I ran into a friend recently and as our families were catching up with each other, she asked a question I hear more and more often: Do you have any way to transfer my old videotapes to something else?
tinyurl.com/MATI-VCR-1) because the process that records sound and images loses its magnetic charge over time. The lifespan of a VCR tape can be anywhere from 10-25 years, affected by the tape grade, how they are stored, temperature and smoke/dust.NPR profiled archivists racing time to preserve videotapes (
Depending on your quantity, time and budget, there are several approaches to preserve family videos and special memories.
Use a service. This is the “I’d-rather-pay someone-to-do-this-for-me” option. You can bring videos to be converted to Walgreens (tinyurl.com/MATI-VCR-2) or Walmart (dvdwalmart.com), or mail them to a service like Legacy Box (legacybox.com). Phostorian.com represents a third option: In addition to mailing, it also allows uploading or even will arrange to come to your home.
Use a deck. A combination unit allows you to record VHS tapes onto DVDs (tinyurl.com/MATI-VCR-3). Lifewire reports that manufacturer Funai announced in 2016 it would no longer be manufacturing VHS recorders; this will effectively make DVD recorder/VCR combo decks harder to find, although a quick search still found units at both Amazon and Walmart.
Use a device. VHS-to-digital analog converters, such as the Diamond VC500, is another method. Amazon provides many choices at tinyurl.com/MATI-VCR-4 and tinyurl.com/MATI-VCR-5. These allow you to use a deck or video camera to transfer to your computer.
If you’ve made the “how” decision, save yourself some headaches by planning ahead:
- Video tapes take up a lot of storage. Will you use DVD, an external hard drive or the cloud? Find a comparison at tinyurl.com/MATI-VCR-6
- How many copies will you want? If a DVD gets scratched or a virus corrupts your electronic files, you’re in trouble
One last factor you should consider is how to keep track of your content. If you have dozens of files or DVDs, how do you know which one has that windy afternoon picnic you are looking for? Tagging your videos will make the job easier. You can find excellent guidance at tinyurl.com/MATI-VCR-7 and tinyurl.com/MATI-VCR-8. Remember: this metadata can save you and others hours of searching and make it more accessible to everyone.
Consider all of the incredible memories you have recorded and that may now be slowly deteriorating on your shelves. That investment doesn’t have to disappear!
Ken Satterfield is a former media specialist and current marking coordinator for Word&Way.
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