Common Mistakes To Avoid When Digitizing Old Video Tapes


If you think of videotapes as innovations of the not-too-distant past, that’s perfectly understandable, even if those near and dear to you view them as ancient relics. Regardless, stacks of old videotapes lying around unwatched aren’t serving any purpose other than collecting dust or cluttering up bookshelves. That’s a shame because many videotapes contain footage worthy of revisiting, whether top-rated commercial movies or videos of your now married daughter taking her first steps. 

DIY Video Transfer 

If you’re thinking about digitizing some of your old videotapes, that’s a worthy pursuit because they weren’t designed to last forever. You’ll need a VCR, a computer with or without a DVD drive, and an analog-to-digital converter. If some of the tapes look like a different format than VHS, you’ll need to identify them. This could pose an equipment challenge for DIY transfer. Keep in mind that editing your memories once they’re digitized is the most time consuming and challenging part of the entire process, even if you have some experience doing so. 

Top Four DIY Mistakes 

Prior to undertaking this project yourself, it’s important to be aware of common mistakes people make when transferring videotapes so you can avoid them. 

1. Burning Directly to DVD 

DVD is not the best archiving format because it starts to decay after five years or so. The best way to preserve precious video memories is to convert them into video files, which enables storing them on your computer or the cloud, editing them using standard editing software, then burning DVDs if that’s how you wish to share them with family and friends. 

2. Choosing the Wrong Format 

MPEG-4 is designed to deliver DVD-quality video at lower data rates and smaller file sizes. This format also offers the most flexibility in terms of the devices you can play the videos on. 

3. Forgetting to Back up Video Files 

After your DIY project is complete, you need to decide how to store the digital video files. Storing them on your computer is fine, but you should also back them up to an ancillary hard drive in case your computer crashes. It’s also a wise idea to store copies of videos in the cloud to protect your memories from a natural disaster or fire. Many services are available for a reasonable cost and various price points, depending on your storage needs. 

4. Not Sharing Your Videos 

Once your videos are digitized, don’t forget to share them. It’s easy to do so with family, friends, and strangers on social media sites of your choice (e.g. YouTube, Facebook, etc.), send links to the place they’re stored in the cloud, or use a service such as Dropbox or WeTransfer to share a few at a time. 

The Benefits of Using a Professional Scanning Service 

Common issues that impact videotapes such as magnetic tape deterioration, creases, breakage, and slippage are typically beyond the scope of DIY repair, but fixable with professional equipment and expertise. At ScanCafe, we use professional decks equipped with video stabilization features to ensure the best possible playback and perform color correction and repairs at no extra charge, when possible. The bottom line … sending your videotapes to ScanCafe will save you time, aggravation, and money and the end result will be far better quality than DIY conversion.