Just send us your tapes!
We'll transfer them to
high quality DVD
and return them to you
- or -
Not sure what's
on those tapes?
No problem! We will review your tapes
We'll let you know if it's home video or TV shows &mdash or some combination.
If you decide not to do the transfer, your only obligation is for return shipping.
We Transfer All These
Complete Format Details
Frequently Asked Questions
The three big questions we get asked are:
Q. What do you guys do?
A. We offer many types of video services, but here's what we do the most:
1. Copy from old video tapes to DVD.
2. Copy from camcorder tapes to DVD (or regular VHS tapes).
3. Transfer video from one format to another (foreign to American).
4. Make copies of tapes or discs.
Q. How much does it cost?
A. Look for current pricing information here.
Q. How does this all work?
A. You enter your order online, send us your originals, and we send back your completed order.
That covers the basics. The details are another story. Here are many (but not all) of the questions we get asked regularly.
- Do videotapes really fade?
- Can you copy from my format?
- Can you copy from my very old tapes?
- Can you transfer our old home movies?
- Can you copy movies and shows I taped off of TV?
- Can you edit out movies and shows I taped off of TV?
- Can you copy tapes and discs from overseas?
- Can you put my computer file on a tape or disc?
- Can you transfer from DVD to VHS?
- What if my program is longer than 2 hours?
- How should I enter my order if I don't know how long my tapes are?
- Can you combine two tapes onto one disc?
- Can you split one tape onto multiple discs or tapes?
- Can you combine video from multiple formats onto one disc or tape?
- Do you have restrictions on the type of content you will copy?
- Are there any tapes you cannot copy?
- Will I get my original tapes back?
- Should I keep my original tapes or throw them away?
- How do I know which format I have?
- Why are there so many video formats?
- What's the best video format?
- What's the difference between home movies and home video?
- How can I tell whether I have movies or video?
- What's the difference between Super 8 movies and 8mm video?
Copyrights and Copy Protection
- What is a copyright?
- How do I know who owns the copyright to a video?
- What is "fair use"?
- Do I need permission to copy my tape?
- How can I get permission to make the copy?
- What information do I need to prove that I have permission to copy?
- Is there anything you won't copy even if I have permission?
- How can you tell if a tape or disc is copy-protected?
- Can you remove the region encoding or copy protection from my DVD?
About the Copies
- What format should I transfer to?
- Why are DVDs limited to 2 hours?
- What recording speed do you use for VHS tapes?
- Can you record at the six hour speed (also called EP or SLP)?
- Will the DVDs play on all players?
- Can you make tapes to be viewed overseas?
- Will the DVDs have copy protection or region encoding?
- Can I make my own copies later from the discs you make?
- Can you copy to formats other than VHS or DVD?
- How long will my copies last?
- Will I be able to edit the footage later?
About Our Service
- How does your service work?
- How long does it take?
- What methods of payment do you accept?
- How should I send my materials to you?
- Will I get my original tapes back?
- Can I specify where the chapter points go on my DVD?
- How do you label the discs?
- Can I design my own labels?
- Can you ship my order to a different address?
- Can you ship overseas?
- Can you improve the quality of my tapes?
- Can you edit my tapes?
- My tape is broken. Can you fix it?
- Do you have a store in my city?
- Where are you located?
- How long have you been doing this?
- What type of equipment do you use?
- Do you buy or sell video equipment?
- Can you help me find a rare movie title?
Do videotapes really fade?
Yes, this is a very real problem.
First and foremost, any magnetic medium is subject to being accidently erased either in a VCR or just by being subjected to a strong magnetic field. If you store your tapes too close to a strong magnet (such as the one in your stereo speakers), in time the magnetic signal on the tape will weaken.
Beyond this, magnetic signals can weaken on their own over time without any exposure to strong magnetic fields. This is because magnetism is all around us, and it is easily disruptable.
More common problems arise when tapes are stored in moist environments (such as a basement), are not fully rewound, or stored without their cardboard or plastic sleeves. This can degrade the tape inside and render it unplayable. Unfortunately, we sometimes have to tell customers that their tapes cannot be transferred due to mold damage, which makes the tape very brittle and can cause it to fall apart -- literally.
The DVD format is non-magnetic, so this is a much-preferred option for long-term storage of your home videos. It works by altering the reflective nature of ink which is contained between a clear plastic disc and a reflective one. Because it is a dye, it's susceptible to other types of damage (such as that caused by extreme heat), but unlike magnetic tape, they cannot be accidently erased, and they will not erase themselves over time.
