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recent alert about DVD transfers etc.


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the following was sent out recently by a concerned group.

to be sure the information seems sound, even if i feel some reference should have been made to the benefit of 'preserving,' even if temporaily, the data on old tapes, since these aging items may prove unwatchable and waiting for a more archival and more scrupulous method of transferring their images may prove that the wait will not outlast the tapes themselves, and that one might left with nothing at all.

those who are more informed about these matters will doubtlessly be able to speak to the particulars far better than i could.

From The Dance Heritage Coalition …

An important alert about DVDS

and

preserving your dance legacy!!

Many in the dance community have been turning to DVDs to re-master their treasured videotapes … but beware! While it is true that DVDs have virtually supplanted VHS tapes at local video stores throughout the country and are even quickly becoming the format of choice for moving image materials housed in public libraries, the professional archival community, including members of the Dance Heritage Coalition, does not endorse the DVD format for archival purposes. DVDs provide a convenient way to easily access moving images, but they have numerous inherent problems. Until an archival-quality digital format becomes universally available, it is critical that you SAVE YOUR ORIGINAL TAPES if you are transferring materials to DVD.

So why are people using DVDs?

The upside: DVDs offer a low-cost, portable, readily available, and (somewhat) resilient medium to get your work out there for all to see; they also offer editing and programming options unavailable in the analog world.

Then why shouldn’t you use DVDs?

The downside: For archivists, two key factors must always be considered when selecting a videotape preservation format: 1) the long-term survival of the medium or format and 2) the authenticity of the recording—i.e., when looking to re-master, how well the chosen format duplicates the original material. Disappointingly, DVDs fall short in both areas.

One of the biggest concerns is that the process involved in making DVDs compresses the video signal, resulting in an inferior quality recording. This process, known as “lossy compression,” results in the loss of a significant amount of original information. This permanent alteration is unacceptable in the archival community. In addition, this new, compressed recording is not suitable for certain applications, such as HDTV.

The DVD medium itself is problematic. The lifespan of a DVD remains unknown—to date, no independent source has done systematic longevity testing. Furthermore, since a DVD is a laminated medium composed of different elements that are bound together, if one of the layers or the binding that holds the layers together fails, it could easily lead to the catastrophic loss of the content on an entire disc. This is unlike analog videotape, where damage to a portion of the tape does not lead to complete loss of the recording.

Where do we go from here?

Through a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Dance Heritage Coalition sponsored research into the most appropriate digital format for preservation of moving images in dance. Laboratory testing led to MJPEG2000 as the format of choice: MJPEG2000 is a digital format that creates a wholly authentic copy of the original recording and provides a high-quality visual image. Unfortunately, transfer costs to MJPEG2000 remain prohibitively expensive for the average consumer, dance company archive, and even most public libraries.

The Dance Heritage Coalition has recently completed a pilot project funded by the National Endowment for the Arts to create a digitization center or “hub,” where dance materials have been converted to MJPEG2000 data files. As additional funding is secured and permanent hubs are established, this resource will be made available to members of the dance community.

Recommendations for safe preservation

In the meantime, while awaiting lower costs associated with MJPEG2000 transfer, it is essential that you hold onto your original tapes if you are transferring images to DVD, regardless of the original format (VHS, U-Matic, Betamax or Betacam-SP, Digi-Beta, Mini-DV, etc.). Keep your originals in a protected environment, preferably separated from your newly created DVDs. (When selecting blank DVDs for your access copies, purchase the highest quality you can find—“gold” is preferable.) Having multiple copies—even if one is not archival quality—offers additional protection should a tape or disk become unreadable due to damage or format obsolescence. Keep an entire set of copies offsite in case of catastrophic loss to your storage facility. A non-archival copy is better than no copy!

For more information on videotape care or the DHC’s Mellon-funded research on MJPEG2000, consult the Dance Heritage Coalition website: www.danceheritage.org. Click on “Publications” and then Dance Video Preservation Reformatting Project: A Report and Dance Videotapes At Risk.

Don’t risk losing your precious legacy! Hold onto and safeguard your originals!

