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Going Digital: Converting from VHS to DVD

Monday, February 18th, 2013

There’s a growing number of people who are unable to access their library of VHS video
footage. Players for the old tapes have become increasingly scarce, and loss of quality based on wear
and tear is a real issue with the old medium.

Converting from VHS to a digital video format and saving all of those precious memories on
DVD disc is something that isn’t that difficult to do. It is often possible to handle the conversion at
home with a fairly minor outlay of capital. There are also numerous professional conversion companies
whose facilities have all the tools in them to handle updating a collection to a digital format.

DIY Conversion

There are four components to converting VHS to DVD in a home environment. The first is the
computer with a DVD burner, which costs from $300 on up without a monitor. The second is a player
for the tapes; something that runs $40 plus excluding a TV. The third is a cable to make a connection
from the VCR to the computer; a piece of hardware which may be bundled with software and costs $25
and up. The final component is a piece of conversion software; something with a starting price of free.
Even including a cheap TV and monitor it would be possible to get a conversion setup for around $600.
For those with most of the equipment already, you might spend just $25 plus the (low) cost of blank

Setting up to do the conversion is fairly simple. You just set the VCR and TV up then use the
cable to connect the VCR to the computer. On the computer you install the software. Put the tape to be
converted in the VCR, the DVD to be burned in the optical drive, and then utilize the program to first
transfer the digital video, then (either using the same program or a DVD authoring program) burn the
DVD. The exact specifics will vary depending on your setup, but that’s the gist of it. Simple, and not
terribly expensive.

Getting Expert Help

In the event that you want to avoid your own time and materials to handle the task, there are
plenty of professional services available. Most major cities have businesses which can handle the
conversion of VHS to DVD for a flat fee per tape. Some of them offer video cleaning services which
will enhance the quality of the videos before they are put on tape. This is something that is available as
a DIYer, but is a bit more complicated and might be better left to professionals if it’s something you’re
interested in.

Fees for these services vary by business, and you have to balance the convenience of a local
business with potential price savings available online. If you’re lucky enough to live near a business
with great per-tape prices and a solid offering of video cleanup services, your choice will be easy.

Bear in mind that professional services can offer conversion to DVD from other sources than
VHS. Many will scan photos or negatives, handle 8mm film, and work with MiniDV or Hi8. A good,
professional conversion service is generally very well-rounded, and can help you update your family’s
entire history to an appropriate digital format and store it on DVDs.

How to Safely Clean Your Disc Drivers

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Most commercially manufactured disc drives are sturdy and able to perform well with little maintenance. However, if you have a drive for a long time or use it in a workspace with excessive dust in the air (such as in a factory, on a job site, or in an arid climate), it’s probably a good idea to clean it out occasionally. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that cleaning should be a routine though. In this case too much of a good thing is a real issue, as cleaning a drive can result in damage over time.

When a disc drive gets too dirty, it can suffer from increased loading time, skip, or –in extreme cases–  even damage discs. Telltale signs that it’s time to clean your disc drive include an increase in noise as the disc spins and a marked decrease in performance regardless of which disc you attempt to play. If only one disc is loading slowly or skipping then it’s probably the disc that is scratched. If they’re all slowing down then it’s most likely an issue with your drive.

Your first course of action for cleaning out a drive should be to blow air into it. Do not blow with your mouth as doing so will send saliva into the drive. Though a hair dryer with a cool setting can be used, it is too inaccurate for this task. Short, controlled bursts are the best way to clean out a drive and not just move dust around. For best results you should use a can of compressed air or an air bulb.

If you’re feeling brave, you can also take the drive apart and clean the lens yourself. This can damage delicate components and will likely void your warranty if the product is still covered. It’s probably best to take your drive to a repair shop if you do feel the need to do something invasive. A better option is to buy some extra-long cotton swabs, apply rubbing alcohol to one, and insert it directly into the drive to clean the lens. This can be difficult to do correctly and you still have to be somewhat careful, it’s still safer and less involved than taking the drive apart. Determining where the lens in your drive is may be made easier by looking online for the specifications of your unit.

