We're confident we've covered most of the common questions with our main landing pages for each service listed above, but we occasionally get queries from customers, so we'll try to answer any questions for all of our conversion services on this one page. Click each question, and the answer will be revealed directly below it. Click again to hide the answer.
You can also take a look at what some of our satisfied customers are saying about their new digital conversions! We also have a new side-by-side comparison of why Under Design's Digital Conversion Services are better than the competition, which we call 'Why We Rock'.
Sorry, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to limit any conversion orders to be sent by traditional shippers only (USPS, UPS, FedEx), for our safety and yours. According to the World Health Organization, the virus does not survive long on 'soft' surfaces like cardboard, and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low. Simply shipping most packages will kill the virus on it's own. Our shipping address is at the bottom of this page.
We recommend that you put your Name and Address on each piece of media you submit. If your package comes apart during shipment, they'll be able to identify the owners' contents!
We get an email notification of all online orders. There is no need to include an order receipt with your media when you submit it to us. As long as your shipping address is included, we'll know it's your package.
In order to keep shipping charges low, don't include the large heavy plastic cases that VHS Tapes are stored in, but instead use cardboard sleeves, or nothing at all! VHS tapes are very durable on their own, and will survive being shipped without any problems.
Please rewind all tapes (VHS, DAT and Compact Cassette) to the beginning to ensure no damage occurs to exposed tape! (Don't worry about it if you can't rewind it - but you've been warned!)
Pack your media well! Anytime media has gone missing during the shipment process, the shipper was usually not well-packed. This means double-taping self-glued flaps to ensure they won't come apart, and securely tape-wrapping larger boxes to prevent blowout!
Usually the first few seconds and the last few seconds around each edit point. There isn't enough time in the day to view all the stuff we've converted! We also respect our customer's privacy.
Yes it is. We strictly adhere to US Copyright law with all of the services we provide.
Of course we'll return your media. We're surprised how often we get this question! Converting to digital media is a non-destructive process. Since we repair any broken media for free, and clean media before we play it, your media will probably be in better condition than when you sent it initially!
Since we can't verify the copyright owner of every conversion we transfer (even if it's simply Uncle Fred), we limit ourselves to the legal limit of one copy to adhere to US Copyright law. If you decide to make additional copies of the copy, while that may be illegal (depending on the ownership of the content on the original copy), that's also your prerogative. You are free to make additional copies of the media we supply you, using your own computer, a local copy shop, or the neighborhood nerd.
We only use the best CD and DVD blank media, and verify every piece of media we ship. We pay considerably more for our top-of-the-line media, and never have had compatibility problems. But if you do have a playback issue, simply alert us within 30 days for a free replacement. Send a note with your troubles, and we'll send you a new disc on a different media.
There sure is! If you have 7 or more conversions, we'll offer 10% off your order. If you have over 20 or more conversions, we'll offer a 20% discount on your order. As an added benefit, we offer free return shipping with any bulk order!
We suggest you fill our Order Form completely and include it with your order. You should also send us an email so we know it's coming first.
No need to pay up front, either. Simply pack up your conversion and ship it to us at our mailing address (at the bottom of all of our web pages). Include your email and phone number with your shipment, and we'll contact you as it arrives. After we review the contents, we'll start the conversion and send you an invoice.
Sorry, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to limit any conversion orders to be sent by traditional shippers only (USPS, UPS, FedEx), for our safety and yours.
We keep backup copies of all work we produce for our customer in case of disaster recovery, but do not consider us your primary backup source! All backups are stored for approximately one year before they are destroyed and recycled. It allows us to make copies if you need more later, and more importantly, it also lets us reconstruct your order if something happens during shipment.
We're never open on weekends (ever!) and we're closed for all national holidays: New Year's Day (January 1), Martin Luther King Day Monday, President's Day Monday, Memorial Day Monday, Independence Day (Fourth of July), Labor Day Monday, Columbus Day Monday, Thanksgiving Thursday and Christmas Day (December 25).
We understand how precious your media is to you, but worry not! We've had excellent results with all the major shippers, and can pretty much rely on excellent continued service. For every one horror shipping story, there are billions of untold success stories. If you require package tracking and insurance, ship using commercial shippers like UPS or FedEx for secure, trackable transport to our facilities in Philadelphia.
Any time media has gone missing in packages we have received from customers, every time the package was poorly packed or improperly sealed. Do not trust 'peel and press' envelope closures. Double tape all exposed envelope seems and box lids before shipping. Duct tape is never a suitable packing tape - see the clickable image to the right for an example of what happens to duct tape wrapped packages in the postal system.
