VHS to DVD business
September 3, 2009 4:19 AM   Subscribe

How successful can a VHS-to-DVD conversion business be?

I've been told by friends they will pay me to convert their VHS tapes to DVD and have kicked around, for years, the idea of turning this into a real money-making venture.

I have the equipment to get started and have done small consumer-based projects in the past. I know people have thousands of tapes lying around dormant, particularly from vacations and other self-shot stuff.

While I haven't done any formal market research, I do know this service is offered by Costco and Walgreens, among other large chains.

But do you think there's really a market for this? More importantly, what mediums would you use to promote it? Most importantly, how can the business grow?
posted by st starseed to Work & Money (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Growth would be difficult, as people do not tape on VHS anymore, so your potential work would diminish with each job you complete.

CVS and Walgreens ship the VHS tapes to YesVideo. I notice they have a list of what they cannot do:
- Combine Several Tapes
- Raw Video Footage on DVD
- Customized DVD Projects
So, maybe your niche is to offer what YesVideo cannot.

One market that might have this need would be the 65+ group. They might not be technologically savvy. So, you might reach them by direct mail, flyers, etc., in 65+ communities.
posted by Houstonian at 4:52 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Since you're unlikely to beat Costco and Walgreen's on price, what else might you offer that they don't? What are these friends hoping you'll do that they can't get someone else to do now?

As a woodworker, I am frequently asked to custom-build furniture, by people who imagine that I can beat the prices of larger producers. These people are always wrong.
posted by jon1270 at 4:59 AM on September 3, 2009

This does not seem like it would be a successful business plan by itself because VHS players are so cheap and so many people already have DVD burners on their computers. (Hence I'd think that competition would quickly evolve, or perhaps has already evolved in the form of YesVideo which Houstonian mentions.)

Two ideas to possibly make it more viable - 1) Find some other specialized service that can be packaged with it that would have a higher profit margin or 2) Do the conversion for free or next to nothing but require that you get rights to republish the footage yourself. Then figure out how to make money off of having those rights, like by re-selling the footage or by doing something like an America's Funniest Home Videos Youtube and selling advertising on it.

Also, in case you aren't aware of it, it has appeared to me that burned DVD media has a very short life span - a matter of just a few years. So don't advertise this as a way of preserving things long-term. There was a government study being done on optical media longevity but unfortunately it was canceled. Here's a paper Care and Handling of CDs and DVDs — A Guide for Librarians and Archivists from a related project.
posted by XMLicious at 5:10 AM on September 3, 2009

If you burn to DVDs, burn to good DVDs. The gold archival DVD-Rs from MAM-A have had the actual ISO environmental chamber tests done. Delkin's got a single layer (25 GB) Blu-Ray disc good for at least a century, too.

I'd do more than just VHS, do S-VHS, mini-DV, and various other formats, if you want the business to be broad.

What people really really love is when you take video and photos of whatever event, then use the scanned photos in the menu system for the final DVD, so that the disc is easily identified when you drop it in. They love it more if you put up end credits and a slideshow of those photos, with those photos available in a data directory on the disc.
posted by adipocere at 6:57 AM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

My wife and I payed $120 to have this service done (5 vhs's). We live in the middle of nowhere, Canada, and there were no chain stores around that offered this service. It's at least the sort of thing you could do on-the-side and under-the-table if your friends are looking for it.
posted by Brodiggitty at 6:58 AM on September 3, 2009

I remember this being a booming business at least 5 years ago. Every electroncis store had a sign offering this service. Not so anymore. You've probably reached the point where the people who want their VHS tapes converted did them long ago.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:00 AM on September 3, 2009

I would pay for the boxes and boxes of photographs I have to be properly scanned. I think many people would. Not your question though...
posted by devnull at 7:08 AM on September 3, 2009

Ha! I could've written this question. I've done similar projects for friends, and have thought about branching out.

VHS tapes are pretty unreliable and wear out over time, dropping frames all over the place. There are also a ton of differences between media on VHS and DVD. For instance, the black levels are different are much higher on VHS than DVD.

Research YesVideo and other competitors, by getting some test tapes converted by them. See where they are lacking.

My guess is, if you want to differentiate yourself (and since you'll have to charge more than national competitors), you could offer more of an archival restoration service. Convert the VHS, fix the black levels, correct the color, and sharpen and enhance the video. Fix the dropped frames and sync the audio. Make the original source look as good as possible. I seriously doubt that YesVideo does any of this stuff, since only so much can be automated, and the multiple passes to clean up the video require extra time and processing power.

If needed, you can show price-resistant customers the difference between a conversion done by YesVideo, and your output of the same VHS. There should be a world of difference.

Offer different output options. Instead of just DVD, also offer other video formats that are more easily put on an iPod or uploaded to YouTube. Offer the video files on a removable hard drive.

If people just want the cheapest option, they'll go to Costco or similar. But if they want it done right, they can go to you.

Good luck with your business!
posted by mattybonez at 7:19 AM on September 3, 2009

In addition to VHS, figure out what it takes to convert the old 8mm or Super8 - not just the video cassette 8mm, but the old silent reels from the 50's and 60's. I paid a shop to convert all my grandpa's old home movies to DVD, they added a soundtrack of period music and they added an index to the front of the DVD. I then ordered 12 copies and gave them out as Christmas gifts to everyone in the family.

And I second the idea that you may not be able to do this as a full-time job, but you could easily build it up as a spare-time thing and see if it takes off enough to build on it.
posted by CathyG at 7:46 AM on September 3, 2009

Devnull, there are some services that scan photos. Scanmyphotos.com and digmypics.com are two of them.
posted by tizzie at 8:30 AM on September 3, 2009

I don't know whether you could turn this into a full-time business, but even if you can't, no reason you can't have more than one business going and do this whenever you get a job coming your way. I second Houstonian's thought that older people might be more the market for this, so perhaps you could try advertising in a newspaper, since I believe mostly older people read those.

Knowing that people have a lot of tapes lying around, you could offer them a bulk discount to convert their whole collection.

Also, a quick search of Craigslist showed me that people are already advertising this service in most cities. Perhaps see how many competitors you have in your area, and if there are good places to advertise that they haven't thought of. You could also reach out to other areas by offering a mail-in service. Good luck!
posted by Eastgate at 9:51 AM on September 3, 2009

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