Videotape FAQ and Rates


Here are some of the assumptions we make when we capture media from videotape.

If it is an analog SD format such as 3/4” Umatic, Betacam, Hi8 or VHS, we will capture to the native frame size and frame rate using a compressed ProRes codec

720 x 486 pixels 29.97i (NTSC) Apple ProRes 422   |   720 x 576 pixels 25i (PAL). Apple ProRes 422

Embedded Audio: 48 kHz 16bit or 24 bit. Tapes that identify the audio as “stereo” will have embedded stereo pairs. Otherwise, embedded audio will be discreet MONO tracks. 

If it is a digital videotape SD or HD format such as Digital Betacam, D2, DV or HDCAM, we will capture to the native frame size and frame rate using a compressed ProRes codec.

720 x 486 pixels 29.97i (NTSC) for DigiBetacam and D2
720 x 480 pixels 29.97i (NTSC) for DV
1920 x 1080 pixels 29.97i, 25i, or 23.98P for HDCAM
1280 x 720 pixels 29.97i for DVCPro
Capturing to uncompressed codecs is at additional cost. 


We will attempt to log and capture clips with filenames copied from tape labels or slates. If you have a naming convention that you need us to adhere to, please provide us with a text document and explanation. 


Whenever possible, we will attempt to capture clips with the videotape’s source timecode embedded. If there is no timecode on the tape or the timecode is discontinuous or has drop outs, we MAY need to capture your clips manually, and the QuickTime files will not have meaningful timecode.


If your source tape has dropouts, we will do our best to capture complete clips by using our timebase corrector. Dropouts and timecode discontinuities may cause some clips to be broken up into multiple clips.
We will log obvious dropouts that we observe during capture, but the basic capture service does not include playback QC. We can’t guarantee that your captures will be glitch or error free. (Especially older tapes, or tapes that have not been well stored.) 

IF you want us to RESTORE your media, we can provide that service including full QC, recapture and splicing together the best bits from separate captures and re-exporting a complete continuous file. Edit rates will apply, and we will only provide this service on written request.


Older videotapes, especially those that have not been stored in a cool dry environment might exhibit “stickiness.” If we find your tapes don’t play back reliably or they seize or stall, we may bake your media in a low temperature dryer for 4 hours and try again. This baking treatment dehumidifies the sticky base adhesive and frequently resolves minor “stick-tion” problems. We charge $25/tape for this treatment. We will advise you if we think this is necessary.


We will deliver your QuickTime files on Mac-formatted (HFS+) USB-3 hard drives. (Usually WD Elements 1 TB drives.)
Hard drives will come with a printed catalog of the drive contents, and we will email you a PDF of each catalog.


If we determine that we cannot recover usable video/audio from your source tape, we will tell you and you will not be charged.
If your tape has mechanical problems causing a tape jam or tape break, we will do our best to extricate your tape intact.
We won’t be responsible for damage to your tapes.


Capture to QuickTime (ProRes) is billed at a studio rate of $150/studio hour SD and $175/studio hr HD. Capture to QuickTime (Uncompressed 8-bit or 10-bit files) is billed at a studio rate of $200/studio hour SD and $250/studio hr HD.
For most analog formats, ProRes 422 encoding will not degrade image quality vs. source. Uncompressed files are much larger and may not be playable on normal desktop or laptop computers because of bandwidth limitations.

We bill for actual studio time, NOT run time of your media. The average media run-time to studio time factor is 125%.
For example: If you have two tapes, each with 30 minutes of content, and we capture files with a TRT of 60 minutes from them, the billable time is 1.25 Hrs.
(This accounts for tape logging, file naming, cataloging and file management.)
If your material is simple and clearly labeled with few LONG clips, we can sometimes do better than 125%.
Conversely, if your tapes have multiple short clips, if the tape labels and or slates are missing or unclear or if we experience a lot of technical problems during logging and capture (drop outs, time code breaks) requiring multiple re-dos, the factor can increase to $150%, 175% or rarely, as much as 200% of run time.
If we feel there are issues slowing us down, we will contact you to give you the option to have us proceed or not.
We log our actual studio time accurately and we try to be as generous as we can when we do our billing as this is an un-supervised process.


We are not the least expensive.
In fact, we do not encourage bringing us your family home video VHS and Betamax tapes (even though they are precious), as the Walgreens/Web folks can do a completely adequate job.
Here is what makes our process different:


VHS: We have a rare professional Sony VHS/S-VHS deck that has Betacam style component (Y, R-Y, B-Y) outputs. We capture via component inputs to our high quality encoder. We are capturing to REC 601 / 4:2:2 using the ProRes codec (42 Mb/sec).  

Walgreens captures VHS using the lesser quality composite output on their VHS deck usually transforming to DV 25 Mbits/sec. or recording directly to DVD-R.

DV / DVCAM / MINI DV: We have a professional studio DV/DVCAM deck that plays back DV media via a high quality built in REC 601 (SDI) uncompressed 4:2:2 output and we capture to ProRes. From our own tests on post projects, we observe better looking decoding of the 25 Mbits DV recording with this on-deck decoder, vs. capturing via Firewire to a DV codec, especially in the dark areas and blacks. (Less macro-blocking.)


We provide two tiers of very high quality up-rez and frame rate conversion at ZAP: Teranex and Dark Energy. Your first step is to capture the media from your videotapes in their NATIVE format introducing the fewest possible artifacts. The captured files can then be up-rezzed to High Def versions at a later time. There are many options for up conversion. For example, with film-original material telecined on 29.97i SD videotape, we can remove the 2:3 pulldown to provide you with true progressive 23.98 fps HD files.

EPHEMERAL MEDIA: As magnetic tapes age, they become less playable. And as time passes, the hardware needed to play them is becoming less accessible. All of our professional decks are getting long in the tooth, and as they fail, it may not be practical to repair or replace them. (And I am getting older too!)

MONETIZING: If you anticipate wanting to provide clips or stock from your old masters, the media will be more accessible to you if it is organized on neatly catalogued hard drives. You can use these QuickTime files to pull clips, make screener DVDs, and so on.


Of course there is a downside to storing your precious media on a single computer hard drive. All hard drives may fail eventually. We can provide clones of your media on secondary hard drives and/or on LTO digital data tapes, which can be stored in a separate location from your primary hard drives.


What to do with your old Betamax Tapes

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