I’ve been wanting to write about this for three months. Colleen and I finally gave our Christmas present to her family; the (nearly) comprehensive collection of their VHS home videos on DVD.
First, the how. Here’s what you need:
- Computer (I used my Mac)
- Adapter with audio/video cable ports and USB ports (and included software for capturing video) (Elgato Video Capture Device for Mac users)
- DVD burner
- Blank DVDs
- Video editing software (iMovie for Mac users)
- DVD burning software (iDVD for Mac users)
- Photoshop software
- VHS tapes
In a nutshell, here’s what we did. Recorded all the VHS tapes using the VCR and adapter software, loaded the raw video files into iMovie, edited all unwanted portions out, placed chapter markers on the files, grabbed still frames to use for menu screens and the DVD covers, transferred edited video files to iDVD, picked the specific menu template, formatted the menu and chapter selection screens so they would fit a normal television screen, loaded stills into the menus, double-double-checked everything and then burned the DVD. Time-intensive parts were capturing the raw footage from the tapes onto the computer and burning the actual DVDs because capturing the video required just starting a tape and letting it play the whole way through in real time and burning the DVDs took like 6 hours a piece. Thankfully they were time-intensive and not labor-intensive; I could get one started and go do homework or something. The labor-intensive part was the editing. The most frustrating part was making sure everything worked. The worst portion of this entire project was the afternoon I got a video down to the final edit and tried to burn it. For some reason, the software kept saying I wasn’t putting in a recordable DVD in the drive when clearly I was putting in a recordable DVD. I couldn’t find an answer anywhere, online, I called Best Buy, Staples, everybody’s gave me the same answer, “Huh. Weird, it should be working.” Thanks a lot everybody. So I ended up having Staples send in the drive and get me a replacement drive, which worked perfectly. But for that afternoon…yikes. I was not a pleasant person to be around. But for the most part, the editing went fairly smooth, the biggest hiccup was trying to find a version of iMovie that had a chapter marker functionality. For some insane reason, Apple removed that tool from the previous version of iMovie when they upgraded to the version I have on my Mac (iMovie ’09). Thankfully, Colleen’s Mac is still kicking four years in and that had the older version of iMovie so we used that. The only problem is that hers is wicked slow so the process was slowed down a bit, but we still managed to get it done.
The covers were easier; Colleen and I went to the UIowa Main Library and used Photoshop to create the covers. I found a free cover template online that I loaded into Photoshop and changed around to feature our chapter titles, DVD titles, and stills from each video. We also made the backgrounds of each a different pastel color so put together the set of eight DVDs looks awesome. We just had them printed at Copyworks after their graphic designers resized the file so it would print to fit an actual DVD case.
Now a bit of the why: this is very possibly the biggest gift I’ve ever given or been involved in. Not physically big but more in the emotional attachment Colleen and I have to it. I’ve given some gifts in the past to Colleen that I was excited about, but this one was different, because it was really a joint effort between the two of us. It connected me to her and her family in a way that I hadn’t really expected. We spent many hours recording the raw video, figuring out chronological orders, adding clips together, editing out the many unwatchable, damaged parts of the VHS tape or random stuff like the 1988 Iowa/Iowa State basketball game Jim had preserved. In the past, when the girls would get out the old VHS tapes and watch them, I would usually watch and enjoy them to a certain extent, not as much as the girls but still laughing at seeing how they were when they were young. But working on this project connected me to this videos more deeply because the end result is ultimately ours. I wouldn’t label us “creative” types, and I don’t mean in the sense of being a unique personality (we are both pretty odd), but more in the sense of doing actual creating. We don’t paint, never had many drawing skills, never been much for creative writing, and we both are very musical but we don’t exactly create it. However, this project was an act of creation for the two of us. We took raw materials in an untouched form and turned them into something beautiful and creative. And finishing it up to give away is an emotional thing because it’s like your baby.
What made this gift especially meaningful for me to give away is that it’s exactly what I want to do with my career. At the core, librarianship is about getting information into the hands of people who want it and can’t find it. It’s about preservation of information and extending access to anyone who needs it. Colleen and I had a lot of raw information and a specific user set and we’ve connected the two beautifully. It was a very rewarding experience and I hope to do it again soon. The best part about it is that next time I do this type of a project, it will be so much more efficient because I’ve worked out 75% of the kinks and can visualize each piece of the process so much better than before. That being said, anybody who’s interested in hiring me, I’ll do a better job than Walgreens and for an insanely lower price. Just let me know. Seriously, I am itching to start another project.
But after all is said and done, can you really put a price on this?
That’s what our kids will look like.