We’ll send you email notifications to the address that you provided with your order for the following events:
We ship nearly everything via the U.S. Post Office via Media Mail. It's the cheapest option around (based on per-pound shipping costs), backed by the trust of government service and 6 days a week delivery. The USPS now offers free package tracking with all Media Mail shipments - perfect if you're concerned about your media's safe arrival. USPS Media Mail can take anywhere between 2 and 22 days depending on how far away you are from Philadelphia.
The Media Mail rate was designed specifically for shipping heavy media like records, tapes, and manuals at a lower rate than Parcel Post. Because of the discounted rate, all packages are subject to inspection (to confirm that they only contain the declared contents). This means the postmaster general can open and inspect the contents of any packages with this mark.
You've obviously waited decades to get your media converted, you can certainly give us a few weeks to do our high-quality conversion. Having said that, 48 hours is our typical turnaround for any single media job (assuming a very small queue). Once your media is delivered, we send you an automated email notifying you that it arrived safely. Then it's off to the recording queue, and most jobs ship back under a week. Turnaround times will be extended in times of high demand. Bulk orders (any order with media items numbering over 6) may take weeks or months, depending on the size of the order. If you have a deadline you need to hit (birthday, holiday) send us a note in an email when you order, and we'll see what we can do to get your media conversion to you in time!
It depends on the run length of the video. Video files on a DVD are stored in MPEG-2 Format, and they have several different rates at which they store video and audio. A typical DVD can hold 2 hours of video in high resolution (720 x 480), and 4 hours in low resolution (352 x 480). A double-layer DVD can hold about double that. With clever compression, and some tweaks, you can squeeze 12+ hours of footage on a single DVD, but this requires some skill. Since the maximum resolution of a VHS tape is generally 320 x 240 (and it's actually smaller than that), DVD has the better resolution & fidelity.
|Resolution||720 x 576||720 x 480||720 x 480||352 x 480|
|Maximum Runtime||90 Minutes||2 Hours||3 hours||4 Hours|
|Audio||48Khz 384kbps||48Khz 224kbps||48Khz 192kbps||48Khz 192kbps|
We include chapter markers every 5 minutes throughout the video. Use the chapter forward and back buttons to skip to a favorite section of video. You can also use the fast-forward and reverse video buttons on your DVD player to find an exact spot on the DVD.
NTSC videotapes are prevalent in the United States and outlying areas. PAL is a different format available in other parts of the world, with a slightly higher resolution, but slightly less frame rate. With the recent switch to digital broadcasting in the USA, these incompatible formats are no longer an issue with digital displays.
|Scan Lines (Total)||525||625|
|Scan Lines (Visible)||485||576|
|Variants|| NTSC M USA |
NTSC J Japan
| PAL B/G West Europe |
PAL I UK Ireland, Hong Kong
PAL D/K Central Europe
PAL D China
Most of our DVDs ship in plain paper envelopes. Our VHS Deluxe transfers come with full color artwork in a small 5" polypropylene clear case with a plastic outer covering, not the typical taller 7.5" keepcases that DVDs normally come in. We've chosen not to stock or use the larger DVD Keepcases for several reasons: The taller DVD cases are designed for Hollywood releases and are larger to accommodate marketing artwork. They also take up more shelf space, cost more to ship, and require more packaging. Since the cases rarely add to the value of the contents itself, we went with a smaller, earth-friendly media case. Our jewel-cases are 100% recyclable, and can be put in your plastic recycle bin for routine pickup.
Our policy is to never add anything to the DVD conversion. We don't add music, or title graphics. We won't make it fade out to black, or do content edits. We strictly convert the tape as is. The practice of adding background music was common with Film Transfers to VHS, as they rarely had sound. As the music used is often copyrighted, we won't break the law by using it or adding it to any videos. With modern day computers, anyone can take the results of our services (the DVD) and make edits to the footage and add music and titles at home.
In order to eke out more performance and recording time on standard length VHS video tapes, there's three tape speeds that determine how fast the tape moves over the head. SP stands for 'Standard Play', then 'Long Play', and finally 'Extended Long Play'.
While this may allow you to more video per tape, We don't recommend it for family memories. The longer recording time, the slower the tape speed and density of data. Since the data is written diagonally across the face of the tape, different manufacturers have in-correctable small differences in playback speed and stripe angle, leading to poor visual playback in varying VCR's.
VHS Tapes recorded in ELP mode rarely play back with the same fidelity unless it's on the same playback deck. and you can expect visual distortions in the video frame during playback.
