Those old family classics of the kids playing in the garden and Christmas get-togethers are priceless, they can never be captured again. So what happens when those precious memories start to fade and stretch? Unfortunately, film has a lifespan and a rather short one too. Older films were cellulose-based and start to break down over time. But there is a solution. One that will keep the movies in perfect condition, indefinitely. Digital conversion is the way of the future for all those old home movies. Here’s how to do it.
What you will need
To do this properly you need the VHS tapes, an analog video converter, a VCR, RCA cords and a PC. The analog converter comes with its own software, either on a disc, or available for download. If your pc is older, it should still have a DVD reader built-in.
Setting up and getting started
Using the RCA cords, plug the right colors into the output of the VCR and connect to the RCA input of the converter. The converter will also have a USB cable, plug this into your PC. Make sure that the converter software is properly installed, create a file for the video clips to export to, and we are ready to go. Where to store the memories is also important. The PC is fine for a few videos. If, however, there are loads of videos, an external hard drive or cloud storage are better options.
Uploading the footage
Switch everything on and insert the tape, click record on the converter software and press play on the VCR. Controlling the tape all happens from the VCR controls, the software is just copying for now. Watch in amazement as your childhood memories appear on your PC screen before your eyes.
There might be plenty of parts of the tape that are badly damaged already, these can be edited out in the beginning by stopping the recording, getting past the bad bits on the video and then starting the recording again. It will take a while to get used to the order of things, but it’s quite simple. Recording smaller pieces of 10 – 15 minutes at a time will make it easier to work with the video clips afterward. There’s no quick way around this whole process. If the video is in great condition and it can be recorded in 1 piece, it needs to play at regular speed for the duration of the film.
The analog converter software will have its own editing tools to splice the clips and cut pieces out. If editing needs to be taken further by brightening up the video or making it clearer, some better software will probably be required, and plenty of time. Software like Adobe Premiere Pro and Gimp are fantastic tools for editing videos and working on single frames. Editing is time-consuming, but the results can be spectacular.
Don’t hold on to that box of old tapes in the basement. It’s time to get them out and put them into a digital filing cabinet. Doing it yourself can save loads of money as some companies charge around $15 per tape for this service. That’s without postage or editing.