Digitizing home videos

Well I’ve started a process which I think all fathers do at some time in their life – converting those old analog home videos to a digital format.

Yep, I had an Ikea box of old tapes just sitting on the shelf.


Many tapes never even seen since they were recorded…

So I have embarked on a project to digitize them all.   I’ve decided to get them as is onto a hard drive, and convert them unedited to some format where the family can view them on the PS3 or Media Server.   And then when I retire (HA!), I will edit them into little movies.

What sort of effort is involved here?

Well, I’ve counted 20 miniDV tapes, each holding a maximum of 1 hour video footage.   And I’ve already digitized those in 3 days at an average of 12GB per tape.   That was easy since iMovie automatically rewinds the tape, transfers the video footage by event and with timestamps intact, and then rewinds the tape again!

But I’ve also got 27 Video8 tapes, each about 90 minutes each.   And although I’m able to digitize them through the miniDV camera’s video in, this is going to take a while as I need to stop them manually, split them into events manually and try to figure out the capture dates from the timestamp at the beginning of each video.


I think I’ve got a handful of VHS tapes from my Dad’s old huge VHS video camera with video before we had kids, but I’m not even going to look for those tapes yet!

The kids are loving it so far – seeing footage of them when they were growing up, in the house they grew up in, when they still had dummies, drank milk from a bottle, wore nappies.

Funny question for the morning – Miss 9 asking, “Why aren’t you recording it now?”

“Err..  I have to rewind the tape first.”

Puzzled look…    “???”

Kids have it too easy nowadays!


3 thoughts on “Digitizing home videos”

  1. Hey Jase,

    I’ve got to do the same, just wondering what format did you end up converting them into, is there like a RAW format for digital video for MiniDV tapes?

    Just wanting to get them off the tapes, and edit them down the track, but wanting them as close to original quality as possible… and if it is a format that the PS3 or AirVideo can read, then it’ll be a bonus! 🙂

    Now you’ve got me something to do these school holidays during my ‘spare’ time… 😉



    1. Sam – DV comes over as-is into a .dv file on your Mac (I imported using iMovie using Firewire). So it should be an exact copy of what’s on your miniDV tape!

      However, with my AVCHD footage, I can also bring over the raw footage (mts or m2ts files), but unfortunately iMovie (or I think even FCP), doesn’t support the mts/m2ts AVCHD codec, so they have to be converted to AIC or some other format for editing purposes. iMovie can now do this on the fly, or there’s several third party products that do it too (eg. Voltaic) or evne products that can make the mts/m2ts file pretend to be an AIC format file (eg. ClipWrap). I’m still investigating the HD scenario, so no blog post yet 🙂

  2. Thanks for this overview Jason.

    I’m about to digitize several dozen miniDV tapes and am happy to know I will be able to preserve the timestamp of each recording.

    Question for you: for any given miniDV tape, does iMovie parse individual recordings into separate files or is something you had to do manually? In other words, does iMovie digitize a single 60 minute video that must be manually cut, or does it digitize separate videos for each take?


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