Founded in 1992, the Dance Heritage Coalition is a national non-profit alliance of institutions holding significant collections of materials documenting the history of dance. The DHC’s mission is to make accessible, enhance, augment, and preserve the materials that document the artistic accomplishments in dance of the past, present, and future. The DHC also serves as a think tank and a convener for the dance heritage field.

Member organizations of the Dance Heritage Coalition are: American Dance Festival, Dance Notation Bureau, Harvard Theatre Collection of Houghton Library at Harvard University, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Library of Congress, the Dance Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute at Ohio State University, and San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum

For further information, contact Barbara Drazin, Executive Director: bdrazin@danceheritage.org,

202-223-8393 or Libby Smigel, Project Director: lsmigel@danceheritage.org., 202-223-8392.

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Thank you so much for posting this, rg. The material is vitally important for all the arts, and for other forms of 20th century history as well. This is especially true since much of it seems to run counter to what the average person (me, for example) might think about the comparative advantages of tape and dvd.

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while i sense the basic soundness of this information, i think it's a bit too alarmist, not to mention somewhat irresponsible of this group, if the bulletin leads those of us w/ aging videotapes to do nothing until something ideal is determined. if/when that does come to pass, we can then transfer our transferred dvds to the new, archivally sound medium. if all we do is wait for this 'permanent' solution, we may find that those tapes we've been encouraged to hold onto will have turned to dust all their own. at which point, what good will the new-found archival methods be.

i feel we should transfer our aging tapes to a seemingly more current form of dvd - i have never had the strength to throw away my videocassette masters in any case - i kept my beta tapes around long after i transferred most to vhs - and wait for the sounder solution to arrive. (also i feel if my vids last as long as i do, i'm doing ok.)

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I think this communication (which I also received and suspect from the same direct or secondary source as rg) is aimed at professional archivists. Our issues are different. Few of us probably demand the hyper-fine resolution that libraries and broadcasters do.

Some of us probably have a personal need for professional-quality documents, but I don't. New technologies will come along, and old formats will obsolesce, but I have yet to transfer my lp's to cassettes (which I probably should have started about 25 years ago), let alone the rest of it.

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well said, C.

now that mention it, does anyone know a simple - no need to hi-tech/archivally perfect - to transfer audio cassettes to CD - is there a simple transfer gizmo on the market - i'm only now concerned w/ vids but should likely attend to the audio stuff too - i have a number of cassettes - some music and some interviews w/ ballet world individuals that i should likely convert to CD for a life as limited as my own.

any thoughts? all suggestions gratefully appreciated.

(i left all my LPs in a box in my old place when i moved out after more years than i care to count, much to the dismay of those who tell me i should at least have saved to covers, etc.)

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Having encountered this problem before--I have analog masters on 3/4"U-matic, Beta (SP or not), 1" open reel, and audio cassettes--I too was concerned about obsolescence (esp. 3/4" playback). But I was a little surprised by the DHF's concerns: DVD's are brittle, as were LP's, and one must take care (as one did with LPs before now) not to crack or scratch them , but dvd's are also not as susceptible to wrinkling, stretching, or tearing as analog tape is. Fast-forwarding & rewinding, and leaving a tape in pause more than a minute or so, will all damage it; in addition to the normal concerns of extreme heat/cold or dust, or whether to store it vertically (YES) versus stacked horizontally (NO). That being said, the clarity of dvds is, in many ways, superior to tape, though my 3/4" tapes (the last time I viewed them 5+ years ago) have held up astonishingly well.

RE the preferred MJPEG2000 archiving format, do they actually mean MPEG2? In which case there are numerous INEXPENSIVE transfer methods using some basic "nonlinear" video editing systems for home computers. And if they are still concerned about easily damageable dvd's, footage can be transferred to portable hard-drives with much sturdier casings. (Just make sure your nonlinear editing system will output in MPEG2--many do AVI or QT only, or MPEG1.)

Of course, even though I work in broadcasting, I haven't even begun to transfer my own numerous analog tapes yet, but hope to do so very soon. I will post if I have any more info to facilitate this.