We do recommend, however, that you keep your old videotapes once you have had them transferred. Store them in a dry place which is not subjected to extremes of temperature. There may come a day when you want them to be transferred to yet another format for ease of watching!
Can you copy from my format?
We can copy from nearly any consumer video format that was popular within the last 30 years. There are a handful of very rare formats that we cannot do, but you probably don't have those. You probably have Betamax or U-matic. Look here for a complete list of the formats we can accept.
Can you copy from my very old tapes?
The tape may be old, but we can probably copy it. Exceptions are things like physical damage (crinkled tape), water damage (you can throw it away), and erasure. It is true that videotapes can fade with age, and they can be damaged or erased completely if exposed to a magnetic field. But if they are stored properly, they can last for many years.
If you think the quality of the old tape is poor, it may partly be because it was recorded on equipment much less sophisticated than what is available now. Camcorders today have crisper picture and brighter colors than those of even 5 years ago. They are better than the camera you used 20 years ago by a great deal. The old tapes may have gotten worse, but the new ones are also just that much better to begin with.
Having said that, there are certain types of old tapes that resist transfer to digital formats like DVD. The result can be artifacts and audio synch problems. These are rare, and we will notify you if this applies to any of your originals.
Can you transfer our old home movies?
We do not have expertise in handling film. We handle video formats only. Look here for how to tell the difference between film and video.
Can you copy movies and shows I taped off of TV?
Yes. As long as you taped it yourself (rather than buying the prerecorded tape from a store) it is legal for you to transfer it to whatever format you choose.
Can you edit out movies and shows I taped off of TV?
Many old camcorder tapes (especially Betamax tapes) have some TV shows recorded at the end of the tape. Many people reuse tapes in their camcorders.
When we check your tapes, we'll see if there are TV shows or movies at the end. Then we'll work backwards until we find the end of your home movies. Then we check the beginning to see if there are home movies at the start (this is, by far, the most common situation). We then assume that your home movies are uninterrupted, and that TV shows are limited to the end of the tape.
If this is the case, we will eliminate the TV shows at no extra cost.
If, on the other hand, your home videos are interupted by TV shows in the middle, or scattered throughout the tape, there may be an additional charge to remove them.
Either way, we'll contact you to let you know what we found so you can make your decision on how to proceed. Keep in mind that we do not charge anything to your credit card until the final price of the order has been determined.
Can you copy tapes and discs from overseas?
Yes, we can handle all overseas formats on VHS, Betamax, MiniDV or DVD. We cannot handle 8mm, Hi-8 or Digital 8 tapes from overseas. These are relatively rare, and you probably don't have such a thing.
Can you put my computer file on a tape or disc?
Yes, we can. You can send us your file on CD-R or DVD-R, and we will transfer it to either VHS tape or a DVD which can be played in any standard player. We can also accept files as email attachments or uploaded by FTP.
Can you transfer from DVD to VHS?
Yes, as long as the source DVD is not copy-protected. This type of copying will preserve the widescreen orientation of the picture. The VHS copy will look identical to what you see watching the DVD, but will not include any menus or other special features.
What if my program is longer than 2 hours?
Since all of our transfers are limited to two hours, if your tape goes over this length it must be split into a multi-disc set. We will contact you to let you know how many discs it will take and what the additional cost will be.
Your approval is always required before we will make any changes to your order (unless you have explicitly told us how to handle this situation in advance). And please note that no charges are made on your credit card until the final price of the order has been determined.
How should I enter my order if I don't know how long my tapes are?
For the purposes of entering your order, assume that we will be making one disc from each tape.
When we receive your tapes, the first thing we do is check to make sure they can be transferred according to your order. THen if there are any questions, we'll contact you with the details about your tapes and ask how you want things split or combined.
At that point we will adjust your order and give you a new total, which you must approve before your credit card is charged and the work begins.
At each step of the way, we will be in direct contact with you to make sure the transfers get done exactly as you want.
Can you combine two tapes onto one disc?
Yes, there is no limit to how many sources you have on a given project -- as long as the total amount of video is less than 2 hours.
Can you split one tape onto multiple discs or tapes?
Yes, we can split your tapes in whatever fashion you wish. Keep in mind that each destination disc or tape is its own project, and priced as such.
Can you combine video from multiple formats onto one disc or tape?
Yes. There are no limitations on combining video from multiple formats.
Do you have restrictions on the type of content you will copy?
As long as you have met the copyright requirements, we will make your copies.
Are there any tapes you cannot copy?
Unfortunately, there are cases where, for one reason or another, we are unable to copy the tape. The most likely cause of this is damage to (or just wear and tear on) the original tape. If we cannot copy your tape, your only obligation is to the shipping charge to return it to you.
