The DiJiFi Review: Film, Video and Audio Restoration, Preservation and Translation

[UPDATED: June 26, 2014]

I have been writing and working in film and TV and radio all of my life.  I started young and I’m ending old!  I recently decided to upgrade part of my Boles.com website into a Prairie Voice archive of some of my previous work so it is more readily accessible and referenceable by collaborators and others.

I have so much film and videotape and audio stored that I didn’t know where to start the archiving process.  Then I decided to just get the scripts and other documents online that I had within hands reach — and that included some film and video and audio, too!  I contacted Parlay Studios in Jersey City for help transferring all this analog work into a digitized form for web streaming and Parlay pointed me to — DiJiFi in Brooklyn, New York — and that was best piece of pointery I’ve received in the last decade.  DiJiFi — pronounced “dee-jee-fye” aka… “Digify” — is a slick and efficient operation and I wrote to them and told them about the five projects I wanted to start transfer for processing.  Here’s the initial, fantastic, response from Matt Fisher at DiJiFi, and I have his permission to share his email with you – with the understanding these were conditional quotes for only these projects.

Hi David,

First I will outline our general transfer costs and then include additional information that pertains specifically to your projects. Following that are the estimates for each of your projects.

Our pricing for video transfers is two-part; a per-tape transfer cost plus a separate output cost. The cost per-tape is based on length and tape tye, so $12 for up to 30 minutes, $15 for up to 60 minutes, and $19 for up to 120 minutes for consumer tapes (VHS, Hi-8, Mini-DV) and $18 for up to 30 minutes, $25 for up to 60 minutes, and $35 for up to 120 minutes on professional tapes (3/4-inch Umatic, Betacam, etc.). We bill based on the recorded length and so do not count blank footage toward this number. Files can have up to 15 seconds of blank footage at the beginning and up to 5 minutes at the end that you may want to edit out before uploading them to Vimeo. Output is $5 per hard drive which is the best way to get the digital files from us. If you prefer to have them burned to DVD discs then those are $10 each and have very limited capacity for our normal capture files (see below).

The cost for film transfer is $0.30 per foot for standard definition (DVD quality) and $0.42 per foot for high definition (Blu-Ray quality) with our Complete service, which includes color-correction. If you prefer to skip the color/contrast adjustments then we offer a Direct service for $.25 per foot for SD or $.34 per foot for HD, I will use this level of service for your films in the estimates. The output charges are the same as video, so if we are outputting to a hard drive the same $5 covers the entire order, or it is $10 to burn a DVD.

1/4-inch audio reels are charged based on their size. 3 and 5-inch diameter reels are $18 each, 7-inch diameter reels are $24 each and 10-inch diameter reels are $30 each. These are captured to uncompressed WAV files and can be output as MP3s for no additional charge. Please note that we can only transfer 1/4-inch audio reels. We will check the tapes to see if they are exact copies, and if so only transfer one of them.

Film is captured to HD Pro-Res 422 or SD DV-codec. This latter format is also the capture codec for files from video tapes. The ProRes files run about 60 GB per hour while DV-codec requires 15 GB per hour. This means that a DVD can hold about 5 minutes of HD footage or about These are low-compression editable files that will need to be compressed to MP4 if that is your preferred format. Additional film compression adds $.02 per foot, while the video tapes are $5 each. Alternatively we can leave the files in their editable files and you can do that on your own later. For the estimates I have included the MP4 compression but you can let us know if you prefer it be left out.

If you want us to split the tape in Westborough Crusaders in to separate files it would add $5 of editing time and each file would need to be compressed since we would edit the low-compression.

I was all in with DiJiFi.  Nothing was left to chance.  Communication was always an open portal.  Some of the particulars changed in process, but those errors in pricing and performance were mine.

You think I’d know the difference by now between 3/4″ videotape and VHS!  Estimated time of completion for these five projects was five weeks.

Watershed, Project #1 – 16mm film is noticeably sharper in HD so that is included in this estimate. 341-feet of film in HD-Direct = 341 x $.34 = $115.94 Compression to MP4 = 341 x $.02 = $6.82 Sub-total = $122.76

***

UPDATE: My new best friend Jesse Crowder at DiJiFi read this review and offered to redo the Watershed videos to make them less green and to give me an HD version in .MP4 — and to also block out the sprockets and sound with “black pillars” on each side.  I was delighted with the offer, and here is the result:

Watershed in HD 1080p using the massive 9GB .MOV source file:

Here’s Watershed in HD 720p using the compressed .MP4 file.

Jesse Crowder offered to redo the redo if I wasn’t satisfied — it can be hard working with old film to get the colors and tones properly transferred — but I’m delighted with these new versions and I can’t wait to take my next round of media to DiJiFi for preservation!

***

Here’s is my Watershed film in Standard Definition (SD) .MP4 format.  I paid an extra $88 to enhance the sound, and I’m glad I did because the audio is absolutely beautiful.  I wish the print I gave them was cleaner and less dirty, and not as “green” toned, but such is life in the antiquity of student films from 1987!

