How to Digitize Old Home Videos

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We all took part in capturing those special moments back in the day. From your kids first birthday to their first day of school. Your tapes or films are sitting somewhere, taking up unnecessary storage. Why? 

Most of you aren’t sure what to do with them, so they sit there untouched. You can’t rewatch those old videos with the technology we have today, unless you digitize them. 

From doing it at home to hiring a pro, you will learn the different ways to digitize any and all old memories. You will be able to keep your memories safe while being assured that you can access them in the future.

Videocassette Tapes 

When dealing with tapes, it’s best to know which one you have. The most common ones are VHS and Betamax. They’re the bigger tapes used in VCRs and for home movies. If you don’t have either of those, then you probably have the smaller tapes Hi8 or DV. They were commonly used in camcorders.

Once you’ve identified your tape, you can now start to take action!

Gather Your Materials

You first will need a working VCR or camcorder, depending on the tape you have. The next thing you need is a USB-to-video converter. This can be easily found on Amazon for a range of different prices. 

Now, all you need is a computer. Use that computer to install a video-recording software. A software should automatically come with your converter. If not, then there are apps like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker that you can download. 

Connect, Record, and Save

Now that you have your materials, you can get started. First, you want to clean the video heads to ensure you get better results. A simple cloth and isopropyl alcohol will do. Then, connect your computer to the VCR or camcorder using the USB converter. Rewind the tape to where you want to start the conversion, press play then hit record on your computer. Save the video to file then you’re done! Your family videos are now safely stored on your laptop.

Vintage Film Rolls

Now with film, your options become more limited. The cheapest option is to record through your camera. You must have a white smooth wall, a table with a projector, a digital camera and a tripod for that camera. Be sure to have an area with low lighting. You then need to set up the projector and camera in that area.

Next, turn on the projector and ensure that your camera has the full projection in the frame. Now record. When you’re finished recording, connect the camera to your computer. You can also insert the memory card used to record the movie instead. Then, find the storage device, and save the video files to your computer.

An easier way, but more expensive, is to buy a film-to-video converter. Once purchased, load your reels into the machine and let the footage copy straight to a digital memory card. 

Shoeboxes of Photos: Prints and Negatives

With photos, your safest bet is to just scan them. There are other options like taking a picture of the photos using a smartphone, or downloading a photo-to-digital scanning app. Some of those apps can even transfer negative photos. If you choose to scan them instead, then you can buy a cheap photo scanner or multifunction printer that has a scanner. 

Once you have your scanner be sure to wipe the scanner beds and photos with a dry cloth. To save time, you can lay down many images instead of just one for each round. Face the photos down giving them each about a quarter inch of space. Be sure to scan in color if chosen to do so. After scanning, you can crop your photos and save them into individual files. Now all your photos are digitized. 

Hire a Professional 

Whether you don’t feel like doing it or don’t have the right equipment, there’s always someone that can do the job for you. Just hire a professional. 

Costco provides a digital transfer service through its Photo Center. You can transfer many different types of video tapes to DVDs. Each transfer begins at just $20 and each DVD can hold up to two hours of footage. 

You can also transfer film reels, 35mm slides and photo prints. Walgreens and Walmart also offer a digital transfer service, but they would be the more expensive option. 

For a trusted, affordable company try Legacybox. With Legacybox, you don’t even have to leave your home. They send you a box that comes with a welcome guide, a safety barcode for every item and a pre paid UPS shipping label. You fill the box with any of your tapes, films, photos or audio recordings. 

Drop your legacy box off at a UPS location and let them take it from there. You have the amazing option to have them digitized onto thumb drive, dvd, or the cloud. You will then receive your old memories plus digitized, future-proof copies.

Their price starts at $33 to convert two tapes, films or two sets of 25 pictures to digital. They provide many options and prices but the most you can convert is 40 items to digital for $590. 

Future-Proofing Digital Images and Videos

To ensure you peace of mind for your next conversion, consider these options:

  • Create a second hard drive for backup just in case of data loss. 
  • Start shooting videos in only 4k or higher. 
  • Save your memories on a mixture of digital and physical platforms.
  • Save it to a flash drive.
  • Keep your memories organized in labeled files.

Now you’re all set! You are now informed of the many different ways to digitize your home videos and more. Hold on to these memories and cherish them forever, you won’t regret it. 

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