their tapes to USB or DVD is that they no longer have a working machine to play them back on. However, there are a number of other benefits to having your videotape converted to DVD.
- USBs and DVDs offer a much more sophisticated and quicker playback function – allowing you to quickly search through the content of the USB or DVD. If you opt for our premium videotape to DVD service we can also add chapter points throughout the DVD enabling you to skip to designated parts of the recording.
- Whilst there are no advantages in terms of picture and sound quality (the quality of the original recording governs this), some modern DVD playback machines and Smart TVs will up-scale the image when played back on a high definition screen giving the impression of a better quality image.
- DVDs, and even more so USBs, also require much less storage or shelf space and, depending on the videotapes being converted, can hold the contents of a number of tapes on a single disk. (See sections below on tape capacities)
- DVDs, if converted properly, can be played back on a variety of machines. These include standard DVD players, Sony PlayStation, Blu-ray players, Computers with DVD drives and portable all-in-one DVD player/screens. Whilst no format is guaranteed to last forever, DVDs are still widely manufactured and supported in new optical disk technologies.
- Once converted to USB or DVD it is very easy to make further copies – without losing any further quality in the recording. Tapes2USB can provide these additional copies for a few pounds at the time of converting the videotape to DVD and recommend this for archiving purposes. Whilst the lifespan of a DVD, if stored correctly, will last for many years the memories they hold are very precious so it is always advisable to back them up (see our article on preserving your media here).
- Converting videotape to USB or DVD involves digitising the pictures and sound and storing them in a digital format. With USB conversions this is simple as the MP4 files they contain can be easily edited on your computer. Our standard DVD service results in a disk which can be played back in a range of devices (see above) – but these files can also be imported into a video editing program for further copying and editing on a computer. Exploring the disk on a computer will reveal folders that contain files with a ‘.VOB’ suffice. By copying these to your computer and renaming them with a ‘.MPG’ suffice you can carry out more refinement yourself – although it might result in degradation if further compression is added. Alternatively, Tapes2USB can convert the videotape into a range of edit-ready file formats for you to use directly that will help you retain as much quality as possible (available by separate quotation).
What is the most popular tapes to USB or DVD conversion service?
Without doubt, the most regular tapes to USB or DVD service we carry out is good old VHS to DVD. With literally millions of feet of VHS tape still in existence, holding many thousands of hours of family memories, these represent over 70% of the conversions carried out here at Tapes2USB. Whilst there are a few VHS players available to buy new, the format is obsolete and the vast majority of machines are either defunct or coming to the end of their useful lives. Whilst it is a robust format, playing back your VHS tapes, or any other videotape format come to that, has the potential of damaging the tape beyond repair – especially when the machine has been poorly maintained, stored in damp or dirty conditions or simply not regularly powered up and used.
VHS to DVD – our most popular tapes to USB or DVD service
VHS tapes come in a variety of lengths, ranging from a few minutes to up 4-hours. In addition, many recorders and camcorders offered the ability to record in long-play mode, which doubled the recording length available (at the cost of a lower quality recording). Converting VHS to DVD can therefore result in one tape needing to be spread over a number of DVDs.
The capacity of a DVD is also governed by the amount of compression used when carrying out the conversion – but in a similar long-play mode will hold up to 4-hours on a standard single-sided DVD. The amount on compression that is used in the videotape to DVD process will depend on the quality of the original recording and we generally recommend a standard level of compression that will allow for up to 2-hours per DVD.
VHS-C to DVD
To help reduce the size of the camcorder many manufacturers adopted a smaller variant of VHS – called VHS-C (the ‘C’ standing for ‘Compact’). These cassettes are slightly bigger than a cigarette packet in size. The most common running time for these cassettes is just 30-minutes but there were also 45-minute variants and, as with VHS, the machines offered a Long-play mode which doubled the recording time.
As VHS-C tapes recorded in exactly the same format as a normal VHS tape they can be played back in a normal VHS player with the use of an adapter which the tapes slotted into. These are the second most common tapes Tapes2USB receives for videotape to DVD conversion.
S-VHS & S-VHSC and VHS ET
JVC and other manufacturers further developed the VHS format to increase the picture quality and the most common of these was S-VHS (Super VHS) and SVHS-C. Identical in appearance and offering the same recording times, these cameras and VCRs were only popular for a short period in time. The Digital S format is comparatively rare and was normally only found on professional equipment.
