Preserving Family Memories with Homemade Videos


With so many families sheltering in place, watching old home movies can provide the ideal entertainment for lifting one’s spirits! And since new movie releases have been halted due to the spread of the coronavirus, it’s a good time to rewatch old favorites, discover classics you missed, or watch bad B movies that have become favorites.

The Joys of Watching Old Videos with Family

Watching videos of family reunions, a child’s first steps, or birthday parties brings back many fond memories. And revisiting favorite vacations from yesteryear is a nice diversion when traveling isn’t possible. Of course, if you have VHS tapes and you donated the player to a thrift store many moons ago, that presents an obvious issue. But if you already digitized old videos, you can take a nostalgic trip down memory lane anytime your heart desires. 

Tips for Taking Homemade Videos

If you have a decent smartphone, it’s possible to shoot home videos that are much better than the ones you created years ago with your incredibly clunky camcorder. Smartphones are continuing to improve in terms of picture quality, while offering ultimate convenience. Like all photography, it helps to follow some basic rules when you’re shooting videos before experimenting with fancy filters and special effects. Here are five tips from the pros:

  1. Lighting: The legendary film director Martin Scorsese once said, “Light is at the core of who we are and how we understand ourselves.” Poor lighting can dash any hopes of creating a good home video, so pay close attention to this.
  2. Settings: Proper set-up is essential, so you need to check resolution (1080 HD and 4K are common) and frame rate (30 fps and 660 fps are the most common). Both of these settings will impact some visual or audio component of your video.
  3. Lens: This may seem like a no-brainer, but a dirty or smudged lens can produce a blurry video, so use a clean microfiber cloth prior to shooting.
  4. Mode: Videos shot in portrait mode are a sure sign of an amateur production. Moreover, the horizontal mode offers far more ability to create interesting compositions and angles.
  5. Stability: You should use a tripod or set the device on a sturdy surface if possible. If you can’t do this, hold it with two hands to avoid shaky footage, unless of course, you want a Blair Witch-like effect. 

Why You Should Digitize Old Videos

Digitizing VHS tapes is the best way to preserve memories, whether they’re family movies you shot once upon a time or beloved movies you enjoyed many years ago with your now grown-up children. If you own VHS tapes, you already know how much room they take up and that they require rewinding. No need to rewind with digital files and they’re compact, higher resolution, and can handle more data. Here are several other reasons why you should digitize old videos:

  • Playability: Digital files are playable on modern devices including HDTVs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones 
  • Age-related decay: Old films and videotapes are subject to degradation over time, while digital versions remain stable virtually forever 
  • Sharing: It’s simple to share digital files via email and relatively easy to do so on video sharing sites and cloud storage platforms
  • Creativity: Once media is digitized, the sky’s the limit what you can do – from creating digital movie scrapbooks to designing video ads for your business

Digitizing Video Tapes: Options

If you’re ready to convert old home movies to digital, here are your DIY options:

  1. DVD/VCR combo player
  2. VCR, DVD recorder, and RCA cables
  3. VCR, a computer with or without a DVD drive, and analog-to-digital converter

The challenges with any of these methods are finding used equipment in good condition, the high cost of new equipment if it’s even available, and the time and patience it requires to do this yourself.

At ScanCafe, our entire conversion process is pain-free because we take care of the hardest part. Choosing a professional company to digitize your old VHS tapes saves time and aggravation while providing the following benefits:

  • Correcting the color (due to shifts over time)
  • Deleting empty footage
  • Removing tracking errors
  • Stabilizing images
  • Organizing the entire movie into chapters with handy titles


2 thoughts on “Preserving Family Memories with Homemade Videos”

  1. Jeff Williams says:

    Some months ago (I don’t have a receipt) I sent your firm some old 8mm film camera footage my parents took, likely in the 1940s. I expected to get something back I could look at on my computer. Instead I got back a big single roll of what appears to be film wound on a plastic reel. I have no idea what to do with this. It appears it would have to be played with an old movie projector. What do you think? How can I view it?

    1. Hi Jeff,

      I’m sorry we didn’t reply to this sooner. Part of our film transfer process is to splice smaller reels of film onto larger reels, which may be what you’re referring to. The resulting digital video files would’ve been provided on DVD, flash drive or available online for download, depending on what you ordered. Someone from our team will reach out to you to make sure you have what you need. Thanks so much for your patience.

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