Preserving Precious Memories

Posted by Ian Stewart on

Watching home movies helps us to remember our earliest memories and can be a wonderful reminder of people who are no longer with us. It’s a bit like having a time machine, enabling us to go back to the past and indulge in fun times like holidays and family occasions or even your wedding day! You could say that it is even more powerful than photographs since we are able to witness live moments, expressions and hear voices and music that we can’t get from photos alone. Photos are a single moment in time – and quite possibly staged so we look our best – home movies capture so much more.

With the changes in technology over the years however, we are in danger of losing a lot of those memories, simply because their format is outdated – and maybe in a fragile state too. So how do we keep the memories and transfer from the old technology to the new?

There are 3 types of home movies;


This is usually on a reel and fed into a projector, so we get an image on a screen. Early childhood memories were often caught on a camera that was the forerunner of the camcorder. Some of us will remember the old educational movies which saw teachers struggling with big old projectors and pull up screens.


These were on smaller cartridges but the same kind of principle – the film still ran through a cartridge in a camcorder, but they could be played back via a VCR connected by cable to our TV. Even the VCRs themselves were constantly being updated – who doesn’t remember the old top-loading machines?!

Digital files

Today’s technology means we no longer have to lug around large pieces of equipment – we can make movies on our smartphones and view them on desktop or laptop computers, even on the TV. This is the most flexible format for our home movie memories – and the most durable.

So, if we want to keep our memories from generation to generation and protect them from the passage of time, it is important to convert them from videotapes sooner rather than later and before the technology to do so disappears as well. Why the hurry?

Film degrades fast, you weaken it each time you run it through a film projector or DVD player. Don’t risk permanently damaging them – once they are gone, they are gone for good.

If your old home movies haven’t been properly stored or cleaned at all over time, they maybe come damaged – mould damage accelerates the disintegration - It will also be difficult to find anyone who would risk their own equipment with a dirty videotape by trying to convert it.

VCRs are disappearing – you may still have the tapes but do you have a VCR to play them on? Regular stores no longer sell VCRs, you can only get them in specialist shops – plus it's getting harder to find anyone who can repair them now. Other formats such as 8mm, Beta Max etc will also pose a problem as new televisions are not often compatible with the playback equipment.

With changes in technology, the old formats are not compatible with today’s technology. You can’t play a film on a smartphone or on your laptop and you can’t watch a movie tape on a BluRay.

Do you know who is actually in the home movie? A birthday party from 1975 may have strangers in it if you don’t have anyone around the identify them! It's important to gather the family stories whilst your relatives are still alive to share them – and that includes identifying people in old home movies.

Sharing the old memories with the next generation will be impossible without converting them to a format that all can access. If you want to share memories with the important people in your life and your future, upgrade the movies!

A good first step is to convert your old tapes to a digital format - We convert from all traditional media formats including Betamax, Digital 8, Mini DV, Hi8, VHS, S-VHS, VHS-C and Video 8 to DVD. Click here to find out how to order.


Updated: September 2022

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