Why and How to Digitize VHS Tapes

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why and how to digitize vhs tapes
The 2020 lockdown brought with it a lot of pressure and tighter deadlines for most, but spending more time at home also gave way to a renewed nostalgic interest in all the stuff people had laying around the house – old photos, home movies, books collecting dust, and all those long-forgotten VHS tapes.

With the great retro resurgence, people have begun looking for advice on how to play old tapes and for the best way to digitize VHS tapes to preserve their home videos.

Knowing how to digitize VHS tapes doesn’t require much. The right equipment and a little bit of time are all you need and you’re good to go! From there on, whether you have a simple laptop or the best DVD player to play them back on, you’ll be able to enjoy your memories at the click of a button without the hassle of tapes getting stuck, written over, or squinting through static lines on a fuzzy screen.

Why Digitize VHS Tapes

There are many valid reasons to digitize VHS tapes. Going through the tapes is a great way to relive memories in real-time. With the age of the VHS being long gone, it is possible that your tapes will soon start to be unplayable due to magnetic decay. In fact, even a well-stored VHS tape will experience around 20% signal loss within 10-25 years.

Preserve Your Videos for Longer Periods

Practical reasons to digitize VHS tapes are the longevity-based aspect of keeping your videos in a storage format that is way more accessible, durable, and easy to make more copies or back-ups of. No matter how many times you play it or where you keep it, digital video will still be the same. Of course, there is a chance that your file becomes corrupt. However, a basic backup should take care of this problem.

Clear up Physical Space

You also clear up physical space – boxes upon boxes of VHS tapes could all be stored on a couple of DVDs barely the size of a small watermelon, if not on an external hard disk or your own laptop/computer. This means that your data, your videos, your memories can be stored for a longer time, with much less physical consideration, and with better quality and better preservation.

Digital Videos Are Easier to Share

It also becomes easier to share the memories. You could take screencaps easily to make pictures out of old tapes, and you could even compress the files and share with your friends and family through online file transfer services like WeTransfer, Google Drive, or even WhatsApp.

This is especially useful if you have any valuable or rare archival material of special interest to you or groups out there, such as old music concert tapes or rare television recordings. This material could be shared on YouTube to great acclaim or made copies of that could sell for a pretty penny or win you the adoration of millions of people (adoration that you might feel the need to reject).

How To Digitize VHS Tapes

You can digitize VHS tapes in a way that is simple and effective but cost-intensive or some way that is cost-effective but requires more time and a little research. Let’s look at the various ways to digitize VHS tapes and then we’ll look at the best way to digitize VHS tapes that works best for your needs.

If you want to do it at home, the process is three-way. A VCR player, a USB VHS-to-DVD converter, and a computer with a working, available USB port. Video-converting USB-to-composite devices can do the job automatically with simple software that comes with the video converter itself. It’s important to spring for a model and device that has good reviews on Amazon or forums. Even if it’s a bit pricier compared to other ones, you should value reliability and ease of mind above all else. In many cases, cheap devices can end up not working at all, causing frustration as you try to fix a problem that is essentially not solvable.

The Best Way to Digitize VHS Tapes

For many, the best way to digitize VHS tapes is to use a professional service. A simple Google search can give you leads to who does this in your area, and the rates are as reasonable as a service charge to use the same devices that you would use.

However, if privacy is an issue for you, this option is not feasible. You could ask to sit in with the shop as they do it, too, and most would not have an issue with such a thing, especially if you calmly explain your concerns.

If this is something that is a touchy point, however, and it really can be, then avert the anxiety that’s yet to come, invest a little in a good device, and make a weekend project out of watching old tapes while you digitize them and throw them up on the cloud to stay safe with you forever!

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