Consumer Reports: Converting film and VHS footage to digital

Plenty of people chronicle their lives in pictures and videos, but changing times have also led to changing formats.

A lot of families have captured important moments on film and VHS, but who even owns a VCR anymore?

If you've got a stockpile of meaningful memories that are literally unwatchable, Consumer Reports can help.

Family memories are priceless -- until you go to convert them to digital, then you'll see how pricey they can actually be!

"The technology keeps evolving and it's left a lot of people with home videos they can't even watch," said Elias Arias, Consumer Reports.

Experts at Consumer Reports have some guidance on getting your old media out of the attic and onto your computer, including how to do it yourself.

If you've got VHS tapes, first you'll need a VCR - remember what that is? Sites like eBay and Craigslist may have low-priced options.

You also need to pick up something called an analog video capture device. Just be sure to look for one that comes with software. It has audio and video inputs on one end that you connect to the VCR, and a USB on the other end which plugs into your computer. It allows you to capture what's on your old tapes and digitally transfer it to your computer.

"The biggest investment is probably time. It's an analog process, and an hour of video is going to take an hour to transfer," warns Arias.

More work than you bargained for? You can also pay a service.

Several chains transfer old photographs and videos in many formats, even including film. Those chains include Costco, Walgreens and Walmart Photo. There are plenty more online.

But be aware: aside from the expense, another potential drawback is you'll be sending irreplaceable memories through a shipping service, so make sure your package is trackable.

At some point, even today's digital format may become obsolete. So Consumer Reports suggests saving your files in well-labeled, easy to find places on your computer, and backing them up to an external hard drive and to the cloud.

Learn more with the full story from Consumer Reports.
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