For about three years, Mike Tarantino has watched families grow on camera from the comfort of his home on Whispering Pines Drive.
In 2009, shortly after closing Creative Corners, a custom-frame gallery he operated in Youngstown, Tarantino opened IM Video Transfer for those seeking to convert their VHS, VHS-C and Video8 casettes to DVD. The company also converts 8mm and Super 8mm film to DVD.
“We can do straight transfers, but I don’t focus on that,” Tarantino said. “I like to take a box of stuff and turn it into something enjoyable to view. We make old memories, new memories.”
Unlike Walmart and Walgreens, which offer a similar service that involves shipping customers’ old videos to warehouses in places such as Atlanta, Tarantino offers a personal touch.
He edits the movies personally with the help of his employee, Clancy Pannel, who recently graduated from Kent State University. They watch the footage closely and convert it to DVDs, pairing footage with music and breaking movies up into searchable chapters. When the process is complete, they package and label the new movies.
“We do about 50 percent video and 50 percent film,” Tarantino said. “It’s a little more of a process with film; we clean it and lubricate it. Old film will turn yellow or blue, and we have software to take that grainy look out.”
For video, two hours on a DVD costs $22, while film is charged at 25 cents per foot. Tarantino said the business has been successful with customers from all over the Mahoning Valley, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania.
A typical week finds Pannel and Tarantino transferring about 4,500 feet of film and between 100 and 200 hours of video.
The business is not without its stranger moments, though.
“I’m always watching the footage out of the corner of my eye when it’s going into our system,” Tarantino said. “I saw these kids, and it looked like they were beating up someone in an alley; after watching the whole segment, I realized they were re-creating a scene from ‘The Godfather.’”
Then there was the time Tarantino had to return a tape to a customer after what was supposed to be video of a wedding turned out to be pornographic.
“She thought it was a tape of her parents’ wedding. It was an embarrassing phone call,” he said referring to his contacting the customer.
Tarantino continues to grow his business with advertising efforts and by establishing three drop-off points in the broader community at Always Yours in Canfield, Nona’s Closet in Niles and Ink and More in Salem.
He envisions franchising IM Video Transfer.
“That’s where I’d really like to take this,” he said. “It’s a necessary service, and a local individual really creates a connection and personal touch.”