This post contains a glossary of terms surrounding the video & film reel conversion process. Some of the terms are generally applicable to every day life which we hope is helpful (see: Standard Definition and Aspect Ratio). In some cases we get into the weeds a little bit, but bear with us and enjoy learning more than you could ever hope about the vocabulary of our video technicians.

This is a list of formats these terms could apply too:

  • VHS
  • VHS-c
  • MiniDV
  • 8mm tapes
  • BETA/PAL tapes
  • 8mm film reels
  • 16mm film reels
  • Super 8 film reels
  • and more!

Timecode: The time displayed on the front of a deck when a tape is playing. For VHS tapes this timecode is relative to the point at which the tape is put in the deck, starting at 00:00:00. This is where a lot of confusion comes in around why we can’t digitize a tape from minute 5 to minute 25. Simply put, minute 5 is different on every machine. To avoid this, we always capture the full tape, and then get the digital timecode, which is constant.

Canopus Box: Professional analog to digital conversion boxes. This is where the magic truly happens when converting a video tape to digital.

Resolution: The amount of pixels displayed on screen, typically measured in height.

Standard Definition (SD): The term given to the smaller video resolution which was the “Standard” at the time the video was captured. SD video has a resolution of 480 pixels high.

480p: Standard Definition Resolution. This is what nearly all tape technology is recorded in, and the resolution at which we deliver nearly all of our files.

High Definition (HD):
The term given to video with a high pixel density. When introduced often referred to 720i/p and 1080i/p video. Most televisions these days are High Definition.

1080i/p: A High Def resolution. More than twice the size of SD footage. 1080 pixels tall. We don’t delivery in 1080 unless the source of the footage is 1080, which is exceedingly rare.

720i/p: A High Def resolution. Just under twice the size of SD footage. 720 pixels tall. We don’t delivery in 720 unless the source of the footage is 720, which is rare.

Aspect Ratio: The relationship between the width and height of the frame. Listed “W:H”.

4:3: “Fullscreen” The squarer of the two common aspect ratios. Most tapes and film reels are in 4:3. 4:3 is typically associated with SD video, but in rare cases some HD video can be 4:3.

16:9:
“Widescreen” the wider of the two common aspect ratios. Some MiniDV tapes are recorded in this aspect ratio. 16:9 is commonly associated with HD video, but SD video can also be 16:9.

Video Container:
The file structure that holds the video information, often seen as the file extension. We commonly deliver in .MP4 and .MOV containers.

MP4: A common video container used for a multitude of codecs. Our most common file, delivered in H.264.

MOV: Apple’s Quicktime Video Container. Can work with a multitude of codecs, ours are delivered in H.264.

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