Creating a Personal Digital Archive

What's the purpose of digitizing 500 rolls of prints unless you ID each picture? A better way is to pick the best half-dozen from each roll. (Tip for your next vacation: Think about capturing the one perfect picture as the memento you'll treasure 10 years from now, which means getting yourself in the photo.)

Digitizing Film and Video

The same goes for videos: There is no cheap commercial video-transfer service for archiving Dad's 8mm movies. For videos, copy your analog (VHS, 8mm, Hi8) footage to DVD in MPEG2 or maybe MPEG4 format. Don't bother editing the footage at the same time or you'll never finish.

If you want the highest quality, also dupe your analog tapes to new digital video (DV) tapes. DV currently offers the best quality and is easier to edit. For PC capture, you'll need a video capture card to import analog video.

Some DV camcorders have analog capture: You can dupe analog tapes directly or use your DV camcorder as a pass-through (via its FireWire cable) to your PC. Also consider direct-to-DVD recorders such as the HP DVD Movie Writer dc3000.

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