Preserving modern camcorder videos

Jul 29, 2018 8:00PM PDT

I have boxes of old VHS tapes that the whole family enjoys but new technology has made making permanent playable videos painful and obsolete. I would love to buy a new video camera to continue preserving memories-but how? Now that they have done away with tapes that you can keep and store. Everyone says the Cloud- but the 5 Gig that they all give free fills up amazing fast. After that -I refuse to “rent” cloud space monthly. If I could buy a terabyte and it was mine forever that would be one thing. But by making you pay monthly- what happens when you stop paying- you lose access? I don’t know anyone that has lost video and been able to log into a cloud account and actually find, see and play the media. Even if you could they are making you pay monthly FOREVER. Option 2 -memory cards. PROBLEM. when it it formatted on a device and you try to play it on a PC- the first thing it wants to do is reformat the card- BOOM all data lost. After tapes I tried copying to DVD. Again the DVD is formatted to the device it was recorded on- when that machine is gone - so are the videos- it won’t play on a different device. It is just so painful - I ended up just giving up after my kids grew up- like a lot of other people. We all now upload to social media like facebook. But what happens if Facebook goes the way of MySpace in the future- all the photos etc are gone. Is there any way to take a modern camcorder and EASILY produce and preserve a video that can just be plugged in and played IN ANY MACHINE like the old VHS tapes- with out risk of it being reformatted? Photos and Facebook are nice but nothing is like being able to put in a old VHS tape and see and HEAR parents that have passed or seeing and HEARING your children when they are small. From what I see - people are not preserving video like they did before the whole process became painful. Now we just pull out our mobile phone and but then upgrade and turn in those phones every 2 yrs- losing what we have saved.

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Old tapes
Jul 29, 2018 11:00PM PDT

I am surprised and pleased that your VHS tapes are in such good condition. Tapes are notorious for wear and print through whereas modern solid state storage can fail but will not wear out.
My first thought is that you get a solid state drive, say about one Tb, and store everything on that. Then you can update more mobile storage devices such as SD cards or USB sticks whenever you want.
There is no perfect answer but two copies on your PC with a backup drive and working copies on solid state media should prove to be the most secure. My videos of my Grandchildren start in 2006 with my Granddaughter at three weeks of age.
The recording formats are standard for SD and HD so a video recorded onto a (for example) SD card will play on most devices. Again I suggest you buy a replay device that will cover all standard formats. Perhaps convert your VHS on your PC so it will download onto the current range of digital storage. As you are starting with VHS you could stay with HD as your highest format. I think 4K could be a step too far. If you are thinking of investing in a new camcorder then 4K would be OK because you can still output in HD from that camera.

I have a Panasonic Blu-Ray player. It has disk, SD card and USB ports plus an Ethernet connection. I currently store my videos on SD card with backup in my PC (two drives) The advantage is that the BR player is set up to playback from all the storage devices I currently have. Once I have videoed a sequence I download directly to my PC, edit the video and render it into a HD format then download to a SD card. I now have three copies, one on the PC drive, one on my backup drive and the working copy on a SD card. The SD card is then returned to the BR player for viewing.

Post was last edited on July 30, 2018 1:09 AM PDT

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Old Tapes
Jul 30, 2018 1:23AM PDT

I am surprised and pleased that your VHS tapes are still in good condition. Tape is notorious for wear and print through.

My suggestion for a solution is to buy a Solid State Drive about 1TB in capacity. Transfer your tapes using a A/D converter (Examples: EZcap or Avid's Dazzle) or a professional service and save on your PC and on your SSD drive. ( Alternative is a DVD recorder (there are still some about) that will record from tape to DVD) You can then transfer the videos to SD card or USB stick for replay on your TV (again some have a USB input port)
As well as my Panasonic DVD recorder (SD only) I have a Panasonic Blu-Ray player with DVD, SD card, USB and Ethernet input ports. I download from my camera to PC, edit the video and render to a HD format for storage and for outputting to a SD card for that recorder. All my videos are replayed via that BR player to my TV.

Post was last edited on July 30, 2018 1:26 AM PDT

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Two replies
Jul 30, 2018 9:52AM PDT

Sorry about the two replies. I thought the original reply had been crushed by the system.
Hope you find the replies useful.

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My opinions...
Jul 31, 2018 11:49AM PDT

Short version:
Establish a budget. Decide what is "important" and what's not so important. I agree with you: Depending on an outside company is OK for 1-5 years, but in 10-30 years, then what?

Long version:
The nature of technology is that the only constant is things change. Before VHS tapes there was 8mm film (and no audio). 8mm film needed to be sent out for developing, and playback was on projectors (and a wall or projection screen). Then analog video (like VHS, Beta and 8mm video) allowed us to connect to a TV. Digital formats (digital8, miniDV tape, miniDVDs)... small internal hard drives and now, flash memory.

Each format has its advantages and challenges. The "state of the art" at the time was not able to see the future - just as we cannot see the future to know which internet-based companies will be around in 10, 20, 50 or 100 years. I agree, paying for internet-based online storage can be problematic, especially at the massive amounts of data that can be consumed by digital video and many photos (especially at high resolution).

