Our old family VHS tapes sat in our hallway closet for years. Collecting dust, deteriorating, not being watched. Our photos, close neighbors to the videos, fading away in albums each day. Yes, I’m referring to the pre-digital era when everything wasn’t so nicely and immediately saved for you. I thought countless times about how I needed to make the effort to preserve them. But then, continued to do nothing with them.
This past August (2016) I decided to finally start the daunting project of saving those memories. They were all only a fire, water damage or every day increasing “time” damage from being gone forever.
Videos first. I thought about doing photos and videos at the same time and panic set in. One thing at a time. I did a lot of research to analyze all of the options to convert them to digital. The “easy” way would have been to pay someone, but good grief, is that expensive! Even then, so many of our tapes had numerous events on them, I still would have needed to edit them. In the end, I decided to do it myself. How exactly did I do that?
- Find a VCR. Or if you’re like me, wipe the dust off of the one you have. You won’t be able to use the below piece I refer to without one.
- After researching, I bought the Elgato Video Capture, as well as an external hard drive. Videos can take up some serious space on your computer!
- Before you start converting the videos, decide how you are going to name the files. I know, seems a little OCD, but really, it’s important. While it will be great to have them all digital, it doesn’t help if you don’t know what any of them are. I started every file with year, followed by the month, then what the video is (example: 1992 December Wall Family Christmas).
- Start small. From all of the videos (including mini tapes) I was able to find, we had more than 70 in total. I started with a small stack of 10 or so, trying to not overwhelm myself.
- Let the recording begin. I would pick which tapes I would work on based on my mood. If one tape only had one long recording and I was busy, I would let that one run so I could walk way. Yes, these transfer in “real time”.
- Additional save? I also made a private playlist on YouTube that my family has a link to. That way, we can easily share and watch the videos whenever we’d like. And it’s extra back up!
- Enjoy your viewing. Though I called this 5 month long process my “labor of love”, I truly loved seeing and hearing the old memories. Yes, sometimes it was hard, especially videos of my brother, but I’m so glad we have them to treasure forever.
Even if you’ve already got all of your videos digitally (thank you technology), take the time to organize them. It’s so easy to sit down one day and notice years of videos are all a hot mess and not labeled. Maybe try the naming system I mention above.
“Old”, printed pictures are next. Thankfully, my mom is willing and excited to help with this. Since the videos were a surprise for my parents, I did those all on my own. After costing out options for photo converting, it will be a scanning “labor of love” the 2 of us will tackle together.
One additional thought to preserve your families legacy. I recently took an Ancestry DNA test and was so excited about the results. My family and I spent time going through our family tree and connecting as many branches as we could. While that too can be daunting, I made sure to update my info, as well as my immediate families, as best I could. Hopefully that will help future generations with their tracking, along with the videos and soon pictures.