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Copying OLD VHS tapes

kjofkwkjofkw 964 replies96 threads Senior Member
Waited too long. What do you use to copy old format VHS tapes to digital format? It is too expensive to send them out professionally, and I'm not sure many of the tapes are worth professional transfer until I view them. We once had a VHS/DVD machine, but it no longer works. Plus that's a multi-step process (play on VHS, record on older style DVD, read/record the DVD on the computer -- if you even have a computer with a DVD reader). We still have a working VHS player (with older style red/white/yellow connections). I've seen programs online that may work if you have the proper equipment and connectors. And there seem to be other devices. Electronics are not my specialty. Are there easy reliable methods you've used & recommend?
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Replies to: Copying OLD VHS tapes

  • onthewestfenceonthewestfence 315 replies10 threads Member
    @kjofkw Costco offers VHS to DVD transfer service.
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  • compmomcompmom 12097 replies82 threads Senior Member
    edited August 2
    I found a small business that does this. It was not expensive at all.
    edited August 2
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  • thumper1thumper1 78865 replies3558 threads Senior Member
    We are doing this now. Using a Magnavox VHS to DVD recorder which a friend gave to us on permanent loan. It’s pretty easy but does record in “real time” so we have also been watching the old VHS recordings. This was actually a good thing because we decided some could be tossed!
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  • MADadMADad 2091 replies82 threads Senior Member
    Do it ASAP. I digitized our old VHS last winter and the degradation in some of them (from early 80's) was noticeable. OTOH, our 8mm and mini-DV tapes that had replaced VHS as "newer" technology were in better shape.
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  • JustaMomJustaMom 2943 replies103 threads Senior Member
    @kjofkw I know you said sending them out was too costly, but if they're tapes that you care about what's on them, it's worth the cost to do so. I just pulled my receipt - it was 2016, and my final total was $98 for 12 tapes transferred to DVD.

    I sent a dozen vhs tapes to Southtree. I placed my order online, they sent me packing materials and barcodes to place on each tape, and a return label to send the filled box to them. They were important tapes (to me and my family) and once we got the DVDs we immediately uploaded them to the cloud and external hard drives for safe keeping. We have enjoyed these many times since doing it and I'm glad we did it.

    I just went to their website and I'm excited to share that now you can have them transferred to DVD, thumb drive or a digital download - they also had a pop up 50% off the first order. Reading reviews I see some mention Groupon.
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  • mom2andmom2and 3094 replies21 threads Senior Member
    edited August 2
    We just did this. The first thought was to copy from VHS using our player and DVD recorder. However, our VHS player was not playing the tapes properly. The color wasn't coming through and a lot of it did not play. Then one tape got stuck in my brother-in-law's VHS player as he had the equipment to convert to MP4s. We then brought them to a local guy and are happy with the DVDs. I didn't realize you could upload DVDs to the cloud and didn't think about saving the movie files to our external hard drive.

    We also ended up paying extra because a few of the tapes had mold on them (not visible to us). Some tapes were foolishly stored in the basement at one point, which was probably the reason why. The local guy was able to clean them (for a price!).

    We are now trying to get them from DVDs to MP4s with a program we downloaded. It worked, but having trouble with the sound syncing properly. The extra cost to have the pro do it didn't seem worth it. There are a few suggestions to try, but so far no luck. Any suggestions welcome!

    Seeing the kids is so bittersweet, along with seeing our so much younger selves!
    edited August 2
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  • eastcoascrazyeastcoascrazy 2605 replies22 threads Senior Member
    LOL, around 10 years ago we bought a machine that would do those transfers, and 8 years later I admitted that I was never going to complete the task and hired a local college student and her high school brother who had set up their own business to transfer media to dvd and to provide cloud links. Best money I’ve spent in a long time, with an added bonus that the tapes never had to be mailed anywhere.

    PS It’s a great home business idea for anyone who can invest a bit in the equipment needed.
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  • MarilynMarilyn 4450 replies147 threads Senior Member
    edited August 2
    @JustaMom - I’m going to check out Southtree. I’ve wanted to do this for ages; we have about a dozen VHS tapes of the kid that I made by copying our video camera tapes, almost no editing. Each tape is close to 6 hours and so many companies seem to charge extra to digitize anything over two hours. To he honest, I’m not sure I really want to watch hours of my baby lying around, but it does seem a shame to let them disintegrate. We also have numerous vacation tapes made the same way.

    I think I’ll start with two tapes, one baby and one vacation.

    Oh - just realized my parents and my in laws, all gone for years, are likely to be on some of the tapes. Even more reason.
    edited August 2
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  • MarilynMarilyn 4450 replies147 threads Senior Member
    I just sent in my order! Five videotapes will be copied to DVD’s and digital download. Altogether it costs $72, including shipping. The 50% off applied to the copying of the tapes but not the output, which is a reasonable price anyway. Now to decide which tapes...
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  • psychmommapsychmomma 3374 replies47 threads Senior Member
    I've been wanting to do this for years, but never quite got it done. We have around 50 tapes, VHS-C and miniDV. I think the VHS-C have 30 minutes each and I don't recall what miniDVs hold. I'm not sure what equipment I would need to convert both versions of the tapes, but expect that might be more cost effective (if I actually do it).
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  • MADadMADad 2091 replies82 threads Senior Member
    edited August 3
    Biggest thing is to have a working device in the old format. We have a working VCR for the VHS, and our old mini-DV camcorder still plays back OK.

