Back up some old videos?
May 29, 2009 5:07 PM   Subscribe

Best way to get analog 8mm videotapes to digital format?

Hi green gang - I would like to finally finish a long standing todo. I have approximately 15 8mm analog video tapes that I would like to have digitized (is DVD best?). My camera no longer works so I can't play 'em back.

Also some of them may have some audible hum that would be nice to be filtered out.

What's the most straightforward way to preserve these memories?
posted by toastchee to Technology (6 answers total)
Are you looking to do this yourself or have someone else do it?

Do you want to have the flexibility of editing or putting it online?

Do you have a Mac or PC?

If it were me I would buy (or borrow) a used digital 8mm camera -- make sure it has firewire (it should if it is digital) and the ability to play analog 8mm tapes (I would try Sony). Capture it to your computer or, preferably, an external hard drive for safe keeping. Once you've done this, depending on your setup, you can make DVDs.

The hum might be tougher. I know Final Cut Pro on the Mac has some hum removal filters, but I don't know about consumer-level software.
posted by starman at 5:27 PM on May 29, 2009

Like Starman said, buy or borrow a digital8 camera or deck, and capture to your computer. Burn DVDs of the tapes to watch, if you want, but also keep the captured files on data disc if possible (and keep the original tapes, unless storage space is really that much of a premium). You can also convert the captured files to Quicktime or WMV or AVI or whatever you prefer, for sharing with friends, watching on mobile devices etc.

For sound removal, freeware programs such as Audacity are widepread. Find one from a reliable shareware index like cnet or versiontracker.

What sort of computer do you have/have access to? What's your technical background? Do you have any A/V skills, or are you starting from zero? It may save a lot of time to find a film student at a local high school or college to deal with this for you.
posted by jtron at 5:46 PM on May 29, 2009

Save yourself a lot of grief, and avoid likely sub-par results, and let someone else do it. There are transfer shops all over the place. Heck, I saw a tape-to-DVD transfer sign posted on the side of the road last week. Not that I would recommend you go with a business that advertises like that ...
posted by intermod at 7:52 PM on May 29, 2009

Best answer: The kind of camcorder you want, if you're going to do this yourself, is called "Digital8". It was a competitor to MiniDV (basically it was MiniDV, just using 8mm cassettes). I think some cheaper cameras didn't digitize analog tapes and play them out the FireWire output, but the prosumer ones did.

If you can get one of those, you can just pop your tapes in, fire up iMovie or your other editor of choice, and record them to disk. From there you can produce DVDs or dump them back to MiniDV or any other format of your choice. (I recommend DVDs and keeping the DV files on MiniDV tape or a hard drive.)

The other alternative is a analog-to-digital converter like the Canopus boxes; these generally cost more than a camcorder though (especially since you may be able to get one used, with a lot of people going to the tapeless HD jobs). With those you'd still need a camcorder to play the tapes, but it could be an older non-Digital 8mm one. You'd just hook up the Canopus box like you were hooking the camcorder up to a TV, then connect the Canopus to the computer via FireWire, and press play on the camcorder once you started recording the FireWire stream.

I have a Canopus (the ADVC100) and it works very well; I don't use it that much anymore but I keep it around in case someone asks me to help them transfer an old analog tape. As a bonus, if you get one you can use it to connect a TV up to your computer to use as a video monitor, if your editing software will use FireWire as a monitor-out. (FCE/FCP and iMovie both will, I think.)

Of course, you can always just take the videos to a professional and have them transferred. If you are going to do that, I would have them transferred both to DVD and MiniDV tape. This is because the compression on the DVDs makes them unsuitable for much editing down the road; the MiniDV cassettes are compressed in a way that makes them much easier to edit later. It's also easy to find equipment to copy the contents of the MiniDV cassettes onto a hard drive, where you can back it up along with the rest of your important data and migrate it to new storage media in the future.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:23 PM on May 29, 2009

Related question: Is there a rule of thumb for minutes of tape per GB of hard drive space?
posted by fairmettle at 4:16 AM on May 30, 2009

According to this, about 187 MB per minute, 11 gigs an hour (I've also seen 13 gigs an hour). So maybe about 5 minutes per GB.
posted by starman at 6:33 AM on May 30, 2009

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