Now here’s Watershed in 1080p HD .MOV format and, as you can see below, this DiJiFi version includes film sprocket holes on the left side and the corresponding audio embedded in the film on the right side.

I’m not sure what the raw visual sprockets and audio means in translation from film to digital, and while it’s mechanistically cool – Vimeo didn’t like it much — and gave me this warning after a two-hour upload:

Conversion was processed normally by Vimeo, taking the standard 32 minutes and I told Vimeo to go ahead and encode the video from 720p to 1080p — so the higher resolution video may not play well on video devices or on slower computers.

It’s been a busy week uploading digital files to Vimeo — I’ve almost broken through my PRO status upload allowance — and I still have a few more days to go before my weekly upload clock resets!

Weeping Water Cafe, Project #2 2 x 1-hour 3/4-inch tapes = 2 x $25 = $50 2 x compression to MP4 = 2 x $5 = $10 Sub-total = $60

The Weeping Water Café was an original play I wrote and directed and Devon Schumacher and Jim Hanna were the stars.  We had a fantastic live stage run and decided to shoot it on video for airing on a local Omaha television station. You may also watch the live stage version on Boles.com.

Westborough Crusaders, Project #3 1 x 1-hour 3/4-inch tape = 1 x $25 = $25 1 x editing 1 tape to 2 files = $5 2 x compression to MP4 = 2 x $5 = $10 Sub-total = $40

I wrote eight episodes of a teenage soap opera called “The Westborough Crusaders.”  We decided to shoot episodes 4 and 8 over the summer in Lincoln, Nebraska.  All the actors were local stars.  Here is episode 4 and you may view episode 8 on Boles.com:

Radio Airchecks, Project #4 3 x 7-inch diameter reels = 3 x $24 = $72 Sub-total = $72

One of the most glorious surprises for me was an old radio aircheck from my days on KFOR 1240 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  What a great sounding memory from 30 years ago!

Drama of the Body, Project #5 4 x 30-minute Hi8 tapes = 4 x $12 = $48 2 x 30-minute Mini-DV tapes = 2 x $12 = $24 6 x compression to MP4 = 6 x $5 = $30 Sub-total = $102

Drama of the Body: A Performance for the Deaf was an original play I wrote and directed for Deaf children when I was teaching theatre at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. My actors were honors students in theatre and the experience was riveting and memorable.

Students from the Rutgers New Media class decided to “shoot” our rehearsal and performance. You may view all six Hi8 and Mini DV “versions” of the play on Boles.com and some intrepid video editor may one day take the three rehearsal recordings and the three live performance recordings and edit them into a singular whole earth event.

Combined output to your hard drive = $5 Combined pre-tax sub-total = $401.76 The low-compression files will require about 60 GB of hard drive space, the MP4 and MP3 files will need about 1/6th of that or roughly 10 GB. We sell external hard drives or you can provide your own. A 64 GB flash-drive is $65, as is a 500 GB portable hard drive, either of which should be able to hold the low-compression files, though only the 500 GB will definitely be able to hold both the low-compression and MP4 versions. If you only want the compressed files then we can put them on a 16GB hard drive for $30.

I chose to have DiJiFi put all my stuff on a portable drive that I purchased from them.  I’ve never seen such a delightful little device and I shared my curious awe with the social mesh:

Here’s how the file sizes bug out in reality.  Wowser!  .MOV files are not disk-saving friendly, eh?  .MP4 files are certainly the way to go now and forever. I’ve backed up everything on my new pocket drive to a network storage drive and my 1TB Google Drive — and saved only the MP4 files to my Amazon S3 storage because I can only push buckets into that swamp in 5GB jams, and many of the MOV files are double, or triple, that number.

Uploading the DiJiFi source transfer files took forever, but the deed only needs to be done once, it turns out, in triplicate.

I hope this is helpful and I’ll be in touch if you have additional questions. Thanks!

If you have any sort of digitization needs from old media to forever media, I highly recommend you check out the good folks at DiJiFi.  They will do you right.

Matt Fisher held my hand and set me up for success.

Andriana Iudice did my film transfer and audio enhancement.

Jesse Crowder wrapped up, took my payment, and had the everything back in my hands the next day in exactly five weeks from first contact — just as Matt originally promised.

Now I have to do some digging for the next eventual DiJiFi transfer round.  I need to find my 1993 Apple Newton videotape quote that Apple used in a press conference — and did not attribute to me; but the CompuServe Apple forum did! — because that’s where I wrote my review.

I need to find the Windows 95 promotional videotape I did for the launch of the product for Microsoft.

There are more radio airchecks to unearth from many other stations.  Unique Youth is out there waiting for me rewind the radio.

A bunch of KOLN/KGIN TV Bolesful movie reviews are hiding from me on 2″ AMPEX videotape! Oh, the memories!  Oh, the effort to preserve what was, and still is, you.

I am impressed with the early collaborative work I did — and I’ll willingly put up my history against anyone else’s for quantitative comparison and qualitative contrast — and I certainly don’t run from the past; I absolutely embrace everything it has made me.

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