Magazine Article


The Benefits of Outsourcing Conversion Work
Most companies still in business have streamlined the process, enabling dealers to save time and money and give profits a boost

A member of the Digital Pickle staff at work.

Since many customers have editing software on their PCs and want to edit their own videos, Tailor-Made provides transfers to a file format that allows for this. "They'll get a nice finished product they [won't be] embarrassed to show friends," says Wolk.

Tailor-Made does transfers via special projectors that play the videos or reel-to-reel at a synchronized speed, which is captured with an HD camera and uploaded onto a computer, where it's then ready to go through an editing process. The editors don't change the footage but try to enhance it by bringing back color and contrast and lessening any yellowing that occurs with B&W film. Blank sections or hidden television recordings are edited out.

While Tailor-Made captures film via movie camera, Cintrex focuses more on the front-end, using a direct-to-disc method, but preparing the film by scrubbing it clean. They then test the color and focus and make sure the aperture is clear. "Film evaluation and preparation is just as important as the actual transfer process," says Sheehan. "The film must be cleaned and in perfect shape before transfer starts." He notes that the transfers are made onto high quality DVD media imprinted with the dealer's name.

Both Cintrex and Tailor-Made provide dealers with point-of-purchase materials to help educate their customers. Many times Sheehan resorts to calling up a retailer he knows when he sees their conversion services sales are down. "A lot of...dealers sell diversified products and might not notice the drop immediately," he says. "Usually, the sales drop is simply the result of a removed poster or sticker."

"We as an industry need to raise the level of awareness that the old media is deteriorating--especially true for film," says Digital Pickle's president, Arik Paran, who will begin to offer direct transfer to HD later this summer. [Ed. note: as of press time.]

Paran plans to begin publishing a series of articles in blog format and in the trades. One thing he advises his clients: "It is a bad idea to transfer the film first to video. You lose a lot of quality that way. You want to avoid conversion steps--true for any media. That's why we offer transfer services directly from film to playable DVDs and also to full-quality digital video files so that the editing takes place in such a way as to avoid extra conversion and compression/decompression steps, which degrade the quality."

Paran adds that he finds that the majority of his film- and video-transfer clients prefer the full-quality digital video format so they can edit the footage themselves. "I would say that about 25% of customers ask for more copies to share with family and friends," he says. "That is mostly true for motion content and not so much on stills--since these can be shared online much easier."

Virtually every order includes add-ons to basic transfers. Digital Pickle uses the best available gold CDs and DVDs. "We use the same vendor and the same brands always, due to the proven quality," Paran says.

Wolk says that Tailor-Made has done extensive testing of media and found the Pro Grade DVDs they use to be the best choice for quality and compatibility. "Our DVDs test far above the industry acceptable standard."

After the conversion is completed, each of the companies offer the retailer a wholesale price and a suggested retail price, which is up to them to keep, increase, or decrease, depending on their geographic marketplace.

Cintrex, which has been in business since 1979, attributes its success to earning retailers' loyalty. Advertising a second shift that's on during the holiday season often brings new clients--in January after another vendor lets someone down. "We begin preparing for [the season] in October," says Sheehan.

He says that much of the film during that time belongs to senior citizens, as family members have it transfered as a holiday surprise.

But as much as new technologies have been ushered in, Digital Pickle has noticed a trend of customers moving back to physical media. "We have many orders for prints, and we're coming out with photobooks soon, for which there is a lot of demand," says Paran. "If you think about it, a photobook is just the current manifestation of a photo album."

"We're in the media and memories preservation business. A specific medium is just a tool. Who knows what we'll do in the future as far as tools go, but we will always be in the content preservation business."

A New Player:

aVinci, a new player in this marketplace, based in Draper, Utah, offers Hollywood-quality personalized multimedia productions. The company creates software technology that it packages in various forms made available to mass retailers, specialty retailers, internet portals, and websites.

Banking on the fact that consumers crave a traditional narrative structure that lacks in DVD slideshows and home movie conversions, aVinci adds titles, music, fades, dissolves, zooms, and visual effects that create a natural storytelling progression of a beginning, middle, and end.

"aVinci's aim is to develop engaging, expansive, all-encompassing ways for everyone to tell their 'story' using personal digital expressions," says Chett B. Paulsen, aVinci president and CEO, who has a film school background. "Our motto is: any platform, any product. Our suite of products is available online, as desktop software, and in stores, and the end product can be shared as photo books, DVDs, streaming media, over social networks, and more."

Using professionally designed templates with pre-selected effects, fonts, artwork, and music selections, aVinci productions allows the user to see, for example, their children in scenes with the conductor from the film "The Polar Express," the family newlyweds tie the knot in a Hollywood-style production, or see Grandma celebrate her 80th birthday in classic tearjerker fashion.