Is It Time to Digitize Your VHS Collection?

If so, then there are a few things to think about that you just don’t have on your mind every day. Why would you? That’s what I do!

The Enemies of Converting VHS to Digital

First of all, is important to consider that Digitizing your VHS is more than just being able to watch your video memories again. Deterioration of the videotape itself is a serious consideration that affects the possibility of even being able to do so.

  1. Even when tapes are stored in a cool, dry environment, they deteriorate a little bit every day. The tape itself becomes a little more brittle every day.
  2. Moisture in the air causes the videotape to stick to itself. The longer a tape sits without being wound/rewound, the more likely that this can happen. Mold can even  begin to grow on the tape.  By the way, this is even worse for 8mm film and 16mm film – mold is their #1 enemy (Digitize 8mm Film).
  3. Moving jostles the tapes, dropped boxes can crack the tape cases, tapes are often lost.
  4. When anything magnetic comes in close proximity to a videotape, the more likely that the tape will be de-magnetized. More on this in a minute. Tapes can also be demagnetized when in close proximity to electrical wires, which also have magnetic fields around them when current is live.
  5. All videotape wears out a little bit every time it is played.

The most common phrase that I hear is “I’ve been meaning to do this forever”. Well, almost forever!.  Some customers have been “meaning to digitize their VHS” for multiple decades! Just consider the enemies of videotape conversion that I listed above! In this case, time is not your friend.

Also Read – VHS to Digital: Revive the Past with VHS to Digital Conversion

OK, So How is VHS Digitized?

No wonder the process is mysterious. Today, we just accept that VHS, miniDV, Hi8, VHC-C, and microMV camcorder tapes have video on them. Think back (for those of you old enough) to the days when videotape first came out. Really, this blackish/brownish tape that is kind of like scotch tape only not sticky, actually has hours of video on it that I can record and play with a special machine? It was really like magic, or voodoo or something.

It wasn’t like film at all, where you can actually see tiny little frames that are actually a picture of something. It made sense that you could shine a light through it and a picture would be projected. And it even made sense that if projected through a lens, you could see a big version of the picture on a wall or a screen.

Now, something on the tape, when run through a machine, will project a video onto a TV screen. Video that you can’t even see when you look at the tape. Hmph. To cut this a little short, the idea is simply that every single frame (kind of like old projector film) of a video is represented in tiny magnetic code that is applied to the tape (yes, every single frame). The tape itself is coated with a film that can be magnetized. When run through a VHS player, the machine reads every frame (at a very fast pace) and then turns that magnetic code into electric code  and sends it down the wire to tubes (very old), LEDs and LCDs that turn the electric code into color and pattern on a screen.

This magnetic way of doing video is called analog, representing the color in code and stored magnetically. Needless to say, there is almost nothing analog being made any more, so the question becomes ‘how to I take these priceless videos so that I can play them on something that plays digital’. Smart TVs, phones, computers, tablets – these are digital things that have no link to anything analog without digitizing first.

A bridge between the analog VHS tape and a digital file is needed to that an analog video can be played on today’s devices.  That something is an analog to digital converter. Remember, that the VHS player interprets the magnet code on the tape and puts it on wires that go to a TV. In order to digitize this video signal, the wires are, instead, sent to a digital converter that interprets the analog code from the VHS to a digital signal that can be saved on a computer, and then played.

Practical Implications of Digitizing Videotape

This brings us to the set of equipment needed to turn VHS and other videotapes into digital files.

  1. Videotape that has been recorded with a VHS camera or through a VHS deck that has recording capabilities. (and has been spared the dangers listed above)
  2. A VHS Player that still has the ability to play tapes (these are not manufactured any more, so the clock is ticking…)
  3. High quality wires to transmit the analog signal to the converter box
  4. A converter box that can accept the analog signal and output a digital signal
  5. A computer that is powerful enough and fast enough and enough storage to record a digital signal.
  6. High quality editing software to make the frames clean, cut out any blank tape, and even correct color, sound, and lighting as desired.

Of course, the quality of the digital video is now dependent on the quality of the tape, the VHS player being used, the quality of the wires themselves, the power of the computer capturing the video and the software that wraps up the project. A cheap converter box, for example, will generate low resolution digital files. Poor quality wires are just like bad speaker wires.

How to Start your VHS to Digital Conversion Project

  1. Call or text 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 video.

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James Nordby

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