Conversion and Preservation for Future Generations: How Family History Can Be Preserved through Digital Files

oldphotos Your old photos and videos don’t have to die. With the advent of digital formats, one thing might surprise you: you can digitize just about any old format you can think of. Even if all you have are 8mm film strips and old black and white photos, these can not only be converted to a DVD or some other digital format, they can be enhanced and restored.

Converting Film To Digital Video

There are a few ways to convert analog to digital. When you have old film, it’s going to be as simple as setting up a projector and a digital camcorder. Turn the sound off on the camcorder and arrange the film projector such that it displays a four or five inch picture on a clean, untextured, wall.

Position the camcorder such that you get a straighten recording, not an angled view of the film.

When the recording is done, you can edit it in something like iMovie or Movie Maker, though iMovie is infinitely easier (but you have to own a Macintosh to use it).

If you’re transferring a VHS tape, use either an S­video to USB or an RCA to USB converter. Plug your VCR or camcorder into your computer and start recording. Your converter should come with special software to help you do this.

Finally, you can buy a special piece of hardware that contains both a VCR component and a writable DVD drive. Simply stick the VHS tape into the VCR. Now, insert a blank, writable DVD into the other drive. Start the recording.

As for editing, once the video is on your computer, you can use iMovie or Windows Movie Maker to make simple edits. If you used the DVD/VCR combo, you’ll have to rip the DVD movie to your hard drive and then burn it back to another DVD (if you want it on DVD) after you finish editing.

Converting Photos To Digital

Converting photos is a little easier than converting video. All you need is a good­ quality color scanner. Scan all of your photos into your computer. Then, when that’s done, you can use a basic photo editor (your computer’s native photo editor) to make simple edits. When you’re done, you can integrate them into a compilation video or just publish them independently or send them to friends and family individually.

File Sharing Tips

There are several ways for you to share your videos and photos once they’re fully converted. One very efficient way is to use torrent software to distribute the digitized content. Torrent software lets you take large rich media files that may not be allowed by your email service because of file size limitations and allows you to share videos directly with another person.

If you want to share photos, it’s easier than trying to shrink them down to a size acceptable for most email programs (which limit file sizes to a mere 2GBs).

Another option is to publish your photos online through sites like Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, or Instagram. This option comes with some risks, however. You lose control over the file format, and you have to make sure you set privacy settings correctly. Otherwise, everyone on the Internet will be able to view your photos and videos.

Just make sure you aren’t sharing files you didn’t create, or where the copyright holder has not authorized sharing.

Oscar Griffith is an experienced archive manager with a deep love for others. With a passion for using his career skills to help others in daily life, he loves blogging about his insights into preserving and sharing old memories in the digital world.

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