Perhaps the easiest manner to clean a drive is to buy a drive cleaning kit. These are made by many manufacturers and most cost under $20. Each cleaning kit works slightly differently so you’ll need to follow the individual instructions that come with your package.

A comprehensive, professional cleaning at a computer repair shop normally provides the best results. This can be monetarily expensive and will also cost you a day or more of down time as you wait for the cleaning to be carried out. With that in mind, the above methods are good first steps if you find yourself in possession of a poorly functioning disc drive. So before spending the money to have it taken apart and professionally cleaned, you should at least consider trying these simple at-home cleaning methods.

Great Gift Ideas Using Discs

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Gifts which have been put together by hand have long been considered by many to be more thoughtful than those just purchased from the store. In the modern world it is possible to create some great digital gifts and put them on a CD or DVD disc in order to give them to your friends, co-workers, or family members. Take a look at these four ideas:

1. A Photo Album

Classic photo albums have been a gift for years. With the advent of computers and in particular digital photography we now have the ability to put a large number of photos onto a disc. While a classic album might have had room for twenty to a hundred photos, you can fit far more images than that onto a disc. So there’s no need to agonize over a choice between the picture of your sister getting soaked by cousin John doing a cannonball at the pool, or the one of her chasing him in the parking lot. You can add them both to the gift, and still have plenty of room for those pictures of her solo at the jazz choir concert.

2. A Music Compilation

Long ago people used to make each other mix-tapes, but now you can make a compilation on disc from all the music you want to share. You can choose from making a disc which will run on a normal CD player (which will get you about 70 minutes of music), but many players now offer the ability to play digital MP3 files as well. This means you can put a huge number of songs on a single disc.

3. A Video From a Special Event

With digital video incredibly commonplace on phones and hand held recorders making a chronicle of an event can be a lot of fun. A great idea for a wedding is to encourage all of your friends and family to film away with their own devices, and to send you the videos they take. A little editing and piecing together of the pieces can make for a fabulous gift to send everyone with  (or even as) the thank-you cards. Video recordings from all kinds of events can be a great way to let people relive memories, or keep them connected when they’re far away.

4. A Collection of Keepsake Messages

Life is full of milestones, and sometimes it’s a great idea to commemorate them with messages from friends, co-workers, and loved ones. Graduations, promotions, retirements, enlistments, and more. The list of special events in our lives go on and on, and making a compilation of video messages from yourself and others related to an important day in someone’s life can really let them know just how you all feel about them.

All of these ideas require a bit of software and some knowledge to implement, but they don’t have to cost much to make, and they have a great deal of sentimental impact when done properly. So if you’re looking for a great idea, consider one of these four ways to make use of discs. You’ll be giving someone a gift they’re not going to forget.

Giving Your Discs That Finishing Touch

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Plenty of ways to tighten up your presentation of the discs you create exist, but there’s none that can look quite as nice as putting a design on the discs themselves. In order to do this, however, you will need to secure the correct materials.

You have a number of options available to you. One is to purchase a specialized piece of hardware called a thermal printer. These print on lacquered discs and produce results that are permanent. Inexpensive thermal printers are often only able to do limited printing, however. It is not until you lay out a large amount of money that you can print complex images, and printers that can handle color images are even more expensive than those restricted to monochrome.

Another option is to use labels which are printed out on an ordinary printer and then peeled off and applied to the disc. This is absolutely an option which will allow you to print in full color and give your discs an interesting look for relatively little money. It has a major downside in that labels will eventually peel, and this is not at all good for disc drives. But if all you are looking for is a very affordable way to make discs look good and you have no real longevity requirements, this is a great way to do it.

