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Save Your Home Movies: Read this Before You Digitize

Home movies … the older they get the more sentimental value they have … and the more they are deteriorating. You probably have a carton or two of old home movies that you know you should digitize, but keep putting off. Maybe you inherited old reels of 8mm or 16mm film, or have little camcorder tapes, VHS tapes, mini DV tapes, or mini DV discs from when your kids were young.

There are literally dozens of outdated media formats but they all have three things in common:

1- You probably don’t have equipment to play them on, and therefore can’t watch and enjoy them

2- They are decaying and fragile

3. They are your only copy and can’t be backed up

VCR and camcorder tapes were never meant to be a long term storage solution and they only have a 8-12 year lifespan before losing both audio and visual quality.

Great, you decided to convert your media. Make sure the company you choose is going to give you the best results. Important questions to ask:

  • Where will the conversions take place? In house, or could they be shipped out, possibly overseas

  • Will your files be custom named named according to information on media label or that you provide?

  • Will files be put into chronological order?

  • Is film cleaned before converting?

  • Can the film conversion equipment handle sound?

  • Will damaged tapes be repaired?

  • What are output choices?

Digital Output

What do I mean by output choices? For most “big box” and internet conversion companies your output choice is a DVD. I have a few problems with this

  1. The DVD, like the VHS, will eventually be an outdated medium. If the purpose of digitizing your media is to preserve it, putting your only copy on a DVD is not the right solution.

  2. DVDs are highly compressed, up to 40 times more compressed than a .mov file. This means the quality will vastly inferior

  3. Movies on a DVD can not be edited. Every time you watch you’ll have to sit through the 45 minute soccer game when you only care about the 10 seconds of Johnny scoring a goal.

When deciding on output, in most cases .mov or .mp4 files are great formats. They are compressed enough that it’s easy to work with on a home computer (for example you can edit in imovie), but not so compressed that you are losing quality. Short segments can be easily uploaded to sites like Vimeo and Facebook and you can view on a Mac or PC through Quicktime.

Protect your newly digitized home movies by storing in at three locations, including on an external hard drive and backed up in the cloud.

Make it a New Year’s Resolution … get your home movies digitized this year!


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