Do you have old videotapes with family videos and memories that you wish could be converted to a digital format? Do you want to preserve the content and play it back on a DVD, TV or media player. There are several ways this can be accomplished. Depending on the format you want to convert can be the challenging part. Back in the day, there were several different ways to record to tape. VHS, 8mm, U- Matic, Betacam, Betamax and DV Cam were the popular choices back then. I have done many conversions for friends and family. It can take some time, but in the end, it will last forever. All of these formats can be converted to a digital format and stored on a hard drive or memory card. In this article, I will explain how it can be done.
Converting Videotapes to a Digital Format
Finding a Playback Device
The first step will be to find a machine to playback the original tape format. If you are lucky you may already have one. If all you have are the tapes you will need to determine the format. Look at the original tape and the format will likely be labeled. You should look at the quality of the tapes and make sure they are functional. Once you determine the format, you will need to find a playback device. Ask friends or family if they have any old tape recorders, camcorders or VHS players. Many people may have one in the basement or attic. The other option is to look on eBay or Craigslist. Amazon also sells many aftermarket items. Remember these devices probably have not been used for a long time. You should make sure it is functional.
Common Video Tape Playback Devices on eBay
You should consider using a tape cleaner to clean the playback machine. Many of these videotape players have been sitting dormant for a long time collecting dust. A tape cleaner will clean the tape heads to ensure proper playback. It looks like a videotape. Just place into the machine and press play.
VHS Tape Cleaner
8mm Tape Cleaner
Converting to a Digital Format
Once you have your video playback device you now need to buy a capture device to capture the playback of the tape and convert it to a digital format. There are several ways to this can be done. Basically, the capture device plugs into a computer, smartphone or tablet using RCA cables to make the connection to the playback machine. Then captures and converts the playback of the tape into a digital format. This can take some time because it is done in real-time. So if you have a 2-hour tape to convert it will take 2 hours. Many of these devices will allow you to convert into different formats like DVD, AVI, MP4, and H.264.
One thing to keep in mind is that the quality of the video will be how it plays back. If the tape is old and the playback is fuzzy that is what will be captured and digitized. Many of these capture devices come with editing software that allows for corrections like color or brightness. Listed below are some recommendations for capture devices.
Elgato Video Capture Digitize Video for Mac, PC or iPad
Roxio Easy VHS to DVD 3 Plus Video Converter for PC
Storage and Labeling
Once the conversions are done. You will need to store and label the videos. If you converted them to DVD make sure you store them in a protective case to prevent scratching. When naming the video files give them descriptive names so you know what they are and they won’t get deleted by mistake. Digital files can be stored on a computer hard drive or backed up on a memory card or external hard drive.
Feature image courtesy of bigjom at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Converting videotapes to a digital format will take some time, but in the end, it will be worth it. Especially if they are images and memories of days gone by. I have done many conversions. If you have any questions or tips. Please leave a comment below.