Video Memory Blog

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This blog is intended to give you some ideas on how you can preserve your treasured video and audio memories. What seems like insignificant family clips now, will be like gold-dust to your future generations. Imagine your delight if you were to be able to watch moving images of your long-departed relatives and friends. It is important that any video material you have is kept safe and secure. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stuff on tape, that is getting old and degrading fast. Unless you act quickly and get these tapes transferred to a more robust and accessible medium, there's a good chance they will be list for ever.

Blu-ray to DVD

posted 9 Jan 2016, 02:34 by Ray Barber

This hadn't occurred to me but some people have had a wedding video, or similar supplied on a Blu-ray disk and want to provide copies to friends and family who haven't got a Blu-ray player. In most cases, the Videographer will provide copies on DVD but that might not always be possible. If that's the case, then we can import your Blu-ray video and burn it to DVD. The results so far are pretty good. In fact, on my domestic player, it's hard to tell the difference between the Blu-ray and the DVD.

Be aware, that the Videographer probably owns the copyright to your video and if they do the job, they may charge accordingly. I've seen some surprising quotes.

Audio Cassette to CD or Memory Device

posted 30 Oct 2015, 04:59 by Ray Barber

Strange as it might seem, this can be more complicated than transferring video tape. The output of the tape player needs to be matched to the input of the recording device. The headphone socket pushes out too much power for the microphone socket on a computer and there is a big impedance mismatch, so the chances of getting a true, distortion free recording are pretty slim. There are some cheap devices out there, that connect to the USB port of a computer and use a free piece of recording software called Audacity. I've found it quite difficult to get the record levels right and the cheap player is not very stable, leading to a lot of "wow and flutter" because of the fluctuations in tape speed.

Assuming that you have managed to set it all up you have to record and save each track separately, unless you are happy for the CD to be one continuous track. In this case, you lose the ability to select which track you want.  Audacity does allow you to record the whole tape and then save each track but that's almost as painful.

At Spa Video Memories, we take a different approach. We use a professional Tascam Portastudio tape deck, which has lots of knobs and sliders. We take the line output from the deck into an audio digital recorder line input, which is perfectly matched. The audio levels are then set and the recording started. Once completed, the digital files are transferred to an editing station and the individual tracks are assigned and checked before burning to an audio CD, that will play on and CD player or computer. Alternatively, the tracks can be saved on to a memory device as MP3 files.

There are copyright issues regarding music cassettes and to be honest, if it's available to buy on CD, then that's your best route. However, if it's your own work there's no problem. If the material is no longer available on CD and you own the original cassette, then, whilst it is still technically infringes the copyright, nobody is likely to question it.

DIY Video your wedding or special event

posted 26 Oct 2015, 04:06 by Ray Barber   [ updated 26 Oct 2015, 06:31 ]

Groom carrying bride clipart
Professional videographers can cost you a lot of money but there's no doubt that they earn it. They usually work in pairs and start work early in the day and barely get any rest until the party is in full swing. Then, once back at their studio, they have hours of editing, DVD burning and checking. They have a lot of very expensive gear and other overheads like insurance to worry about. Wedding photographers might disagree but it is far more stressful. A photographer can take a bit of a breather, whilst a videographer has to capture all of the action from start to finish. So, if the budget allows it, then hire a professional company and you should be guaranteed a video memory of your special day, that is akin to a Hollywood movie.

But what if you feel you cannot justify a photographer and a videographer? My advice would be to go for the photographer and get some stunning stills. A good photographer knows the ropes and will organise the wedding party, making sure all of the guests are included in the right order and nobody is left out. They usually know the venue and the spots for that ultra-special shot of the happy couple.

As for the video, "Uncle Pete" has got a camcorder and his efforts can be mixed with clips from guests' phones and even some still photos. With skillful editing and some suitable background music, a very watchable video reminder of the occasion can be achieved. There are some things to look out for though.

Talk to the Vicar or Registrar first, they may have special conditions on when and where you can film. Some Organists not only get paid for doing the ceremony, they also want more if they are going to be on the video. I have my own views on this and mutter "Matthew 21:12". Also, ask the photographer for advice on where to stand. Assure them you won't get in their way, it's fine for the photographer to be in your video but not the other way, unless they want a photo of you.

Make sure you know your camera controls and that the batteries are fully charged and you have enough memory/tape to record the event. Practice using the kids as models.

