Did You Know That Your Home Movies Have An Expiration Date?
Those old graduation films, your wedding video, your baby’s first steps. All of those old videos, whether video, beta, mini DV or Super 8 – have a shelf life and it’s not as long as you think.
Just ask HGTV’s Lisa LaPorta. When we interviewed her for our book Get Your Stuff Together, she told me about the day she slid her beloved high school videos into the video player and they were absolutely gone. Not just beige, or a little hard to hear, but completely and absolutely degraded to the point where those movies could no longer be watched.
How do you keep the same thing from happening to your movies and videos? Glad you asked…
Before we start backing up your current movies and videos, here are a few tips on safeguarding all the videos you’ll be taking in the future.
Do you regularly take videos with your iPhone or Smartphone?
If you do, how often do you download them to your computer for printing or safekeeping? Everyone should get into the habit of downloading their new pictures and videos every few days. Dropbox is a great tool for this. It’s a free application/web based file box that syncs up the photos and documents on your smartphone or tablet with your computer. All you have to do is set up and download their app on your phone, tablet or iPod Touch. Then save your new photos to your Dropbox folder and they’ll be waiting for you at home on your computer. In fact most of the newer generation Wi-Fi video cameras, or cameras with an Eye-Fi smart memory card do the same thing.
The Truth About Videos…
Videos just aren’t like other keepsakes. With photos, MP3s or even important documents, we can just throw them onto a computer or a portable hard drive and back them up or take them with us in an emergency. The videos that we’ve taken the last five or ten years with a digital video camera are easy to archive. But the videos that we treasure the most are usually on videocassettes or worse, 8mm film. Try taking those with you in an evacuation! If those one-of-a-kind family movies on video cassette are destroyed, they’re gone forever.
And that’s not the only problem.
With JVC, Sony, Panasonic and other video cameras and smartphones as inexpensive and easy to use as they are today, chances are that you have more videos of you, your family and friends, and the special moments of your life than ever before.
But if you’re like most people, all of those videos are sitting on your computer, in a bunch of different places. Or worse, you have 10 or 20 of them sitting on your video camera, just waiting to be accidentally overwritten. Whether digital, on videocassette or film, all it takes is one fire, flood, fried hard drive, or hacked You Tube account and all of those memories are gone, along with a huge piece of your family’s history.
One other thing that you need to think about is the fact that videos and even film don’t last forever. The latest statistic is that videos degrade in just eight or ten years. And by degrade, I don’t mean that they get a little faded. Videos lose their sound and can become garbled to the point that you can’t even watch them anymore. Not what you want when you pop in that wedding video or the tape of your baby’s first steps.
Film, like Super 8 or 8mm reels, lasts longer (30 to 50 years), but it’s much harder to watch unless you have a projector and is harder to transfer to DVD for safekeeping. But don’t worry, we’ve got some great tips on easy ways to preserve both film and video in the Take Action steps below.
Your goal for this section is to make all of your treasured videos and films completely accessible to you during a disaster, emergency evacuation, computer or Internet meltdown.
Just follow the steps below to locate all of your important videos, copy them and store them in at least three secure, damage-proof locations.
1. You Can’t Archive Them If You Can’t Find Them…
Grab a pencil and paper and jot down the types of videos you want to secure, their format (digital file/format, standard video cassette, DVD or special sized video cassette) and their current location.
Using the list you just compiled, locate and gather all of the videos that you want to secure and set them aside for a moment.
2. Any Videos Lurking On Your Hard Drive?
Do you have any home videos on your computer?
Yes? Then let’s start with them. And while you’re at it, grab your video camera and cell phone so you can download any videos that are still there.
Create one new folder on your computer desktop and name it Backup Videos (dd/mm/yy) with today’s date.
Locate all of the digital videos that you want to keep safe. Leave the original files where they are on your computer, copying each one into the new Backup folder.
Instead of taking the time to choose which videos you want to keep safe and which you don’t really care about, it’s much easier just to copy them all for right now and back them all up. Then some time when you have nothing better to do, you can come back and sort through them.
3. Now for the Super 8 & Videocassettes
Now it’s time to deal with your 8mm or Super 8 films and video cassettes. Take a few moments to gather them and separate them into two different piles.
In Pile 1, place any videos that you want to copy and save in a digital format.
In Pile 2, place videos that you:
Already have in digital format and could easily recopy if the one you’re holding were harmed or destroyed.
Have numerous other copies of the video in other locations. (Check to make sure that this is actually so before you decide not to copy them)
Simply don’t care enough about to keep it disaster safe.
Go ahead and put the videos in the second pile back where you found them.
4. The Best Way To Copy Videocassettes
The only way to archive your films and videos is to copy or transfer them into a digital format and save them to your computer or onto a DVD. There are a few great ways to do this yourself or you can have a professional do it.
If your movies are on videocassette , ION makes a great little device called a Video 2 PC Analog To Digital USB Video Converter for your PC or Mac. It’s a small device — you plug one end into your computer and the other end into your VCR and it saves your videos in digital format on your computer.
5. What About My Super 8 Movies?
If you have reels of 8mm &Super 8 films lying around, you’ll need to have them transferred to digital format professionally.
There’s a wonderful company called iMemories that helped us digitize our movies. They’ll even send you a safe ship kit equipped with a GPS locator to pinpoint your movies’ exact location, every step of the way. And they do an incredible job of transferring film, videotapes, audio files and photos . The best part is that once they’re completed, you can share them with your friends and relatives in your own private online theater.
6. Where and how you decide to secure and store your videos is up to you. But here are a few ideas:
Once your videos are digital, you can place them:
On a portable hard drive or on a DVD, and take them with you during evacuation on a key ring or in your plastic evacuation bin.
On a flash drive or portable hard drive, in a safe deposit box or water/fireproof safe in your own city.
On a flash drive or portable hard drive, in a safe deposit box, water/fireproof safe, or with relatives in the city where you’ll be evacuating.
In a password-protected online file repository or on the file directory of your family’s personal web site. This way you can retrieve them from any Internet-enabled computer.
Upload them to your iMemories account. This way they’re not only safe, but you can share with family and friends.
On You Tube or another internet video site. This is great place to save an extra copy of your videos. Just be sure to uncheck the public viewing option or password protect the videos for your and your family’s eyes only. But this really shouldn’t be a long term solution, or your only solution. As much as we all love Internet sharing sites, you actually have no control over them. If the company were to go out of business, or if their servers were to crash, you could lose all of your data without any warning.