As promised, here's a blog about converting your data and audio/video to different media.
What does this have to do with clutter combat? A lot, in fact. Many people own tons of albums and movies on physical media that they simply don't listen to or view anymore: VHS, BetaMax, 8-track, vinyl record, 8-mm film, 8mm video tape, Hi-8 video, DV camcorder videos, audio cassette, 12" video disc, and so on. Not to mention photos and projection slides that would need to be scanned in order to share on-line or printed bigger. These take up space. Sometimes, they take up a LOT of space. On top of this, they deteriorate over time. As I mentioned a couple of posts back, old computer disks are like this too, though not nearly as common for most people.
So, what can you do about it? Some of this stuff you could sell or give away, especially if you have a rare collector's item (though the chances of that are much slimmer than you think) or can give away a lot in bulk.
Well that might work for some of the store-bought stuff, but what about those personal things? Like videos you made of weddings or kids birthday parties? Or old music that you still can't find anywhere on CD, or don't feel like buying for a second time? In this case, you want to find a way to extract what's there.
To transfer old audio or video, you basically have three options: get a professional to do it for you, buy a special all-in-one device that will do the job, or do it all yourself using your computer. Naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages to these.
1. Hiring a professional. There are professional audio/video people who, for a fee, can take your old home movies and put them on DVD, or take your old music collection and put it on CD.
- You don't have to be tech-savvy at all. You let the professionals handle it.
- Sometimes this can be your only choice. For example, I have old 8mm reels of family films from the 1970s, and while I do still have the original rolls of film, I don't have the means to project them in a way that I can properly capture the picture and sound, and there are (as far as I know) no really good products on the market that let me do this.
- You have to pay them. This might cost a lot.
- You also have to trust that they know what they're doing. Some will just rush through the process without trying to optimize for best results. Some might even cut off the videos short, and not give you everything.
- You don't have much choice in how you want to edit the videos (or music), what order they appear in on the final product, etc.
2. Buying a device that does the copying. Places like Best Buy and Brookstone carry devices that not only PLAY different types of media, but let you COPY from one to another. For example, I bought my parents a combination DVD/VHS player that let you convert from one to the other. I liked it so much, that I bought one myself. I put a blank DVD-R disc into the DVD tray, put a movie into the VHS tape slot, and in 90 minutes I had a DVD copy of the movie.
- Again, you don't have to be too tech-savvy. Just load up the stuff you want, press a button, and let the machine do it for you.
- Although buying the new unit would cost money, you could use it multiple times, unlike going to somebody who provides the service.
- It's much quicker and simpler than #3 (which I'll get to in a moment).
- You still have to buy the new unit in order to do this.
- Editing capabilities are limited.
- This sometimes won't work for store-bought VHS tapes. For example, some movies on VHS secretly have a copyright protection signal build into the video so that if you try to bub it on to DVD using one of these devices, the device might refuse it.
3. Using your computer. What you do is play the video (or vinyl record or whatever) on its own player, then feed that signal into your computer. From there, can capture the signal and store it as a file. Once you have the file (a movie file if it's video, or something like an mp3 or a wav file if it's audio), you can burn it to a DVD or CD, or share it on the internet.
- The cheapest method, by far. Chances are, your computer already comes with software that will do this for you. Though you can get better software plus jacks that let you plug your device into your computer, and spend less than $50 for it.
- You have complete freedom to edit things however you want! For example, you can make your own DVDs these days with chapter breaks, titles on the menu, your own professional-looking display when people watch it on their TV, etc.
- Most transfer software also gives you "cleaning" capabilities. You can eliminate pops and scratch sounds from vinyl, add brightness to old dim videos, and so on.
- You have to know what you're doing. Fortunately these things aren't TOO hard to learn, in my opinion.
- The act can be very, very time consuming.
Personally I'd only suggest #1 if you know the professional who's doing the work and can trust him or her to do a thorough job, OR if the medium you're working with is so old and weird that you really can't use the other two options.
I highly suggest #2 if you have a LOT of stuff you'd like to transfer, and where quantity is much more important than special features. This is precisely what I did when I transferred my VHS collection. Could I have done it all on my computer? Yes. I do have the skills and software to do that. But it would have taken me FOREVER to do it. So what I did was use my DVD/VCR combo unit to transfer the bulk of my videos. Just load a video and a disc, hit a button, then work on something else while it did its thing. I didn't care about where it put the chapter breaks or things like that. I was just happy to have it transferred.
As for #3, I suggest this route if you have very special videos or music whose details you'd like to pay additional attention to. If you think it will be worth the time to remaster those old music recordings you have or to make a really nice video of your cousin's 3rd birthday party from the 1980s, then go ahead. Stores like Best Buy carry a lot of capturing devices like this. For music, I personally suggest MAGIX Audio Cleaning lab.