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October 6, 2011

How To Preserve Your Old Family Movies

This Olive Tree Genealogy step-by-step tutorial will walk you through how to convert your old home movies and save them to a more up-to-date digital format.

Old Family Movies

Oh those old family home video tapes! Remember them? Using a video camera the size of two large loaves of bread, we took dozens and dozens of VHS tapes of our children and grandchildren. But what's happening to those tapes now? Do you even have a VCR player to watch them?

If you're like me, you have dozens of dusty VHS tapes taken in the 1980s and 1990s in storage or on a bookcase in the family room. You don't have a VCR, you can't watch them and day by day, year by year they are degrading.

There are most likely movies of different family reunions and almost certainly many of the family members are no longer with us. There's a movie clip of little Joey taking his first steps. How about the movie of your oldest winning a medal at Graduation? So many family moments and if you're like me you're starting to worry that they'll be lost forever if you don't do something

What's Available?

One of my sons has been urging me to transfer all our old home movies to digital format, preferably to a DVD so that they are preserved for a few more years. Why do I say "a few more years"? Because technology changes and a format that is viewable today will not likely be viewable in the future.

Earlier this week I finally got around to ordering something I hope will allow me to transfer the old VHS tapes to digital. First I did my homework. I read dozens of reviews. I compared capabilities of different devices.

I could have purchased a machine that played the tapes and burned them to a DVD at the same time.  Too much money for a one-time use to suit me!

One-Touch Capture

So I opted for a one-touch capture, which basically forms a link from a VCR to your computer via a USB port, enabling conversion and transfer of a VHS tape, and then a burn to a DVD.

After reading many reviews I bought the top-rated Diamond One-Touch Video Capture unit from It arrived one day after ordering and today I plan to put it to use.

Thank goodness I have a mother-in-law who still watches old VHS movies on a VCR! I borrowed it yesterday to make the transfer.

I'll let you know how it goes and whether or not I am able to preserve and digitize those precious family memories.


I'm still struggling with the whole process but I am really enjoying watching bits and pieces of the home movies we took back in the 1980s! So far I've watched my youngest son's 5th birthday party where he asks "Can I open my presents now?" every few minutes, my oldest son reading a story called "Skindiver" (complete with actions) to his 5 year old brother, watched my youngest son's Kindergarten Christmas play, a very old family reunion that I'd forgotten we held, and many other snippets of family life when my boys were young.
I've laughed, I've chuckled and I've shed a few tears. The reality is that many of the family in these videos are deceased. That's life but it is sad to see them smiling and laughing and realize they are no longer with us.

Converting Tapes to DVD

But it's worth a bit of sadness to preserve the memories. So far I have managed to capture and burn almost 2 hours of tapes to DVD. Mind you I can only watch them on my computer as I wasn't able to convert them to be viewable in a DVD player but I'll figure that out eventually. For now I'm just happy to have them in digital format.

It's a very long process though so I hope my boys aren't in a rush for these. I think they'll be so pleased to watch that they won't mind the wait.

Using the One-Touch Video Capture Unit

Back of old VCR
If you are thinking of taking the time to convert your old VHS tapes, here's what I had to do with my Diamond One-Touch Video Capture unit from

1. Download the software and set that up first
2. Next I hooked the cables that came with the unit to a borrowed VCR
3. Plugged the other end into my USB port
USB port plug-in
4. Open EzGrabber and fiddle with settings until you find the one that works for you. You will have to play a tape in the VCR to see what setting gives you the best quality capture.

I used  the following:

* Video: Video Format NTSC_M   Video Source Composite
* Capture Button: Capture Video
* Snapshot: jpg (although I don't plan on capturing any still photos)
* Record: DVD

These settings worked for me. They might not work for you so try different settings if you need to


The Grandmother Here said...

I've got old movie camera movies of our kids from about 1980. In a box. Never transferred to a newer technology. Our great grandmothers had it right when they got paper pictures from the photographer. No equipment required.

Patti said...

I need to do this, that's for sure.

My parents recently had my grandfather's home movies from the 40's and 50's digitized. You know, those old 8 mm films. The films were in surprisingly good shape for their age (said the man who did the work for them), but who knows how much longer they would have stayed in that shape.

They sent me a DVD of the finished product...finally, a chance to see the face of my great-grandfather!!

Charlie said...

I used this and it's awesome.
ADS Tech DVD Xpress DX2 Video Converter

Amazon - $45.00

Family Film Reviews said...

I personally love when comedic actors do serious roles. I think it benefits both the audience and the actor. Just think if robin williams never did a serious role. As somebody who loves everything comedy, I feel like a good serious role deepens my love for that actor and impresses me when they can nail both. Also it goes the other way to. Good dramatic actors doing hilarious comedic characters... Tom Cruise... Boom