A Step-by-Step Guide to Digitizing and Sharing your Old Family Movies
If you digitize your family archives but don’t share them, are you really preserving them? Simply put, the answer is NO. Your old analog photos and videos are treasure troves of memories. In fact, they are stories waiting to be brought to life. So digitizing them is only half the battle. Once they are digitized, you need to take the next step: sharing! Making your digitized family movies easy to share can bring your family closer together. Telling family stories deepens bonds and is also a lot of fun! To help you share your old family movies, we created a step-by-step guide to digitizing and sharing your old family movies.
- Make smart digitizing decisions. Most video transfer companies charge by the tape, even if there is limited amount of footage. So, select the tapes that are most important to you and your family. Start by separating Movie VHS from tapes with handwritten labels that are likely to be home movies. This will help with budgeting and prioritizing. After all, your family archives take priority over commercial movies. Purchasing your own video converter on eBay or Amazon is a cost-effective, but time consuming, option. If you go this DIY route, you could lose out on the expertise of technicians who have extensive knowledge of formats and optimal digitizing processes. Whether you do your tape conversion at home, or outsource the project to professionals, always select a machine or a vendor that transfers your tapes to a computer file BEFORE burning DVDs. Once your video is on a DVD, you can’t edit it. To do any editing, you will need the original file.
- Don’t forget about your old family photos! Editing your family videos into a montage that includes photos is a creative way to make your video collection fun to watch. It can be boring to watch hours of video that spans decades. So adding vintage family photos helps make the viewing experience more interesting. Consider creating a 10 to 20 minute montage that includes the most meaningful parts of a loved one’s life. Or, perhaps you could create a montage that highlights milestones in your family history? Video + photo montages = a wonderful way to relive memories without everyone having to sit down for hours! When you’re making your montage, include powerful photos that complement the videos and break up the film clips. Choosing the right software is also important. We recommend ProShow, which offers free trials and a variety of options. ProShow is intuitive and user-friendly; it will help streamline the process. That said, it can still take many hours to review, edit and curate all of your videos. That’s just one reason why many of our clients come to us for assistance – we can help streamline the digitizing process and offer tips for curating your movies. Here’s an example of what you can do when incorporating old family movies and photos into a montage:
- Don’t let perfection be your enemy. You don’t have to be Ken Burns, you just have to take time to create a fun montage for your family. If the idea of creating a long montage is overwhelming, you could still make a short one! There’s quality, free film editing software like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker available for hobbyists. Simply clip out the best parts of each tape, and then save them in small, labeled bites. Don’t be afraid of creating a lot of these short clips! Creating a lot of short clips saves you time and is better for sharing. These smaller clips are perfect for social media because they are short, and the file size will be smaller.
- Maximize your sharing possibilities. There are many convenient ways to share videos with your family. Here are the top options:
- DVDs: Even folks who aren’t tech-savvy are familiar with how to watch a DVD. For many of our clients, DVDs are still the best choice for enjoying longer videos. Just keep in mind, they take up shelf space!
- USBs: The advantage of sharing movies on USBs can be summed up in one word – versatility! Just about any computer is able to read the files. But be careful not to assume that your television can display them, even if your TV has a USB port. We utilize USBs for sharing and organizing smaller video clips. USBs are also a viable option for holding your entire video and photo collections, if a family member wants a copy of their own. You can quickly create a copy of the original USB for your loved ones to keep in their homes.
- The Cloud: Many cloud services, like Dropbox, offer a free option to share your videos (and photos too!). You can sign up, upload the digital file(s) and send links to your family for their viewing pleasure. With your permission, they can even download the files onto their own computers to have a permanent copy. Be wary of sharing large files this way, though, because they take a looooong time to download. Another fun benefit of sharing family movies online is social media collaboration. When you share one of your family movies on Facebook, you can tag loved ones. That way, they can comment and join in the conversation and memory-making!
We hope this step-by-step guide to digitizing and sharing your old family movies will help you get the most out of the memories that have been hiding in your attic and basement.
Digitizing your family photos and videos is the first step to celebrating your family history and sharing your legacy with future generations. There’s no perfect time to get started – just grab those boxes of films and photos and get going today. Your family will thank you.
If you need help tackling your family photo and video preservation projects, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.
About the Author: Eric Niloff is the co-founder and CEO of EverPresent, a company dedicated to helping thousands of families to digitize, organize and share their family photos and videos. Eric writes and advises on family history preservation. For more tips and tricks about digitizing analog family photos and videos, follow along with EverPresent on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.