Will I get my original tapes back?
Yes. We will send your original tapes back with your finished discs.
Should I keep my original tapes or throw them away?
Be sure to keep your original tapes even after they have been transferred! They should once again be stored in a dry place away from extremes of temperature.
Someday in the future there will be a new video format and you may want to transfer your memories onto that format for viewing. When doing transfers, it's always best to work from the original source material rather than a copy. That's the only way to truly preserve the quality of the footage over several generations of video formats.
Beyond that, discs which get scratched can develop playback problems. In this case, the only option will be to retransfer the footage from the original tape.
How do I know which format I have?
The best way to figure out which format you have is to look for a logo imprinted on it, then visit our formats page. It might help to measure the tape and compare it to those pictured on our format line-up. Keep in mind that the physical dimensions are only part of the format. There are different ways to write information on those tapes. Don't worry about that too much. All you really need to know is whether it was recorded in America or somewhere overseas. We'll sort the rest out for you.
Why are there so many video formats?
The official answer is that different formats serve different purposes for different people. But the real answer is that format chaos has been around just about as long as there have been video or audio formats. Mostly this is because every company in the market has introduced its own format at one point or another, and once a format is out there, it stays out there forever. Which means that format chaos is likely to continue forever, and only get worse as new technologies add even more formats to the mix.
What's the best video format?
There really isn't a best format, just most appropriate and/or most popular. At the time of this writing, VHS is still the favorite for home recording, MiniDV is the new favorite for camcorder recording, and DVD is the favorite for video archiving. Just as you read that sentence, it all may have changed.
Here are some of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the common formats:
||Very common, in EP mode can record 6 hours or more on a single tape
||The cassette is very large, making it impractical for camcorders. The picture quality is relatively low, even in SP mode.
||Very common for camcorders in the late 1980s and early 1990s, smaller than VHS, higher picture quality potential than VHS
||Obsolete since it was replaced first by Hi8, and then by Digital8
||Popular since the mid 1990s and still common for camcorders, higher picture quality than VHS or 8mm
||Analog format can't compete with digital formats, it has been officially replaced by Digital8
||Small version of VHS means it's compatable with standard VCRs by using an adapter cassette
||Tape can stretch or break in adapter, tapes are limited to 40 minutes in SP mode, picture quality is very low compared to other formats
||Digital format means a relatively high picture quality, camcorders can also play the older 8mm and Hi8 formats, tapes easy to find
||A format with a very small market share, designed to bridge the gap for 8mm users between analog and digital, it probably won't be around very long
||The new standard for camcorders, tiny tape, very high quality picture potential
||Smaller mechanism generally means camcorders are more fragile, tapes are generally limited to 60 minutes in SP mode, this format may be the last gasp for magnetic tape
||Very common, one disc can hold 2 hours of high quality video, don't have the potential to wear out like magnetic tape
||Scratches can be deadly and irreparable, compressed video format is not intended to be edited later
What's the difference between home movies and home video?
Movies are projected by shining light through very tiny photographs that flip rapidly in front of a lens which magnifies them and focuses them on a screen. Video does not use a photographic medium, but stores images by converting them to electrical impulses and imprinting them on magnetic tape.
How can I tell whether I have movies or video?
If you can see little pictures when you hold it up to the light, then it's film. Magnetic tape is a uniform brown in color.
What's the difference between Super 8 movies and 8mm video?
The similarity in name has caused no end of confusion between the film format (known as Super 8) and the video formats (known as Video8, 8mm, Hi-8, or Digital8). There is actually no connection between the two other than their physical size. They are certainly not interchangeable.
Copyrights and Copy Protection
What is a copyright?
Copyright is the legal ownership of creative materials like video, audio, books, images, etc. Copyrights determine who has the right to decide how such materials are used and who gets paid for those uses.
How do I know who owns the copyright to a video?
If you created the video yourself, you own the copyright and have complete control over how the video is copied and used. You even have the right to sell copies, or sell those rights to someone else. If you did not create the video, someone else owns the copyright. Before you can do anything with it, you'll need permission.
What is "fair use"?
This is a clause in the copyright law which allows for individuals to do certain limited things with copyrighted materials without obtaining permission. In general, these things are limited to activities which are for your own personal use, and in some cases, educational or other academic use. "Fair use" is a rather broad concept, but there are very distinct limitations on what is and is not legal. If you aren't sure that what you're doing is legal, get permission.
Do I need permission to copy my tape?
If someone else owns the copyright, you must either get permission from them, or only make copies which fall under the "fair use" clause of copyright law. This is a very complicated subject, and we cannot provide guidance on the copyright requirements of your footage. There are just too many possibilities. When in doubt, get permission.
