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In 2006 Peter Hilton unearthed a repertoire of homemade VHS tapes in his dad’s basement. There were hours of concert clip from 2000 come 2003, as soon as Peter"s high institution band—Down in Flames—briefly acquired a following and toured the country.

“I just knew that if ns didn’t do something with those tapes in a few years, I’d shed them,"Hilton says. "There could not be the modern technology to support them.”He didn"t shot to transform the VHS tapes come a digital format then, but the job earned a clues on his to-do list.


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Evolving modern technology has left numerous of us with our own videos in larger formats. At B&H Photo video in brand-new York City, nearly a dozen human being per job come in asking exactly how to transform film or VHS home movies come digital formats they have the right to watch ~ above a computer or newer TV, says senior technologist mark Steinberg.

Like Hilton, world often "will uncover a stash the old residence movies," Steinberg says. "They don’t want to hang onto boxes of movies or VHS, yet they desire to save the memory on a digital format.”

After his dad passed far in 2015, Hilton chose it was lastly time to perform something v the tapes.He identified how to get them right into digital form, but the discovering curve to be steep.

To simplify things for anyone else, here"s a guide for converting VHS to digital and also getting your old media the end of the attic and ontoyour computer.

As a bonus, we"ve included advice on exactly how to make sure the video clip you"re catching today is still straightforward to review a couple of years—or decades—from now.


Vintage movie Rolls: 16 mm, 8 mm, and Super 8


Although Kodak released 16 mm Kodachrome film in 1935, then 8 mm (aka constant 8) film a year later, home movies didn’t yes, really take off till the 1960s, once Kodak exit Super 8.

If you have old reels of film in the attic packed in top yellow Kodak boxes, lock probably consistent 8 or supervisor 8 film. “Regular 8 film is about as broad as a pencil top top a little reel around 3 inches in diameter,” claims Howard Besser, professor the cinema research studies at new York University and also founding manager of the NYU Moving photo Archiving and Preservation Program.

Super 8 film will be a comparable size. Each 3-inch reel contains about 50 feet the film, good for only a couple of minutes that action.

If the film piece is approximately two pencils wide—and ~ above a reel the looks like the type you can see in a documentary around the golden age of Hollywood—it’s most likely 16 mm.

Once you’ve established the type of film you have, you deserve to turn it right into a digital format—but that going to take some time and money. The an excellent news: “Film is a pretty sturdy medium,” claims Ashley Blewer, one archivist, developer, and also moving-image specialist, “so old residence movies on 8 mm, 16 mm, or at sight 8 reels are likely to it is in in kind shape.”

Do that yourself.There are two DIY methods. First, you have the right to buy a film-to-video converter, i m sorry looks like a compact variation of an old-fashioned reel-to-reel projector. This machines deserve to be expensive—the Wolverine Data Film2Digital Moviemaker Pro, because that example, costs around $400, despite you can find various other models for closer to $100.

As the film runs, the brand-new files are tape-recorded to a small SDHC storage card, similar to the one you find inside digital cameras. This is an analog process: If you have actually 5 hours of film, the conversion will certainly take 5 hours.

“There is an additional way, but it’s a little of a project,” states Elias Arias, consumer Reports’ task leader for audio/video testing. You’ll need a film-reel projector, a digital video clip camera, and a clean white wall or a projector screen.

In a dark room, collection the projector and video camera up next to each other. Task the movie evenly onto the wall or screen, then readjust the viewfinder in her digital camera so that the photo being projected filling the entirety view. Then push Play ~ above the projector and Record on the camera to record your footage.

“The difficulty with this an approach is the you should work with a really clean white paper or wall,” Arias says, “and even with a pristine forecast surface, you could end up with lower comparison than the original, color shifts, or a softer image. The final quality of the recording will also be minimal by your video clip camera’s capability.”

Hire a service.Though movie conversion services aren’t cheap, they"re a lot easier than the DIY methods explained above. In enhancement to local film specialists, significant retailers such as Costco and Walgreens have actually conversion solutions for 16 mm, 8mm, and Super 8 movie formats. You’ll need to take your media come a store.

Expect to salary a basic price, to add a fee for added feet—which can add up quickly. Because that example, a solitary 5-inch reel of supervisor 8 or 8 mm, which contains about 12 come 14 minutes of action on 200 feet of film, would certainly cost about $27 in ~ Costco. And you"ll must be patient: The procedure takes approximately three weeks. In the end, you’ll get back your original materials, 2 DVDs of contents (Walgreens fees an extra fee because that these), and also online access to the digital files.


