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-   -   my VHS to DVD biz on shakey ground (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/taking-care-business/141768-my-vhs-dvd-biz-shakey-ground.html)

Mark Stuart January 17th, 2009 05:46 PM

my VHS to DVD biz on shakey ground

The past couple years, mostly last year, I did a lot of VHS to DVD transfers. I've since found out the hard way all about formats/compatibility. I knew somewhat about it before, but have had 4 clients who's DVDs would not play in their DVD players.

I started with using +Rs, just because that's what we use at my TV station day job, and they generally don't have problems. After I had a client's not play, I spoke to a large dub house here who advised using -Rs as they are more compatible with more machines. I've had a couple clients with -Rs that also wouldn't play. Since that, I discovered the most compatible of all are the ROMs and that my recorder does make the book type a ROM with a +R. So, that means the clients that had the +R discs actually had book type ROMs but both also had the same brand of player. I have yet to re-do the -R client's but plan to make them ROMs with +R discs.

I'm now wondering if I should even continue. To have to redo is not only a pain, but also cuts into the profit margin and doesn't exactly make me look like the most intelligent company in the area. Does anyone else here offer this service? If so, how do you deal with the compatibility issues of DVDs?

Seems some players will only play -R, some +R, some both, and some nothing recorded, just pressed.

Anybody else feel this DVD format pain?

Any advice will be much appreciated!


Jeff Emery January 17th, 2009 11:21 PM


I don't do VHS to DVD because I don't see any profit in it. I usually tell people to go get a VHS/DVD recorder combo and record it themselves. But nonetheless, I clearly state in advance and on in the contract for all jobs I do that will be delivered on DVD that the final version will be delivered in DVD+R format. And that's the way it is. If they have a machine that won't play DVD+R, it's not my problem. I guess it's time for them to spend another $30 and get a cheap DVD player that can read DVD+R and DVD-R.


Shawn McCalip January 18th, 2009 02:40 AM

Jeff- You know, at first I thought VHS to DVD transfers would be a waste- but BOY was I ever wrong! Sure, there are some budget-conscious clients out there that will gladly fork over for their own VHS to DVD deck. But most people don't seem to want to spend the time or the effort and would rather pay me to do it for them. I'll gladly do it too, since its the easiest thing in the world to do, and of course, every little bit helps!

Mark- Once in a while I run into that problem myself. I only use DVD-R discs because of the compatibility problems of +R discs, but I find that I still run into problem discs about 10% of the time. When it happens, I always end up re-doing the project, and so far, it's almost always worked for me. When it hasn't, its been because I've tried doing something out of the ordinary, such as trying to cram more than 2 hours on a single disc.

Another thought- perhaps your deck could be nearing the end of its life? Aside from trying another deck or adjusting your settings on your current deck, I can't think of anything else to say... Let us know if you have any luck.

Tripp Woelfel January 18th, 2009 08:50 AM

This DVD disk "format" compatibility has been around for as long as people have been burning DVDs. All information I've found on the debate between -R and +R has been anecdotal and I expect that's the best we can hope for. I fall on the -R side and it's worked so far.

If you're dealing with people still messing about with VHS your clientele are technological laggards. Not surprising that their gear might be older. With DVD players cost being so low, it's almost cost effective to give the client a new one with each project to avoid this issue. I'm being partially facetious, but only partly.

One observation. The local UPS store is now doing VHS to DVD conversion. What does that tell you about the status of the business?

Garrett Low January 18th, 2009 10:51 AM

From my observations there are a lot of places doing VHS to DVD conversion because there are a lot of people out there with VHS that they want to watch and their VHS machine has died. Most of the people I do these conversions for are local, don't want to mess with the time and effort of even getting a VHS to DVD converter, and also are usually looking for more than just a straight transfer. That's where our editing skills come in and are the real service they pay for. That being said the local high volume transfer places usually cost between $15 to $25 for one VHS tape up to 2 hours. I can't compete with them in either cost or turn around. So, most of my clients pay a premium for the services I provide.

That being said, I have no problem working with a client to help them figure out what will play in their machine. Blank, ink jet printable DVD's, either -R or +R are cheap. Since it takes only very minimal extra effort to burn another copy onto a different media type the extra effort on my part to make sure the client get's something that is usable is always greatly appreciated and usually results in additional work or great reviews and referrals.

I also do medium quantity distributions (100 to 200 copies) of videos I produce of local shows, recitals, etc. and I have used both -R and +R media and have only had a couple of them not play in a person player. Again, I always burn another copy onto the opposite type of disc to see if that works.

A couple of things that I've found is that you have to use quality media. I stay away from the bargain DVD's and usually use Verbatim and if I have someone who is having problems I usually will burn their replacement copy at 1x. A lot of times burning at a high speed can be the culprit of incompatibility.

