Convert VHS-C Tapes to Digital – Waiting for …?

You Don’t Want the Tape – But do You Want the Discs?

You don’t have a player or your camera anymore – and they probably wouldn’t be working anyway. And for sure you can’t find the adapter that they need to play. But please, if you are comfortable at all with digital files on a USB, that is the way to go.

Disc can break, scratch, or just deteriorate. They still take up more space than required. They can’t be edited easily. And DVD players just won’t be around that much longer. Even now, they are no longer standard equipment on new computers, there just isn’t enough demand.

Here’s What You Can do With VHS-C to Digital

Just like its big brother, VHS to Digital, VHS-C to Digital tuns those antique tapes  into digital files that are so much more enjoyable, practical, and useful. Digitized VHS-C:

  1. Plays on just about any modern device: Smartphones, laptops, tablets, Macs, PCs, and more – without any mechanical player at all
  2. Can’t break, scratch, or wear out.
  3. Can be shared electronically anywhere in the world that has internet.
  4. Can be edited to cut out those pesky in-laws!
  5. Are higher video quality than DVDs

If you MUST have DVDs (and there are some that do), be sure to get a backup copy in digital format. If you ever lose a DVD or it quits working for any reason, you can always use the digital file directly and even create a new DVD if you want to.

How Does It Work?

VHS-C tapes are the most difficult of all videocassettes that I work with. Why? Not sure, but I am guessing that consumers wanted a smaller camera than a VHS camera, which were practically as big as TV cameras. But they needed to maintain the investment in VHS players for all of the VHS movies created to date and at the same time use the smaller tapes without buying a new player.

Hence, VHS-C(ompact). These tapes were less than half the size but could be inserted into an adapter so they could be played on VHS decks that people already owned. The combination of new technology in the smaller tapes plus the adapter plus new cameras made the tapes a bit unstable. The quality of playback suffered as the tapes wore out faster in the adapter than a regular VHS tape and there were just more moving parts to deal with.

The primary problem is that the tension in the tape does not retain its necessary tension as well as plain old VHS. So the picture quality suffers and sometimes doesn’t play at all. The solution to most VHS-C challenges is to pack – and repack the tapes. This simply means to fast forward and then rewinding the tapes to reset the tension. Occasionally this must be repeated several times.

One example is one of my customer’s tape that wouldn’t play at all and appeared to be blank. Pack it once, and a few scattered blurbs showed up. Packed it again and the tape mostly played – in black and white. Packed it one more time, and the picture came back in full color. True story.

Once packed, I convert VHS-C to digital by playing it in a regular VHS player using a VHS-C adapter, run the output into a time-based corrector (another story), into a converter box, and finally into capture software on a computer. I then edit this captured software to crop to a clean frame, eliminate any dead space at the beginning and end, then process through another computer into the format required by the customer (typically mp4).

My Tapes are Sooooo Old

No worries. Almost all tapes that I convert are 25-40 years old. The vast majority of them are playabe and do capture fine. Some aren’t the greatest quality due to the technology of the equipment when taken, but the memories are certainly there.

Occasionally, a tape is broken, or breaks just by rewinding. Again, no worries. It costs a bit, but the tapes can be spliced and play well enough to capture digitally. They may never play again in a player, but the video is saved!

How to Care for Digital Files

While the files can’t break, scratch, or wear out, there is some care that needs to happen in order to secure your memories. They simply need to be backed up. Copies need to be made on more than one external or internal drive, preferably on more than one computer.

Even better, use the cloud. If you are moving into the digital age, the cloud is a must. Once in the cloud, there are several benefits that you can’t get otherwise:

  1. The files are backed up in multiple places by your cloud provider automatically
  2. The files can be recovered if accidentally deleted
  3. The files can be shared electronically anywhere in the world with internet
  4. Many services will sync with your desktop/laptop/tablet/phone so that all devices are always in sync with multiple copies.
  5. Originals can be destroyed through natural or other disaster and be immediately recovered on another device – hardly missing a beat.

Convert VHS-C to Digital – Next Steps:

  1. Call or text Jamey (About Jamey) at 720 204-5464
  2. Set an appointment (every project receives my individual attention)
  3. Drop off your tapes (and records, cassettes, slides, or negatives, too)

In a week or less, pick up your new digitized VHS (and other).

James Nordby