Expert Tips For Preserving Your Memories Stored On Obsolete Videotapes

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — These days, special moments are recorded on our cell phones or cameras. But it wasn’t that long ago those same moments were saved on tape.

While digital may last forever, that’s not the case for your videotapes. But there are ways you can save your memories before they’re lost forever.

They are the cherished memories of our lives, saved forever on tapes in that box in the back of the closet, or are they really saved forever?

“The materials that are made up of the VHS tape itself just starts to corrode and deteriorate. As a result of the deterioration, the data is lost on the tape,” said Katie Funaki, of Rewind Memories.

Cary Reed arrived at Rewind Memories in Squirrel Hill with a hand full of tapes recently, not really sure of the contents.

“Couldn’t play them,” she said, “so that’s why we haven’t seen them in such a long time.”

DVDs sent VHS machines to the dust gathering crevices of our homes or to the garbage long ago, and a functioning tape player these days is a rarity.

Like many of us, Jessica Schumaker’s family memories are trapped in analogue limbo. But that limbo has limits. The life of a quality VHS tape is about 10 to 25 years.

That’s why Schumaker came in to Rewind Memories before it’s too late.

“Just to preserve all of it,” says Schumaker. “We loved our videos; we watched them all the time, and we haven’t seen them in years.”

The machines at Rewind Memories can convert any type of video tape to a digital format.

“We put it on a hard copy like a playable DVD,” says Funaki

Or, she says, “Any kind of digital file that will play on a Mac or a PC. That is definitely the most flexible.”

“I got them put on MP4s, so I can edit them when I get home,” said Bruce Connelly, a customer from Greenfield.

That is exactly what a lot of people want to do, trim things down a bit, but leave the embarrassing parts of course.

So you’ve got a box of tapes and by now you’re wondering, how much is this going to cost me?

“It’s $15.95 for a playable DVD and $19.99 for a digital data file,” Funaki said.

The turnaround time is a few weeks.

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There are other methods to the same end.

There machines you can buy that will play the VHS tape in one side and record directly onto a DVD on the other. However, they will run you from $180 to $330 new. Also, the DVD will end up with exactly what is on your VHS tape – good and bad.

You can also set up your home computer to take in the video with one of several programs that are available.

The setup is fairly simply and using video and audio cables provided, you can plug in any type of player or camera and dub into a computer in real time. A two-hour tape will take two hours. But tapes also take up a lot of computer memory.

“If it’s an average tape of two hours, it’s about two to three gigabytes per tape,” Funaki says.

That can gobble up your hard drive very quickly, so purchasing an external hard drive for video storage is wise.

In this setup, it’s $80 for the hardware\software program that works on either Macs or PCs, and $139 for the five terabyte hard drive.

And with this system, you can burn either a DVD or a data disc, which ever you choose.

Before you begin, a couple of words of caution.

Because you are dealing with old video tape, there is no way to know how it’s going to hold up to being played. So use a head cleaner on the VHS machine first and try to do the dubbing the first time you play the tape. Depending on its age, there’s no way to know if it will continue to play if you rewind and start over.

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