It is also possible to print directly onto discs using a number of commercial inkjet printers. These printers frequently offer a kind of tray used in the printing of discs. They require special printable media, but these inkjet printable discs are made by many good manufacturers. The largest problem with these discs tends to be that the inks can smear before they are dry or during use. You can use a printer cartridge with pigment inks to avoid this. It is also possible to use a clear fixative spray to put a thin layer over the ink, though when done poorly this can look very spotty, so use caution. All-in-all this is a very good way to handle your finishing needs for a relatively low cost.

No matter how you choose to finish off your discs you will find that each of these methods lends a more professional look to your projects. It doesn’t matter if you are making your discs for business or pleasure, a snappy end result is always something to take pride in.

Backing up your CDs and DVDs with Disc Imaging Software

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Sometimes you need to ensure that data on a CD or DVD is safe. The best way to protect against any kind of damage that might take your discs out of action is to make an image of them as a backup. An image is simply a complete copy of all the information contained on a disc.

Disc images come in many formats. ISO and DMG (Mac) are the two most common, but there are many others which may be used depending on which program you choose for your imaging needs. In the end it doesn’t really matter that much what format you use, as the program you choose will allow you to manipulate it later.

Picking out a piece of software is usually a matter of deciding what you need it to do, and how much you’re willing to pay. As a basic, free Windows utility you can usually do well with is ImgBurn. Mac users will love Disco which is free using the license code posted on the main page of the site. As with many other types of software, Wikipedia provides a list of other options.

Once you have your chosen piece of software installed, it’s generally extremely simple to proceed. Most image burning programs offer a simple user interface which will guide you through the process of choosing an image format, selecting your disc source, and choosing an output. Generally you have the option to save your image file to your hard drive, or copy it to another disc.

Once you have your image, you just need to determine how you want to store it. There are far more a few ways to go about storing images you create, of course. You can burn a new disc with an image you have created, store it on your computer, move it to another system, throw it onto a USB flash drive, or even take the time to upload it onto a cloud solution.

What are the Best Recordable CDs (CD-R) on the Market?

Monday, August 6th, 2012

First off, it is important to realize that the best is always a subjective concept, and that no matter what advice you receive, you’ll need to remember this rule: trial and error using the equipment you intend to use under the conditions you expect the discs to be able to withstand is the most reliable method of determining what works best for you.

With that out of the way, there are absolutely certain things which can be said for recordable CDs in general. The first is that you should never consider the CD-R a viable long term storage option. By their very nature, CD-R media degrade over time. While manufacturers will claim extreme shelf life, the truth is that most will degrade in 5-10 years. Some poor quality discs will last far less time than this. This is particularly true in extreme environments such as heat, damp, or cold.

While the available data on CD-Rs is too immense (thousands of reviews, tests, and opinions are available, some more objective, others wholly subjective) to attempt to even summarize in table form, it’s very possible to shine a light on some of the most common recommended brands. Each of them has been cited for quality. Though some are more durable and others more reliable (even among different types of CD-Rs within brands) all of these brands maintain a high standard across the board, and have been suggested time and again by multiple sources.

Often-Recommended (alphabetical):

Mitsui, Taiyo Yuden (the author’s favored brand, sometimes also labeled as JVC), and TDK. (Note that Fuji, HP, Philips, Sony, and Yamaha all generally re-brand disks from these three manufacturers, and are also reliable as a result.) Pioneer and Ricoh are second-tier recommendations, and should also be considered worth looking at.

There are also manufacturers who produce discs that are most often cited as being troublesome. Unless otherwise unavoidable it’s wise to steer clear of them.

Best to Avoid (again, alphabetical):

First and foremost: do not use “no-name” discs no matter how little they may cost. (Unless you can confirm that they’re from one of the manufacturers above, but that’s rare.) Otherwise, definitely be wary of discs from CMC Magnetics, Fornet, Gigastorage, Hotan, Lead Data, Hotan, Maxell, Memorex, Princo and Verbatim.

If a brand is not listed above there is a reasonable chance that it is a middle of the road option and should be considered potentially viable if other recommended alternatives do not present themselves.

