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How I digitized my old camcorder tapes

Transferring my Hi8 tapes was really simple. Why did I wait so long?

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- 01:28
digitizing-hi8

My collection of old Hi8 movies.

Mark Licea/CNET

Most everything I watch or listen to is digital. I can stream anything at any time. There was this stack of plastic and magnetic tapes, however, sitting around my apartment. I'm talking about my Hi8 tapes from my days using my camcorder.

I can see the tapes. They're little plastic rectangles with my handwriting on the labels. If I wanted to watch them, that was a whole other thing. I thought, "I'll put them on my computer one day." Yeah, I thought that for over 15 years.

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It seemed like a daunting task. What hardware do I get? How much does it cost? Am I really going to want to watch my awkward years? (OK, fine, I still haven't left them.) But, I finally did it. 

I researched and researched and found this hardware, The Roxio Easy VHS to DVD for Mac. It costs $70. There isn't a whole lot to it. You can connect an analog source, in this case my old camcorder, and then launch the companion software. Then, you playback the tapes from the camcorder to your computer. The software records the video and you're all set.

The transfer happens in real time. You can't hasten the process by fast-forwarding your videos unless you want to permanently copy the fast-forwarded video. Whatever the software sees from the signal will be on the digital version. So, if there are on-screen menus or something, they will show up in the digitized edition. 

Luckily, my camcorder still worked, so I could do the transfer on my own. If you have a bunch of old tapes lying around, but nothing to play them back on, there are a number of services that can help. You send in your tapes, they charge you a fee and digitize those precious (and maybe not so precious) moments.