A mere two weeks have elapsed since I started my video digitization project, which is nearly complete. On April 17 (my Nana Grayce’s 94th birthday) I finished digitally converting the last of the VHS tapes that would play. Unfortunately, three tapes were too damaged to play. I was also afraid that three others would be unplayable, after the JVC VCR wrenched the tape off of the leader during rewinding. This turned into an opportunity for me, however — I learned how to disassemble VHS cartridges, how to splice videotape, and how to reassemble the cartridges (which I got good at after doing it wrong a number of times) — and the tapes played just fine.
My setup was complex last weekend: three VCRs and three analog-to-digital converters capturing three different tapes in iMovie on three Dell computers. I’m glad the iSchool’s IT Lab has comfortable chairs on wheels, because I was sitting and gliding among the computers for six hours on both Saturday and Sunday. The tapes I was working with were long, between 1-3 hours, and saving the DV and MPEG-4 files took a long time, too. I actually let the computers run those files overnight on Saturday, so I could begin transfers right away on Sunday at noon.
Perhaps I should have put the bottom line on top: most of the videos are available to view! A few (the amazing 8MM copies, my so-so art film, and “Matt and Anita’s Excellent Adventure”) aren’t currently functioning, but I’ll fix ’em eventually. For those that do play, I plan to add more metadata (fuller descriptions, durations, names, and locations) and markers, so viewers will know where to jump to certain sections. If you find any links that don’t work, or a video that won’t load, please let me know. The degradable HTML5 plugin I’ve activated should run videos on the best to the most basic online video players, but every computer in the world is its own quirky object, so one never knows what’ll happen. Anyway, having completed this much work in so little time, and to have (in)tangible proof of my efforts available on my site, I feel a fine sense of accomplishment, and I’m looking forward to watching the home movies more closely soon.