Finally, it’s wise to remember that not all CD-R’s are created equal within a brand. There are exceptions, particularly within the recommendations to avoid. Usually these are higher-priced CD-R’s from a specific brand. (Though a higher price is not always an indicator of quality, there are many CD-Rs on the recommended list to be had for low prices.) It is important to note that in general these are no better than a typical CD-R from the recommended brands.

But following the rule we started out with, if you can secure a small variety of discs to test on your recorder(s) and player(s) before making a large volume purchase (which is always the best way to go about acquiring CD-Rs as the prices are very compelling) it can help you narrow down this broad field.

Best of luck finding your best CD-R.

How to Safely Store Your Discs

Monday, August 6th, 2012

While CDs and DVDs are subject to degradation over time, it is possible to increase their longevity through taking good care of the discs. One of the biggest ways to increase the lifespan of your media is to pay close attention to the kind of storage conditions you maintain.

First off you should do everything you can to keep discs away from extremes of heat, and any moisture. Both hot and cold can adversely effect the media, and humidity has been recorded as a major problem for many brands. As a result most people will find that the best solution is to store disks away from windows. Avoid both direct sunlight on the media as well as containers, cabinets, and shelves that receive direct sun. Do not place discs anywhere which is too close to an air-conditioner (which can reduce temperatures next to it be extreme amounts) or a heater.

It’s best to take all media out of players when it is not in use. This saves wear on the players as they spin up and down, and the discs, as well as allowing you to store the media under good temperature conditions. In particular car stereo systems are notorious for getting extremely hot, as the dashboard is exposed to direct sunlight often. Discs stored under these conditions can degrade very quickly.

Never set discs loosely on each other or place them on random surfaces. Dust and grit can easily get between the media (and the surfaces) and damage the protective layer, potentially exposing the data layer in the process. Also avoid allowing young children access to media. Even giving them “junk” discs can be a mistake as they’re later unable to discern which are the “toys” given to them by their parents, and which ones are valuable.

For better protection, storage options which offer an upright configuration are often considered preferable, as the stress of the discs’ weight is not placed on their readable surfaces. The weight is instead held by the bottom edge or the center ring, depending on the storage system’s other attributes.

The question of jewel cases (regular, slim style or long case type) vs. sleeve storage systems is one which has no clear consensus. Proponents of jewel cases insist that sleeves leave marks on disks very easily, while fans of sleeves point the finger at the hard plastic the discs in jewel cases are all too often pressed against as they are removed and replaced. No matter what you prefer, keeping dust away from your media is vital. Thus an enclosed storage system is recommended. In the case of sleeve systems, many come as binders with zippers that should be kept closed at all times. Jewel cases should not be stored on racks, but instead in enclosed drawers or cabinets. Running a cloth over a case before opening it can increase the chances that the media will remain dust free and viable over the long term.

For travel storage, impact resistance is important. Be sure to choose an option with protection (rubberized covers, internal padding, etc.) for your on-the-go needs.

In the end, your choice of storage will need to be customized to your own circumstances, but if you follow the advice in this article you should see considerably more longevity from all your media.

Ever considered Home Duplication could be more headache then it’s worth?

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

If you have the need to duplicate a large quantity of CD’s or DVD’s you have the option to let a professional company such as Duplication Centre take care of the job, or invest in a CD duplicator yourself. However before rushing out to buy a CD duplicator and printer there are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration.

Firstly you need to consider hardware issues of the machinery available. After a short period of usage the speed of the drives will need to slow down as they settle and bed in. Although the maximum speed may be for instance 52X, in order to reduce the number of failed discs this process is slowed down.

It’s also possible that the robotic arm could jam or incorrectly pack discs in the machine causing it to stall midstream through the job.Ink level reporting is a problem for many machines on the market.A lot of duplication and printing machines are inaccurate at showing the real ink level in cartridges. This means you may end up throwing away a half-empty cartridge or run out of ink half way through a job, wasting discs in the processes.It also possible that the inkjet nozzles could become blocked during the print run. This leaves white lines on the print and wasted CDs. The machine will not stop automatically if the quality of print deteriorates.

