The Gift of Memories

Yesterday, I finally unpacked a box that had been sitting on the top shelf of my closet since we moved into this house over 18 months ago. Along with assorted candles I forgot I had, balls of yarn I was never going to use to knit a sweater, and cross stitch projects I was never going to finish, I found our collection of MiniDV cassette tapes with titles like “Our Wedding” and “Christmas 1994”.

It’s hard to believe that owning a mini camcorder seemed like the hippest thing in the world back then. We had - then considered state of the art - a JVC camcorder with the newly introduced LCD screen which had replaced our clunky Sony Video 8 with a viewfinder. By 1995, Panasonic had introduced digital recording but we couldn’t really afford to replace our camcorder for equipment that wasn’t compatible with the computer we owned at the time.

The cassettes got packed away when we got rid of our VHS player and I always had the intention of having them converted to DVD. Of course, now our computers don’t have disc drives and we’ve traded in our DVD and Blu-ray players in favor or streaming services, so I’m actually glad I procrastinated on doing that. But now, I have no way of watching these and no way of sharing them with my family.

So, I have decided to get off the pot and convert these to a digital format that can be viewed on all of my devices and shared with anyone who wants to see them. But how to do it?

If you want to do it yourself, I suggest you check out They have detailed instructions and a full list of everything you’ll need to convert your old home movies. They warn that your time to convert those movies on tape is running out since magnetic tape only lasts from 10 to 30 years before it starts degrading Since most of our home movies were recorded in the mid to late 90s, the clock is ticking for ours.

If you are were lucky enough to still have your camcorder or VHS recorder, you can buy a video conversion kit for Mac or PC for about $80 that allows you to capture your movies on old VHS, Beta, or camcorder tapes and convert them to DVD or digital format.

If you are like me and your camcorder is long gone, your only option beyond buying an old camcorder on eBay, is to pay a professional to convert your tapes for you. Here are some of the top-rated conversion services:

  • Legacy Box starts at $59.99 for 2 tapes, 2 films, or 2 sets of 25 pictures and finishes with its 40 piece truck (40 tapes, films or 40 sets of 25 pictures) for $1,099.99. While that sounded really steep to me at first, I realized that preserving these precious home movies to share with our grandchildren and for them to share with their grandchildren was worth the cost.

  • Walmart offers conversion services started at $15.96 for the first $30 minutes and $7.46 for each additional 30 minutes.

  • Nostalgic Media charges by the tape like legacy box. The price for converting one tape to digital is $30, but 2-10 cost only $19 each, and 11-20 are $18 each.

I’m going to go the pro route and send mine off in the hopes that I can get them back by Christmas time. I think my sons will truly enjoy spending some time on Christmas day watching movies that none of us have seen in 15 years. I can’t think of a better gift for all of us.

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