How can I get permission to make the copy?
Simply contact the owner of the rights to the footage and ask for permission. You may have to pay a fee, or you may find out that permission is not possible. But it never hurts to ask.
What information do I need to prove that I have permission to copy?
We do not require any written proof that you have permission to copy. We simply require you to accept responsibility for any copyright disputes which may arise from the duplication.
Is there anything you won't copy even if I have permission?
Yes. Since it is generally not possible to obtain permission to copy major motion pictures and television shows, we will not copy them from prerecorded tapes or discs under any circumstances.
How can you tell if a tape or disc is copy-protected?
If you bought it at a store, it is probably copy-protected. If you made it yourself, it is probably not. If the video is for a specialized purpose (such as high-end training materials) it may also be copy-protected. There is generally no way to visibly tell if the material is protected, although sometimes it says as much on the label or sleeve.
Can you remove the region encoding or copy protection from my DVD?
This would be in direct violation of copyright laws and so we cannot do it.
About the Copies
What format should I transfer to?
This is a choice between the present and the future. Transfer to VHS only if you do not own a DVD player and have no intention of purchasing one. VHS tapes can be viewed right in your VCR, but have the potential to fade over time, just like the source materials.
Transfer to DVD for long-term protection of your video. Though no one knows for sure how long DVDs will last, there are strong reasons to believe it will be much longer than magnetic tapes such as VHS. For one thing, magnetic fields have no affect on DVDs because the data is stored in a layer of dye rather than as magnetic signals. For another, DVDs rely on very robust error-correcting algorithms which can actually automatically replace digital information should it fade or be otherwise lost over time.
Current estimates are that VHS tapes (and all magnetic tape formats) have a pratical limit of about 20-25 years. DVDs, on the other hand, are currently expected to be playable for 50 years or more (assuming you still have a DVD player, of course).
Why are DVDs limited to 2 hours?
Technically there is no limit to the amount of video which can fit on one DVD. By definition, the video signal must be digitally compressed before it is placed on the disc. By controlling the compression of the video signal, you control both the quality and amount of video which can fit on a disc. But there is a pretty steep trade-off. With higher compression, more video can fit onto a disc, but it will be of a lower quality. Conversely, for the highest quality video, the lowest compression setting must be used, which also limits how much video will fit.
Fitting two hours on a disc balances the two considerations. The video is still of a very high quality.
What recording speed do you use for VHS tapes?
We always record VHS tapes at the Standard Play (SP or 2-hour) speed. This is the only way to guarantee the highest quality duplicates.
Can you record at the six hour speed (also called EP or SLP)?
We can, but the order will be charged in 2-hour increments. In other words, copying 6 hours onto one tape costs the same as copying 2 hours to each of 3 tapes. The drop in picture quality in slower speeds is so great that this is not a recommended option under most circumstances.
Will the DVDs play on all players?
Your discs will play in any DVD player which is rated for DVD-R discs, which includes the vast majority of DVD players sold since 2001. Ironically, there are cases where high-end DVD players (costing $400 or more) use lasers which cannot read writeable media. If you installed an expensive home entertainment system which included a Samsung or Toshiba DVD player, check your documentation carefully to make sure your player will accept writeable discs.
Also, it has been widely documented that heat can affect a player's ability to play these discs. If your DVD player is installed without proper ventilation (such as at the bottom of a stack of components, in a cabinet which is not open in the back, or underneath your TV), your ability to play DVD-R discs may be severely diminished.
DVD-R compatability is a dicey subject, because certain manufacturers either do not support the format, or actively try to sabotage it due to competition between media formats.
But to-date we have encountered problems with only two types of DVD players: the Toshiba SD line (model numbers beginning with the letters SD), and the Samsung high-end home theater players. If you have either of these types of players, you MAY experience problems.
Can you make tapes to be viewed overseas?
Yes. We can convert formats in either direction.
Will the DVDs have copy protection or region encoding?
The DVDs we make will not have any copy protection or region encoding. This means they can be copied and shared freely, and may actually play in other countries (depending on the DVD player used).
Can I make my own copies later from the discs you make?
Yes, make as many as you like. There are no restrictions placed on your discs.
Can you copy to formats other than VHS or DVD?
Yes, we can copy to any of the formats found on our formats page.
How long will my copies last?
It's a question everyone asks, and the truth is that no one knows for sure how long any recordable media will last. It's possible that DVDs will last 50 years, but it's just as possible that they will start to degrade after 10, and also possible that they'll still be in good shape at 100. More to the point may be to ask whether you will still have a DVD player to play them on in 50 years. Probably not. You don't have a 78rpm record player any more, right?
