Time is running out! Archive your videos now

Archiving videos to newer media formats is not only becoming more popular but it is turning into a necessity for those who do not want to lose old videos.

It’s not just about still keeping a VHS player around (if you can even hunt one down). Recent research has shown that video tapes will soon become unwatchable.

Within every VHS cassette there is the magnetic tape and the thin recorder. Unfortunately, neither one are designed to last forever. The video tape is magnetized and, over time, that magnetization starts to disappear causing the recorded information to be lost.

In fact, video tapes have an expected lifespan of only 15 to 20 years. This means videos you took in 1997 may soon be impossible to view.

I was raised with VHS tapes, whether it was for watching a movie, taping a TV show or recording a family event, so I feel your pain. To get ahead of the problem, it’s important we convert our videos to newer formats before they start to fade. The key is to move them to DVD or transfer them to your computer or the cloud.

There are many options for converting your old video tapes, but some will be better for your specific needs than others.

There are services available that will do all the digitizing (service review site); however, some of those services may be pricey, especially if there are many tapes that need digitizing.

Another option is doing it yourself, which leaves you with two options. There are machines that you can purchase to assist with the VHS conversion (product reviews). These devices create a way to connect the VHS to your computer and then use a software program to convert it to a DVD or digitize it to your computer.

Another option is to find a public library or university that has the equipment available and rent time to convert or download the tapes yourself. For example, at my local library, the necessary equipment is available if I schedule the time, making the process free.

In addition, the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services offers many resources on preserving family archives including videos, photos and documents.

Guest Blogger: Ann McGrail

Ann is PR Intern at TDS Telecom and a Journalism and Communication Arts student at UW-Madison.

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