Converting old tapes (Hi-8, VHS) to digital

When I was a kid, my great grandmother died and left a bit of money to my parents. They used that money to purchase a Sony Handycam (looks an awful lot like this guy - Vintage SONY CCD-V7AF-E Video 8 Camcorder Camera + Accessories + Case + Instruct | eBay).

My dad has a drawer full of Hi8 tapes containing a number of movies of people in my family. My brother, my cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and a lot of people that are no longer with us. I also have an old VHS tape in my office that has a family video montage from our trip to Florida when I was about 12 – I’m now mid-forties.

I thought it would be cool to convert this stuff (some, maybe not all) over to digital format, primarily so I’d have a backup of everything in my system (external HD’s, Backblaze).

While doing some research I found a few relatively inexpensive “adapters” online with most of the cheap ones getting sketchy reviews while the slightly more expensive ones get slightly better reviews. One from Elgato stands out, but it says it’s not compatible with Apple Silicon (I have an M1 Mac mini).

I do have an older MacBook Air (2016 or so) which works fine, but I don’t think it would be the fastest way to go about this.

I know there are some posts on this very forum about this topic and I also know it was discussed on an Accidental Tech Podcast at one point. I just thought I’d check in to see if there are any updates on this or any real world examples of people who can say “this worked well for me”.

I’ve looked at some shops that do this, but the cost appears to be absolutely insane. Like $90 a tape. Well, if my dad has 40 tapes…yeah.

After doing a bunch of research into scanning services a couple years ago, I used ScanCafe services for old photos (from negatives). Great service, great results, and very secure. Prices are also reasonable, and they can handle all the formats you mentioned. They often run specials for additional discounts as well. But frankly, for memories like those, the price should be secondary.

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Thanks. Maybe distance isn’t a major factor, but I live in Canada — about 2 hours from Toronto. Not sure how I feel about shipping them all halfway across the US.

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Years ago I used an elgato tuner (no longer available) to capture a few VHS tapes to digital. I had recorded the tapes from the original Super8 film several years earlier.

Capturing even more video in real time wasn’t something I could commit to at the time. @tgara ‘s recommendation of scancafe.com looks promising, I think I will check them out.


Googling ‘m1 video capture card’ turned up a lot of info including this discussion on Reddit.com. Good luck with your project.

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If you are not in a hurry, the MacBook will be fine for this. You are not going to get 5K out of the Material anyway, so I would set it up with the MacBook, put it aside into a place where it is not disturbing to much, and would let it run until the jobs are done.
I use Handbrake, on an old 2011 iMac, to convert my Video files into some format iTunes can work with, and this runs very well.

@tgara
The more I think about this, the more I’m tempted to try ScanCafe.

I’ll ship w UPS, pack well. It should be fine. Doing it myself — I don’t really want to sift through hours of footage only to find I did something wrong, used the wrong format. I really like the idea that their process cleans the signal a bit too.

Understood, but know that I shipped our wedding photo negatives (irreplaceable) from New England to California to have them digitized, then they shipped them back with the online and CD copies I ordered. No issues whatsoever. Believe me when I tell you that you are not the first person to be concerned about shipping irreplaceable images. They do whatever it takes to reduce any risk of loss.

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If you want to use a service for that, you should run a search for them, as there are a lot of them around, and maybe you could find one in your vicinity.
If you are going to use ScanCafe, I had a Pop-Up when I have a look onto their page, that requested my information for a newsletter, but offers a 15% discount for some of their services, if I send them my informations. Maybe this could be of interest for you.

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I got the 15% also. I’m just going to do a small batch (maybe 5-10 tapes) and get it by Christmas. I’m hoping I can grab a few “forgotten” clips and have something done up in iMovie for Christmas Day. That will bring some smiles and maybe a few tears, and then my parents can pay to have more done if they like it.

I just gotta get over there and “steal” some tapes without being detected. Luckily I have a key and can sneak over when they’re not home someday soon. This will be fun.

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I don’t know where you are in Canada, but London Drugs does VHS and Hi8 conversion (Western Canada). Film Rescue International is also Canadian and very good.