Monday, March 12, 2012

How to Digitize Your Home Movies

The easiest, fastest and safest way to convert your old VHS, VHS-C, Hi8 or Mini DV tapes is through a conversion service. Enlisting a professional is cost-effective (usually around $10 a tape) and gives you better results since they have top-notch equipment and experience with different types, quality and ages of film.

When looking for the right photo scanning and video conversion service, avoid companies that outsource their work (i.e. send your precious mementos overseas). Also, be sure to choose a company that lets you talk with the person who will be converting your memories. This way, you can directly relay any special instructions or handling requirements and have piece of mind that your keepsakes are in good hands.

Now, some people like to do things themselves and that's understandable. If you have ample amounts of time, some money and can work with technical instruction manuals, you can convert your movies through your home computer. Here's how:

1. First, find a converter. Whether you're trying to convert VHS, VHS-C, Hi8 or Mini DV, you'll need to purchase an advanced digital video converter or ADVC. This vital piece of equipment starts at $165 and can be found online.

2. Find a player for your movies. If you have VHS tapes, you'll need a VCR. If you have VHS-C, you'll need a VCR and a VHS-C cassette adapter. If you have Mini DV or Hi8 tapes, you'll need a camcorder that records and plays that format. These can also be purchased online.

3. Set up your equipment. Follow the ADVC instructions for setup on either PC or Mac, including the attachment of your media player.

4. Import. Mac users will import their movies to iMovie. When you're all set up, open iMovie and go to 'file'. Select 'import from camera'. A window will pop up and you'll choose to import from your ADVC. Press 'capture' in iMovie and play on your movie player. PC users can follow the setup outlined in the ADVC manual, as it differs according to operating system and device.

5. Be patient and resist that urge to fast forward, rewind or pause while you import. Anything you do will be captured in your final, digital product. If you encounter a glitch, consider starting the import over. If at any point your tape becomes tangled or skips, find an expert to finish the job for you. Do not try to get stuck, tangled tape out of a player. Tangled film is extremely vulnerable and can become permanently damaged if handled. VHS-C tapes are more likely to be damaged during conversion due to flaws in their adapters.

6. Once converted and imported to your computer, you'll want to back up your memories. This way, if your computer crashes, you won't lose them. Most people back up to an external hard drive. We recommend both an external hard drive and cloud-based storage. External hard drives crash often and diversifying your storage with a safe, private, online option increases the likelihood that your memories will be around for future generations of your family.

Digitizing your memories means you can more easily view and share them, bringing them up on your computer or TV any time you want to reminisce. So once your library is digitized, be sure to enjoy it often.

Ashley Sullins is Head of Preservation Services at LiveOn Rewind, a photo scanning and film conversion service.

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