Digitizing your home movies

Options for converting old home movies.

No need to whip out the VHS when your kids' friends/new date comes over! Now you can convert your beloved home movies into DVD and save the hassle of the REWIND.

Remember that great trip when you were a kid, or the family reunion at a few years back? Of course you do; in fact, you captured the entire event on film or videotape. Now, those memories are stacking up in the attic, gathering dust in the age of DVDs.

It's time to preserve those memories by digitizing your home movies. Here are a few tips to get you going in the right direction:

  • Can you do them yourself?

    Of course. Many home computers have the capacity to load and edit digital footage from a Digital Video (DV) camera. The challenge is converting video to DV format or converting several movies into one disc. For that, you may require the services of a professional transfer company.

  • Ask for references and experience

    The transfer process will put your movies on a more durable DVD format, but if the film is damaged or ruin during the transfer process, you'll never get the chance to enjoy it in any format.

    Get a sense for the company you're dealing with by asking how long they've been in business. If it's possible, visit their facility and ask for a tour to see how the process works. And insist on references from people who have had the same work done.

  • Verify how you want the movies to be output

    Are you looking for a DVD you can watch on your TV, or are you just looking for a digital computer file to show folks at work?

    Make sure the transfer company separates audio and video streams during encoding, and that your audio file will not be encoded as an MPEG-2 file. DVD players made in the U.S. aren't equipped to handle MPEG-2 files, and you'll be left with a file designed for play only on a computer.

  • You'll be charged by the hour — but not how you think

    Most digital transfer houses charge per hour of film transferred, not per hour of labor.

    Expect a base cost of about $50 per hour of film, with charges for additional services (additional services could include everything from creating a DVD menu to "cleaning up" grainy old film).

    If your home movie is only ten minutes long, expect to still pay close to the cost of a full hour, since the company incurs most of their expenses getting a transfer set up.

  • Ask for a guarantee

    Your digital files and the original film or video should be returned to you in pristine condition. Don't work with a firm that doesn't offer a money-back guarantee.

    With the right partner, you'll be on your way to enjoying your home movies, not to mention clearing some much-needed storage space in the attic!


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