We compress our MP4 videos to Apple's own high specs: h.264 Video/AAC audio, but they make it difficult to simply import video from non-Apple sources. Simply open the movies we supply you with in your iTunes library. iTunes will 'copy' them to it's own library, and should show up in your list of videos.
Run iMovie, use the File > Import > Movies... Menu selection to choose the MP4 files in your iTunes library (not the original ones). It'll give you a 'Processing/Optimizing Video/Generating Thumbnails' warning for several minutes, but once it's done, the videos will show up in your library of footage.
Yes, yes, yes. We'll accept anything that'll play on a turntable. Plastic magazine tear-out records (remember them?), dub-plates, novelty keepsake records, we've converted them all to digital audio for our customers with great success! Thus far, we've never been stopped by any vinyl conversion!
Indeed there is: We won't accept Cylindrical (Edison) records at all. We can't accept any records over 12" in diameter (see more below). We'll also return unconverted any records that are deteriorated to the point that playing them will destroy them: If you have a very old record, you might find the plastic acetate flaking off to reveal a plate underneath. This record is at the end of it's life, and we won't make an attempt for fear of destroying it completely. Here's another example of the acetate flaking off the metal plate. This one would have been stripped completely bare had we tried to play it.
We were surprised to receive over a dozen 16" acetate masters that were made in the 1940's that simply didn't fit on our turntable - they had markings suggesting they played back at the usual 33 1/3 RPM, but we had never seen nor heard of such oversized masters before. They had steel plates at the core, and an acetate covering with the same size center punch and label as a 12" vinyl record. We had to begrudgingly return them unconverted to the customer along with a refund and our sincere apologies.
Playing time, and bass response. You'll also need a different needle with a 78rpm record, as they are generally larger and more rounded than typical vinyl needles used today.
Click the WRONG play arrow to the right to listen to a short 5-second MP3 files of a 78 rpm record when it was recorded with a modern vinyl needle, usually reserved for 33 and 45 rpm records. It's legible, but has a lot of extra noise. Then, click the RIGHT play arrow to hear the same record, this time with a proper 78rpm needle. The high-end distortion is gone, and you cannot hear the record spin (so to speak). The audio is much easier to hear!
Always. We occasionally might miss a cue-point where you might have 2 songs in one track, or include a track break accidentally in an extended break of a song (making a single track appear as two). Generally, we cross check our final track numbers and listings against the record jacket for accuracy. Of course, if you want it as one long track, we can do that too.
This means that the free MP3 files we generate are also split into separate tracks, and contain full meta data gleaned from the vinyl, including track name, artist, album, and more! This makes our MP3's even more valuable, as your computer won't automatically recognize any audio compact disc created by us, as the Gracenote/CDDB are databases of commercially released CD's; your vinyl album was probably never released on CD, hence why you used our services!
Most folk store their records on their edge, stacked vertically next to each other on a shelf. It makes browsing and retrieval easy - but it's also not the proper way to store records for long-term storage. If you plan on storing it for years or more, flat and stacked in a pile is a better solution, but be sure to store it in sturdy boxes, on flat surfaces, with no extra stress on one corner than another. You can warp a stack of records quickly if stored wrong.
Definitely not! If the record jacket is wrapped in shrink-wrap plastic, remove it. This can warp records as it gets warm on hot days and shrink even more. You can store records in loose plastic slipcovers without any concern for warping. As a rule, we always remove shrink-wrap plastic from all records submitted to us.
Vinyl Record in plastic shrink wrap that warped the record even before it had been opened!
Sure can. To the left is a before and after set of 15 sec. samples taken from a 78rpm record of some Bongo music. To the right is another set of before and after 14 sec. samples taken from a 78rpm record conversion of a Piano piece. Click the respective BEFORE and AFTER play buttons to hear the dramatic difference; You can clearly hear the pops and crackles of dirt removed from the audio.
16-bit 44.1kbps CD redbook Audio standard. We capture and edit in the same format that our Audio CD's are burned, which produces a purer capture of the original audio. There's no need to oversample and downsample, like some of our competitors would like to convince you. Blogger Archimago has a fascinating multi-part study he conducted over the summer of 2014 with blind audio sample tests to see if listeners can tell the difference between 16-bit and 24-bit audio. His results were not too surprising: no one could tell the difference, even audio engineers on very expensive audio systems. Other audio engineers and bloggers agree that oversampling is generally a waste of bandwidth for no discernible benefits.
You're looking for something called dubplate cutting or an acetate record. These are for people that would like to create a "one-off" record of their song to play back on turntables in vinyl record form.
