I’m presenting a class for a family history workshop on how to preserve various family memories: audio, video, documents, and photos. I thought some of my friends online might appreciate the information I’m sharing, so here are the basics:
You can use a service to transfer film or VHS/Beta tapes to DVDs or do it yourself. Services are certainly easier but they’re costly.
First, the services I’ve found: Mail your materials in to MyMovieTransfer.com, ScanCafe.com, DigMyPics.com, iMemories.com, LegacyBox.com, or YesVideo.com.
Or go to Costco, Walmart, Walgreens, or CVS (these all use YesVideo service) to drop off your videos for transfer.
Next, DIY methods:
For VHS tapes, you can use a VHS-DVD burner combo player, an analog-to-digital adapter for your computer, or a separate VHS player and DVD recorder. These require various levels of know-how and equipment that might be pricey, but it might be cheaper even with pricey equipment if you have a lot to transfer. Plus, you can re-sell the equipment when you’re done to recoup some of the costs.
Digital Trends provides a nice online tutorial for DIY methods.
Once you’re finished getting your video onto DVD, then you can move on to getting it onto your computer hard drive in MP4 or similar format. For the future, it looks as if everything is going digital, so just go ahead and do it now. This also means you can have all your memories in one place. You can store on your computer and also keep a copy on a backup hard drive for safekeeping, along with all of your other digital copies of photos and audio, etc. I’ve used Xilisoft’s DVD Ripper and it’s fairly simple if you have some computer experience; standard version is $39.99. Other software includes Wondershare Video Converter starting at $39.95.
Digital Trends provides instructions for some free options.
Transferring cassette tapes onto your computer hard drive and into MP3 or similar digital audio formats is less complex than transferring video. It’s also pretty inexpensive. You just need a cassette player and an auxiliary cord to plug it into your computer, as well as software. The primary software I’ve seen (and used myself) is Audacity. Bonus: it’s free! Here are a couple of online tutorials:
If you have photos in slide format, you can use a service, which can be quite expensive if you have a lot of them, or you can do it yourself. DIY is pretty easy and just requires a slide scanner, which can be purchased for around $80 to $120.
Loose photos or photos in albums are easy to scan with a regular scanner. Many of us now have combo printer/scanners. If you don’t have one yet, you can purchase a good-quality one for as little as $50. Only drawback is it’s time-consuming. If you’re trying to scan in photos that are still in old albums, you’ll have to scan in each page, make copies of the image on your computer, then crop down to each photo. Afterward, you can use your favorite photo-editing software to clean them up.
There are also apps for this project, such as Pic Scanner, which can be downloaded from the iTunes app store. It’s free for the first 10 scans of album pages and $2.99 after that. Pros: Makes it easy to just “take a picture,” and it isolates the separate photos for you without you having to copy and crop. Con: I liked the quality of my scanner better.
If you do want to use a service, there are lots out there, such as ScanCafe.com, DigMyPics.com, FotoBridge.com, iMemories.com, LegacyBox.com, and YesVideo.com.
Don’t forget to scan in old family documents as well. Same process goes here for photos. Use a scanner.
Now, going the other direction: many of us have photos from the past 5 to 10 years strictly in digital format. That’s great for storage, but you’ll also want to have some actually in hard copy form. I’ve found it’s nice and pretty easy to make photo albums on my computer using various photo-album services and then just have them printed and bound for me. No printing of individual photos and then assembling into albums. I’ve used Shutterfly, MiniBox, and MyPublisher and have been satisfied with their products. There are also a number of other services I haven’t tried: PhotoBook America, Peggy Bank, and AdoramaPix, for a few examples.
If you’re going to do any of these projects with services available, make sure you get the best deal you can! Groupon and LivingSocial are handy for this. Sign up for their emails and you’ll get heads-up on the various deals that might involve these kinds of services. I’ve gotten good ones from MyPublisher and am up to date on all my family photo albums thanks to them.
I also like to use Ebates to get cash back and coupons for services. Create an account and you can search for all their participating merchants.
Some current deals (local to my area in California):
I'm a book reviewer, editor, and writer with four daughters and tons of projects always keeping me hopping. I blog at Life and Lims and run the book review site Rated Reads.