The Trouble with VHS

No two ways about it, the humble VHS pretty much single-handedly changed the way we watch movies. Sure, there had been home movie formats before – with a history stretching as far back as the 1900s, when cine reels and projectors were the order of the day. But the video broke the mould. Folks didn’t have to miss out on their favourite TV shows, since the VCR, or ‘magic black box’ as your gran might’ve called it, was always on standby to record Coronation Street and the like. And it meant you could re-live your top cinematic moments in the comfort of your own home – that’s a trend that’s only grown since then, with home entertainment systems, speakers and big-screen projectors becoming ever-more prevalent.

 

But for all its awesomeness, the VHS wasn’t exactly the most reliable form, was it? Anyone who’s lost their sanity spending twenty minutes fiddling with the tracking just to get a half-decent picture can attest to that. So let’s check out those common problems with the video – and remember how lucky we are that we’ve gone from VHS to DVD and beyond.

A little background first – and one for pub quiz fans everywhere. VHS stands for Video Home System, and was knocked up by JVC back when flares were groovy and long hair was hip (that’s the 1970s to you and me). In fact, JVC went to great lengths to ensure the VHS was as super as it could be; they come up with twelve objectives, or commandments if you will, which included a minimum of two hours recording time, affordable VCRs and decent picture quality.

Ah, picture quality – the first issue with video. There’s a reason why you can get apps which mimic that grainy VHS-style quality. In the era of digital everything, we can easily tell the difference between VHS and DVD pictures. The super-sharp clarity of the former smashes the latter, with higher resolution images.

 

And what about the sound you hear? Sound quality is another problem with VHS. Of course, part of that is because VHS is, y’know, of its time. Surround sound stereo systems weren’t really a thing back in t’day, so the analogue sound is pretty weak, with a muffled sound – or worse, the sound dropping out completely.

Ok, so you want to watch a movie in a hurry – only one problem. You didn’t rewind the tape. So unless you have a super-speedy rewind on the VCR, you could be waiting a while. Worse still, sometimes even that wasn’t enough, so you’d end up poking a pencil into the video and rewinding it by hand!

Wear and Tear is another factor. Not only does a VHS start showing its age visually, stuttering along with poor picture quality, but also the VCR can cause some real damage. Remember the absolute horror you’d feel when the VHS would stop playing, you’d eject the cassette and a whole ream of tape would follow? Untangling that was like trying to get chewing gum out of hair. It happens because the deck switches inside the VCR start to wear out – they then send erroneous feedback to the micro-controllers, which tries to fix the ‘problem’ by changing motors. The result: a VCR apparently hungry for magnetic tape.

We’ve already mentioned t-t-t-tracking, but let’s take a close look. Play a video, and if the screen is a mess of fit-inducing flickering, or there is white static scrolling over the image, then there’s a problem with tracking. We’ve already spoken about the helical scan on our blog, and the problem with tracking is down to this little bit of kit. See, if the helical scan drum is out by even a millimetre, the result is the static you see on-screen. So you’d end up on your hands and knees, tweaking the dial until the picture was perfectly visible.

 

It’s obsolete technology. That’s probably the biggest issue with the VHS; the fact is, if you want to gather ‘round the TV and watch all your favourite home movies, it’s unlikely to happen without a trip to eBay to get hold of a VCR. Of course, there are ways around this. We specialise in the conversion of video to digital formats, so you can watch all those excellent moments time and again on DVD. Want to know more? Just contact our friendly crew here at Video 2 DVD Transfers on 0800 592 433 and we’ll be happy to help.

Format Wars: Was HD-DVD the High-point of Definition?

Previously on our blog we’ve looked at the various film format wars which have raged with each successive generation. Already we’ve looked at the relative merits of watching movies on laserdisc, and the end of the Betamax era. Of course, just because a format falls out of favour doesn’t mean that all is lost – as experienced converters of formats such as VHS and Betamax to DVD, we’re always on hand to bring back your memories.

In the Red Corner

Today, we’re going to look at that near-forgotten format, HD-DVD. You probably remember the blue-coloured Blu-Rays and the red-topped HD-DVD cases sitting side by side in apparent harmony in video store aisles up and down the country. And how long did that last? It seemed like about a week, at most. Actually, the two formats duked it out for three years before Blu-Ray was declared the victor.