We recommend you use Turnstyle Records in Torrence, California for inexpensive dubplates. You'll need a very high-quality audio master, but you can expect to pay around $50 per record cut. You can fit between 3 and 16 minutes per side, depending on vinyl platter size, spin speed, and adjustments to amplify the levels. The major issue with dubplates is that due to the soft acetate layer, you can only get a few reliable plays with each dubplate before the needle deteriorates the sound quality.
Always. We occasionally might miss a cue-point where you might have 2 songs in one track, or include a track break accidentally in an extended break of a song (making a single track appear as two). Generally, we cross check our final track numbers and listings against the J-card or cassette imprint for accuracy.
Cassettes tapes with spoken conversations are generally split into 2 tracks, one for side A and the other for side B. Of course, if you want it as one long track, we can do that too.
This means that the free MP3 files we generate are also split into separate tracks, and contain full meta data gleaned from the tape or j-card, including track name, artist, album, and more!
Tape hiss, and other continuous noise, is more akin to trying to remove the milk from a cup of tea or coffee. It can't be done without affecting the source.
There is no way, given a noisy cassette recording, to exactly recover the original audio, thereby achieving an exact reconstruction. What we do is make slight adjustments to the perceived 'bad' noise to make it unobjectionable, maybe even barely perceptible, without introducing objectionable distortion and processing artifacts in its place.
Click the BEFORE play arrow to listen to a short 15-second piece (MP3 / OGG) of audio tape with a lot of background noise and a tape noise. The audio is clear, but the background is distracting.
We ran our exclusive audio restoration on the file with these results. Click the AFTER play button to hear the audio with the background tape hiss and static removed. The results are obvious: no background static, and the speaker is much clearer. The low end frequencies have been clipped to remove the unimportant parts of the audio, and focus on the voices only.
No. An audio CD can hold 80 minutes of music. In this case, you'll get 2 CDs with your order, one CD will have Side A, the other CD will have Side B. There is no additional cost for the second disc.
Put simply, no. We prefer the CDs in stacks on spindles for a few reasons. First, it helps speed the loading of our robot jukeboxes. When we only have to grab the next disc off the well-kept pile, loading and unloading the jukeboxes goes quickly. Secondly, we can't expect us to keep track of each CD and put it back in it's respective case, as it's too time consuming. Also, as we process CDs, we'll pull particularly stubborn CDs out for special attention, meaning the CD's will not be in the same order as you submit them.
If you'd like to self-ship your CD collection to our offices, you'll need to pack your CD collection for submission to us. This means taking your entire CD collection out of their jewel-cases, and stacking them in plastic 1-gallon bags (preferably freezer bags as they are more durable). You can fit about 100 CD's per bag. Squeeze the excess air and close each bag, then stack them in a box or bag for shipment.
Because both AAC and WMA format files are used for both protected and unprotected music, I recommend not using either format! MP3 files cannot be protected and you will never lose the ability to exercise your fair-use rights. MP3 technology became patent-free in the United States on April 16, 2017. THis ensures decades of support from nearly every audio player! Virtually every portable player ever made plays MP3 files - thus the term MP3 Player even for players that are not playing MP3 files - because even the iPod will play MP3.
As for bit depth, if size is no consideration, 320kbps using a Variable Bit Rate for sheer future-proof information retaining.
If you're ripping for your home media server, you can request full-resolution 16-bit 44.1kbps AIFF files (vs. WAV due their ability to store ID3 tags like Artist and Album), as long as you mail a 100gb+ hard drive to return the huge library.
We aren't going to identify each track, as they'll all be named 'Track #' sequentially. We will use whatever data we can glean from the CD itself. You can see our example scan from a recent conversion job. In this case, the ID3 tags were labeled 'Charlie Hunter' for the Artist, and the Album name was 'Live Volume 2' for future reference.
Once the robots are loaded, we can rip and compress around 300 CDs per day. Once the rip is done, it takes about a day to sort/clean the resulting MP3 files before they're burned to data verified DVD-R discs.
If you're using iTunes, simply follow these instructions:
For slides, 35mm negatives, 120mm negatives, and even mass-scanning of paper prints, we recommend ScanCafe. We've used them for our own large projects, and find they have some of the lowest rates and highest quality scans (around 22¢ a scan), all done by hand, and reviewed by a human operator. The savings is found in that all work is done in India, so turnaround time is months, not days.
For mixed media, we recommend GreenDisk and their Technotrash Cans for simple one-box recycling of most media. They'll accept VHS tapes, cassette tapes, CDs and other hard-to-recycle plastic and electronics. While their solutions are somewhat expensive, the confidence that your media won't end up in a landfill is comforting.
