Genealogy: Digitizing records and tapes with Audacity

Digitizing records and tapes with AudacityBy Barry J. Ewell

You’ve been ripping CDs for years, but what about those dusty cassette tapes in your attic and all that bargain-basement vinyl at used book sales? With Audacity, you can capture those vintage tunes, clean up their sound, and carry them around on your MP3 player.

Audacity is a powerful free cross-platform audio editor. It includes tools such as noise removal filters and automatic track splitting that can speed up the process of turning your antique audio into shiny new MP3s or Oggs.
Continue reading

Genealogy: Other options for transferring video to DVD

By Barry J. Ewell

Professional service  
Pay a professional to convert your VHS tapes to DVD–although this service is expensive.  It may be worth the money if the thought of doing it yourself makes you cringe.

Use a DVD recorder
If you don’t have a PC, you can use a DVD recorder.  The basic method for transferring video from VHS to DVD using standard equipment isn’t complicated.  You can connect a RCA cable from the VCR’s video and audio outputs to the DVD recorder’s inputs, press Play on the VCR, and press Record on the DVD recorder.  That’s all there is to it.  You don’t need any additional gear, such as a PC video capture card because the DVD recorder has all the necessary capture and conversion features.

There are several situations you may want to consider, however, before using a DVD recorder: 1) Unfortunately, there’s no way to speed up the recording process; every minute of tape takes a minute to record, 2) Even though the DVD recorder’s remote allows you to separate scenes, as well as add a menu with titles and corresponding photos (selected within the video), editing features are very limited and time consuming. In fact, you will probably need the patience of Job to do anything other than transferring video to DVD, and 3) if you plan to add special features to your video (such as narration, background music, rearranging scenes, or adding photos), using a computer is a better option.

What every genealogist needs to know about digital content and preservation (100+ resources)

Digitizing contentBy Barry J. Ewell

As a genealogist and/or family historian you are ever increasingly faced with the need to better understand how to create, evaluate, manage, organize, and preserve content that include audio, photography, video, film and more. I’ve learned that even the simplest decision like which format to scan an image can have far reaching irreparable consequences if not done correctly. Continue reading

Genealogy: Create your DVD

By Barry J. Ewell

Once your film is “clean,” the file gets compressed into MPEG-4 format before being burned onto a DVD. Your video editing software will be able to walk you through the process. A couple of recommendations are as follows:

  • Limit your video transfer (to DVD) to one hour or less for best quality.
  • Purchase high-quality, write once DVD-R or DVD+R discs; do not use DVD-RW or DVD+RW (rewritable) discs.
  • Burn several versions of the video to DVD (especially if you are going to delete the images off your hard drive), using at least two as backup copies. Note: DVD-R is the most compatible with DVD players (an important detail if you are sharing your DVDs with others).
  • Test your DVD recordings on several DVD players (yours and other family members) to make sure they play.  If not, you will be able to trouble shoot what the issues are and correct accordingly.

Genealogy: Keeping personal digital audio

Genealogy: Keeping personal digital audioBy Barry J. Ewell

You may have many digital audio files with music, lectures and other sound recordings. Some of these have personal, financial or other value that leads you to keep them for a long time.

You should make sure that the audio files you select for saving are in an open file format. This will ensure the greatest flexibility for future use. Continue reading

Genealogy: Keeping personal digital video

Genealogy: Keeping personal digital videoIf you are using a camera or other device to record digital video, you are following in a long tradition of making personal and home movies. You may want to keep some of these videos for a long time.

Technical file quality is an important consideration for digital video. Videos that are posted on the Web, for example, are often grainy and have less information than the original version.
Continue reading

Genealogy: Why digitize?

Genealogy: Why digitize?As genealogists and family historians the main reasons to digitize are to enhance access or share information and improve preservation.  We are able to take bits and pieces of our heritage that are scattered among family members and put them together in a collection that can be shared via CD/DVD and Web.
Continue reading