Snap back to 2005. HDTVs have hit the market, and now companies are looking to entice the public into shelling out for one. What better way than with super-shiny movies that rival even that of the big screen? The two backers for each format was Sony, in the blue corner, and, in the red corner, Toshiba.

Defining Differences

Sony, of course, were still smarting from their Betamax backing, and they threw everything they had at Blu-Ray. With good reason, too – a simple look at the specs show Blu-Ray to be superior in almost every way. The discs could hold 25GB, compared to HD-DVD’s 15GB; their bit-rate for video stood at 40Mbit/s, while HD-DVD could only manage 29.4Mbits/s; and Blu-ray made mandatory hard-coating of their discs, to prevent scratching. On the page, then, the win easily belonged to Blu-ray. Also, Blu-ray is a far catchier name than the pretty stale and unimaginative HD-DVD, which is the Ronseal is names.

That’s not to say HD-DVD was without its merits though. The format, given its heritage, used existing DVD player technology – and that made them cheap the produce. In fact, when they first appeared, HD-DVD players were around half the price of a Blu-ray player, which retailed for around £1000. They even had the backing of several movie studios, including Warner Bros., who hedged their bets and backed both. But… Ah, there’s always a but…

Game Over

The problem with Betamax, beyond its poor recording length, was that without people buying Betamax players the format couldn’t compete. HD-DVD players suffered the same fate – but not for the same reasons. The format may have had the backing of companies like Microsoft, who released a separate HD-DVD player add-on for their Xbox gaming console, but Sony went one better.

The Japanese tech giant installed their Playstation 3 consoles with Blu-ray disc drives as standard. Sure, they sold the consoles at a loss, but it helped put Blu-ray into the hands of so many people that HD-DVD had no chance of catching up. Then, in 2008, Warner Bros. dropped their backing of HD-DVD. It was game over.

Having said that, although Blu-ray won this short-lived format war, it wasn’t quite so clear-cut. Sony lost a lot of money backing their discs, and even today DVD still remains the top format for movies. After all, everyone has a DVD player, and it’s the format we choose when it comes to transferring your home movies from older formats into digital ones. So, if you’ve got old Betamax videos and want to relive those moments in greater clarity, then we’re on hand to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us on 0800 592 433 and our experienced team will be absolutely delighted to assist in any way they can.

Film School 101: Types of Shots and What They Mean

If there’s one thing that’s true of all films, whether it’s a Spielberg blockbuster, a Coen Brothers indie, or your niece’s sixth birthday party, it’s that movies have to tell a tale. That’s their very purpose, after all; they’re a visual story-telling medium.

When you’re filming that birthday party – or a wedding, or a prom, or Christmas Day, or any event, really – the viewer should be at the forefront of your mind. That’s why you’re making your home movie, to watch it back with your family time and again, reliving those wonderful memories. Because of that, you’ll want to keep them visually stimulated – simply pointing the camera and pressing record isn’t going to cut it.

Just because you’re shooting a home movie, that doesn’t mean your film can have any less of a narrative. Don’t worry though – there are a few things you can do to bring that story to life. First and foremost, though, is making full use of the shots available to you. Today, then, we’re going to be looking at camera shots and their purpose in telling a great story. We’ll start with the basics, the ones you’ll undoubtedly recognise from countless TVs and movies.

Long Shot

 

The long shot, sometimes referred to as a wide shot, establishes a subject in relation to his or her location. The point of a long shot is to set the scene for the audience – so, taking that birthday party as an example, you’d have the birthday girl, and all the guests, in the living room in a single shot.

Medium Shot

 

A medium shot generally refers to a full-body shot, or one from the waist up – which is helpful if you’re looking to capture both facial expressions and body language. Want to see the bride in all her glory, smiling away in her sheer white number? The medium shot is perfect for this.

Close-Up Shot

 

Close-ups are, as you probably guessed, close to the subject. This means you can focus your audience’s attention on, say, the bride’s blushes or the birthday boy’s beam. But it’s not just people, close-ups can be used for anything which you feel needs attention, like that awesomely-decorative birthday cake, say.

