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Converting Older Formats into Digital Formats

Converting Older Formats into Digital Formats

No matter how old your photos or video are, they can be converted into digital format. However, the older the format, the more likely it is that you will need to hire a professional conversion service to help out.

Scanning Prints, Slides, and Negatives

Once you digitize (scan) prints, slides, and negatives, you can use them in the same ways as digital photos.

You can use any flatbed scanner or all-in-one unit to scan prints. However, a print is (at least) one generation away from the original negative or slide: if the original negative or slide is available, scan it instead if you have a scanner or all-in-one unit that has a built-in or add-on transparency adapter.

To convert negatives or slides, you have four options:

  • Use a scanner designed for negatives or slides (such as the Nikon Coolscan or Plustek OpticFilm series).
  • Use a flatbed scanner with a built-in transparency adapter (such as the Epson V-series, Canon CanoScan F series, and HP Photo Scanners; the now-discontinued Epson Stylus Photo RX all-in-one units also featured transparency adapters).

Figure 4 Digital ICE technology in the author’s Epson Perfection 4990 Photo removed dust from this 29-year old slide without affecting image sharpness.

During the scan process, you might be able to correct most of the color, contrast, and exposure problems, depending upon the capabilities of your scanner and scanning software. For the most control, use the advanced or professional settings in your scan software (Figure 5).

Figure 5 Professional settings in Epson Scan include manual exposure and color settings.

Converting Video Tape and Movies to Digital Video

If some or all of your video is “trapped” on video tape or movie film, you will need to convert and transfer it into digital formats.

Converting video shot on a tape-based DV camcorder is easy: connect the camcorder’s DV out (typically, a four-wire FireWire port) to a FireWire port on your computer and use the software provided with your video editing software to transfer the footage. If you don’t have a FireWire (IEEE-1394) port on your computer, you can add a card for about $30-50 to an empty expansion slot on a desktop or laptop computer, or check with a friend to see if he or she could convert the footage for you.

If you need to convert analog video tape formats such as VHS, you have three choices:

  • Use an analog-digital conversion kit such as Roxio Easy VHS to DVD or Diamond Video Capture VC600. These kits include analog to USB 2.0 adapters and DVD creation software, and generally sell for around $50-60. These devices work with VCRs, analog video camcorders of various types, and other video sources with component or S-video output.
  • Use a VHS/DVD-R dual-deck video recorder to dub your tapes directly to DVD. These units are available from many vendors, but with the death of VHS, they may become scarce as time goes on.
  • Use VHS-DVD conversions services such as YesVideo (sold through retailers such as Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Walgreens, and many others), Timeless DVD and HomeMovieDepot.
  • If you have Super 8, 8mm, or 16mm movie film, you have two options:
  • Convert it yourself by projecting your movies onto a screen and reshooting the video with a DVD camcorder. See this Cnet forum and Photo.net forum for help.
  • Use movie film-DVD conversion services such as HomeMovieDepot, DigMyPix, or Just8mm.com.

Some vendors offer uncompressed .avi files conversions stored on a portable USB hard disk as an alternative to DVDs. If you have a lot of analog video or movie film to convert, or if you want to do you own editing, this can be a better way to receive your converted video or movie footage. You can use almost any video editing program to create DVDs from .avi files.

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