Do you, or your parents, have a stash of family videos that are still on VHS? Perhaps your grandparents do?
A crappy thing about VHS tapes is that they degrade over time, really anything over 10 years. Not a lot of people have been using VHS in the past ten years. Most likely, those tapes you might have are a lot older than that, which means they’re probably getting worse for wear.
If you have tapes of things that you would like to keep, it’s actually quite simple to turn them into digital files. From there, you can store them in the cloud, on your hard drive, and even burn them to DVD if you would like.
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How to Digitize VHS Tapes
You’re not going to believe how easy, and how cheap, it is to digitize VHS tapes. All you need to do is buy one of these doodads, and make sure you have a VHS player and a computer. That’s it.
The top one, the Elgato Video Capture (10020840), is a nifty little device that also comes with editing software. There are a ton of reviews that explain some of the basics that you need to know, which aren’t many things at all. Mostly, you need to know that the transfer will add a grainy line below your image, but that most TVs cut it off on playback, or you can crop the file a little bit. Easy-peasy.
The best part? This puppy only costs a hundred dollars! Of note, many reviewers say that this product is best used with a Mac.
If you want a slightly more upmarket model, there are also these two:
How To Make Money Digitizing VHS Tapes
So you go buy this thing for $100. Then what?
First, get an Elgato Video Capture and test out the process on your own VHS tapes, to ensure that you have learned the software and the process.
Next, set up a quick website. (If you really want, you can skip this step.)
Figure out how much you want to charge. Think about what is reasonable from the point of view of a consumer, and how long it will take you to do. For most videos, you will be able to hit record and then do a few minutes of editing after the fact. If you need to cover cloud hosting options, make sure to include that cost, plus, most importantly, the time and cost of the hand-off of the original tapes! If you offer burning to DVD for an additional fee, include the cost of blank DVDs, appropriate labels for them and jewel cases.
Let’s assume you have the following start up costs:
$100 – Elgato Video Capture
$30 – Basic Website Setup
$10 – Blank DVDs
$10 – DVD Jewel Cases
$12 – DVD Labels
$40 – Two months of premium Dropbox membership
$5 – Fiverr Gig to get an outro with your branding
$198 – Total
If it takes 10 minutes of hands-on time in order to fully digitize a file, on average, including pick up/drop off time, and you charge $5 per video, you need to digitize 40 VHS tapes before you break even. After you have covered you main overhead, you will earn around $30 per hour for making these tapes. The tricky part is that you can’t do it all at once, you need to set the videos up to run.
Now that you’ve got your price, get out there and validate your idea. Post on Craiglist and in local Facebook groups. Ask people to send you a message if they are interested in having any of their old VHS tapes digitized and saved to their hard drive or a DVD. (Charge a dollar more for a DVD, it’s more work and has overhead!). Also consider offering bulk discounts, because the time you spend handing off the tapes is the same if there are twelve or two.
If you can get enough business for forty tapes, put your Amazon Prime account to work and buy the stuff you need! After the first forty tapes, you have paid for all of your gear (you’ll need to keep paying for your cloud hosting, if you use it), and almost everything else will be profit. Not too shabby!
You want to make it really easy for more people to find your business, so add a short clip to the end of every video that you make, telling people which city you operate in and giving them a way to contact you. Do the same on any DVDs and cases that you make. You can get a short clip made very easily on Fiverr, if you’re not sure how to do it yourself.
You want people to preserve their memories, give their parents or grandparents their memories in a form they can use (and takes up less space, if they are downsizing!), remember junior’s first home run, etc. Don’t forget to suggest they make great gifts (they do!).
Advertise your services at senior’s homes, senior’s centres, as a family gift idea, on Craigslist, on Facebook and anywhere else that you can think of!
And there my friends, you have it. This is how to digitize VHS tapes and as a bonus, how to turn it into an easy little side hustle.
Do you have old VHS tapes hanging around your house?