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MEDIA TRANSFERS

"Media Transfer" means moving audio, video, or still images from one format, usually obsolete, to another, more modern and accessible media. It can also include restoration of degraded media or even improvement or "sweetening" of audio or video. 

AUDIO TRANSFERS

This usually means that a client has one or more audio recordings that they cannot play back due to not having the proper hardware or due to the condition of the media. I take these recordings, do whatever restoration is necessary and desired, and transfer them to CD's or digital audio files. 

Currently, I can handle open reel, or what is commonly called "reel-to-reel" recordings on standard 1/4 inch tape in either full track mono, half-track mono or stereo, or quarter-track mono or stereo, at any tape speed between 15/32 inch per second and 30 inches per second. Tapes recorded at speeds below 3.75 IPS are transferred at 3.75 IPS, and then the speed and equalization are corrected in the digital domain. Note that some open-reel tapes made on small, portable recorders in the 1960's were not recorded at standard or even constant speeds. Every effort will be made to reproduce these as closely to the correct speed as possible.

 

These tapes are played on an Otari MX-55N professional studio mastering deck, and the audio is carried over +4dBm balanced audio lines to an Audient iD14 MKII interface, operating at a sample rate of 96 kHz, with a bit depth of 24 bits. That's more than three times the precision of a CD. 

 

I can also add leader tape to open-reel tapes to allow transfer of every second of recorded audio, and to protect the ends of the tape in the future. Failed splices, a very common problem in older master tapes, can be replaced too.

The resulting digital recordings can be sweetened or restored as necessary, or provided to the client exactly as-is. The digital recordings can be moved to a thumb drive or other digital storage media as desired, in any audio format the client prefers. I always suggest either WAV or FLAC formats, as these do not lose any of the quality of the transferred recordings. Alternatively, I can convert the recordings to CD's or to digital files in other formats.

DEGRADED TAPES

Some older open-reel audio recordings suffer from degradation caused by the binder, which is the “glue” that holds the oxide onto the tape backing, absorbing moisture from the air and becoming sticky or even loosening entirely. This is referred to as “sticky shed syndrome,” or SSS, and playing such a tape without treating it beforehand can destroy the tape and can damage a tape recorder. I have experience in treating these tapes to allow for transfer, although it should be noted that some tapes are beyond treatment and are unrecoverable.

There is another issue that sometimes affects older tapes, called soft binder syndrome," or SBS. Similar to SSS, it can often be treated so that the tape can be transferred successfully. 

There can also be mold issues, which can usually be addressed with audio tapes, although it can be a bit trickier with video tapes, which are much thinner and more fragile than audio tapes.

I can also handle other formats, such as cassettes, which are transferred on my carefully adjusted Pioneer CT-F900 Cassette deck. This three-head, dual-capstan monster is the best-sounding cassette deck I've ever used. Cassettes often suffer from a problem similar but unrelated to SSS, whereby the lubricant applied at the factory dissipates and the tape sticks inside the shell and also to the heads of the player. I can treat these tapes as well for transfer, and I can also repair the pressure pads and replace the outer shells, if need be.

Currently, I only handle mono and stereo cassettes, not the multitrack tapes made on machines such as the Tascam "portastudio." However, I can handle cassettes recorded at half and double speeds, in the same way as I described above for handling very slow speed open reel recordings. I can also handle microcassettes, usually used for dictation or note-taking.

But what about tapes with noise reduction? I use 21st century software decoders for tapes recorded with Dolby B, Dolby C, ANRS, Super ANRS, DBX type I and DBX type II. The recordings are transferred to digital without decoding the noise reduction, and then decoding occurs in the digital domain. This allows me to adjust the levels from each recording for the best possible result when decoding the noise reduction. It works better than using 40+ year-old hardware decoders as these devices are usually out of adjustment and can never properly decode encoded audio. I'm not currently able to handle Dolby A, S, or SR, as these remain decodable only in hardware, and I do not have such hardware.