To maximize life expectancy, VideoMakersDirect uses only the highest quality professional-grade writeable DVDs. The manufacturer states that they should last 50 years. This sounds reasonable, but you should still take good care of them and expect to transfer again to a newer format (yet to be invented) every 15 to 20 years.
Will I be able to edit the footage later?
The DVDs we make are designed to be played on your DVD player. The footage cannot be edited directly from these discs. But with right software (a DVD "ripper" and an MPEG2 editor) and some patience, you would be able to do some simple editing. Keep in mind that once you have finished any editing, you will need additional software to create a new DVD which can be watched in your DVD player.
If you know that you want to edit the footage in this fashion, and do not need a disc which can be played in your DVD player, you may request that we make a "data DVD." This disc will contain the raw MPEG file which can simply be copied to your hard drive for editing (eliminating the "ripping" step).
Editing MPEG2 footage in this fashion is not recommended. MPEG2 is a compressed format, and is not intended to be edited at all. A common problem you may encounter after editing is the audio and video being out of sync. In addition, some editing packages will require you to recompress the footage again after editing. This can substantially reduce the quality of the finished video
With small amounts of video, we can also do an uncompressed data DVD. This will contain the footage in AVI format, which is the recommended format for editing. These files require about 1GB of data per 5 minutes of video, thus only about 20 minutes will fit onto a disc.
About Our Service
How does your service work?
It's very simple. Just enter your order on our secure online order form (or, if you prefer, print out a manual form), then send us your tapes. You'll receive your copies (and your original tapes, of course) by Priority Mail. Look for more information here.
How long does it take?
Most orders are transferred and shipped within several days of receipt of your original materials. Large orders may take longer, but we will keep you informed of the estimated completion time.
Keep in mind that you can check the status of your transfers at any time by using our secure online order tracking system.
What methods of payment do you accept?
We accept VISA, Mastercard, American Express and Discover credit cards. We also accept PayPal and Google Checkout payments, money orders and personal checks (although some restrictions apply). Please contact us for corporate or institutional payment options.
How should I send my materials to you?
Use whatever method feels most comfortable to you. We accept deliveries from all major carriers, and are happy to sign for deliveries. Be sure to pack your tapes carefully so they are not damaged in transit.
Will I get my original tapes back?
Of course! Your original tapes or discs will be returned to you unchanged in any way.
Can I specify where the chapter points go on my DVD?
Our standard DVD transfers place chapter points at 5-minute intervals. If you need to specify where your chapter points go, use our custom transfer options. This gives you complete flexibility over all elements of the project, including menus, labeling, case selection, and more.
How do you label the discs?
We use inkjet imprinting on all discs. We never use sticky labels, which have been known to cause playback problems as the adhesive dries.
Can I design my own labels?
Our standard imprint contains the title of your disc only. If you wish to include a photo or additional text, just select the "Custom Label" option. You may then provide specifications or the actual full-color artwork for us to use.
Can you ship my order to a different address?
Yes, under most circumstances. If you pay by check, your order must be shipped to the address printed on the check. If you make a PayPal payment, we must ship to the confirmed address on your PayPal account.
Can you ship overseas?
Yes, although any free shipping offers apply only to addresses inside the continental United States.
Can you improve the quality of my tapes?
VideoMakers uses the highest quality equipment to play your tapes. This results in the highest quality transfer possible. Unfortunately, the transfer will never look better than the original. But we go to great lengths to make sure that it looks exactly as good as the original.
Can you edit my tapes?
Yes we can. Please contact us for details.
My tape is broken. Can you fix it?
Yes we can. Please contact us for details.
Do you have a store in my city?
We do not have retail locations. All transactions are done through this web site or by mail.
Where are you located?
Our headquarters are in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
How long have you been doing this?
VideoMakers was founded in 1986, and the VideoMakers Direct web site has been in operation since 2004. For more information, see our biography page.
What type of equipment do you use?
The field of video is much like the world of computers. A new technology is introduced almost every day, and new techniques and equipment are constantly developed which can make better use of existing technology.
For this reason, VideoMakers maintains a wide variety of professional, state-of-the-art equipment which changes almost daily. We constantly strive to find the equipment which will offer the very best transfers possible.
Do you buy or sell video equipment?
We occasionally sell used equipment, and we occasionally buy used equipment (mostly VCRs in very old formats). Please contact us for further information.
Can you help me find a particular movie title?
Sorry. This is not what we do.
Thanks for considering VideoMakers!
3300 Bloomington Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55407