From VHS to short clips: I have 10 two-hour VCR videos of my grandchildren’s dance recitals. I would like to edit each of them just for their 3 minute appearances. Then I would put it on a CD or whatever is convenient. If I try to use a service, I’m not sure it can recognize children. I’m not too tech savvy, but the only good thing is that I have the time.
— Gini Musmanno, Pennsylvania
Thanks for writing – it’s always a good time to tackle old stacks of video tapes. Thanks to advancements in AI, it’s actually easier than ever to edit videos without having to do anything other than upload your clips. But first, you need to digitize these recordings.
The very first step in any VHS editing project is to integrate these fragile videos into a more modern and malleable format. For most people, this isn’t something worth attempting, at least for a one-time project. There are services you can send the tapes to and they will convert them to digital files.
However, experiences can be mixed and if you only have one copy of the recitals, it might seem too risky to leave a warehouse across the country to handle it. Instead, find a local service that handles video conversion. On Yelp, search for keywords like “video conversion” or “VHS conversion,” or check out the “Photography Stores & Services” category. They usually charge a fee based on the length of the video.
It’s important to ask the company to convert VHS tapes to much smaller clips instead of a single two-hour file so they’re easier to use. If possible, see if they will divide it by individual performances. This way they don’t need to know which dancers your grandkids are, you can assess them yourself (it may cost more but save you a lot of time). If they can’t, you should still be able to find the shortest clip you’re looking for and make a simple cut from there.
Most video and photo hosting services have built-in tools for cropping video clips, like Apple’s iMovie, Apple Photos, and Google Photos. If you want something a little more polished, there are a number of apps and services that can automatically edit videos together for you with a bit of light, but many are designed to work with videos on a smartphone. or a tablet, so you’ll want to move your videos to those devices.
Apple announced this week that the iPad and iPhone version of its iMovie app has a new automatic feature called “Magic Movie.” It lets you choose the clips you want to edit from your phone, then it merges them to highlight what it detects as the most important parts, such as faces and dialogue. Google Photos, the company’s storage service, has the ability to create automated videos on demand.
You can even choose specific themes or people using its face detection technology. GoPro, the company that makes small action cameras, has a mobile app called Quik that automatically edits long videos or multiple clips into sleeker projects (you can make a video with the free version or pay $1.99 a month for a subscription). Video hosting company Vimeo has an automatic editing tool called Vimeo Create, which includes free templates or more sophisticated options for paying members, but is more manual.
The company that converts your video can back you up the videos on CD or flash drive, but I don’t recommend sending DVDs or CDs to family members unless they specifically request it. Instead, upload the clips you want to a place like Dropbox, Google Photos, or Apple’s iCloud and share the link via email. This way, they will be accessible, shareable and saved.
Another reader wrote about creating videos from scratch, this time on his screen.
Screen recordings for family: I’m getting a little long in the tooth. I promised my family that I would figure out how to make a video for them of the steps I go through on my iMac to log into various sites, pay my bills, check my bank accounts, manage my wallet on Vanguard, etc. etc But I don’t even know how to start. I’ve seen many instructional and YouTube videos of people moving from screen to screen, talking as the cursor moves, demonstrating how to click this, click that. I’m sure if I could learn how to do this and put the resulting functionality on a USB drive or whatever – call it “Uncle John’s Life Online” – my family would be thrilled.
— John Leydon, Virginia
I hope you won’t need these videos anytime soon, but I like the idea of making them and adding some color to your estate planning, plus a collection of login names and of passwords. Videos from computers and smartphones are called screen recordings, and it’s a built-in feature for most computers and mobile devices these days.
You’re on a Mac computer, so you’ll first clear your desktop so that it’s clean and only displays the window you want. Then open an application called QuickTime Player. Go to File -> New Screen Recording. You will get a small window with some options to record the whole screen or just the selected part (you can adjust the square to cover the part you want to record).
There is also an option to record audio from the computer’s built-in microphone. I strongly recommend that you enable this option and tell what you are doing. Besides being helpful, I think your loved ones would love to hear your voice.
On an iPhone, you can find a screen recording button (a dot inside a circle) in Control Center. If it’s not there, you may need to add it by going to Settings -> Control Center and tapping the green plus sign next to “Screen Recording”. It will count down for three seconds and start recording. Click the red icon in the upper left corner of your screen when you are done recording.
On many Android devices, you can pull down twice from the top of the screen to locate the screen recording button. There are also third-party apps you can try, like AZ Screen Recorder.
Save all videos somewhere your family can easily find them and be sure to add them as legacy contacts on your big services like Apple or Facebook. This feature allows authorized people to access your account should something happen to you.