3,000 Hours

Single Moments Add Up

I had a discussion in one of our team meetings recently about the importance of seconds, and why that has led to our success where other companies have failed.

If we have a niche, it’s in our ability to move large projects through our studio quickly and inexpensively. Other companies in this business actually refer customers to us when the project is too big for them.

Not long after discovering this business, we found ourselves regularly receiving orders in excess of 1,000 cassettes. Although our product was excellent those first few years, we were still figuring it out. Moving a thousand tapes through a studio is no small feat; many of our customers know that first hand.

Over the years I have received one phone call more than any other. It’s from an organization that tried to do this work in-house. The call goes something like this:

Me - “Hello, this is Audiomover.”

Customer - “You guys transfer tapes to digital, right?”

Me - “Yes we do. All day everyday.”

Customer - “Great. We have about 2,000 cassette tapes we want to turn into MP3s. We bought a piece of equipment so we could do it ourselves. The machine was kinda difficult to use, but the main problem was we realized it was going to take us decades to finish, so we want to send it to some professionals.  

It’s actually overwhelming when you think about 2,000 tapes. Just for the sake of discussion, let’s say the tapes are 90 minutes long. If you have one machine and you play the tape in real-time, that is 3,000 hours! If you work full-time every week, it would take you 75 weeks just for the digitizing! That doesn’t include any of the backend work getting the digital files ready to use. Of course if the tapes are 120 minutes (which we see often), those numbers go up dramatically.

In most cases, organizations don't have a staff member who can dedicate full time to this effort; and that's what it really takes. There are plenty of people who want to try, but it's just too big a project. Often, when we are dealing with churches, there is a well-meaning parishioner who has experience with audio who volunteers to do the work himself. And because of the demands of life, he gets about ten tapes done in the first two months.

When people realize the enormity of the undertaking and the demanding nature of the media, they turn to us.

And that’s where my discussion started with the staff.

I told them about a phone call we received in 2007. We were contacted by a court in New Mexico who had over 100,000 tapes to convert. Although we had completed some huge projects, none of them were that big. And although I was excited, it made me a bit nervous too. I couldn’t afford to be off in the proposal. If I was one minute off in my projection it could be detrimental; one minute times 100,000 adds up to an enormous amount of time.  

So in preparation of the proposal I asked them to send some examples of their tapes. And for the first time in a project, I timed every single movement. How long it took to pick up a tape, how long it took to remove the tape from the case, put it in the machine, type in the title, etc. I had the process measured down to the second. And as a result, we succeeded. We submitted a proposal that was reasonable for everyone involved and in the end everyone was happy.

That experience launched us into a new phase in our business. We have experience unlike any other company. We have seen it all and we know how to deal with anything that comes our way.

I shared this story to emphasize to our staff the critical nature of efficiency. How small amounts of lost time can add up quickly. How a single workstation being off line for a few hours can have an impact on the business. Recognizing the value of seconds spread over time can be a life-changing realization. That focus is one of the things that has led to our ongoing success in this industry.

Government agencies, historical societies, churches, dharma organizations, and schools with massive tape libraries turn to us with their digitizing because we have such vast and unique experience in this field. The experience is invaluable to those who need this service.