– Ben Martens


We never had a camcorder when I was growing up, but we have a couple dozen VHS tapes in my parents’ basement from various childhood events. I’ve always worried about losing those memories since VHS isn’t a very stable format. I was personally responsible for taping over at least a couple of them in the past.

The last time I was home, we sorted through them all and decided which ones we wanted to save. Mom shipped them out to me and I started the process of transferring them to the computer. As with my photo scanning project, I’d recommend that you pay someone to do this rather than doing it yourself, but if you only have a few to do, this isn’t a bad solution.

Here is the basic workflow:

  1. Break the write tabs on the VHS tape to make sure I don’t screw it up. Insert it into the VCR.
  2. The video out on the VCR was connected to the inputs on my camcorder. The camcorder was then connected to the PC via Firewire. The camcorder is just digitizing the signal for me. A capture card could have done the same job if I had one.
  3. On the PC, I ran Windows Media Encoder. I pressed record on the PC and then play on the VCR.
  4. Once the tape was finished, I’d stop recording on the PC. This left me with a fairly large WMV file.
  5. Don’t stop there! The files aren’t much safer now than when they were on VHS tapes. To protect them, I copied them onto my Windows Home Server where a combination of software RAID and offsite backup will guard them.

My original plan was to make a big montage of the best moments from all the tapes, but it has been over a month and I haven’t even started that yet. There are some hilarious moments from my childhood, and one of these days I’ll get around to editing them all together.