Extreme Shots

 

There are variations on the classic long, medium and close-up shots, these are the extreme shots. Let’s say you’re shooting the birthday cake in close-up – well an extreme close-up might only focus on the candles, or the delicate icing. An extreme long shot, on the other hand, has a massive scope that can cover an entire building. Or city. Or country. Or the world!

Ok, so those are the basic shot types – so, using them as a launchpad, let’s look at how to use them in telling a story, and creating a visually pleasing movie.

Establishing Shot

 

An establishing shot is vital for audiences, because it lets them know where the action is taking place. You’ll see establishing shots at the beginning of pretty much every scene that requires a location change, or a time-shift from day to night. It’s all about giving your audience context.

Cutaway Shot

 

Cutaways are important for two reasons. Firstly, they give you something to, well, cutaway to when editing. Secondly, they emphasise a particular action. Cutaways show something which is not already in the master shot. Your master shot might focus on the birthday girl – the cutaway would be lighting the candles on a cake in the kitchen.

Insert or Cut-In Shot

 

An insert shot is similar to a cutaway. Inserts are useful when editing, and highlight an action or emotion, but unlike their cutaway cousin, inserts retain focus on the subject. So when the birthday cake is brought in, the insert draws attention to a particular aspect or action, like a close-up of her mouth as she blows out the candles on the cake.

Ok, so let’s take all of that knowledge, and now look at applying them to camera angles. There are few things worse than watching a home movie which is filmed solely at eye-level. It’s uninspired and won’t hold the audience’s attention for long, which is why mixing it up with varying angles is the way to go.

Low-Angle Shot

 

A low-angle shot is one that – quelle surprise – is shot from below. The purpose of this is to imply dominance of the subject being filmed.

High-Angle Shot

 

Want the opposite of a low-angle shot? Want to show a subject’s vulnerability? The high-angle shot is the way to go.

Dutch Angle

 

Creating a sense of foreboding in your viewers is pretty easy, although it’s unlikely to go down well in a home video of your daughter’s wedding. Tilting the camera at an angle, known as a Dutch angle, gives an impression of uneasiness – just don’t over-use it!

Now you’re ready to start filming every magical moment. Telling a story through film takes a lot more than just pointing and shooting. But with a dash of creativity, you can keep your viewers enthralled from the opening shot to the final fade. And if you want to convert your home movie masterpiece from VHS to DVD, then we’re on hand to offer our expertise. We specialise in format transfers to help create memories you’ll want to watch again and again. To get the scoop on our services, simply contact us on 0800 592 433 and we’ll be delighted to help. In fact, nothing would give us greater pleasure.

Set Helical Scan to Stun: Transferring Videos in Real Time

When copying DVD files on to DVD or digital formats, you can just transfer them to the format without too much hassle. Just because you’ve created a four-hour epic of Sheila and Pete’s wedding day, the transfer won’t actually take four hours to complete. The files are all digital anyway, right? So while the transfer may take a while, it won’t be real-time.

But let’s say you’ve got that awesome home movie recorded on VHS – then we’re dealing with the real-time factor. And suddenly going through that four-hour marathon of romance and memories can become a serious chore.

 

There’s a reason that converting VHS to DVD happens in real-time, and it’s all down to the helical scan – which sort of sounds like a gadget aboard to Starship Enterprise. The helical scan is the method with which images are recorded onto the magnetic film inside a video-tape. Fun fact of the day, pub quiz fans, VHS originally stood for Vertical Helical Scan before being changed to Video Home System.

So what happens? Well, when you pop your video inside the player, the tape’s taken from the cassette and wound past the read/write head. That’s where the magic happens, and the images on screen are recorded to the tape. The head produces a magnetic field which correspond to the signal being recorded, and as the tape passes along it, that magnetic signal is printed to the tape.

 

And although there have been digital applications used in the helical scan process, these formats need a far higher bandwidth – which means the tape would have to run super-fast to even capture anything, and that’d require a ton of tape. But it works perfectly for analogue tech like video-tapes.

Another fun fact, helical means spiral. Y’know, like a helix. And that’s the clue to how it all works inside.  The tape is drawn from one reel, rotated around a tilted drum head at a speed of almost 6m/s, and deposited on to the other reel, completed with shiny new images.