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Video requires a lot of space when stored digitally, so an assortment of lossy data compression methods are used. Data compression greatly reduces the space needed to store a video with the cost of some loss of picture quality. DVDs commonly use MPEG2. MJPEG2000 is higher quality and requires more storage space.

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(i left all my LPs in a box in my old place when i moved out after more years than i care to count, much to the dismay of those who tell me i should at least have saved to covers, etc.)

Wow, rg...what a pity! :o ...i suddenly got temporary tired of my mp3's, and i'm getting into the "vintage" trend. I just got me a beautiful portable turntable from the 60's in a thrift store that works just fine ($30) :wink: and a black 40's era dial up black telephone...(Oh, i love the ringing!) (I know , i am :off topic:) ..so back to the subject, now i'm trying to get a hold on old ballet LP's. My friends think that i'm crazy...ha,ha :P So, any suggestions to future purchases...? (I'm sure you remember some memorable records).

:tiphat:

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while i sense the basic soundness of this information, i think it's a bit too alarmist, not to mention somewhat irresponsible of this group, if the bulletin leads those of us w/ aging videotapes to do nothing until something ideal is determined. if/when that does come to pass, we can then transfer our transferred dvds to the new, archivally sound medium. if all we do is wait for this 'permanent' solution, we may find that those tapes we've been encouraged to hold onto will have turned to dust all their own. at which point, what good will the new-found archival methods be.

i feel we should transfer our aging tapes to a seemingly more current form of dvd - i have never had the strength to throw away my videocassette masters in any case - i kept my beta tapes around long after i transferred most to vhs - and wait for the sounder solution to arrive. (also i feel if my vids last as long as i do, i'm doing ok.)

i think also a problem is the VHS itself is not really up to the job of being an archival medium. Low res, bleeding colors, shaky and degrading picture, and the tape medium is also not archival as it degrades over time. Of course, when analog tape goes bad, it's still watchable whereas when digital media goes bad, it isn't. Archiving and preserving VHS is really pretty awful; it's sort of like having a $1000 camera and taking a photograph of the Mona Lisa that is being shown on a b&w television. What is really needed is the remastering of the originals and release to DVD.

One thing mentioned in the OP is that grabbed, compressed video is not suitable for HD; of course neither is VHS.

Different grabbing software/hardware use different codecs and so you don't HAVE to store as MPEG2; or at least you could store at a much higher bitrate than you might be otherwise inclined to encode a DVD+R at. And if you are archiving, it is a fact that the DVD recordable media has a very finite lifetime (i think most only guarantee ~5 yrs?) and so it behooves you to have some redundancy systems in place (store on a HD, backup on tape drive, etc. etc.).

-goro-

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I have some naive questions about "remastering" -- from vhs to dvd, which is the concern of dance archivists, but also from lp to cd.

What is really needed is the remastering of the originals and release to DVD.

First of all there was the live performance. Somehow this was captured by camera and microphone and then stored on vhs or cd or whatever. Now you want to stabilize it, give it longevity, and make it look and sound better.

Just what are you doing when you "remaster" something?

Are you essentially reproducing in purer form what was originally captured, which vhs or other older technologies could not do?

Or are you somehow enhancing what you find in the existing format in order to approximate more closely, you think, what the performance was actually like?

If the first, remastering is indeed a miracle. If the second, wouldn't there be a danger of manufacturing a video performance that was not true to the original?

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hrmmm. i recently heard of a whole shelf/collection of LP in a dance vein that were seeking a home and no one i knew who to suggest - i don't think juilliard wanted them.

i guess the only place nowadays w/ any concentration to find these things is on ebay - i frequently see LPs there of this or that ballet recording for days of yore.

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However, do remember this: Copying your tapes to DVD will harm the originals not at all. It's a good interim way to have a playable copy without putting wear on the original. I haven't that kind of authority to say much on the topic, as my museum's main thrust is the Revolutionary War, and there are very few videotapes or DVDs from that era, so conservation of those media are not really within my area of experience.

