Tape conversions have been around for a long time and have gone by different names. Over the last 20 or so years, it has been referred to as Analog to Digital, 1 to 1 conversions, Tape Transfers, and Film to VHS to just name a few. During this time, conversions were done in an antiquated manner. When you received your "converted" media back, you probably thought to yourself This does not look as good as I remember, and you were probably right. Let's look back at how conversions were done, and compare to how they are done today with leading technology from The Digitize Center.
How Film Reels used to be Digitized
The process used to convert film reels in the past typically provided a very poor final result. The digitized" copy would often be put on a VHS tape and would look blurry, out of focus, and not fit the entire screen properly. This is because they were digitized using a free-recording method (and sadly, many places still use this method!)
Basically how it works is the company digitizing your film reels would put the film into a classic film projector, just like you would at home. They would then play the film, projecting it on to a screen. They then would take a video camera of some sort, and aim at the screen and record the video directly on to a VHS tape or some other type of media. There are so many issues with this method to digitize your film that there are too many to list here, but I can list a few here:
- The technology was limited at the time, and this was the best method to digitize film reels.
- Free-form recording is a poor choice for getting good quality out a film reel.
Because of this method, digitized film reels would often look blurry or out of focus, and would never seem to fit the screen perfectly.
How The Digitize Center Digitizes Film Reels using New Technology
Here at The Digitize Center, we use a completely different method to digitize film reels. Instead of putting your film reel in to a projector and recording its projection, we capture each frame of the film one at a time. Then, using software specially designed to optimize film recordings, we string each frame together at the correct frames per second to create a seamless and beautiful video. This results in a much higher quality digitized file without the blue and screen formatting issues seen in the past.
How Video Tapes used to be Digitized
Video tapes were digitized in two different ways in the past. The first way is similar to the same way film reels were digitized, a video tape would be put into its player, played on to a screen, and another video player (such as a DVD player or VHS/.DVD combo player) would record the screen and burn video to a file. The second way is a little more modern and used a tape player, computers, and software to create a digital file. The above two methods created a fair quality digitized copy of your video tape, but it did have some issues. The main issues seen with the above two methods was stretching of pixels and interlaced video, which looks poor.
How The Digitize Center Digitizes Video Tapes
Here at The Digitize Center, we use smart technology and software to digitize video tapes. We do still use camcorders and VHS players to get the original video, but we go several steps further and analyze and process each video tape. During this process, we trim off any blank edges in the digitized file, cut out recorded TV programs, use FPS-matching systems to get the correct speed, correct tracking errors, and encode to a high quality format that can play on any device.
How Photos and Slides Used to be Digitized
Photos and slides were generally digitized using two methods. The first method is the same as film reels: a photo or slide would be put in front of a digital camera, and the camera would take a picture of that photo or slide. This is a type of free-form digitization and we have already discussed the quality issues with this procedure. The second method is to use some sort of scanner. The scanner method is straight forward, the conversion company would scan your photos using either a flatbed scanner or an auto feeding scanner, and this would create digital copies of your photos. The scanner method was rarely used for slides.
Sadly, the free form method is still widely used today for digitizing slides and is not a method we would recommend. Photos digitized today are almost all done using scanners, which is an improvement but the quality varies greatly based on the type of equipment used. if you had any photos or slides digitized in the past 20 years, then you likely are missing out on a ton of quality that those images should have. Even today, many companies "scan" photos at a low DPI/PPI, which robs you of the quality you expect to last forever.
How The Digitize Center Digitizes Photos & Slides
At The Digitize Center, we do not do any free-form digitization for slides or photographs. We only use commercial grade scanners in conjunction with our in-house software that analyzes and improves the quality of digitized photos. We scan at a high DPI, which takes a little longer, but is worth it when you see your digitized images. We also use smart technology that automatically crops and orients your images to the ideal position, making sure your digitized images are level and facing the right direction (especially important with slides).
Lastly, we offer image restoration and enhancement to revitalize images that may have some fading or whose colors are washed out. Our innovative software and trained staff can bring those colors back and make an old photograph look brand new in its digitized form.
What should you do?
If you have had your precious memories digitized in the past and think you can get better quality out of them, consider having them digitized again at a company that utilizes the newest technology. If your media items were digitized before 2015, for sure you can get better digitized copies if you still have the originals. If it was after 2015, then you should look in to the company that did the digitizing and see if they used the best quality features during their digitization.
If you plan on getting your items digitized again, do some research beforehand and pick a company that truly cares about quality and not just cruising through your precious memories. Ask them these questions:
- Do you capture film reels frame by frame or do you use free-form?
- Do you apply any deinterlacing and noise-reduction filters to digitized video tapes?
- Are slides digitized using a camera/free-form or is a high tech scanner used?
- What DPI do you scan photos at?
- Do you captures videos using a lossless codec?
Here at The Digitize Center, we have the answer to all of those questions right on our website, and those answers are bolded above.
Don't take our word for it, we have digitized over 1 million memories and please read the Reviews our customers have left for us. We put quality first, and use the best technology to do so.
You can see how we go above and beyond using the best technology to create the best digitized media by visiting the Why Use The Digitize Center Page.