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  1. Member
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    Dec 2016
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    Hi there,

    I'm brand new to this so please excuse my terminology.

    I am launching a new social media site very soon that will allow families to share and record memories for generations to come. One of the features that we would like to include is the option to convert your old VHS, VHS-C and older videos to DVD quality for cloud storage for their particular families page to share forever.

    Long story short, I'm look for some advice on equipment to purchase - what would be the best quality equipment to convert these types of videos? We would offer the DVD to them or USB to them - we would also send it to the cloud for storage on their particular profile/family page. Any help would be great.

    I don't mind spending the money to get good products and I don't mind having to purchase computers just for this.

    Thank you again,

    Phil
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  2. Member hech54's Avatar
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    The VHS players you find will be used(probably VERY used) since they do not make them anymore....you know that right?
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  3. Originally Posted by geneomyadmin View Post
    I'm brand new to this
    Big red flag right there: you should not offer such a service unless or until you are very comfortable and knowledgeable about what is required (or you hire an employee or outside firm to do this for you).

    I don't mind spending the money to get good products and I don't mind having to purchase computers just for this.
    Money has little or nothing to do with it at this point. Things go in cycles, and the cycle for converting old family videos to digital peaked more than ten years ago. Even then, it often required rare premium-grade VCRs that had already been discontinued a decade prior. Today, finding one of those premium VCRs in perfect condition is very difficult, and the selection of PC encoding accessories (or standalone recorders) has dwindled to almost nothing.

    Despite this, nearly every day someone joins VH or similar sites with the "how can I best digitize my old videos" question. This gives the appearance of far more demand than there actually is: if there was a significant, profitable demand you would see a heckuva lot more product available to purchase new. Instead, one has to scavenge pawn shops and auction sites for the best VCRs and dvd recorders, most of which are at least eight years old now. Without a major commitment of time and the ability to learn complex tech, one is limited to very mediocre conversion quality. It isn't a simple process at all, which helped hasten consumer apathy towards PC capture.

    The problem with your plan to offer such a service is it would rely on a collection of half-dead second-hand products. This doesn't make for a reliable business model. Also note, nothing much is automated: if you want to offer "best in class" conversions, understand they take an absolutely ridiculous amount of time, effort, trial and error. Each client's tapes will present different challenges, requiring you start from scratch every damned time. The fees you would need to charge to make all this worthwhile will turn off most clients who would be interested: we have a couple of master VHS conversion experts contributing to this forum, who offer such high-quality service, and they aren't exactly flooded with consumers clamoring to pay $75+ per hour. Commercial clients and professional archives, yes, everyday families, no.

    Your primary goal seems to be delivering a social media experience dedicated to family memories. This could very easily be derailed by disappointed VHS conversion clients. Frankly, if I were you I would forget about offering conversions yourself: instead, you should just direct people to take their tapes to Wal*Mart or CostCo, where decent (not great, but acceptable) conversions to DVD or USB cost $9 per hour. After obtaining these conversions themselves, by all means encourage them to send you copies to post in your sharing system. After all, thats your main focus: the sharing experience. Leave the nuts and bolts of conversion (and potential customer complaints) to the national firm that still does most of them for large retailers. This frees you to concentrate on developing the most engaging sharing platform.

    In any case, conversion of old family videos to "DVD Quality" is nearly impossible. Most personal camcorder videos are atrocious quality to begin with: you cannot make a silk purse from a sows ear. They look terrible on our huge modern-day LCD televisions: that analog camcorder technology was designed for 27" or smaller TVs using the old CRT picture tubes that concealed a multitude of defects. Trust me, you really don't want to be in a position of promising something that is difficult or impossible to deliver at reasonable cost. Eventually, your customers will share these conversions on their small tablet or phone screens, where it will look fine, but the FIRST thing they will do is watch the conversion on their 42" TV screens. You don't want to be the person responsible for THAT disappointment.
    Last edited by orsetto; 14th Dec 2016 at 15:35.
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  4. There are some pretty big companies that provide transfer services, and you might simply want to subcontract the work to them.

    Yes Video provides services to some really big companies like Costco. I'm sure they would be happy to set up a partnership with you.

    Another option is ScanCafe. They were started a decade ago by some Wharton business school graduates. They have some of the cheapest prices around, although I've heard their work is pretty decent.

    Finally, if you really want to do this yourself, but since you have no experience, what I have always recommended is that people in your situation get a VHS to DVD recorder. With these units you simply put the tape in one side, a blank DVD in the other, press a button, and come back when the tape has finished playing. It is quick, painless, reasonably idiot-proof, and you can get through a lot of stuff pretty easily.

    I know that someone said that VHS players aren't made anymore, and that may be true. However, it looks like you can still get these. Here's one (the "best seller" at Amazon):

    Funai Combination VCR and DVD Recorder
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  5. Originally Posted by johnmeyer View Post
    I know that someone said that VHS players aren't made anymore, and that may be true. However, it looks like you can still get these. Here's one (the "best seller" at Amazon):

    Funai Combination VCR and DVD Recorder
    Was going to suggest a rack of DVD/VHS combo decks myself, but reconsidered based on OP's professed interest in doing top-class conversions (and willingness to invest in new computer systems to do so). The combo decks are what 99.9% of consumers used themselves, so offer no advantage over the conversion service Yes Video offers thru CostCo etc. The result is a one-off dvd, which requires several more steps to edit out crap (if the client wants that) and re-authoring on a PC anyway. The combos are fine for simplistic conversion, but they complicate matters for those who need flexibility and/or standard files that will play on a phone or tablet.

    I would not want to stake a business on the one single DVD/VHS combo that is still available new. Whichever name it sells under (Magnavox, Sanyo, Toshiba or Funai), it isn't a top-grade unit. The VCR is a very VERY weak point according to many owners, there is no control over the dubbing process, recording quality settings are constrained, playback of problem tapes is poor. It is a decent unit for light consumer use, but may not hold up under continual commercial use. Availabilty comes and goes like the weather, with the price rising and dropping up to 50% every few months. The fact it is still available at all is astonishing, given consumers have abandoned dvd recorders altogether. Repairs, plus availability of replacement parts (or entire new units) is subject to Funai's whim, and Funai has proven to be rather unpredictable (stock dries up everywhere with no explanation, then a year later the unit is re-introduced under yet another brand name via different resellers).

    A case might be made for buying several DVD/VHS combos, and running them into the ground over the course of the first year as a test program. Crunch the numbers to determine if your investment in hardware and man-hours is paying off in financial terms or other metrics like website user retention and good word of mouth. Bear in mind, these recorders all create a distinctive-looking menu interface on their DVDs that is a dead giveaway of how the conversion was done. Customers might not be too happy if they think they paid for something their cousin Joe could have done for free in their living room. Since this specific combo recorder has literally been the only one available to buy in USA since 2008, a great many consumers are familiar with what its dvds look like when they load up. Note also, you may get requests to convert MiniDV and 8mm analog or digital tapes along with VHS. Converting the smaller formats means acquiring and maintaining a bunch of long discontinued, fragile camcorders and connecting them to the line inputs of the combo DVD/VHS recorder.

    If it were me, I'd look into johnmeyer's excellent suggestion of subcontracting with Yes Video to do the work for you (easily providing both DVDs and standard portable video files). Dealing with the intricacies of top-class PC conversion (or depending on a rack of flimsy combo recorders) strikes me as poor return on investment for someone who's primary interest is operating a social media sharing site. With analog conversion now dead as a consumer product category, there's just too many variables in availability and quality that can bite you.
    Last edited by orsetto; 14th Dec 2016 at 20:08.
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