Cost-efficiency over quality of end result could also be a factor to consider. If consistency and quality of colour is important then the only option may beto use expensive brand cartridges to print onto the discs. Even then, depending of the compatibility of ink to printable CD surface there may be a chance that certain colours bleed into each other (particularly black and yellow). Notably, the ink used in these printers is water soluble. This means the printed disc can smudge easily either by the wipe of a moist figure or the drip of a coffee on the disc. This problem can be solved by lacquering after printing of using “watershield” discs instead; both options add additional costs to the process.

On a basic level if you wanted printing for example 500 CDs using a single all-over colour, considering a single tri-colour cartridge last only 40 discs, combined with an output of 25 discs an hour, it would appear to be a slow and expensive process.

As a professional duplication company we deal with these issues for you and we want to copy your  discs for you. Using the serves of Duplication Centre could save you a lot of headache and unnecessary expanse, and our service is not only inexpensive but we deliver fast.

What does a change in DVD copyright law mean?

Monday, June 18th, 2012

In the words of Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, “We need to bring copyright into line with people’s expectations and update it for the modern digital world.”

For many people ripping CD’s onto a computer is nothing new, otherwise the iPod would not have taken off as it did. However, most people are unaware that make a digital copy of something you’ve legitimately bought isactually illegal. However,no one in the UK has ever been prosecuted for ripping CDs or DVDs for personal use, and in many countries there does exist a “fair use” policy for copying content.

Business, Innovation and Skills spokespersonexplained that the current rules obstruct advances in business and that the new reform was aimed more at businesses. ‘There are some businesses that are being hampered by the way the existing law works at the moment. With these changes, the government is thinking of ways of creating the right conditions to encourage innovation and growth.’

Thankfully the government has caught up and is planning to reform existing copyright law, finally making it legal for consumers to make digital copies of their CDs and DVDs, as long as it is for their own and immediate family’s personal use.

However it has never been easy to “rip” a DVD. In most cases the consumer has to download “illegal” software in order to get past the encryption placed on the DVD by movie studios.

Will the government’s final proposals actually include the ability to rip films and TV shows from DVDs? If so, will movie studios be required to get rid of the copy protection from their DVDs and Blu-rays in order for their customers to be able to make a digital copy? Or perhaps software such as iTunes will enable the consumerto eradicate this encryption for themselves?

It comes as no surprise that the film industry is strongly against format shifting, even for personal use. Lavinia Carey, director general of the British Video Association, says it would be ‘extremely damaging’ and that ‘it’s for the rights owner to decide how to offer the [digital] copy’.

Is the Music CD dead?

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Most of us are aware of the basic economic model of supply and demand. It would appear that when a popular product comes out it is the bellowing of the masses that makes a shop supply it. Likewise if the price is too high, it is the resistant consumer’s unwilling to pay that indeed drives the prices down in store in order to get the sales.

It would appear that sometimes this message takes a long time to be heard or acted on. Recently the boss of HMV, the UK’s largest entertainment retailer, stated that by 2016 they will stop stocking CD’s all together.

It is not uncommon for many people nowadays to no longer buy music as a physical media, preferring downloads (whether legal or illegal) or other means of listening. So it would seem a legitimate question for music fans whether the Compact Disc (CD) is indeed on it’s way out?

If we look at the in industry in general, with the advent of on-demand services and available downloads, it’s evident that DVD’s still retain their value with customers and are continuing to go strong. Generally priced between £10-£15 for a new release, it’s possible that CD’s just do not offer enough to justify their cost. The price of CD’s doesn’t decline as quickly as that of DVD’s despite the special features and extra content available on a DVD.

All this said it this does not mean the end of industry or even necessarily the physical medium. CD’s can still be the best way for a band to sell their music direct to fans at shows and gigs. And there are many hug fans out there which are willing or even prefer to buy a physical copy of the music they like. You just have to observe the renaissance in popularity of vinyl records for evidence of the affection towards the physical medium of music.

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