If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, you might have fond memories of your parents handling bulky camcorders and creating endless VHS tapes of your life. Some parents went out of their way to document every birthday, graduation, and momentous event.
Unfortunately, many of these VHS tapes are hard to access in the era of smartphones and online streaming because of how old they are. Even DVD players can be hard to come by unless you visit niche appliance stores.
One of the most common questions we receive at Memory Fortress is: can you still digitize these old VHS tapes? In most cases, the answer is yes. However, there are some factors that contribute to the quality of the footage and the ease with which our video transfer service can digitize it. Here’s what you need to know.
VHS Usage Peaked from 1975 – 2005
Just how old are VHS tapes? The VHS tape led a brief and powerful era in the world of data storage and video sharing. The first VHS player was created in 1956 but came with a price tag of $50,000. Just like computers and smartphones, as more technology was developed, the products got smaller and less expensive. By the 1970s, countless families across the United States owned VHS players and used these tapes to record their favorite shows.
In the 1980s, personal camcorders gained popularity. (You can see the bulky camera that Adam Goldberg regularly hoists onto his shoulder on the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs.) These cameras also started to shrink over the years and reached peak popularity in the 1990s. Suddenly, families could easily create home movies, record them on VHS tapes, and play them back later for everyone to see.
The use of these camcorder tapes continued until the turn of the century when DVDs started to hit the market. The first consumer DVD player cost $800 and countless Americans had to switch their VHS collections to DVD format. Companies also started producing multi-purpose appliances that played both VHS tapes and DVDs.
Eventually, the DVD won. Very few people still own functioning VHS players, which unfortunately leaves countless recorded memories trapped inside. Can you digitize these old VHS tapes and home movies?
Age Wears Out VHS Tapes
The first factor to consider when you want to digitize VHS tapes is how old they are. If you have home movies created between 1985 and 1995, then they are already 28 to 38 years old. Even home movies created after the new millennium started are 20 years old by now. VHS film is delicate and will start to break down, which means some old movies might not have the quality content you expect.
VHS tapes will lose 10 to 20 percent of their quality every 10 to 25 years. The depreciation rate depends on the quality of the VHS tape and how it was stored. If the tape wasn’t stored in ideal conditions (humid areas or in sunlight) then it could be nearly worn out. Also, regular use can wear down VHS tapes. If you have a popular home movie that you watched every few weeks, the film can start to show its wear.
All of this doesn’t mean that you can’t digitize these old VHS tapes and home movies, but it highlights how they might not have the quality you expect. Additionally, the quality might be lower because of the recording technology itself. Many smartphone companies claim you can make cinema-quality films with the devices in your pocket. The footage that you thought was high-quality and cutting-edge 30 years ago might look worn out compared to modern-day standards.
If You Are Worried About Your Tapes, Don’t DIY Their Digitization
There are multiple kits that you can buy to digitize these home movies by yourself. This project is cumbersome but would allow you to save the footage on DVD or USB format to preserve it. You can then throw out the bulky VHS tapes and increase the amount of storage in your living area – while also no longer worrying about video degradation.
However, if the VHS tapes are older and potentially damaged, you might not want to digitize these home movies on your own. Our team at Memory Fortress has high-end, advanced tools that are meant to protect VHS tapes during the scanning process. These scanners are more delicate than the DIY models sold to consumers The last thing you want is to damage the VHS tape of your wedding from 1992 during the scanning process.
The first step if you want to digitize these home movies is to decide whether you feel comfortable taking on this project yourself or whether you would prefer if the professionals took over in digitizing these old VHS tapes.
It Could Take Hours to Digitize These Home Movies
Another factor to consider when deciding whether you want to DIY your digitization project is the time it takes. For most home-use kits, the conversion process takes place in real-time. If you have an hour of footage on an old VHS tape, it will take an hour to digitize it to DVD format. If you have 50 VHS tapes to digitize, you could spend an entire workweek (and longer) converting them to the new format.
Evaluate whether you have the time and the desire to digitize these home movies by yourself. Rather than spending hours transferring movies across different formats, you can speed up the process by boxing up your tapes and shipping them to our office instead. Our team of digitizing experts will convert the VHS tapes to any format and should have the updated content ready for you within 5-10 business days.
Start Your Order With Memory Fortress
Digitizing family memories usually isn’t treated like an emergency project, which means the tapes, photos, and other analog media often sit in closets and storage bins for years before someone decides to convert them. However, the longer you wait to digitize your memories, the more worn out they will get. Photos will start to warp, colors will fade, and VHS footage will break down. Don’t put off this project any longer.
Let the professionals handle your digitization project so it is faster and safer. Learn more about our process and pricing to see what working with Memory Fortress is like. When you are ready, Start Your Order – all we ask is for a $29 deposit to secure your place in our system. We can help you digitize these home movies so you and your future generations can watch them.