This doesn’t just happen when recording, but also playing the footage back. The magnetic tape needs to be spun around the scanner in order to show the picture on the strip. And that’s why converting VHS to DVD happens in real-time.

So if you fancy getting your videos transferred on to DVD, and don’t want to hassle of sitting through those awesome epics you’ve recorded, why not let the professionals do it for you. Here at Video 2 DVD Transfers we’ve had years of experience creating the perfect transfer system. For more information about what we do, how we do it, and how we can help you preserve your memories, simply contact us on 0800 592 433 and our experienced team will be delighted to help.

Avoiding VVS: Get a New Perspective

Have you ever been watching someone’s home video and realised something’s wrong. At first, you can’t quite place what it is. It’s just an unsettling feeling in the pit of your stomach, disturbing you to the point of distraction. You can no longer focus on what’s being played in front of you. What is it?!

 

Then suddenly it hits you. It’s shot all wrong. It’s not how it should be. Yep, you’ve just met someone with Vertical Video Syndrome. The poor chump has been shooting videos in vertical format, meaning the image before you is a tall and skinny – like a latte, only far less delicious.

And we have the proliferation of smartphones to thank for this dreaded curse to home movies. Because we tend to handle phones vertically – tapping out a text or making a call, say – some people simply do the same with videos. Point and shoot.

 

Nothing is worse than checking out videos on Youtube, only to discover the amateur Spielberg has opted for a vertical, rather horizontal position. All that wasted black space at either side of the screen makes the videos deeply uninteresting – disquieting, even – because literally half the screen contains no images. They may think they’ve got the best shot of Uncle Ron drunkenly dancing to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, but just imagine being able to see the wedding party’s reaction to it as it happens too!

When shooting videos on your phone, it’s always worth remembering to switch your device to landscape. After all, when was the last time you saw a movie at the cinema playing in portrait? Never, that’s when.  How about on TV? Same deal. And while it’s easy to rotate a photograph from portrait to landscape, that’s just not going to happen with video. Unless we all tilt our heads to one side.

Of course, these days, to quote a familiar advertising slogan, there’s an app for that. Head over to smartphone app stores and you can download apps which will always shoot in landscape, regardless of how the phone is held. Tech-site CNet has even argued that smartphone cameras should be, well, smart, and do it automatically.

But until that’s introduced, the best advice for anyone suffering Vertical Video Syndrome is… don’t. Not only are those videos missing out on a wealth of imagery and magical moments, it also looks pretty unprofessional.

Thankfully, given the way we hold actual video cameras, filmmakers who used old-school cameras rarely suffer from the debilitating VVS. So if you’ve got home movies on video – and want to watch them the way they were intended – we’ve got you covered. Here at Video 2 DVD Transfers we’re experts in VHS to DVD conversion. For more info on what we do, how we do it, and how we can help you, simply contact us on 0800 592 433 or email info@video2dvdtransfers.co.uk and we’ll be delighted to help.

What to Remember When Shooting Your Home Video

We all want those moments we capture on film to be not only beautiful and memorable, but also watchable – again and again and again. And while you could just happily point your camera in the right direction and press record, if you really want to make an impact, there are a few tips you’ll want to remember.

Frame It Right

There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve captured the most awesome of awesome moments, only to watch it back and realise you’ve chopped the head off of the bride and groom as they say their vows.Take the time to frame your shot, it might take a little longer, but you’ll regret it if you don’t. This also means you can experiment with your shots, not only to commit every magical moment to film, but also to engage your audience. A good tip is to keep your subject’s eyes around a third of the way down the screen.

Remember the Audio

A picture speaks a thousand words, right? But that’s not the only thing speaking when it comes to home movies. It’s crucial to get the audio right when filming. After all, if you and the viewers can’t understand what’s being said, if it’s inaudible or too loud it can seriously impact the watchability of your film. And be aware that the mic on a camcorder will be able to pick up every little thing – even you reacting to the shots you’re filming. For the best end-product, it might be worth investing in a microphone, to make sure you capture the best audio possible. And if your camera has a headphone jack, make use of it so you can really judge precisely what’s being picked up.