    For the 8 mm, I was able to purchase a good used camcorder on amazon.com and used it for playback, then lent it to my sister so she could do the same thing.

    I mean, it was time consuming, as the video is captured by analog-to-digital converter in real time. Then I edited the 2 hour recordings by chopping them up into segments which I then labeled (4th grade concert, cub scout pinewood derby, etc. etc).

    Then gave each child a flash drive of the videos. Maybe long after we are gone they may find it and be interested in the memories.......

    To reiterate, it was time consuming, but I actually enjoyed doing it, and it was a great winter project for here in snowy cold New England!
    edited August 3
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  • JustaMomJustaMom 2943 replies103 threads Senior Member
    @Marilyn - "you" may not think you have an interest in watching hours of your baby laying on the floor, but your kid(s) may feel differently. I was surprised when my DVDs showed up my (then adult) D sat and watched them for hours! She laughed, made commentary, and even chided me for making her a "from scratch" birthday cake for her 1st birthday (the only one I ever made...ever!). For her (and now for me) it's like looking through a living photo album. One of her favorite pieces was her as a 6 week old with her feet bopping and keeping time to Simon and Garfunkel in Central Park, which I was watching on PBS. There's one spot where one of the guys makes a joke, the audience laughs and she does too! I hardly remembered it, until I saw it again. They really are fun to watch!
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  • arisamparisamp 1392 replies64 threads Senior Member
    Didn't have too many VHS tapes - only one we cared about was one from our engagement/wedding. A friend was able to convert this to DVD for us - was such a good gift.

    We have tons of camcorder tapes (8mm). I had to buy a couple of used camcorders that could read these tapes from ebay. Then patiently converted each one of these tapes to digital and stored them on an external hard drive. We have hours and hours of video.

    For D's 21st birthday, I went through all the tapes and made a short video snippet of each year for the first 18 years. Big hit - she loved it, all our friends and families loved it. I had to do the same for S's birthday, but have only managed to complete 4 years thus far. My excuse is that by the time S was born, we taped way too much and I have to sift through too many videos!

    I also have gone through these videos and made travel videos for each of our trips. I saved these on dvd as I did them and now think I should actually do them over - save as mp4 files.
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  • thumper1thumper1 78865 replies3558 threads Senior Member
    We asked our kids what they wanted. They wanted concerts and plays. They did not want birthday parties or opening Christmas presents, or vacation videos. So, we copied what they wanted. We watched a lot more but only made copies of some.

    Frankly the quality of some of those home videos was terrible. Bad lighting or sound, or some interruption during the actual video.
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  • shellfellshellfell 3888 replies12 threads Senior Member
    FDIL, not DIL, had a converter that digitized VHS tapes, so she converted those for us and for her and S1. We still have the tapes, but they're also on our computers and on flash drives. We didn't do any editing at the time she did that, but I guess we could go back into the files now, if we felt like doing that.
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  • saillakeeriesaillakeerie 2789 replies0 threads Senior Member
    Only thing we have on VHS are videos of the kids Christmas morning when they were young. I recorded the first 10-15 minutes each year and have never watched any of it. At some point I will have them transferred to digital. I know I need to act before degradation.

    My dad has a lot of old 8mm movies from when I was a kid. He had a couple of them transferred to DVD years ago. But there are boxes still to go. I got his old projector working a few years ago but it kept getting jammed.
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  • kjofkwkjofkw 964 replies96 threads Senior Member
    Problem with sending in my treasured tapes is that I have no idea what is on many of them. We never owned a VHS camera, and instead rented one about 2-4x a year, and basically recorded "a few days in the life" capturing everyday things when we happened to rent the camera for a week. (Remember those HUGE bulky cameras that had to sit on your shoulder?) I also have 8mm tapes from trips, Super 8 & old 16mm film from my father, slides from my parents and my early college years. It would cost a fortune in both time and money to filter through them all. Nor do I want to just throw them away.

    Live for today makes a lot of sense, as there is no way I can capture all of that past without putting aside today, and spending hours viewing.

    I'm hoping to find a method to record at home, set each one up to transfer, and then go about my everyday business while it transferred on its own time.

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  • arisamparisamp 1392 replies64 threads Senior Member
    kjofkw wrote: »

    I'm hoping to find a method to record at home, set each one up to transfer, and then go about my everyday business while it transferred on its own time.

    @kjofkw - I did just that. Would set up my camcorder to play one of the 8mm tapes, connected as input to my laptop. Over the next two hours, that tape was then transferred over to the laptop and saved. I got into the habit of kicking off one of these every morning and one every evening/night. Took me several weeks, but I finally did get all 20 years of tapes transferred!
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  • kjofkwkjofkw 964 replies96 threads Senior Member
    @arisamp Can you post or message the specifics of what you used to transfer? Special cables? Specific programs? What did you use to connect camera to PC, and how does it read &translate an analog tape? TIA!
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