Remembrance of Things Past

Video Productions

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Are your memories fading away?

No, I’m not talking about having more senior moments. I’m talking about all those family memories you have on video tape. The VCR is now over 30 years old, with the original VHS and Beta camcorders almost as old, meaning some of your family movies may be 25 or more years old now.

Fortunately, video tape is reasonably durable. But, that assumes the recording was good to begin with (you DID always use SP speed, didn’t you?) and that you have stored them reasonably well (protected from heat, temperature swings, etc.). Poorly stored tapes, or tapes recorded in SLP (also called EP) mode may have already suffered significant damage due to the original recording mode and/or storage conditions. Even well protected VHS recordings will start to degrade after a decade or so. But, “start to degrade” does not mean all is lost. Chances are your home movies are still in reasonably good condition.

Even so … do you even OWN a VCR anymore (or at least one that works)?

Wouldn’t you like to have your home movies converted to a modern format? Wouldn’t you like them converted to a form you can play on your modern devices?

We can do that for you.

We can convert VHS, VHS-C, SVHS, SVHS-C, Video8, Hi8, Betamax, and Super Beta analog tapes to digital and from there convert it to whatever media or format you want from DVD to MP4. We can also transfer your digital media, including miniDV and Digital8 tapes, as well as flash memory cards or most other digital media, to a form that is more useful or convenient to you.

The, clearly, the hard part is dealing with old analog recordings. We have professional level playback and analog to digital conversion equipment, as well as video processing equipment in both the analog and digital domain to stabilize the video, adjust color, saturation, and tint, and reduce camera hand-shake. While we cannot perform miracles with severely degraded videos, (or very shaky videos) we are prepared to deal with the normal issues found in old analog video recordings.

We are local to the Twin Cities, so there is no need to send your precious tapes through the mail. We are always available to meet with you face-to-face to discuss your project. And, unlike other commercial tape conversion businesses, we will keep your conversion footage in DV digital codec for at least 2 years, and keep all of your videos in MPEG2 (DVD quality) compressed form for at least 5 years (longer upon written request). None of this costs you extra.

And, all for a very reasonable price. Call or email to discuss pricing.

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Protecting Your Memories

If you are a past or possible future customer of RTP Video Productions, you obviously value your family memories as represented in your photographs and home videos. Perhaps you are like many home computer users — you’ve never given much thought to backing up your memories. As a professional in the field of digital photograph editing and video production, I use computers every day, so I have developed an appreciation for what they can do, but also a respect for how they can fail. Not to frighten you, but here are some facts… not opinions, facts.

1. All hard drives eventually fail, and they frequently fail in such a way as to make data recovery very difficult / expensive or impossible. This means that all of those digital photographs and videos you transferred from your cameras to your hard drive will go “poof” — either within the next 5 minutes or within the next 5 years, but they will go “poof.”

2. All flash memory cards / flash drives eventually fail or the data on them eventually fades. This is the nature of flash memory technology. It is not permanent, so if you are keeping your photos by buying more and more flash cards, this is not a long-term solution to protecting your memories, either.

I’ve tried several different methods to backing up my data, so I thought I would give you the benefit of my experiences.

What makes an effective backup system? Well, it may be stating the obvious, but it must be capable of restoring your data (your memories) in the event of a disaster, whether the disaster is small (computer or hard drive failure), or large (home is destroyed by a natural disaster, fire, etc.).

There are 4 principles of a sound backup discipline and the lack of any one (or more) of these can significantly degrade the reliability and effectiveness of your backups.

a. It must be fully automatic, and for all practical purposes, set it and forget it.
b. It must not be dependent on any single backup media.
c. It must not be dependent on any single location for storing the backup.
d. Restore if needed must be quick and easy.

You could manually copy all of your photos and videos to CDs or DVDs, but by its nature, this will be hit or miss. Because of the time it takes to do this, you will tend to burn your backups at irregular intervals, with possibly months or longer between performing the backup function. And, then, what do you do with these backups? To not violate principle c, you would need to make at least 2 copies of each disc, and store one outside of your home; perhaps at your work place, or in a bank safe deposit box. Would you do this? Only you can answer that, but I wouldn’t, even with the best of intentions.

You could also use backup utilities, including the one built into your PC’s operating system, to backup all of your data to an external hard drive. External hard drives are incredibly cheap these days. Target recently had a 2 TB external drive on sale for $90 (that’s 2 terabytes — 2,000,000,000,000 bytes — 2 trillion bytes — 2000 GB — enough to hold about 800,000 ten megapixel photographs). But, as impressive as this is from a cost standpoint, it is still just a hard drive. This would meet principles a and d, but fail at principles b and c.

No, the best option, in my opinion, is one of the online backup services, but to meet the requirements, it must satisfy all four principles, a, b, c, and d, including backup to places other than their online “cloud” servers.

I have tried both of the big 2 online services: Carbonite and Mozy. Unfortunately, I do not recommend either of them based on my experiences with them.