Video8 or 8mm, Hi8 and Digital8
Sony also developed a compact videotape format called Video8 which is based on 8mm tape – which are roughly the size of a pack of playing cards and could contain up to 135-minutes of video in standard mode. Further developments in 8mm tape included Hi8 and Digital 8 (90-mins recording) formats – which offered higher quality recordings.
At Tapes2USB we are seeing a growing number of Video8 tapes coming in that are suffering from tape mold or fungus. Whilst this can happen to any videotape that’s been stored poorly (watch our short film on how to store videotapes), 8mm tape formats seem to be more susceptible to damage due to their compound and tape thickness. This can result in the tapes tearing and becoming unplayable.
MiniDV, Standard DV, DVCAM and HDV
Further miniaturisation of camcorder cassettes saw the introduction of various DV tape formats based on a tape width of 6.5mm. The most common of these is Mini DV, which uses cassettes roughly the size of a Swan Vesta box of matches – but a little shorter. The most common recording time of these cassettes is 60-minutes.
Because of their digital recording system these tapes tend to give the best videotape conversion results. However, this does depend on the camera itself and also whether the tape was recorded in Long Play mode. This doubled the length of recording space on the tape at the cost of quality.
Though less common, and usually only found in high-end or professional cameras and VCRs, Standard DV tapes are larger in size and almost identical to 8mm cassettes mentioned above. Further variations of 6.5mm tapes include DVCAM, DVCPRO and, in it’s high-definition variations, HDV, DVCPRO HD.
At the same time that VHS was launched, Sony launched their own 1/2 inch videotape home format – Betamax. Though it was generally accepted as a better format to VHS, Sony failed to sell machines in the same quantities as VHS and it was eventually dropped as a home video system. At Tapes2USB we are now seeing a growing number of Betamax tapes coming in for conversion and manage to maintain working systems for conversion.
Like VHS, this format was developed further for professional and broadcast applications. For many years, formats such as Betacam, Betacam SP and DigiBeta were the defacto formats used by professional camera operators and editors.
Other video formats
Whilst Tapes2USB can provide all of the above videotape to USB or DVD services in-house, we can also arrange conversion of pretty much any one of the more specialist or rare video tape and digital formats – including Micro MV, Betamax ED, Video 2000, U-Matic, 1”, 2”, Digi-Beta, M2 and more. These conversions are carried out by separate quotation and usually take longer to complete.
It’s not all tapes to USB or DVD!
Mini DVD camcorders
In more recent years manufacturers developed cameras which recorded to a mini-DVD disk. The disks are 8cm in diameter and offered the benefit of being playable in a normal DVD player once they were ‘Finalised’. Basically, the process of finalisation was carried out once you filled the disks up or did not want to add any more video to them. Without finalisation the disks could not be played in anything other than the camcorder itself – so it is quite common for clients to have these disks in un-finalised state and unable to play them back if they no longer have the camcorder. However, Tapes2USB have specialist software applications which enable us to extract the un-finalised files and convert them to DVD. Please note, this isn’t always possible and can result in part of the recordings being unrecoverable.
HDD (Hard Disk Drive) Camcorders to DVD
Further miniaturisation was achieved by the introduction of camcorders with internal HDD recorders negating the need for tapes. The main drawback of these camcorders was that once the HHD were full you had to transfer the video off to another device or media. Whilst it is rare for Tapes2USB to provide a conversion service for these cameras we can do as long as your camcorder is still working.
Solid State or Memory Card Cameras
The most common current camcorder recording system uses solid state technology which records to a memory card. These are usually SD cards but can include CF Cards (Compact Flash), MicroSD, MiniSD, SDHC, XD, MS Duo, MMCmicro and MMCPlus. These can all be easily converted to DVD for easy playback.
Audio Cassette to Audio CD
Whilst DVD is by far the most common format we convert to, we are also able to deliver the conversion on a number of different storage media. This includes Blu-ray, Memory Cards, USB sticks, portable HDD and data DVDs. We can also convert Cine Film to DVD too – in various gauges (8mm, Super8, 16mm and 35mm).
We can also convert audio cassettes to Audio CD. Please ask for details.
Cost of converting tapes to USB or DVD
The vast majority of our videotape to DVD conversions come under our standard rates as detailed here. However, we also offer discounts on orders involving 10 or more tapes (of varying formats) – and can provide various bespoke packages including editing, captioning, duplication and specialist disk packaging. Please call for more details or visit our studio in Loughton, Essex to discuss the options.
Kevin Cook – Tapes2USB (part of Video Artisan)
Call: 020 3602 3356
Mobile: 0777 153 5692