How to preserve the old VHS

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If you have VHS you should think about digitizing them as soon as possible. The contents deteriorate even if the cassette is not used. All of us, unless we are millennials, have had, and perhaps still have, films on VHS. Next to famous titles that we can however recover in other forms, we will also have much more valuable VHS. Self-produced films, videos of when we were children, scenes from a wedding, the eighteenth birthday. Memories of a distant era, which we somehow preserve on tape. Maybe we no longer have a VCR or a video recorder at home, but we jealously keep our VHS. They reassure us, we know that they are there and that if we want, sooner or later we could see them again. Or not?

But could it happen that over time these precious ribbons deteriorate to the point where they can no longer be used? Could it be that you no longer find a reader to connect to the TV to see our tapes? In both cases the answer is yes. Which one of you still has a home video recorder connected to the TV? Let’s try to understand how to preserve our VHS and what to do to ensure long life of our videos.

The best way to preserve our videocassettes

The old original videocassettes of the films were generally contained in plastic boxes complete with a colored cover. Those boxes compared to the cardboard envelopes that hold the empty VHS on which we recorded, are more suitable to protect the tapes. They shield the light and protect it from humidity. A good rule could be to put the videotape in a plastic bag and seal it. For permanent storage, after having sealed them in the bag, you must put them back in their box, and then place them vertically in a cardboard box. Before closing it is important to catalog them, so as to know the contents of the box. Now we can seal the box in turn with adhesive tape and then place it in a dry place away from moisture.

In this way we will keep our VHS, but we will probably never see them again. The less romantic and decidedly more practical alternative is to convert VHS to digital.

How to convert VHS to digital

The conversion operation of a digital videotape will allow us to have our video on a less perishable and easy to use support. We probably don’t have a VCR in the house anymore, but we definitely have a DVD player. Or a PC that reads our DVDs, or a laptop. In short, everything will be simpler, and the conversion will guarantee a long life for our videos.

Clearly it makes no sense to digitally convert an old movie that we could find for sale in the original version for just a few euros. The quality would be poor and not worth it. As for personal videos, there is no choice, and digitizing them from VHS to DVD or save them on the computer is the only way to save them from oblivion.

The quickest way to do this is to contact a professional. Often the photographer at home is able to solve this problem with low costs.

If we want to do it ourselves, and we’re a bit of a geek, here’s what we need:

  1. VHS video recorder
  2. PC or laptop, with enough space on the hard disk
  3. Video grabber. This is a fundamental element that we generally do not have at home. But very cheap grabbers are on sale, even online. These are connected to the computer via a USB port. While connected to the VHS recorder with RCA audio cables (red, white and yellow) and an S-Video cable. These can also be replaced by a SCART adapter.

After installing our grabber software and connecting the video recorder, we can convert our video to various formats. We could choose between MP4, AVI, and other formats. In this way we will have videos on PC, and we could then, if we wanted, burn them to DVD.

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