If friend or a household member was a prolific photographer back in the day, girlfriend may have a number—okay, scores—of picture albums or shoeboxes complete of loose prints stuffed into closets. Sadly, these begin to feel choose unwieldy clutter and can’t be quickly shared v relatives, copied, or arranged the method digital photos can be.

Do that yourself.All you’ll need is a scanner—a feature built into numerous home printers this days. (In the sector for a brand-new printer? One an excellent choice is the Epson WorkForce pro WF-4630, $280, i beg your pardon produces excellent-quality scans.) If your family members photographer also took the moment to include names, dates, or note to the earlier of photos, consider purchasing a two-sided scanning printer. Be afflicted with in mind the it does take it time and patience come scan one photo at a time.

Hire a service.Costco, Walgreens, and local photo shops have services because that converting photo prints—and, in some cases, negatives—to digital. Costco, for example, charges $20 because that the first 62 images, then 32 cents per image. The cost contains two DVDs and online accessibility to digital files. Added DVDs price $7.


In 1983 Sony exit a customer camcorder, called Betamovie, that provided a tiny Betamax cassette tape and also gave consumers instant access to their recordings—no handling fees required. As tape layouts proliferated v the ’80s and also ’90s, consumers had myriad video formats to select from, including VHS tapes; smaller, higher-quality Hi8 tapes; and digital video (DV) tapes made for handheld camcorders. The remainder is home-video history.

“Tape is thought about ‘at-risk media’ because it’s vulnerable to deterioration, and also the modern technology you can view the on is starting to disappear,” claims Besser, the NYU professor. For this reason converting her old tapes come a digital style is a an ext pressing job than convert old film. And also there are a few options for carrying your old home videotapes come digital.

Do it yourself.This might be one of the most basic conversions to carry out yourself if you have the time and also the best equipment. If you have a DV camcorder, her “tapes” space probably already digital files, yet you’ll need a FireWire cable (and a computer with a FireWire port) to carry them from the camcorder to her computer.

If you have analog tapes, such as Betamax, Hi8, and VHS, you’ll need a VCR that plays the form of tapes girlfriend have. If friend don’t have a VCR, shot sites such as Craigslist, eBay, and also Freecycle to find a low-cost one.

You’ll likewise need to obtain an analog video-capture dongle. These have a USB connector ~ above one end and audio and video inputs top top the other, and also they start roughly $13. Inspect the manufacturer’s specifications to make certain the dongle is compatible v your computer. Some, such together the Elgato video clip Capture, also come through recording and also editing software.

Before you start converting, inspect your tape player to view whether it needs to be cleaned. Attach it to your TV and insert a professionally videotaped video, such as an old Disney movie, to see whether the snapshot appears snowy. If that does, clean it making use of a kit, around $10 online; YouTube how-to videos have the right to help.

It’s a good idea to clean your old tapes, too. Simply dust any exposed tape and manually twirl the spokes to loosen them up prior to trying to play a tape.

Next, attach your computer system to the ice player via the dongle, which will prompt friend to download the video-recording software. The routine will walk you with the process. When you’re ready, hit record within the program and also Play on your tape player. Just similar to film, this is an analog process: an hour of video clip will take it an hour come transfer.

Hire a service.This is the much more costly option, yet you’re paying for convenience. Costco and Walgreens sell transfer services for a variety of video formats, including VHS, VHS-C, and also the long-departed Betamax.

At Costco you’ll pay $20 for as much as 2 hrs of VHS content. At Walgreens the expense is $35 for one tape-to-DVD conversion. (Blu-rays are more expensive.) You have the right to start her order online, climate take your tapes come a neighborhood store. The procedure takes around three weeks, and you gain your original tapes earlier as well as the papers on DVD. Digital files are included at Costco, yet Walgreens dues an extra fee for them.


Since the Lumière brothers confirmed what is believed to be the very first motion picture, in 1895, film modern technology has progressed rapidly. And it’s likely that the media layouts of today—advanced together they might seem now—will end up being the digital dust collectors the tomorrow. Make any kind of future conversions simpler by conserving your files in well-labeled, easy-to-find areas on your computer now—and backing them approximately an outside hard drive or a cloud warehouse service, such together Dropbox, iCloud, or OneDrive. Or do both: use a physical outside hard journey in situation of data lose on the cloud, and save come the cloud in instance your difficult drive gets shed or damaged.

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Arias states that sharing your movies have the right to be another fail-safe. Do that, and also if you lose files, girlfriend may be able to get them ago from friends and family.

“When it involves music, I’m an ext of a looking-forward guy than a looking-back guy,” Hilton reflects. “But after i uploaded several of those papers to YouTube, ns reconnected with a lot of of world from the time. We also got a small following. It to be cool come remember that part of the journey.”