Get Intimate with the Camera

Sure, Hollywood icons know how to ‘make love’ to the camera – but that’s not what we’re talking about here. This is more about actually understanding all the functions that the little black box of magic can perform. There’s no point leaving everything set to auto – auto-focus, auto-lighting and the like – because that means you’re not really in control of what you’re filming.

If there’s a backlight facility, use it so your subject doesn’t end up as a silhouette. And make use of the manual focus, because nothing is worse than watching the picture blur just as the action starts happening. Toy with the various settings, get to know what each does and you’re sure to have even more success with your home movies.

Here at Video 2 DVD Transfers, we know how important those memories are to you, and we want to make them as special as they can possibly be. That’s why we convert video to DVD, so you can treasure those memories for longer. For more information about our services, please contact us on 0800 592 433 or email info@video2dvdtransfers.co.uk and our professional team will be more than happy to help.

6 Films to Look Out for in 2015

Last year was a great year for cinema. And yet, already, 2015 looks set to be even better. So let’s take a cheeky gander at the 6 films you need to keep an eye on this coming year.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Bringing together 6 super heroes, 4 of who already had a film, could have easily been an overhyped flop. But when The Avengers was released in 2012 it quickly became the third-highest grossing film of all time with a worldwide box office taking of $1.5 billion. The long awaited sequel will finally be flying into cinemas in 2015 and is set to be even bigger than the first. Director Joss Whedon has introduced several new characters from the marvel world as well as a sombre storyline.

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

The hope that many Star Wars fans lost after the announcement that Disney were acquiring Lucasfilms returned when the official announcement was made for the seventh star wars film. With JJ Abrams as director, many are expecting this film to be as big. When a teaser trailer for the film was released last year it got everybody excited, but not much about the plot was released so nobody really know what to expect.

Fifty Shades of Grey

When the 2011 erotic romance novel was published, it quickly gained popularity and became one of the most talked about books of all time. When it was announced that a film adaptation was being created, many questions were asked about how the content of the book would even be able to shown in a cinema, but somehow it has been managed and the film is being released this year.

Spectre

When it is released, Spectre will be the 24th instalment in the James Bond Saga. Featuring Daniel Craig in his penultimate Bond flick, the film will have Bond up against a sinister organisation called SPECTRE. Christoph Waltz, best-known for Inglourious Basterds and Django, has been recruited as what some are calling possibly the best Bond villain to date. Aston Martin have even designed a new special edition car, alongside the film’s production team, that will only be used in Spectre and won’t be available to the public.

Jurassic World

Despite all the mishaps that occurred in the previous 3 films, somehow Jurassic Park has still not shut its gates and the park will be shown again in the fourth instalment in the Jurassic Park series, Jurassic World. Set 22 years after Jurassic Park, the story will revolve around the creation of a mysterious new attraction that ends up backfiring completely. With a cast featuring actors like Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, the film is anticipated by many who are wondering what it will turn out like.

Child 44

Based on the 2008 multi-award winning book with the same name, Child 44 will be a Stalin-era USSR based thriller that follows the investigation of a curious chain of murders by detective Leo Demidov as the state works against him. The film has a brilliant story behind it and actors such as Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman portraying it so this film should be one of 2015’s best.

These might be the films we’re looking forward to in 2015, but for some, it’s the home movies that are really the ones we’re looking forward to seeing. If you’ve videoed your own old classics you haven’t seen for yonks, we’ve got you covered. We can convert VHS to DVD and allow you to relive those memories. For more information about our services, feel free to contact us on 0800 592433 or email us at sales@video2dvdtransfers.co.uk and a member of our team will be happy to help you.

Why Transfer Your Old Videos To DVD?

In homes up and down the country, there are dusty old VHS tapes stored away in attics and at the back of cupboards, going unused and unloved. Why would you want to go rummaging through piles of old boxes in the loft to rediscover those tapes? We’re going to take a look at a few of the reasons why you may want to get those old films transferred onto DVD.

Format Wars: Did Betamax Deserve to Die?

Here at Video 2 DVD Transfers we specialise in converting tons of different formats, from Mini DV to Digital 8; VHS to Betamax. Ah, Betamax – once heralded as the thinking man’s video format of choice, and now the punchline to a thousand tech jokes. But does Betamax deserve its reputation, and did it deserve to so comprehensively lose out to VHS?