Vinyl Records are not recyclable, as they are made of PVC. You can recycle the cardboard sleeves, and paper jackets in your usual recycling bin. There are other solutions for re-using your old vinyl records as well. You can make a unique wall clock or simple table bowls. Have hundreds of records? Use them as roof shingles.
If you have a lot of CDs and DVD media, we send our recyclables to The CD Recycling Center of America with great success.
For jobs that are submitted via mail and order form, we send an invoice for any unpaid jobs as soon as we're finished to the email on your order form. We expect all our customers to check their email regularly (and their spam folder), as we can only process invoices online. We will not call you on the phone, and we will never take your credit card information over the phone. We'll send followup email reminders every month. After one year, we will recycle your media conversions as long as we have made no contact.
We used to hold drop-off customer jobs indefinitely, but have begun recycling jobs that are a year or older without any contact from the customer. We tell all our drop-off customers a date when the job will be finished. Alas, we're not a long-term storage facility, and the left-behind media is generally worthless.
Yes. Hollywood has nothing to fear - It's like watching your parents have uncomfortable sex. If you do want us to convert your own 'private' videos, please do not tell us up front. We'd much rather pretend we didn't imagine you naked until after you've left.
Each media we support has a lifetime use - from invention to common disuse. While we'll never convert a DAT tape older than 1987, we've converted 1930's era vinyl records and many early 1960's Reels. Most of our Compact Cassettes (a.k.a. Tapes) are from the hey day in 1970-1980, but we've gotten some as early as 1964, a few years after their introduction in 1962. Can't put that in perspective? Our oldest media might be 60-70 years old.
It's easy to host and share MP3 copies of your audio files. For Home Videos, pay the extra $12 and get our Compressed Video upgrade. You get a 2-pass high-quality, well compressed video ready for hosting, editing in most major video editors, and simply uploading it to YouTube.
Because while that practice is rampant and obnoxious (but ultimately successful in convincing consumers that they are paying less), it's still a lie, and we're adults around here and can handle the tax burden of the extra penny. It also makes doing the math in our head real easy, including flat discounts. No calculators needed!
No standard format Audio CD contains artist, album, or track name data as part of the data on the disc. Anytime you see the CD Album Title or Artists Name or Track Name, it's your computer (and Apple's ubiquitous iTunes) trying to appease you by replacing the generic names with Proper Names: it identifies CD's based on the number of audio tracks and their length(s), querying an internet based database called the CDDB for matches, then quietly changes the names for you.
Considering most every media item we get sent has never been released on CD, the CDDB will not be able to identify them. It's right in the name - the CDDB is for commercially released CD's, not 'every album ever', even though your vinyl album or tape cassette possibly sold millions.
This is the added-value to our MP3 files, as we've already typed in all this info for you. They're compressed for quick sharing, often arrive well ahead of your package, sound exactly like the CD masters, and are chock full of metadata that you don't have to re-type.
Occasionally, the CDDB will identify popular vinyl releases that may have never been released on CD due to the sheer number of fans converting their own copies to CD and submitting the track data to the CDDB. As they are not commercial releases, the CDDB may remove those entries at any point.
Yes. Following the lead of other companies who have no telephone support lines like Twitter and LinkedIn, we've funneled all customer support requests to email only. You can simply reply to any automated email we've sent you with every order, and we'll get back to you at our next business opportunity. Use the form below if you've never contacted us, or find our email on our Corporate & Bulk Orders page.
We do understand for some, email is not the preferred way of receiving support, but we have not yet encountered an issue that we could not resolve with a customer via email. Telephone support costs a lot of money per call, takes away our attention at inopportune moments and kills our focus, often to be asked to recite an answer aloud already found on this page.
The Media Mail rate was designed specifically for shipping heavy media like records, tapes, and manuals at a lower rate than Parcel Post. Because of the discounted rate, all packages are subject to inspection (to confirm that they only contain the declared contents). This means the postmaster general can open and inspect the contents of any packages with this mark. While some may see this as a loss of privacy, the extremely discounted rate makes offering our services affordable.
The New Yorker might know why your question is not on this list. Otherwise, use this embedded form to ask us anything, right away! We'll email you back (usually within one business day) and possibly add your question to this page! Both fields are required. If you ask anything we already answer on this page or on our very comprehensive website, expect to be redirected to this page.
Digital Conversion Services
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5131 W Girard Ave. #A
Open Tuesday-Friday from Noon until 6pm