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........ now that mention it, does anyone know a simple - no need to hi-tech/archivally perfect - to transfer audio cassettes to CD - is there a simple transfer gizmo on the market - i'm only now concerned w/ vids but should likely attend to the audio stuff too - i have a number of cassettes - some music and some interviews w/ ballet world individuals that i should likely convert to CD for a life as limited as my own.......

rg,

There is a free app called 'Audacity' (works on both mac and pc)

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

I have not really used it myself (music is what I do so I use more 'spensive software!) but I've heard good things about it from people who should know what they're talking about. Looking at the 'featues' page...

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/about/features

... it seems to offer some basic 'hiss removal' features which I'm sure will be all you will ever need. There is (for sale) software out there with more sophisticated/ dedicated hiss/ hum etc removal (which analyses the 'fingerprint' of the present background noise in a 'silent' section of your tape/ vinyl recording and then removes it from the whole file) and other techniques, but for 'home use' that's a bit overkill!

To do it this way all you need to remember is: (warning - some of this may insult your intelligence, but I figured I'd say it anyway :lol: )

1- Try and use the best tape recorder you can, one with line outs (try to avoid using the headphone outs!). Old tapes can sometimes make the heads very dirty very quickly - a quick wipe with head cleaner and cotton buds if it starts to sound unusually muffled can do wonders.

2- If your mac / pc does not have a sound card with line in capability then you will need to find a way to get the signal in - USB audio interfaces start at about £40.

3- When recording try and get the recording levels in Audacity as high as possible but WITHOUT CLIPPING. Audacity will have a level meter.

4- The rest depends on how much time you have/ how much you can be bothered! You can, if you feel the urge, add fade ins/ fade outs, compression, normalize the levels of different recordings destined for the same CD (so they all sound the same volume). etc etc

5- Export the tracks to your CD burning app assuming you have one - if not there is probably a free one out there. I use 'Toast' which is very good for CD/DVD burning etc and it's quite cheap.

I've been doing quite a bit of cassette archiving myself - it does take time! - but once you have it set up you can have it recording in the background while you write emails, cook dinner, can't sleep etc and just do a bit each day....

There may be other apps more dedicated to this very task that make it even easier ... for me it's easy to do it this way because I work with music software all the time.

Hope that helps. :)

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many thanks for the detailed info. above.

you could hardly insult my techno-intelligence on this front, b/c i have none to speak of.

i was thinking of a little dubbing deck, but i suppose i could explore actually working through my PC, but i'd need to take a very deep breath and probably have days cleared in my sched. to approach the task. but this is no reflection on the usefulness and thoroughness of your post.

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Few of us probably demand the hyper-fine resolution that libraries and broadcasters do.

Yes, but I suspect one of the things lost with the compression would be the difference between black and nearly black... it would all become black. In my time I shot a great deal of very dimly lit dance costumed in black tights against black floors and black cycs... it was hard enough to see the difference between the legs and the background in wide shots in the camera-originals... I can just imagine what happens with "lossy compression". I'd like to see how this MPEG2000 handles that kind of issue. Is it discussed? (will have to hunt the 'net a bit myself I guess).

Interestingly enough, Wikipedia doesn't have anything on it... they seem to go up to MPEG21 but no mention of 2000... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MPEG

A little more searching seems to reveal that MPEG2000 is also known as MJPEG2000 or JPEG2000. Here's the wikipedia link on that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JPEG2000

Seems it might be the same thing. I like the sound of "lossless mode"!

We're talking about Masters not working copies... many masters are on formats none of us can afford to have at home, so it doesn't bother me that this new format is not widely available to standard consumers... only if it is prohibitively expensive to the professional side of the dance world.

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As so often, another topic here with greater interest for me than I feel I can take the time for right now to give it my "all", but a couple of thoughts in passing, anyway:

One question in my mind at the moment is whether the limitations imposed by the video compression in the typical DVD recorder in SP or XP mode, say, are more severe than the limitations of the original recording process? The chain - stretching back from us all the way to the performance - is as strong as the weakest link, right? And the weakest link might be the first one - your soft-image off-air VHS tape, let's say?

