Transfer to Digital File

Do not confuse this with transferring your tapes to a finished DVD. A finished DVD lets you play it right away in your DVD player, mail it to grandma, aunts, uncles, etc. That’s what most people choose because it’s so easy and quick. If that’s what you want to do, click here.

But if you are reading this blog, you are into video editing, and you are not one to subject your loved ones to unedited raw video footage. You want to transfer your video tapes to digital files that you can edit with your video editing software such as Windows Movie Maker.

That way you can cut out the boring parts, add soundtrack and transitions and create a more meaningful video story. This page is for you.

First thing to decide is what digital format you want your tape converted into. These are the most common digital file formats.

MPEG refers to the Motion Picture Experts Group, an organization that sets international standards for digital formats for audio and video. MPEG audio and video are the standard formats used on Video CDs and DVDs.

Microsoft Windows Media Video (*.WMV) is Microsoft's advanced streaming format. It is a file that can contain video, audio, and slide shows.

AVI is short for "Audio Video Interleave," the file format for Microsoft's Video for Windows standard. It is a video standard designed by Microsoft. The format was developed for storing video and audio information. Video for Windows does not require any special hardware, making it the lowest common denominator for multimedia applications.

How do you decide which format to convert your tape to? Simple. It depends on your video-editing software. Most home video-editing software do not except MPEG2 format, so cross that out if you are using Windows Movie Maker, choose the .WMV file format instead or the .AVI file format.
If you are not sure, email the vendor and explain that you want to edit the file on a Windows PC using software ___.

The best quality format is uncompressed .AVI format. However, because the quality is so high, the file is also very large. 1 hour of video takes up 13 gig of space. If you choose this format, you have to send a hard drive to the vendor or purchase one from the vendor.

By the way, the process of converting a tape to a digital file comes with different names: Video to Digital Files, or Video to Data-DVD, or Video File Capture. Don't confuse that for Video to DVD which gives you a finished DVD you cannot edit.

You have 2 options for transferring your old home movies or film reels to a digital file on a hard drive that you can edit:

      Option 1: Purchase a capture device and do the transfer yourself. If you are computer savvy, and a little adventurous, click here to read more about this option: How to Transfer Video Using a Video Capture Device. As I stated above the AVI is the highest-quality format for video editing. Not all devices will transfer your videos to this format, so read the specs
      Option 2: Let the professionals do it. The service I use exclusively for my old video tapes and film reels is Play it Again Video, an on-site video transfer lab in Newton MA. They give you the option of purchasing the hard drive from them or providing your own hard drive. If you go with, tell them you hears about them from and they'll give you a 5% Off discount. Play it Again Video can transfers to the AVI format (for PC users) or to .MOV format (for Apple users). If you use other services, request the AVI for best quality video editing.

Related articles:
Transfer Tape Options
How to Transfer Tapes to Finished DVD
How to Transfer Video Using a Video Capture Device