Whilst VHS itself is a slowly dying medium many people still have home movies on VHS tapes and there are collectors that want to watch but not wear out their tape collection. As such, a small industry has sprung up offering conversion of VHS tapes and other analogue formats to modern, digital equivalents such as DVD and digital files like MP4.
VHS tapes won’t last forever, over time they can degrade or become damaged if not looked after. Exposure to extreme temperatures, sunlight and humidity can damage tapes. To preserve your tapes, store them upright, preferably in a case or cover, in a cool, dry environment and away from direct sunlight. It’s also worth noting that storing tapes close to speakers and magnets can also affect your recordings. Be careful when handling tapes and always rewind after every use. Treating them with care will help to preserve them for longer.
Another often forgotten aspect of good tape maintenance is actually playing or at least winding them every so often. The tape can almost stick together so it is useful to give your tapes a rewind and fast forward once a year to just keep them in good working order.
In an ideal world, you will want to convert the video to a digital format. MPEG-2 is a good format for creating DVD’s from if that is your thing or MP4 is as solid format for watching, storing and sharing the files if maximum quality is not your major concern – really only true videophiles will see the difference between an MPEG-2 and an MP4 and the MP4 can be a quarter of the size.
You can transfer the VHS tapes yourself with a variety of off the shelf software. You will need a working VHS player and either a hardware video card that allows the capture of video or often a consumer-grade USB device such as the VHS to DVD deluxe will do the job. You can find devices for as low as £10 online, but the quality is often not quite up to scratch. In our experience you are best to use a professional VHS to DVD / Digital conversion service like Vinyl to Digital or alternatively if you want to tackle this yourself there is a great guide here.
With conversion locked down you can store your tapes in a dark, dry location ideally with little in the way of fluctuating heat and this surprisingly robust format will likely be good for many years to come and you can enjoy the digitised footage safe in the knowledge that you can watch the footage time and time again without wearing out your tapes.