I recently played a commercial DVD in wide-screen standard-definition (i.e. not HD-DVD or Blue-Ray high-definition) and was impressed with the sharpness and clarity of the image compared to some standard-definition TV programs, apparently made in studios with old equipment, not to mention comparison with fuzzy VHS tapes made at the best speed. So this medium is capable of very fine reproduction, and represents a strong section of chain to my mind.

To try to sum up: Unless I've missed something (and I haven't yet read the linked-to articles in the "warning" announcement, nor have I run any of this by one of my professional-engineer friends, highly competent with video now as he has been with audio for a long time, while I am only a CalTech flunk-out) - unless I've missed something, common sense says there's not a lot to get upset about here, and - my second point - a good way to get a handle on that is simply to look at your results - make a DVD of your tape, and play that alongside a replay of the tape, and see if the image suffered, always bearing in mind that there may be a question here about whether your TV, or more likely, its state of adjustment, is a strong link in that chain, or whether it's concealing differences.

But, yeah, don't pitch the tapes - there may be ways to get better results you're not aware of, now or in the near future. I have also recorded on 3/4" U-Matic cassettes, big bulky cassettes, about 150 hours' worth, and even if I can solve the technical problem of playback on my obsolete old recorder, which puts white spots in the image for an instant here and for another instant there ("zits", another engineer friend calls them) and make good copies, I'll be keeping the tapes. In a back room. Thinking by analogy, I'm really glad RCA Victor didn't pitch the master discs they recorded the Philadelphia Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini on in 1941 and 1942 after the first transfer to a newer medium - they seem to have done it again, for the third time, from the originals, and it's the best sound yet. But sometimes "unofficial" sources of old recordings yield up superb transfers in the right hands, too. Sources like some of us.

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I have some naive questions about "remastering" -- from vhs to dvd, which is the concern of dance archivists, but also from lp to cd.
What is really needed is the remastering of the originals and release to DVD.

First of all there was the live performance. Somehow this was captured by camera and microphone and then stored on vhs or cd or whatever. Now you want to stabilize it, give it longevity, and make it look and sound better.

Just what are you doing when you "remaster" something?

Are you essentially reproducing in purer form what was originally captured, which vhs or other older technologies could not do?

Or are you somehow enhancing what you find in the existing format in order to approximate more closely, you think, what the performance was actually like?

If the first, remastering is indeed a miracle. If the second, wouldn't there be a danger of manufacturing a video performance that was not true to the original?

i presumed that the original camera stored not on commercial VHS form, but in a professional video form and then converted to VHS when recorded for commercial distribution. If it's true that the original master is truly the same as the final VHS form, then there's little to be done, i suppose.

-goro-

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Thanks, evilninjax, for responding to my questions. You've provided the element I was missing (for me, at least) -- "professional video form" which is then converted to the secondary, commercial vhs format, or whatever, and is therefore subject to the limitations of the secondary format. BalletTalk is educational in more ways than one. :shake:

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I thought "remaster" means, essentially, to go back to the "master" (first) recording, and make another, typically "intermediate", copy from it, from which in turn, many copies are made, directly, for sale or other distribution. (Is this too abstract?) The purpose in the context of our discussion is to take advantage of some improvement in the process that's come along since the first edition was distributed, or, especially in the early days of sound recording, to replace an intermediate copy which had deteriorated from use.

A slightly different context I've run into, for example in videotape editing, which was not accomplished by splicing pieces of tape together like movie film, but by rerecording, using recorders made to be synchronized, so that the machine playing the tape was the "master" and had the master tape in it, and which controlled the receiving machine, which was called the "slave" and recorded the desired sequence after other material already put on the tape. But "remastering" in this context is the same, going back and doing it over to do it better.

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I've had e-correspondence with my professional-engineer friend, who is a member - actually, one of six managers, staff to the chair of the DC section - of the SMPTE; that's the Society of Motion-Picture and Television Engineers, and who's had a look at this thread, and I'm posting here his comments, which I've edited - he made a few asides and went deeper into some of it than we need, I think. I don't have hot news here: This has been yet another time when the general intelligence and good sense on this board, not to mention the obvious technical competence of some of the contributors to this thread, like 4mrdncr, have sized up the matter at hand well, but my friend had some more definite things to say in the direction of the tentative conclusions reached here, and did have a new worry to contribute. I'll put that right at the beginning: "[R]emember that any digital storage depends more on the future availability of properly functioning equipment and software to play it back more than any analog format." [DVD being a digital format and videotape as we know it being analog.]