Mark Stuart January 18th, 2009 01:45 PM

Thanks, everyone. A couple responses... I've heard on line over and over again as well as the local big dub house to use Verbatim -Rs, which I have religiously just about the entire time I've done transfers. I thought this was the answer until recently when I had 2 client's machines not play these.

I think DVD ROM is the most compatible which you can make a +R into, but not a -R. My recorder automatically does this. My burner does not.

As far as a market for these, I'm also amazed there is, but there is. This has been the most popular product of all my side business offerings. It's just like a couple of you said, many people just don't want to mess with it, and many just have a couple-few tapes anyway and probably wouldn't want to invest in a tape machine... Joe Consumer just aren't the equipment freaks like you and me!

My recorder was brand spanking new when I encountered my first problems. I did those as +R discs so they would have been ROMs and it was for a friend, but he had problems playing them in his Onynko (However you spell it) player. I had another client with a player like that which also had problems playing it but he said he'd try another deck and then I never heard from him again. I then switched to all Verbatim -Rs and didn't have any problems until recently. All I can really do is make them a +R/ROM version.

Yes, this is the nature of the beast, I've concluded. A computer/tech geek guy I know thought it would be troublesome to offer this service because of this. I also know what you mean about if it doesn't play in their particular deck it's not your problem. I have disclaimed everything since the second time I had troubles stating I use the most compatible discs available.

Another thing that came up and you'll probably laugh at or yell at me for this, but the last client that called me back with his compatibility issues I had made DVDs for a year ago! I'm now going to give everybody a contract to sign before doing even transfers that in part will state they have a total of 7 days to inform me of any problems. I have yet to actually redo the 2 problem clients, so we'll see how it goes.

I can tell you this, it's not a good feeling when a client calls and tells me the product I provided doesn't work! This is why I'm minimizing this, and yes, it's not a lot of money, but it's more of a every little bit helps and adds up. I'd prefer fewer big productions but this being a side business on my own, I only have so much time and little jobs like this fit the schedule better.

Sorry for rambling, probably more info than necessary from me as usual... I really appreciate all your helpful insights!

Thanks much,


Craig Seeman January 20th, 2009 02:32 AM

My approach towards business is what I call "Defensive Driving."

-R has a better compatibility rate than +R

Verbatim and Taiyo Yuden have best burn and compatibility rates.

I use Verbatim DVD-R Inkjet Hub Printable (NEVER USE STICKY LABELS EVER). Part Number 95079.

Slower burn speeds tend to result in a bit better compatibility so I burn at 4X. It's slower so price accordingly (you must charge more given the extra time involved).

High Peak data rates can also result in compatibility issues so I keep a fairly low peak in the 6.5 to 7.5 range.

I do NOT promise compatibility. I do check the first burn in a DVD Player though. I explain that I can't guarantee compatibility and such issues are usually player related. Generally if a client complains about compatibility ask them how old and what brand the DVD player is. If it's over a year old and/or an "off name" brand then they need to get a new player. I'll also ask them to check the DVD in a computer that has a DVD drive. In nearly every case it'll play in the computer so they trust that the issue is their player.

Burning (vs replication) ALWAYS has some compatibility risk. The margin on DVD dubs is small relative the time especially if you have to redo an order that it's simply not worth it in most cases. Make it clear the CLIENT HAS THE RESPONSIBILITY to have a compatible player. If you follow the above steps the compatibility rate is over 95% and that's the best you can and should be expected to do. Redoing DVD dubs is a major cost/time issue so you need to defend against it. They want 100% compatibility they have to pay for replication. The choice is the clients though. With high burn compatibility they can buy a cheap Sony DVD Player for $50 bucks and it'll work. That's a lot less than what you'll lose if you need to spend an hour redoing DVD dubs.

Chris Davis January 20th, 2009 09:01 AM

I'm following this thread with great interest, not because I transfer VHS to DVD, but because like most here, I deliver my final product on DVD much of the time.

Could the computer/burner also be responsible for compatibility issues? I ask because I've duplicated thousands upon thousands of DVDs and never once had a complaint. I use a Disc Makers ElitePro2 duplicator. It is a self contained unit (computer, drives and robotics) which is supposedly "tuned" for DVD duplication. Perhaps that's only a sales pitch and I've just been lucky.

Craig Seeman January 20th, 2009 09:15 AM

There are many burners on the market but the burners in the duplicators are no different than the burners in the computers. Believe me. I've asked the manufacturers of the of various duplicators.

What disks do you use and what speed to they burn?

The burn compatibility rate can be well over 95% so it's certainly possible to make thousands without a complaint. Some reports are about 99%. Again the problem is often the player but as above there are factors that can decrease compatibility.


Originally Posted by Chris Davis (Post 997966)
I'm following this thread with great interest, not because I transfer VHS to DVD, but because like most here, I deliver my final product on DVD much of the time.

Could the computer/burner also be responsible for compatibility issues? I ask because I've duplicated thousands upon thousands of DVDs and never once had a complaint. I use a Disc Makers ElitePro2 duplicator. It is a self contained unit (computer, drives and robotics) which is supposedly "tuned" for DVD duplication. Perhaps that's only a sales pitch and I've just been lucky.

