How to convert old home movies to digital

Household 2 min read

We didn’t always have the convenience of a smartphone in our pocket to capture and record moments as they happen. Over the years, you might have used a camcorder or even an old Super 8 camera to record your wedding, your child’s first birthday, and other special moments. If you did, you probably have a stack of old tapes or film cans you can’t watch anymore. You have a couple of options to convert your video tapes to digital formats that you can watch on your laptop or phone. You can transfer them yourself or hire a pro to do it for you.

If your movies are in a file called DV — micro or mini — the good news is that these are already digital, and you can connect your video camera directly to your computer for conversion.

Converting VHS tapes to digital

Converting VHS tapes to digital isn’t difficult, but it is time-consuming and requires the right equipment. First, use the dongle to connect your VCR to your computer or laptop. A pop-up will appear on your computer, prompting you to install the video recording software. Follow the prompts until the process is complete.

When you’re ready, hit record in the software and play the tape on your VCR. Connecting your VCR to your computer is an analog process, so if you have an hour’s worth of tape, it’ll take an hour to copy.

Here’s what you need to transfer home movies to digital files:

  • VHS tape & a VCR
  • A computer or laptop
  • Analog video-capture dongle

Converting film to digital

If you have older home movies on film — 8 mm, Super 8 — you can buy equipment to convert film to digital, but it can be expensive. A film scanner looks like an old-fashioned reel-to-reel, converting your film to digital as it plays. Some film scanners can also plug into your television, so you can play your old films directly to your TV. Entry-level models start at around $300 and go up from there.

When should you hire a pro to transfer old home movies to digital?

If you don’t feel confident undertaking this process or don’t want to buy new equipment, you can hire a service. Some companies will convert your video tape to digital format for affordable prices. For film conversion, professional services aren’t hard to find. Major chains like Costco and Walmart offer film transfer services and will convert your old footage and send it back on USB drives, DVDs, or a combination of both.

Tips for storing your home videos

When storing your digital files, you have several options. One option is storing them in a cloud, such as Google Cloud or iCloud. If you’d like to have them in a physical place, you can store them on a USB or external hard drive.

You can also keep the files stored directly on your phone or laptop, although this may take up a lot of space depending on the size of the files. And if your laptop gets lost or stolen, you’ll lose all your footage, so make sure you keep your files backed up regardless. Your memories are priceless. Make sure the phone or laptop they’re on is protected. Electronic device insurance can keep your devices protected from drops, spills, or other potential disasters.

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