Record in the highest resolution possible. Apart from getting the best video quality, it also offers more flexibility in the editing.

Set the white balance whenever possible, this is part of knowing your camera.

Get as close to the subjects as possible. Less zoom means less shake and the sound will be a lot better.

Hold the camera still and let the subjects provide the motion. There's nothing worse than a video where the camera has been waved around like a hosepipe. If you want to pan around a larger group, then do it slowly and smoothly. Plan your shot and then stand comfortably facing the direction that the clip will end. Now, keeping your feet where they are, twist your body round to the start position. Unwind slowly as you film and you will find it a lot smoother. Practice this beforehand.

Whilst you are waiting for the bride to appear, take some shots of the location and guests. These will not only provide additional interest to the video, they can also be used to cover any mistakes or problems.

Avoid zooming in and out. Use the zoom to frame the shot but not when you are filming, unless you are looking for a special effect. In which case, slow and smooth, you're not filming "Jaws".

If you are filming on a phone, put it into flight mode. Getting a call or text might or might be funny or it might be an irritation.

Think about your composition. Imagine you are taking a photo and allow at least 5 seconds at the beginning and end for the editor. It's very difficult to work with something like a speech, if the video starts at the same time as the speaker. 

Avoid recording embarrassing conversations, the last thing you want when filming the photograph session is to hear Auntie Ada talking about her operation.

Now this is a tricky one. A noisy baby/child will take over the sound and there is nothing that can be done once it has been recorded. Getting close to the subjects helps, as does asking guests with little ones, to sit at the back. It's also handy for the door. But it is a delicate one. I've known brides say "No kids" or "if they cry take them out please". Others are cross if you take them out. Professionals will put a wireless microphone on the groom. You could try getting the groom to put his phone on record and slip it into his top pocket. Make sure it's in flight mode. Quite often the vicar will have a microphone but projecting their voice is part of the job. Something else I've noticed when editing the vows is the constant click of the photographer's camera but I guess that's all part of the ceremony.

Make sure everyone is happy for you to film them. Some people find it embarrassing. When I'm editing these things, if someone turns away or holds their hand to their face, I will usually take it out. 

When it comes to the speeches, you really need to get close if the voices are going to be picked up. Alternatively, you could put a phone on the table and let that run recording the sound and video. The audio can then be put on top. 

Chances are, the lights will be down low for the last dance and the video won't look very good. Have a word with the DJ, he may be able to light the scene up a bit. Again, you want to try and get in close, mainly so that the guests stand out less.

And finally, when the show is over, you need to get the video from "Uncle Pete" either the tape or memory card. If it's recorded to internal memory, then we need to go to Plan B, whatever that is. Don't forget to thank him for his efforts and reassure him that it really is not a big deal if there are some duff shots. That's what the Editor is for. If you want to incorporate any footage from other guests' phones or still photos, then they can be transferred to a memory device or an online storage site like Dropbox. Don't simply post them to Facebook because the resolution will be reduced dramatically.

Have a think about the format of the video. What I normally do is have a still image of the location and put the opening titles there. This is usually something like "The Marriage of"  "Bride and Groom"  "Location"  "Date" but it can be anything you want. Likewise have a think about credits. Some people like the close family mentioned and if you do this, then it's nice to add people who have helped out with flowers etc. and not forgetting Uncle Pete. 

Oh and tell Uncle Pete not to concentrate so much on the video that he misses out on the ceremony. Who knows, a couple of drinks might help his creativity.

Printed wedding DVD
The cost of the editing really boils down to how much work is involved but a relatively simple edit, taking out unwanted bits, glossing over dodgy bits and adding titles and some music, would be in the region of just £20.00, which would include a custom-printed DVD. 

If you would like further information please email me ray@spavideomemories.co.uk



Are your videos still stuck on the camcorder?

posted 23 Oct 2015, 00:35 by Ray Barber

Canon HD Camcorder and 16GB memory card
We all have the best of intentions, we have our camcorders on holiday or at the favourite niece's wedding and take lots of video. The plan is to produce a blockbuster movie that family and friends can share and keep as a permanent reminder of happy times. Well, that's the plan but we get home and the camera is put away and nothing gets done. Well, that's where we come in.

