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1 Media Intake

Once your precious media shows up at our office, we review the package contents and double-check it against the initial order. Each individual piece of media is checked for damage, wear-and-tear, playability, and any damaged media is flagged for repair.

We catalog any labeling on the media for the final print stage, and if this is a Collectors' Edition conversion, we'll also scan any artwork included for the final step. Job paperwork is printed, then the job is sorted into a customer Job Packet as it goes through the rest of the conversion process.

We'll send our first email notification to the customer announcing the conversions' safe arrival, then the Job Packet is delivered to the recording studio.

2 Digital Recording

We have many different audio and video recording setups to accommodate the subtle varieties and the finicky nature of media. Some machines simply play different media better than others, depending on the recording system and brand.

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We use professional digitizers that capture the best possible video and audio, with no attempt to color the audio or alter the video. All video is sent through a time-base corrector, which fixes tracking issues and other inherent tape problems automatically. We'll set our recording levels, and destination file formats before we begin recording, then playback your media in real time.

All of our playback machines are maintained by our in-house staff, and there's always something to do on our dozens of playback machines, whether it's cleaning dirty pickups, lubricating parts, or demagnetizing heads! All tape-based media is sent through a loosening cycle on the playback deck, where we fast forward and rewind to check for tape continuity and trouble spots.

Vinyl records go through their own multi-step cleaning process, including using our in-house formulated record cleaning fluid, before they're recorded using our direct-drive weighted turntable using a RIAA preamp on needles that are replaced biannually.

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3 Post-Processing

Now we have our first digital captures of the media, but there's much to do before we can burn it to CD or DVD media. The huge full-resolution media files are copied to our editing workstations for post-processing. Each digital file needs to be edited for length, and possibly cut into separate files.

For audio, we run it through a series of software-based sound fixers, including ones that remove vinyl noise, or tape hiss. The result is then opened in our audio editor, where we do a visual check of the audio file to look for blank spots to be edited out, and we'll insert track markers. We'll also do some audio normalization, in which we make the volume of all the tracks on the CD about equal. All the while, we're checking for capture mistakes, like skips on the record, or outside distortion or tape wear. If we find too many problems, the media will go back to Recording for another pass on a different machine to ensure proper playback.

For video, we initially check for timecode breaks, then look for commercial television bits that we'll edit out. Timecode breaks often appear at edit points on home VHS tapes, when one session is ended and another begins, and these can disturb playback on a DVD. After trimming the video of static and blank footage, we save the new resulting file as a new time-coded MPEG-2 stream, ready for mastering onto DVD.

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4 Media Output Burn

With our full-resolution digital files prepped and ready, they're burned to the final media (CD or DVD). We'll set a proper name for the media, set the song breaks & order, then burn data-verified audio or video media in the proper industry-standard format.

If you're getting our free MP3 files, or have upgraded to Online Video, we'll take your new mastered files, and send them through our compression engines to produce MP3 or MP4 files. Audio files get converted to MP3 (192kbps), where we hand-write all the ID3 data stored with the files, using the data we collected in the first step. Video files get converted to industry-standard h.264 MPEG-4 Video files, at full resolution and frame rate, using a two-pass algorithm, giving you better picture quality. These files will playback on the majority of media devices, and are a excellent format for home editing. They're also significantly smaller, as modern compression engines achieve better looking images in less disc space.

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The compressed computer files are zipped into a single archive, then uploaded to our web site for 24/7 pickup. We'll send another email notifying the customer of the archives' availability and the proper URL to download it.

If the resulting archive is over 250mb, as a convenience to our customers, we'll copy the MP3 and MP4 files onto a Data DVD and ship it back to you with your media, rather having you try to download a large cumbersome file and clog your home network. The Data DVD can be used to copy the files onto your home computer for inclusion into your media library.

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5 Job Finalize

We then design the media artwork and print a permanent marking onto the high-quality name-brand blank CD or DVD media, making it easy to read and identify. Burned media is double-checked before being stored in its final delivery form; either a jewel-case or envelope. If you upgraded to our Collectors' Edition versions, we'll produce the full-color jewel-case art and design a custom full-color imprint for your media.

The job is packed into a single container including all media (both submitted and new), along with our contact information and a customer feedback postcard, ready for pickup or delivery. We ship all of our packages using the U.S. Postal Service for its reliable home-delivery service, shipped via Media Mail rate because it's content-appropriate and perfect for heavy shipments! After the job ships, we'll archive your conversions' resulting digital files, and store them for emergency purposes for one calendar year before they're recycled.

Read what our satisfied customers are saying about their new digital conversions, or browse our Frequently Asked Questions to satisfy your curiosity. We also have a side-by-side comparison of why Under Design's Digital Conversion Services are better than the competition. You can now download and print our PDF order form, which has all of our available digital conversion services (and simple flat-rate pricing) in one simple-to-use form.