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Tag: DVDs

The VHS Twilight Zone

This is not the fifth dimension.  But be forewarned… This represents the final moments of a cautionary tech tale.

This is not the fifth dimension. But be forewarned… This represents the final moments of a cautionary tech tale.

Imagine recording all of your favorite TV shows on your trusty VCR for over a decade. Some of the episodes you’d actually watch as a time-shifting technique. Others, you’d never get to, because life is too busy.

And then you’d hold onto these bulky VHS tapes, believing some long evaporated rationale that you like ‘owning’ some of those episodes and would eventually get to the unwatched ones.

Yes, you’ve just entered the VHS Twilight Zone.

It’s Not a Bad Dream
Consider this evolving dimension:
Along the way to growing your media library you’d also get into the VHS movie-buying game. Here and there, you’d buy a few flicks you really enjoyed in the theater, because you were certain you would watch these movies over and over again.
(And by a few, I mean a couple dozen.)

And then you’d proudly position all of these tapes on your crowded bookshelves like they were part of some sort of family heirloom collection.

Eventually, the march of time and new DVD technology would force your VHS tapes to retreat into boxes that lived in the back of your closet or deep into your basement.

You’d consider throwing them all away, but still hold onto the entirely unreasonable belief that you would still find the time to consume the hundreds of unwatched hours. And you’d ignore the reality that your shows are now long cancelled and forgotten in pop culture zeitgeist.

Instead, you got married and had a family.

The Great Conversion Project that Failed
And when DVD recorders are invented, you’d have the misguided notion that you could transfer your favorite shows over to DVDs to save your media collection from oblivion.

But before you could make a serious dent in your conversion project, DVD recorders will encounter a premature extinction.

And those hideous rectangular black blocks would still remain….

HDTV and VCRs Can’t Live Together
When you’d buy your first HDTV, you would hook up your old VCR but never use it. The analog machine would just sit there… sucking power in its ‘phantom off mode.’

And then it would finally hit you:
Why would you even want to watch anything on VHS anymore? It’s mediocre resolution and old-school 4:3 aspect ratio is an insult to the eyes.

The haze would lift, but family life would distract you from taking action against the evil tapes. The boxes would then conveniently slip into the fifth dimension… into the middle ground between light and shadow.
(Dissolve to an image of a spinning clock…)

The VHS Tapes that Time Forgot
If you haven’t already guessed, yes, I’m liberally stealing language from
“The Twilight Zone,” and yes, this is my story.

So the other day, I ran across these forgotten boxes of ancient VHS tapes in the back of my basement.
(I felt a bit like Rip Van Winkle.)

It must have been over a hundred tapes!
Okay… two hundred.
(I’m not proud.)

And guess what?
I searched my soul, looking for that inscrutable pull that forced me to tether these boxes to almost half of my life.
It was gone.
(I guess there is an expiration date on irrational tech hoarding.)

And then I sneezed.
(The boxes were dusty.)

It was finally time!
Time to purge these VHS tapes from my life.
(Even if I still wanted to save the content on any of these tapes, some over twenty years old, the magnetic coating on the tapes had probably entirely deteriorated.)

And now I’m happy to report my home is VHS free.

VHS is Not Cool
I know some of you are probably thinking, “What’s a VHS tape?”

The real irony here is there are other folks still using this dead technology.
(You can actually still buy a VCR and VHS tapes on Amazon.)

Look, I know I’ve suffered from some sort of undocumented VHS-hoarding syndrome. But why would someone choose to actively use VHS technology today?
(Let it go…!)

Avoid Your Own Tech Twilight Zone
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to retain your video content over the course of your life. You’ve just got to keep future-proofing it. And you can’t put this ongoing project off.

Technology is moving at such a fast clip, all your media… especially your family videos… is at risk.

DVDs used to be my media archiving solution. Now, they’re probably becoming drink coasters. And so it’s another race against time to transfer all of that content to my external hard drives. (Which won’t last forever either)

Maybe the whole notion of owning any media content in physical form over any extended length of time is indeed a flawed one. The whole cloud-based storage solution is finally making a lot more sense… something more than the media conglomerates exercising total control over their own content.

But the cloud is going to cost you a pretty penny as a decades-long solution.
(Still…. remember that people used to spend ten bucks on a single blank VHS tape.)

That’s the Signpost Up Ahead…
There’s always going to be a price to maintaining your video collection.
It would hurt to stress test your need to hold onto so much content.
Because at the end of the day, you can’t.

A cautionary tale in the Tech Twilight Zone…

Best Ways to Archive Your Edited Videos

Don’t let a future alien race be the first to enjoy those summer family videos you just shot. It’s your job to archive your digital content properly so your family gets a chance to watch them.

Don’t let a future alien race be the first to enjoy those summer family videos you just shot. It’s your job to archive your digital content properly so your family gets a chance to watch them.

I’ve been trying to manage some stress lately. You see, I haven’t had enough time to edit all those video clips of my four-year-old son I’ve been shooting.

I thought I had the solution when I developed a methodology on how to organize and edit my growing trove of QuickTime files.

Then, I realized my approach possessed a flaw that couldn’t address the problem of an unstoppable backlog of captured video moments.