Some memory formats are more stable in the long-term than others. There is no single hardware format that can "playback any file on anything". When VHS tapes and standard definition were "it", few, if any, envisioned 4k video, Blue Ray and flat-panel monitors would become "normal". When VHS was "it", Beta was still the choice of the professionals (TV news) and personal computers were just coming into their own. Connectivity to a TV for playback was via RCA jacks (yellow-composite video; white for mono-audio, then stereo audio happened and red-right audio + white-left audio connectors) were used. No one could spell "HDMI".

There's been a transition from standard definition video (480 interlaced horizontal lines) to high definition (720 and 1080 interlaced, later progressive) and now to 4k video and higher resolutions are coming to market... Some new TVs don't have RCA connectors for composite video. No computer monitors have RCA video connectors. VGA, HDMI, WiFi and a few other connections are common - removing RCA reduces price.

(Side notes: DVDs can be used two ways: One, where the video is transcoded to "DVD format" (VOB files) and playback in a DVD player is required. The other, where the optical disc is used as a file storage media similar to a USB memory stick or external hard drive. The VOB file is not required, but the stored files which can be AVI, DOC, PPT, XLS, MOV, JPEG, PDF or any other computer-readable file type can be stored. When the disc is "finalized", it can be an "archive" method... DVD shelf life may not be 50 or 100 years. Yes, a DVD or compatible Blue Ray drive connected to a computer must be used and these drives are no longer standard computer items. Single layer DVDs can store up to 4 4.7 gig; double layer DVDs can store up to 8.5 gig of data - so not a lot of space by today's standards. Blue Ray discs come in 25 gig and 50 gig storage sizes, so better, but still not a lot. SD and other flash memory cards top out at around 256GB, can be pricey and are not necessarily a good "long storage duration" media - the same can be said for SSD which can store lots more data, but SSD is better designed for day-to-day use than long-term storage.)

What do we know and what to do?
I can't afford the "professional storage" that internet ("cloud") and other business-grade data centers use, but I can take advantage of knowing what they know to develop a storage strategy.
1) Electromechanical hard drives provide lots of cost effective storage space and have a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) rating that has a proven track record.
2) The odds of two hard drives failing at the same time is near zero.
3) Use of Networked Attached Storage or computer-connected JBOD (Just a Bunch of Drives) hard drive cabinet configured in a mirrored drive RAID format may be about as close as we can get. Different storage methods are used for different things.

In a previous life, I was an IT Manager for a large-is telecom company in California. In the early 1980s, for email and other shared space server back-up, we used a DAT tape-based archive system rack-mounted in a carousel. A digital tape filled, the carousel moved the back up to the next tape. Tapes were stored off-site (picked up by a truck and driver who delivered to a 3rd party contractor and stored the back-ups in a secure, environmentally controlled, space - retrieving the backup took days!). When Hard Disk Drive cost per megabyte came down, we moved to a hard drive system that used a bunch of 500 megabyte drives. Some time passed and I realized many of the same things you discovered as shared in your post. My first home back-up method other than DVDs for video project and final rendering files), was an Apple Time Capsule (mid-2008; 1TB drive). Basically, a NAS designed for easy home-data backups. It 10 years old and still works great (original hard drive) backing up data from a couple of Macs. It is designed to be the "second data storage place" for when the computer's internal drive fails (I have not yet had to use the backed-up data). A few more years passed and my next investment was a Buffalo NAS (LS42OD) with two mirrored 2TB drives... so... 4TB total space, but only 2TB "visible". It is used for movies, other video files and is a media server. When a file is copied to to this NAS, that file is copied to both drives automatically by the RAID setting. A couple of years into the this Buffalo NAS, one of the drives in the NAS failed. I replaced both drives, the failed drive went to electronics recycle, the remaining drive was put into an inexpensive drive case and its contents were copied to the NAS which automatically copied those files to both drives. No loss of data. The media files can be accessed through iTunes (computer or sync with iPhone/iPad) and AppleTV (connected to iTunes and all the other functionality that provides).

At around 8 years ago, I also added a 4-bay OWC JBOD array. This is where my video project files are stored. Each JBOD slot has a 4TB hard drive. This is not a NAS, but is computer-connected (USB3). When a video editing project is done the final render ends up on the Buffalo NAS; the source files remain on the OWC drive - when that drive fills, it is copied to another drive, a printout of the contents is made 2x, a drive and a printout are put in a anti-static plastic bag with a re-usable desiccant pack, both drives are removed and stored in different places in cases.

In 10 years or so, I expect the data storage state-of-the-art to have changed enough where the next "it" storage media will be worth buying and I'll copy much of the stuff I have stored... Just as the 8mm projector went away - and hopefully a lot of that film got transferred to VHS... then imported to a computer... then copied to a back up drive... we transitioned from film to analog tape to digital format...

If you do nothing else:
1) Get the VHS tapes digitized. I use an Elgato analog/digital conversion unit. This is a long forum discussion on its own - there have been a few here...
2) Get and use some sort of NAS. Learn about RAID and paring hard drives.
3) Decide if you want EVERYTHING or if editing can reduce the amount of data to be stored and help control expenses.


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Just to be clear...
Jul 31, 2018 11:52AM PDT

My experience is shared... there are equivalents for Google, Microsoft and other "platforms"...

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