First, a couple of definitions: codec is short for coder-decoder, an electronic circuit or computer program designed to reduce the amount of digital data it takes to transmit [or store] audio or video. JPEG is storage format for digital images, devised by the Joint Photographic Experts Group, that uses a data-compression scheme to reduce file size. MPEG stands for Moving Pictures Experts Group, another committee formed to issue standards for codecs or data-compression schemes.

"JPEG2000 is a very good codec, used for digital cinema (there's no "M")." Does this sound even more like overkill? "I find it hard to believe that a well-made DVD dub of a tape doesn't satisfactorily duplicate the image quality of the source. Only professional broadcast master quality tape recordings might exhibit an image quality that might challenge DVDs." He sent me a list of pro video-tape formats:

"From the National Association of Broadcasters brand-new Engineering Handbook (10th Edition):

Pro video quality is available from these digital tape formats, and are the ones that can give a better picture than a DVD:

D1

DCT

Digital Betacam

D5

DVCPro and DVCPro 50

D9

Betacam SX.

Consumer analog tape formats aren't going to do it."

Regarding the longevity of DVDs, he said, "Commercially released DVDs are pressed, like records. Recordable DVDs use optical exposure of the disc to a laser to 'burn' a 'pit' on the disc. These can run into data loss problems when exposed to direct sunlight for awhile, or to high heat, like leaving them on a radiator, in an attic (during the summer) or in a car (again during the summer). If reasonably cared for they should not lose their data for quite awhile."

"I do agree that the original tapes should be kept, just as nitrate films are often kept for a long time after a copy is made. The DVD's life span, if cared for reasonably, is not a problem. It will last as long as tape, which itself requires careful storage. Professional-grade archiving issues are quite stringent, and further investigation is warranted." [but] "we'll all be dead and gone" before these recordings "lose their data."

In summary, DVDs are up to the job, except in extreme circumstances - in case you have a recording which fully utilizes the capabilities of one of that list of pro tape formats. So why the fuss? Regarding the "Alert" posted by rg, with whose comments my friend agrees, he remarked "I believe the author and his sources have an agenda that someone needs to find out about and expose."

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thnx, Jack.

i don't think i ever gave a thought to whence cometh jpeg etc. but now i know. and i should have realized that if anyone were to learn and then note the meanings of all these image acronyms it would be you.

i'm happy to say that i now know, even if i'll only rem. these things by copying and saving your informative post, which i've now done, and now need only to rem. where i've 'filed' it.

i continue to dub my videocassettes onto dvd, however less-than-ideal the result etc.

needless to remark your informed post, w/ all the info you gained from your friend, has comforted me that i decided to keep up my dubbing, even if the 'alert' previously posted was more than a little discouraging, not to mention hysterical.

i'm afraid if learn tomorrow that blue-ray and beyond is the next trend, i'll have to stay w/ by committment to dvd, regardless, at least as long as said discs and yrs.trly. lasts....

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i'm afraid if learn tomorrow that blue-ray and beyond is the next trend, i'll have to stay w/ by committment to dvd, regardless, at least as long as said discs and yrs.trly. lasts....
If Blue Ray (or something else) becomes the standard format in the next 5-6 years, I'll throw myself off a cliff. I am more than a little convinced that quality and durability are one motivation for devising new media, but the prime reason is to sell (or resell) the music/videos which consumers already have. Sorry for the cynicism.
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I really wish I knew more about the economics involved, but sometimes the money motive does seem to have beneficial results, if "doing it over" (remastering an old recording) is seized upon as an opportunity for "doing it better". My experience with reissues of music recordings is more extensive than with ballet videos, but they both show that progress is not automatic; newer is not always better. But every so often somebody gets it right, and if you're ready (equipped to play it), and aware (of the high-quality reissue job), it's a lot like those experiences we shell out for in the theatre, and it's repeatable!

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