Hanson Ansary, president of CVi, says his company has been offering VHS-to-DVD conversion since May 2001. CVi originated as a video and DVD production and post-production house. Ansary says that, since the company had invested heavily in systems related to DVD, it "seized the opportunity to act as a catalyst by offering the transfer services as a means to facilitate the industry's transition to DVD." While CVi wouldn't turn away consumer conversions, at roughly $50/hour for straight conversion, its business remains focused on the corporate market.
Ansary says he has some clients who are individuals with VHS videos of great personal significance (weddings, anniversaries, family reunions), and have opted to convert them into DVDs in order to be able to preserve them. However, the bulk of his clients, he says, are "corporations that have recently acquired some capability to edit their corporate videos for—as an example—Web streaming purposes. This latter group of clients is requesting conversion of their VHS-based videos into an editable format in order for their Web designers to be able to work more effectively with this footage."
Long Island Disc Corp.'s national sales manager Mo Singh says that his company converts from any format to DVD, and they also draw the bulk of their business from commercial, rather than consumer work. Long Island's prices for "no frills" jobs start at $500. Many companies advertising online offer consumer conversions for as little as $40/hour. These conversions, however, do not include much in the way of authoring. The basic packages include chapter marks, but more advanced features like menu design are an up-charge.
Ansary says that the real service CVi offers in performing conversions is authoring. "I guess one could argue that the only value-added service provided by a professional organization, such as ours, compared with standalone DVD recorders, is our authoring services," he says. "We use Sonic's Fusion DVD authoring system, which allows us to insert menus and chapter marks, and edit several diverse sources into a single DVD."
However, other longstanding leaders in the DVD authoring and production market, like AlphaDVD and Marin Digital, have opted not to join in the conversion market. Marin executive producer and CTO Chris Armbrust says, "My opinion is that this is a short-lived market. The cost for someone to do this themselves is coming down very quickly." Armbrust cites HP and Philips' white paper in which they say they want to replace VHS recorders with DVD+RW as proof that the home DVD-recording market will gain momentum this year.
Ansary points out that video conversion accounts for only a small portion of CVi's business, and he agrees that entry-level DVD authoring will impact this part of his business. He says, "The video transfer business, as such, is only a transitory phase in the evolution of video production. The introduction of standalone DVD-Recorders for the home will likely shorten the life of this service considerably."
Ansary believes that, as standalone DVD-Recorders penetrate the home video market, this business will cease to be economically viable—both for the provider as well as for the client. He says, "With prices dropping sharply as new units enter the market, one could speculate that this type of business will have little longevity. However, the corporate clients will continue to require services of like nature. But that, I guess, will always remain as part of the corporate video production business."