It’s hard to believe DVDs were first introduced in America only 17 years ago. If anything exciting happened to you before 1997—and you were lucky enough to capture video of it—I have some bad news: That luck is running out. That’s because most VHS tapes have a life expectancy of between 10 and 25 years, after which they begin to quickly degrade. The good news is that you may still have time to save yours by transferring them to DVD.
VHS tapes don’t follow a steady path of decline.
Once they begin to deteriorate, the process speeds up. So, you may see very little deterioration over the first five or even ten years. But once it starts to show, you don’t have another five or ten years to decide whether to transfer them to DVD. Wait too long, and in some cases, playback could become impossible. Now, the DVD is a relatively young medium, so the jury is still out on its life expectancy. But best estimates suggest that if the discs are properly stored in a dry, secure case, they could last upwards of 50 years.
Keep in mind that the beginnings stages of tape degradation aren’t visible to the naked eye. That’s why I don’t suggest waiting until a tape looks sickly before you transfer it. I suggest transferring all your beloved home movies to DVD sooner rather than later. To preserve memories of births and weddings, birthday parties and graduations, holidays and school events, big games and sweet little moments—it’s money well spent.
Here are some of the added benefits of transferring to DVD:
• DVDs are digital and result in little to no loss of quality during transfer.
• Sometimes it’s possible to improve the color of the video during the process.
• You don’t have to transfer the whole tape. Just know the time stamps for the starting and ending points of the segment you want.
• Custom menus can be added for quick and easy navigation.
• Playback is far easier and more practical than with VHS.
• DVDs take up substantially less storage space than VHS tapes.
By the way, even 8mm, 16mm, and Super 8 home films can be transferred to DVD. This means you have a chance to preserve not only your memories but also those of your parents and grandparents that were lucky enough to be caught on film!