Spa Video Memories mission is to make it affordable for precious video memories to be transferred to DVD and saved for future generations to watch. Whilst the majority of our work is transferring old video tapes, which are already starting to degrade, this mission also holds true for those treasured moments that have been capture digitally. How long will they last before they are accidentally recorded over or the memory card is lost?

We can carry out a basic edit, taking out the obvious stuff like shots of feet and clouds. Alternatively, you can have some nice titles, background music and we can even incorporate some of your favourite still photos. And prices start at just £5.00 including a custom-printed DVD. Oh, and whilst we have said camcorder, video taken on your phone or camera  is equally applicable.

If you would like further details on any of our services, then email ray@spavideomemories.co.uk or call 07551 996668.

Slides and Stills to CD DVD and Memory Device

posted 22 Oct 2015, 07:45 by Ray Barber   [ updated 22 Oct 2015, 09:15 ]

35mm slides

In the back of a cupboard, on a top shelf or maybe a box in the loft, lurk the family photo albums. They are probably gathering dust and are seldom taken out and viewed. As for the 35mm slides, since the old projector packed in, there's been no way to watch them. 

Let's face it, there is too much hassle involved in finding the right album and then sharing it around, so that everyone gets a chance to look.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to view your treasured photos on a computer or tablet? Better still watch those special moments as a Photo Montage on your HD Television. By incorporating what's known as the "Ken Burn's" effect, still photographs can be made to look as if they are moving. This effect is widely used in documentaries where still pictures  (often old photographs) are combined with the moving images. Apparently, our brain prefers to see a bit of movement. The final touch is to add some suitable background music. I like a bit of Mozart myself but there's no restriction on what is used, so long as copyright is not infringed. 

You're probably thinking this all sounds expensive but it needn't be. At Spa Video Memories, we charge from just £5.00 for the first 25 photos scanned and then 15p for each additional photo. This includes high resolution scanning, dust removal and colour correction. To find out more, send an email to ray@spavideomemories.co.uk or call 07551 996668. 

And if you want to see an example, here's a video created from some photographs I took whilst wandering around Droitwich. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxfWPMMz1z8


A year of transferring tapes to DVD

posted 21 Oct 2015, 11:42 by Ray Barber   [ updated 25 Oct 2015, 14:07 ]

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It's just over a year since I retired from my job in education and started Spa Video Memories as a sideline. I'd been doing videography and editing and had a lot of my own equipment, so it was the ideal hobby that would provide me with some "beer-money". At school, I had been asked to transfer VHS tapes to DVD and it
 was painful to see the state that some of this irreplaceable  teaching material was in. I was aware that there was a lot of video tapes boxed up in lofts and that they needed to be saved if possible. They contain precious family memories that, if kept on tape, would soon be lost as the tapes degrade.

I therefore decided on a price that was affordable. People with a box of tapes might not be willing to part with hundreds of pounds but at just £5 a tape, it is a more attractive proposition. It should be said that I couldn't make a living doing it at such a low price but being retired, I don't have to factor my own time into the pricing, it's mainly the cost of consumables and keeping the expensive equipment up to scratch.
I don't just bung a tape into a domestic VHS player that is connected to a DVD player. It's a solution that might work in the home but not when you have the responsibility for looking after someone's treasured possessions. One slip from a beat-up old player and a tape can be wrecked. I use a professional standard  JVC deck for VHS work and Sony and Panasonic equipment for camcorder tapes. These are digitally connected to a Video Editor and captured at full resolution to ensure the best possible quality. Once it is in the Video Editor, I scan through t
he tape removing any noticeable gaps and shots of feet and clouds. I tidy up the beginning and end, adding titles if requested. I also add chapter points or a menu, depending on the customer's requirements. The video is then burnt to a DVD at the optimum data rate, depending on the length of the clip. Quality tends to go down as the length of the video increases, so anything over 90 minutes will be put onto a dual layer disk, which has double the capacity. Once the burning process is complete, the DVD is verified against the original file, to make sure it is 100% successful. I also visually run the DVD to check all has gone well.

Finally, the disk is custom-printed to provide a good, professional finish. 

In the first year I have seen hundreds of videos. weddings, Disneyland and babies, along with a fair few horses, cars and tractors. My own family love watching their old stuff and it's one of the few times when adults and children sit and watch TV together, without the click of the mobile phone keys.

I think the most important message I can make is, don't put off getting your video tapes transferred because unlike a good wine, they are not improving with age.


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