Skip to Content

The “REEL” Truth About Transferring Home Movies To DVD

Sharing is caring!

Most of us have old home movies in formats we can no longer view. I am honored to introduce today’s guest blogger, Rhonda Vigeant from Home Movie Legacy, who I met through Appo (Association of Personal Photo Organizers). Rhonda specializes in preserving and sharing your old family films. She is a wealth of information on how to properly care for and digitize your old home movies. Today she is going to share with us information on how best to preserve those old family films, and I think you might be a little surprised by what you hear!

Home Movie Legacy

One of the things that most people don’t consider or understand about having all their home movie media on film and tape transferred to a DVD is that they have done nothing to preserve their legacy for future generations. While DVD’s are a convenient play back format, transferring original material to a DVD is just making a low quality copy from your master. Even “GOLD” DVD’s are just a marketing scheme and are not infinitely more stable than any other type of DVD.

4 gig of Home Movies

Most people are surprised when I tell them DVD is a low quality copy of their original. It is like you had an original Picasso painting for example. But instead of framing your Picasso, you took a photocopy on your home photocopier, framed it, hung it on the wall, and rolled up the original or even worse, threw it away. The copy will never be as good or as detailed in this example, because that is the quality that the photocopier can render. It is a watered down version no f the original. Get it? It is the exact same with your film and tapes.

A DVD will not be the common playback format of the future. We have already lived through the demise of film projectors, VHS players, etc, and the future obsolescence of DVD is inevitable.

Another thing people often don’t think about is that you cannot easily edit a DVD. One of the things people often feel anxious about before they transfer their films is getting things in the correct chronological order. This is a challenge, because unless the date and event is written on the reel or tape , we might not know what is on it, and we no longer have the correct playback machine for that kind of film and tape.

Today, most computers have easy to use editing programs where you can cut and paste snippets or “golden nuggets” together to tell a compelling story. These tools make it so easy and fun to be “head of your own studio” so you can bring the past into your digital life and share on social media, create a YouTube Channel, watch on your iPad or any smart device. Try doing that with a DVD. After all, editing is why people love watching a good movie. Take out the slow, boring and blurry parts so we can focus into the good parts.

A couple of years ago, my aunt and uncle “downsized” from their family home to a condo complex for seniors. Proudly, my uncle showed me his new media center beautifully built into a bookcase. He had always been an audio and media buff and bought the best of the best. In this cabinet he had a player for Mini-dv tapes, a Hi-8 tape player, a VHS player, a DVD player and a Blu-ray disk player – all top of the line, all brand new. He said, “I’m so glad you put all of Papa’s films on DVD a few years ago. There would be no room for a projector!”

I looked at him and complimented him on the beautiful new equipment. Then I shared with him the information below, which made his jaw drop!


Today, the hard drive changes it all. We can migrate all our home movie media onto a portable hard drive. The price of the drives keeps going down, and the storage capacity keeps going up.

This can be a challenging concept to get across to people, even really smart people like my uncle. The hard drive has eliminated our need to have so many machines to playback our media on.

The process that accomplishes this migration of many formats onto a hard drive is accomplished is actually quite simple. The benefit is that now all your different mediums are speaking the same language!

External hard drive


In order to properly archive and preserve your home movie you have to create a Digital Master. This allows you to repurpose the material in many fantastic ways. The process by which this is accomplished so that all your formats are on one device and speaking the same language is actually quite simple.

• All your different formats are transferred as data files by a company offering that service.
• Then, these new files are downloaded by that service provider onto the hard drive.
• The hard drive is plugged in to your computer.
• The files show up on the device as play lists. One file for each reel of film or videotape.
• Simply click on the one you want to watch.
• Files can be downloaded to your computer or uploaded to the Internet. You can watch the files on any of our modern playback devices, including our TV, ipad, or smart phone or streamed over the Internet.

A company that specializes in this type of work and uses state of the art HD equipment that does not compromise the integrity of the original material should do the conversion to data files. Sadly, lots of companies, both big box and mom and pops are doing work on terrible equipment that can potentially damage your film. You also want to make sure the files are HD files (commonly referred to as a CODEC) such as Pro Res, not low quality FTP files. If the files are small enough that they can be emailed to you, then the quality is low enough that it is inferior to what the original material looked like.

As consumers, we are getting used to the idea that we will probably get a new computer or cell phone every few years. We have the mindset of, “I’m getting the latest version and keeping up with technology.”

This is also true of hard drives. The price of the drives keeps going down and storage capacity goes up. Migrating your media that is already in a data file format to another hard drive every few years is fast, cheap and easy; just the cost of another drive. There is no loss in quality when you migrate the data digitally from one drive to another because you are keeping it in the same form, and you will never have to re-transfer the material. That is a crucial point.

For more tips like these, check out my website Home Movie Legacy!

Rhonda Vigeant Pro8mmRhonda Vigeant is an author, speaker, radio show host, and home movie consultant.  She has worked with home movies and legacy footage for 3o years, and is the co-owner and Vice President of Marketing at Pro8mm in Burbank, California. She works with her clients to provide them with professional quality digital scans of their treasured family films, and her client list spans from the world famous to museums to people like you and I. 

Follow on Bloglovin





Thursday 21st of July 2016

Ok, I'm ready to do this, but where do I start? Does a company do this for you? If so, which company is trustworthy?

Michelle Nahom

Thursday 21st of July 2016

I would recommend contacting Home Movie Legacy, who wrote the article. Their link is there. They're a leader in that industry, and I always found them to be helpful with information.

Kimberly H. Smith

Thursday 23rd of May 2013

I talked on my blog about how your posts cosmically align with a current event in my life. Well, I just purchased an Amazon Local Deal to transfer up to 6 VHS, 8mm, and similar tapes to DVD. This article is very eye opening. Thanks for sharing!

Michelle Nahom

Thursday 23rd of May 2013

Isn't that funny? We were meant to be blog friends! Rhonda really is a wealth of information and I love the idea of preserving on a hard drive and the cloud so that you can take snippets off to use in projects...what better way to enjoy your memories!!


Tuesday 21st of May 2013

Thanks for sharing. I have so many things that I need to transfer to a hard drive! #MBC

Michelle Nahom

Wednesday 22nd of May 2013

Oh, I know, I do too!! A long time ago, I had my home movies transferred to dvd, but thankfully I saved the originals as well so now I will have them transferred to a hard drive instead. They will be a lot more fun to play with on there!


Tuesday 21st of May 2013

I don't even use DVDs anymore I have tons that I need to get rid of! Fantastic to know that I can put old vids on a hard drive, I've got plenty of those!

Michelle Nahom

Wednesday 22nd of May 2013

Glad you found the info here helpful, Nellie!!


Tuesday 21st of May 2013

This is so great! I've been wondering about these issues for some time. I still have a closet full of VHS tapes and no player, and now DVDs, too. I know they will go the same direction. Thanks for this post, it's very helpful!

Michelle Nahom

Wednesday 22nd of May 2013

Glad you found it helpful!! Sounds like it was perfect timing!