The graphic above illustrates most of the equipment and steps that are commonly used when Beta tapes are digitally converted over to DVDs. Not all of these devices are required to produce good results. The steps and the components are numbered and covered in the text below.

iIt is always best to use the Beta VCR that made your original recordings as your playback machine (item #1). This is because it is going to more closely match your tapes. This will improve your chances of a smooth playback experience. There are always slight differences from one tape to another and even one machine from another. This is why every Beta unit has a tracking control; to allow adjustment for these slight deviations. What if you no longer have access to the original? The next best option would be to draw upon several Beta machines for playback. This can improve your prospects with recordings that might be a little difficult to track or fine tune. Why is there this nuisance? Video tape is a very stable and durable recording medium. When stored under the best of conditions and properly cared for it can consistently deliver great results over and over again almost indefinitely. But there are a number of variables that can cause it problems. Tape that is wound too loose or too tight can become deformed or warped. Moisture, temperature and time can cause it to become distorted which makes it difficult to play correctly. The image can roll or tear (bend sideways) and even go blank. The other enemy can be the original machine that made the recordings. If it was even slightly out of adjustment when the tapes were made it can cause all kinds of headaches. Any or all of these obstacles can produce an unstable picture or a tracking center that is way off. Also some tapes simply will not play regardless of how they are manipulated. If the image was never there or the tracking control signal wasn't recorded correctly there may be nothing that can be done to make them play back properly. When you are finished with your project you may be tempted to throw all your tapes away. I implore you to securely store your materials (including your machine) away as a backup should any of your DVDs fail to perform at some later date.

iHere is a simplified description of the process used to transfer video tapes over to DVD. (item #1 moving to item #2) Keep in mind the descriptions and equipment described covers most all the bases for the duplication process. Dubbing, as it is called, can be accomplished with fewer components and there are certainly more that can be added (such as devices for inserting titles or still shots). Okay, Here we go. The player (item #1) is connected to a matrix audio/video (A/V) switcher (item #2) The A/V switcher is designed to select any one of the outputted signals from the desired Beta playback deck and feed it to the analog-to-digital converter (item #4). The A/V switcher is a sophisticated router and it can afford you some interesting special capabilities. For instance, depending on the model, It can handle the audio and video independently. This allows each to be split off separately and sent to other devices like a graphic equalizer or color processor.

iThe color processor and graphic equalizer (items #3) can be used to correct or alter both the video and audio. The color processor, depending on the model, can amplify or reduce the color (chroma) signal to increase the overall richness and clarity of the picture. It can also subtract or add color to the entire picture, or just to the background colors. It can correct a picture that is too green, blue, magenta, etc. Used intelligently it can overcome a lot of video shortcomings. If the video is good but the sound needs work the A/V switcher can pass through the video unaltered but send the audio through a graphic equalizer. This device can adjust the audio signal. If the high frequencies are muffled they can be clarified, the midrange can be adjusted, or loudness can be compensated. So the graphic equalizer modifies the sound and the color corrector adjusts the video.

iOnce the audio and video signals exit the switcher or the audio/video processors (items #2 and #3) they are sent to a high quality analog-to-digital converter (item #4) where they are converted into a digital signal that can be understood by a computer (item #5). It uses a mathematical formula, a world standard agreed upon by a group of engineers years ago, used to convert analog to digital information or DVD (MPEG).

iThe digital information (or digital stream) arrives at the computer (item #5) where it is stored directly on to a high capacity hard drive (item #6). Once stored it can be retrieved for editing at a later date if needed.

iBecause the playback of Beta tapes has to be done in real time (It takes one hour to stream or convert one hour of video.) If a hard drive is used (item #6) to store converted video it needs to be large enough to accommodate large amounts of data. During this transferring process the computers software analyzes, proofreads, converts and saves the compiled information to the standard used for playback (usual MPEG for all regions). Once stored it can be manipulated and altered by the programming to add, move around and subtract subject matter. Chapters can be generated every few minutes or a navigational menu of your video presentation can be inserted. Once compiled into its final form it is ready to send to the DVD burner (item #7).

iThe high quality DVD burner (item #7) makes a digital imprint onto a recordable blank DVD. A micro-fine laser burns millions of tiny dots into the surface of a light sensitive dye sandwiched between two protective layers. These microscopic dots are ons and offs that will tell the DVD player to produce a particular output depending on the information being read. After the burning process the computer software compares the actual DVD to the original data and confirms that the two match exactly and the process (called finalizing) is completed. The DVD is then removed from the burner and is ready to be printed with artwork.

iRewinding your tapes is a step that is seldom considered important. But if you intend to keep your tapes as back up then using a soft-stop winder (item #8) to prevent damage is recommended. A two-way winder, such as the one I sell, can also be used to fast forward and then rewind your tapes prior to playback. Sometimes this can help stabilize a tape before placing them in the playback unit (item #1).

iThe computer can also compose a subject list or artwork. A paper media printer (item #9) can be used for producing titles or artwork to compliment your DVD packaging.

iYour DVD can also be surface printed with your title and artwork using a special dedicated DVD/CD printer (item #10). After completion the DVD should viewed and tested to verify that it plays accurately, scans as it should and finds the chapters correctly.

iThe insert paper is cut and then placed inside a hard plastic case along with the finished DVD inside. The result is a professional looking and user friendly DVD copy of your Beta tapes.

As mentioned earlier there are other methods for converting Beta tapes to DVD. There are devices that will simply take the analog information on your tapes and dump it directly onto a DVD, without the aid of a computer. This offers you less control over the outcome but does have the advantage of simplicity. In addition you can always use your recorded DVDs later to do your editing to a second DVD. Digital media doesn't suffer from copy to copy loss like tape does. This second step gives you an opportunity to insert, edit and add devices for becoming more creative. Some of these are titles, video clips, animations, titles, reversals and support instruments like timing correctors, audio/video monitor, signal testing equipment, line filters, amplifiers and more. None of the cables necessary for hooking up all these devices were illustrated but they also play an important role in transferring the information to the various devices. Cables should be as short as possible and not be placed parallel to each other (to prevent crosstalk, hum and resonating signal Interference). One last thing to consider is proper storage of your completed DVDs. Naturally you will avoid getting then dirty, scratched or broken and keep them in their plastic cases until needed. They will last the longest if stored in a cool, dry atmosphere. Here is why storage is important. When a DVD is made using a burner a high energy light (laser) punches millions of holes through a light sensitive coating of dye that is sandwiched inside a spinning platter (disk). These holes are what your player reads and decodes into video and sound. Ordinary light (mostly sunlight) has the same light as a laser but at a lower energy. Over time it can cause the dye boundaries on the dye layer to bloom. These larger holes will scramble the code and make your DVDs impossible to read. Say goodbye to all that hard work. (Here's another reason to keep your tapes and VCR as back up should anything go wrong.) This isn't a problem with factory DVDs because they are made using a press that makes tiny pits rather than holes, no laser is involved. For additional information check out the first question in the "Ask MisterBetamax" section or click here.