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Copying Home Videos

We still have a video player that works. It’s an ION VCR2PC “Video Conversion System”. It plays VHS tapes but is not a video recorder. On the box that the machine came in are the words, “Convert your memories to your PC”. I keep it in the box most of the time but last month I took it out and set it up for a few days, prompted by memories of my first trip to New York City. As I noted here I wanted to confirm the chronology of the trip as recorded on a 2-hour travelogue that we took at the time. While the video player was set up I made copies of this and other home videos.

The VCR2PC has a USB connection and enables you to record direct to a PC but I have never used it that way. The software that came with it is for Windows XP or Windows Vista. It might work on my Windows 7 netbook or my Windows 10 PC but I haven’t tried installing it. Instead I use a SCART lead to connect it to a Hard Disk Recorder, record onto that, and then burn a DVD from it. For some of the recordings I also use the AV connectors (red-white-yellow) to connect to my Archos device.

I am surprised to find that I have not mentioned the Archos in the 200,000 words posted so far on this Blog. My Archos 705 is nearly eight years old, an early form of tablet, long superseded by iPads and Android devices. Essentially it’s a hard drive with a screen attached, designed for viewing photos, watching videos or listening to music. The beauty of it for me is that it can record from any SCART or AV source (video or audio) and create files that can be copied, via USB, to a PC (WAV files for audio and AVI files for video). The AVI files will play on Windows PCs but not on a Mac. When the children were small the Archos provided many hours of entertainment and diversion on holiday and while travelling. The device also has basic Wi-Fi connectivity but I haven’t used it to browse the web for years.

For a few days I had the video player connected via SCART to the Hard Disk Recorder, and that was connected via AV leads to the Archos on its docking station. I would play back old home videos and simultaneously record them onto two hard drives (the Hard Disk Recorder and the Archos). I would then burn a DVD of each recording and copy the AVI files from my Archos to my netbook and various external drives. In making copies of cherished recordings I have adopted the “belt and braces, and another belt just in case” approach. Nearly everything that I have copied in recent days already existed on at least two tapes (the original mini-VHS and a VHS copy) and now every recording exists in at least six other places: on the hard drives of the Hard Disk Recorder and the Archos, as a finalized DVD, and as AVI files stored on at least one PC and at least two external drives.

The priority for me has been to make copies, to have everything backed up. I have not sat down and watched every recording yet but have seen enough to transport me back in time, particularly to 1992 and 2003. I have videos of my mother, who has been dead for over 20 years, and of her older brother (the uncle I am named after) who died last year. I am glad we made the effort to make these recordings. There’s plenty of “Is that thing still on?” and “Oh, I really don’t like being recorded” but there’s also plenty of time when they’re talking and acting naturally. If you left the camera running for long enough, even in those days, before everyone with a smart-phone had the ability to record anything, anytime, people would talk and act naturally after a while. Until last month none of these most precious recordings existed in a digital format and now, at last, they do.



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