Harry Settle January 21st, 2009 09:17 PM

I have the same experience. Verbatim -R hub prints, keep the burn time slower and limit the bitrate. A lot of players can't read data burned too close to the edge. Usually caused by trying to cram too much info on a 4.7 disc. I can honostly say that I haven't had more than 3 or 4 bad burns in six years. (knock on wood) I've had more problems with bad players than bad burns.

Russ Jolly January 22nd, 2009 07:24 AM

DVD compatibility issues can be a real drain. The dup/transfer business I was an owner of converted thousands of tapes to DVD over the years. We always used Ritek/Ridata DVD-R printable discs and had very good success. Still there are clients who have DVD players that have problems with burned discs (sometimes old players - but sometimes newer players as well). Our success rate was probably 99% or higher - but that 1% was frustrating.

When the client is picking up their DVD, it is a good idea to put the DVD into a player in your office, play a short snippet for them, pop the DVD out, put it back in the packaging and hand it to the client. If a client has a problem playing the disc on their machine later, you have already proven that the disc is not defective and that the issue is most likely a compatibility problem with the client's player. Always ask if the client has tested the DVD in a different player than the player they are having issues with. My experience is that the client will assume the simplest problem ("There's something wrong with this disc") unless you have laid the groundwork to show that compatibility issues with burned DVDs can be very complex and most times are issues with players instead of the disc itself.

Lukas Siewior January 22nd, 2009 09:55 PM

I have the DVD issues as well. It happens when the player is too old. I had a situation that the demo dvd wouldn't play on $200 panasonic dvd player (2-3 years old) so the customer brought the $30 player from his bedroom and it played the dvd flawlessly. But the most common reason is too high recording speed. After few issues at 16x I dropped to 8x and no issues at all. I also check the one set of DVD's on 4 different DVD players I have at home (in computer, Toshiba HD-DVD, cheap JVC and cheaper off-name) before releasing to customer.

Jacques E. Bouchard January 27th, 2009 03:49 PM


Originally Posted by Mark Stuart (Post 996590)

The past couple years, mostly last year, I did a lot of VHS to DVD transfers. I've since found out the hard way all about formats/compatibility. I knew somewhat about it before, but have had 4 clients who's DVDs would not play in their DVD players.

As others have recommended, Verbatim are among the most reliable brands. They've been in the recording media business since computer tape reels, so they have a reputation to uphold.

I used to buy Memorex and Maxell, which were often on sale. Maxell have performed perfectly well so far (luck?), but I've had Memorex fail to play in public - very embarrassing.

digitalFAQ.com | Blank DVD Media Quality Guide


Mark Stuart January 30th, 2009 05:24 PM

Thank you all for the insights and ideas. Unfortunately, I know its not just a matter of what brand of discs. I have been using Verbatim ĖRs the most, and half the problems Iíve had were with them too.

Although strictly disc speaking, -Rís are more compatible than +Rís, however, isnít the ROM book type the most compatible of all? Anyway, Iíve read several articles about this, and that seems to be the case, where you create a ROM book type with a +R so the player will read the disc as if itís a ROM like the ďstore bought moviesĒ are. (Anyway, I think that is the case).

For me, Iíve done both, and the score is pretty much even as Iíve had 2 clients with problems with the Verbatim ĖRís as well as 2 problem clients with the +R ROM book type discs.

I also do check my discs before delivering, and my 2003 Sony DVD Player magically plays anything Iíve ever given it. I do ask my clients about the age and brand of their player as well as tell them to try it in their computer. One wise guy recently told me he ďdidnít want to watch it in his computer anywayĒ. Good for him. That should be his problem!

One thing I do know, is my Burner (as opposed to my Recorder) does not encode the book type to be ROM, however, my Recorder does, so burner speed does not apply to most of my transfers.

I think the bottom line is pretty much what Iíve expected; that being the issue is player compatibility. One of my problem clientís player was only about a year or so old and didnít play the Verbatim ĖRs. (Please note, Iím not blaming Verbatim ĖRs for any of this, as I believe they are likely one of the most compatible discs you can get.)

In the end, this is a hodge podge crap shoot due to there simply being too many types of DVD discs, so like many of you said, there will always be compatibility issues. I also do not have a big, fancy recorder and certainly donít want to invest 5-6 grand on a machine to make $30 dubs. So, all I can really do is heavily disclaim it, and Iím planning on making future clients sign a disclaimer document when they give me the tapes before I do any of the work. Beyond all the compatibility recording issues, itís more of an issue of how to nicely convince clients that player compatibility is their responsibility.

Thanks again for all your ideas and suggestions!

Ethan Cooper May 11th, 2009 09:27 PM

What machines are you guys using for your transfers? I'm about to bid a fairly large transfer job and was wondering what gear is being used these days.

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