I can handle obsolete digital media as well, including Minidiscs and DAT's. DAT's are handled by a Fostex D-5 Mastering deck, while minidiscs are handled by a Sony MDS-JE330 minidisc player. Transfers from DAT are made completely in the digital domain though an optical connection between the DAT and my computer, resulting in bit-perfect copies of these recordings, at either 44.1kHz or 48 kHz sample rates. Some recordings on these devices were made in 32kHz/12 bit mode (so-called “long play” mode), and these cannot be transferred in the digital domain because there is no modern digital file format that matches. These lower-quality recordings can be transferred in the analog domain to any modern sample rate and bit depth. Metadata such as track numbers and track names will not transfer to modern digital files, although depending on what format you choose to use, this information can be manually added later. Minidiscs are transferred through analog connections, as they were never capable of bit-perfect reproduction due to their inbuilt ATRACS lossy compression.

I can transfer audio from unique sources such as portable digital voice recorders, wire recorders, dictation machines, telephone answering machines, etc, if you have the device that will play the audio and don't mind loaning it to me for a short while.

VIDEO TRANSFERS

Like audio, people often have old video recordings they made years ago, and they can no longer watch them because they no longer have a machine that will play them. And, as with audio recordings, video tapes need to be transferred to digital as soon as possible before they degrade beyond repair. Currently, I can transfer the following formats of videotape:

 

VHS, VHS-C, S-VHS, S-VHS-C; 

Betamax; 

DVCAM; 

Mini-DV;

Digital 8, Hi-8, and Video-8;

Large and small Betacam and Betacam SP (NTSC and PAL);

Betacam SX (NTSC and PAL);

Digital Betacam (also known as DigiBeta, D-Beta, DBC or simply "Digi");

U-Matic (both large and small tapes, low band, high band, and SP);

EIAJ Type 1 (black-and-white). 

 

Other video formats will be supported in the future as demand dictates.

 

Please note that I can currently only transfer NTSC video, except for analog Betacam and Betacam SP and the digital Betacam SX formats, all of which I can handle in PAL format as well. The NTSC system is/was used in the following countries/areas: American Samoa, Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Greenland, Guam, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Japan, S. Korea, Mexico, Micronesia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Surinam, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, USA, Venezuela, and the Virgin Islands. Unless otherwise noted, I cannot transfer video made with SECAM, PAL, or other video systems (yet).

I can transfer all video formats to DVD or to a digital "container" such as MP4 (with either H.264, H.265, or AV1 video encoding and any number of audio codecs), on thumb drives or portable hard drives. I can also transfer to lossless, uncompressed 10-bit digital with 4:2:2 chroma subsampling and 24-bit uncompressed audio (SDI) in an MOV container, or Apple ProRes format.

 

Digital video tape formats such as DVCAM, Mini-DV, and Digital 8 can be transferred in the digital domain losslessly, and then converted to the desired output format such as MP4 or DVD, or else I can leave the video and audio in their original formats in an AVI "container." All analog video formats are run through a digital timebase corrector or a frame buffer before digitization. 

Standard Definition video can be upscaled, color corrected, cleaned up, etc., for an extra fee.

I only transfer video which you own the copyright to, such as home movies. I do not transfer copyrighted movies. I can transfer programs you recorded off the air or from cable. I also do not transfer X-rated, NC-17, or "adult" content, so please do not ask.

Also note that digital video recordings made in the "LP" (long play) format may or may not be transferrable, because the manufacturers of Digital-8 and Mini-DV recorders specifically intended these recordings to be played back only on the exact same machine that made them. Certain shortcuts were taken in the recording process (namely, a highly-reduced track pitch) that makes it difficult to play these tapes on different machines. In fact, my high-end, professional DVCAM/DV deck will not play them at all; it's not designed to. My Digital-8 player can play LP tapes, but I cannot guarantee the results.

The same can be said of VHS and Beta tapes recorded at the longest-play speeds. These tapes often play back poorly on any machine except the one on which they were recorded.

To see some samples of old videotapes I have transferred, see these YouTube videos:

Betacam

VHS

S-VHS

U-Matic

Contact me for prices and availability of transfer services. Finally, there's this:

FINAL WORDS RECORDINGS

Previously, I had published an offer to transfer to digital any "last words" of fallen veterans or first responders, and that offer still holds. However, the disaster in Surfside Florida has led me to expand that offer to anyone. So, if you have a "last words" recording of a friend or loved one, and you would like it transferred to digital to preserve it, I will do so for free. I'll take your word that such a recording is what you say it is, I'm not going to ask for a death certificate or anything like that. Contact me and we can discuss keeping your treasured recording intact.

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