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Preserving Those Precious Memories


Preserving Those Precious Memories

New life can now be breathed into precious videotaped memories with the help of the latest digital technology.

Irreplaceable but vulnerable footage of weddings, christenings, holidays or sporting events can all be converted into long-lasting DVD format. And the process involved is safe, cheap and simple, thanks to technology from the United States used by New Zealand company, Discstation Limited.

Discstation's system, known as V2Disc, involves converting videotaped material from analogue to digital format, compressing the data and then burning it onto a DVD disc. From this month onwards, V2D technology will be available at all of Discstation's 150 outlets throughout New Zealand. The process is not expensive, with conversion of a 60 minute videotape costing less than $50.

"The result of this process will be a version of your golden memories, which should stay fresh for many decades and which can be easily viewed by you or copied for friends and family members, including children and grandchildren. Our approach should appeal to anyone who wants to make sure their golden moments will still be great viewing in years to come," says Discstation Director, Chris Cranshaw.

"Videotape has played an important role in helping us preserve memories that would otherwise have been lost. But it has always been a cumbersome and problematic form of technology, given the constant need to rewind and the difficulties involved in moving quickly from one part of the tape to another.

"Let's face it, video is now an anomaly in a world where home-entertainment is rapidly moving towards easy-to-use, disc-based digital technology. The younger generation increasingly doesn't own VCRs or uses them only rarely. They may smile politely and thank you when you present them with a lovingly re-recorded video of their family heritage. But don't expect them to play your valued gift. All that rewinding is just too much work for the push-button generation!

"More important still, videotape is simply not a reliable storage medium, as it tends to degrade quite rapidly, even when tapes aren't played very often. In fact, it's been estimated that most videotape has a lifespan of just 10 to 15 years, although that lifespan may well be even shorter in the warm, humid environment found in some parts of New Zealand," he says.

If videotape is becoming yesterday's technology, DVD, or "digital versatile disc", is enjoying huge popularity. Chris Cranshaw describes it as "perhaps the most rapidly spreading entertainment technology ever". Sales of DVD players are booming globally, reflecting their ease of use, their comparative cheapness and the unprecedented high quality of image reproduced.

Of course, no form of technology is completely trouble-free and a key vulnerability for DVD is its tendency to scratch easily. DVD discs look just like CDs but in fact contain a much greater density of data. Simply because these individual bits of data are so much smaller than on CD, they can easily be obscured by even the smallest of scratches.

To avoid scratching, Chris Cranshaw recommends careful handling of all DVD discs. He says that cardboard or paper sleeves should be avoided as they can easily cause micro-scratches. And he recommends moving in a straight line outwards and avoiding circular movements when cleaning a disc.

"The important thing to remember is that scratches need not be fatal. Discstation is also New Zealand's largest disc repairer. We use the latest anti-scratch technology and, for a very small cost, are usually able to restore even highly-scratched DVD discs to pristine condition. We also supply a protective shield known as "DiscARMOR" which can help to protect your disc from damage and which comes with a free repair warranty if your disc subsequently sustains scratches," he adds.

Another threat comes from "DVD rot", when a disc suddenly becomes unplayable through some hitherto hidden fault in its manufacture, including, typically, the decomposition of adhesives binding the various levels of the disk together.

"Cases of DVD rot are actually few and far between, with most reported incidents involving mass-produced, pre-recorded versions of feature films. Moreover, an article in the respected "PC Magazine" recently suggested that the problem was limited to discs from a few plants which had quality control problems in the late 1990s. This has not stopped the issue being hyped by some pundits and used to cast doubt on the longevity of DVD images," says Chris Cranshaw.

"In reality, when discs suddenly become unplayable, the fault is far more likely to lie with incorrect handling than any inherent fault in manufacture. DVDs are made by bonding two plastic discs together. This can render them vulnerable to bending and flexing, which can force the two discs apart, if only for a moment. For this reason, it's best to store your discs vertically in their original packaging and to avoid manhandling them too forcefully. DiscARMOR can also play a useful role in stiffening the disk and helping prevent bending.

"Similarly, it's a good idea to avoid exposing your DVD discs to extremes of temperature or to direct sunlight. And it's also sensible to only record material on discs manufactured by reputable branded companies. This is certainly our policy when making V2Disc transfers," he says.

"These are all commonsense precautions of the type which most people would automatically want taken with their precious memories, in whatever form they were recorded. They should certainly reduce the likelihood of substantial damage to an absolute minimum, allowing you, your friends and family to enjoy these memories on DVD for many years to come.

"It's worth comparing this prospect with the near certainty that videotaped image will be degraded beyond use in little more than a decade," Mr Cranshaw adds.

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