So I allowed myself to release a few of my classic clips in mostly raw form.
Otherwise, these videos would quickly become dated by fresher news from the frontlines of parenthood.

Problem solved…

Until an At Home with Tech reader pointed out I had ignored one important detail.  He was stuck on the issue of distribution.
He asks-

“But how to share the videos? I am trying to figure out an approach to deal with years of clips and wondering if my project should be a DVD, an online archive, or a project that just lives on my hard drive? And should it be a single video file for each year or a menu driven interface…? Any thoughts?”

Sharing Your Videos Should be Easy
Step 8 of my Beginner’s Guide to Editing Your Camera’s Video Clips attacks the basic question of how to share your videos:

  • Simply upload your video to places like Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo.
  • You can also email your digital clips as long as they’re small enough.
    Otherwise you’ll have to compress them before hitting send.
    (Nobody wants to receive a 100 MB email.)

I think the larger question is what percentage of your family videos should you be forwarding out to your world?

Certainly not!

Less is More
No child is so cute to justify sending multiple clips out to family and friends each week. That’s a crazy overload.

Everyone is absolutely inundated with data these days.
Email in-boxes are out of control.
We simply don’t have the time to consume it all.
So whatever you do, don’t over share your multimedia.

You’re going to have to leave some perfectly wonderful content on your own cutting-room floor.

And where are you supposed to put all that great video you shouldn’t share with anyone? Well, you and your immediate family will always have it archived to enjoy at home for years to come…

Now, we’ve arrived at the center of the reader’s question.

Two Copies are Better than One
Of course, you’ve got to save all those clips or edited videos somewhere.
By default, they’re already on your computer’s hard drive.
Or perhaps they live on that external hard drive connected to your computer.
(I’ve assumed you’ve moved them beyond their nascent stage on your camera’s SD card.)

One copy of one amazing family video on one hard drive equals one disaster in the making.

You do know that your hard drive will fail, right? It’s just a matter of time. These inscrutable boxes don’t last forever. That’s why you’re supposed to back up your content to multiple locations. It’s a ‘101-level’ digital-management strategy.

So your priceless video absolutely needs to be copied onto two or even three hard drives.

Put Your Life in the Cloud
And what happens if some natural disaster should strike your home, wiping out all your technology and associate bits and bytes?
(I know you don’t want to think about such things.)

An online archive should protect you, unless the calamity has a more global reach…
(Then, you’ve got bigger problems.)

So assuming an ongoing supply of electricity…
Yes, cloud storage is definitely a good way to go.
I use CrashPlan, but there are a variety of other great options to choose between.

What’s a DVD?
It’s sad to say, but the DVD is yesterday’s technology.
You really shouldn’t be relying on it anymore as a way to archive your content.

The higher quality of Blu-ray Discs is clearly more appropriate for your HD workflow. But that technology never really replaced DVDs as a consumer-friendly archiving tool.
So that’s not your solution, unless you wanted to invest some serious dollars.

Even if you stubbornly stick to your DVDs, they’re eventually going to turn into drink coasters anyway. And if yours don’t, DVD players will eventually only exist in museums.
(or in Cade Yeager’s Optimus Prime-friendly workshop)

You really need to walk away from your DVD-based archiving workflow…

Married to Your Multimedia
So where does all this naysaying leave us?
Yes, we’re back to keeping your precious videos alive…

  • On your computer’s hard drive
  • On an external drive
  • Or in the cloud

And you’ll need to give some ongoing love to the health of your collection over the years to come. That means having to continue to transfer your content as you upgrade/replace your computer and drives.

It’s a life-long commitment…

Don’t Over Simplify
The reader ponders the possibility of editing a giant video together to cover an entire year.

Good idea?

Well, a single video file designed to represent twelve months in the life of your family would be huge.
(Your computer won’t be happy.)

And who’s really going to have the time to watch an overblown multi-hour family epic?
(You’re no Michael Bay.)

Plus it would be a real pain always having to scrub through so much content to find the best moments.
(Unless your scenes are as tight as a Vine video.)

I recommend organizing your family videos to cover shorter time spans…

  • Either by month or season
    (“Our Summer Fun 2014”)
  • Or by event
    (“July 4th Family Party”)

Trust me… the “Less is More” rule will rarely let you down.

Spielberg was Right
Finally, organize your videos into annual folders.
It’s okay to keep it simple at this level.
(Your future self will thank you!)

But remember, throwing hundreds of unnamed, unedited videos into one folder marked ‘2014’ isn’t going to cut it.
You may be successful at preserving their existence over the decades using the above archiving strategies, but those precious moments hidden amongst the hours of often-unremarkable footage will effectively be buried forever.

Someone (or something) may one day find your magic family memories, but it will likely be the result of a future alien or android archeological dig studying humanity.
(Steven Spielberg’s “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” might be more prescient than you’d think! Remember, beings of the future can fix anything, even your ancient, busted hard drive.)

I imagine you’d prefer it if someone else closer to home in this century enjoyed the best content of your digital archive before all that goes down.

Don’t panic. There’s still time.
But you’d better get to work!

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