Carbonite fails with principle c in that it does not provide an alternate backup location besides their servers. And they fail at principle d, at least they did for me. As reliable as their servers may be, they suffer from 2 things that means that I could not depend on them as the only location: the are S_L_O_W and they do not provide 24/7 technical support. Carbonite was the first serivice of this kind that I used. As such things go, I needed to restore due to a hard drive failure on a weekend. They do not even answer their email on weekends, and they provide no call-in support whatsoever. Since the hard drive that failed was the computer’s boot drive, I had no access to the Carbonite application, and the remote restore function that I hastily installed on a second computer would not allow access to the backup archive without validating against the serial number of the original Carbonite install. Who writes that kind of stuff down? I didn’t, and Carbonite was not answering my support requests. I was not able to even start the restore until I was able to contact customer suppport and convince them that I was who I was claiming to be. So, I lost 3 days getting the restore started. Once restored, I moved on to a different service. Caveat: this experience is 4 years old, and I have not kept up with whether or not Carbonite has addressed any of these issues, but one thing I do know… they claim unlimited backup, but they significantly slow down your backup if you get “too big”. They are already S_L_O_W, so they turn this into G_L_A_C_I_A_L if you have a lot of data to backup.

Mozy was worse than Carbonite in their failure of principle d. Their restore is unacceptably bad. Here is what it does: it will fail to restore at least some of the files you have backed up, and repeated attempts to restore result in the same errors. Making matters worse, when it fails to restore (which is every single time) it halts the restore with a vague error and provides you with no log information of what file or files were the problem, what files were successfully restored, and what files were not. Further, since it halts, there can be a huge number of unrestored files that it had just not gotten around to yet. Further, it does not restore in any logical order, so you have no clue how far along it got before it halted. Further, there is no way to resume the restore, you must restart from the beginning. It then fails again. Since I really, really, needed the files restored, I went through the painful process of going folder by folder, restoring one folder at a time, so that when the failures to restore happened, I could manually figure out which file did not restore, try to restore it again (it would always fail again, indicating the backup archive at Mozy is corrupted), and then continue with the next folder. A restore that should have taked a few hours took weeks. Mozy, unlike Carbonite, does offer backup to your local hard drives in addition to their online servers, so they would seem to satisfy all four principles, but if their restore integrity is 99% instead of 100%, what good are they? Never again. Now I read that they have done away with their unlimited backup service. Just another nail in the coffin as far as I am concerned.

I have now moved on to CrashPlan. They are a local Minneapolis company, for what that may be worth, but what has attracted me to their service is they hit all four of my backup principles head on. Their service will allow you to back up an unlimited amount of data to their online servers (like Carbonite, unlike Mozy), plus they also offer a “family plan” that includes up to 5 computers, all unlimited (unlike either Carbonite or Mozy). They do not thottle your bandwidth (unlike Carbonite). The really nice part of CrashPlan, however, is they provide backup to multiple destinations. You can backup up to external hard drives, to other computers on your home network, or even to other computers elsewhere on the internet (such as a friend’s computer or your work computer). This means you can take an external drive to your friend’s house and back your data up there. The backup is encrypted, so your friend cannot actually access your data, but it does get you an off-site backup location that does not depend on some large company’s servers out “in the cloud.” Of course, as I said, CrashPlan does offer unlimited backup to their servers, so you can have your backups in three places, all automatically maintained: locally on your external hard drive, remotely at your friend’s house, and in the cloud at CrashPlan’s servers, all maintained in set-it-and-forget-it fashion. Caveat: I have just started using CrashPlan, so I have no experience, yet, with needing their restore services. However, no one could be as bad as Mozy (I hope).

So, CrashPlan is where I have ended up in my backup saga. I hope this is of some value to you.

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What is Craftsmanship and Why is it Important?

We specialize in translating memories into beautiful, entertaining, and dynamic videos. I’ve been doing this from the days of all analog video technology to today’s high definition and computer-driven world. Whether using analog video tape editing equipment 15 years ago or quad-core computers today, each project has always had craftsmanship as a pillar. So, with all of the computer automation available today, why is craftsmanship important?

Craftsmanship is performing each step of the project with precision. Whether scanning the photos, restoring color to the photos, repairing blemished or damaged photos, placing the sound track, positioning the pictures in the timeline, adding transitions, titles, and effects, burning the DVD, or creating the labels, each step is performed carefully, and with individual hands-on attention.

Craftsmen follow the steps when working on a project. They use precision and exact timing. A craftsman will conduct a project based on a plan, will execute the project with patience, and will carry out the tasks with accuracy.  Each step will be finished before going on to the next step. A craftsman will finish the Finish. A craftsman does not believe in “good enough”.

Everything we do is unique and custom made to order, handcrafted with quality and fine workmanship. The technology is wonderful as a tool set, but tools must be used with craftsmanship.

You can order one of our standard packages, or individualize it to your requirements. We can work together to create a custom video that suits your needs, event, audience, playing time, taste, and budget. All carried out with the latest technology, for sure, but the real key is it will be carried out with craftsmanship.

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Now Offering Blu-ray!

Exciting news… We are now offering your Photo Memory Video on Blu-ray!  Our Blu-ray packages include even higher resolution scanning of your photos, and present your photos in full high definition on screen!  Blu-ray will not only improve the presentation of your photos, but will take maximum advantage of your own digital photos! We are offering a Blu-ray option on the Silver and Gold packages. For the Sliver package Blu-ray Photo Memory Video, your photos will be scanned at 4 MP minimum and the video will be in 720p HD. The Gold Blu-ray package will scan photos at 6 MP minimum and the video will be in 1080p HD. Of course, you will need a Blu-ray player to play these on.

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