Pictures and home movies are among many people's most valued possessions, but oftentimes they sit dormant in photo albums, on computers or in boxes that hardly ever see the light of day. Today there are many companies that can help you organize all those captured memories into one place, ensuring they will live on for generations.
"This is the first time in history that we have analog media that now we can convert to digital media," says Chuck Temple, owner of DVD Your Memories. "Analog formats degrade over time; there's not a lot of degradation with digital."
Temple says analog media include videotapes, which generally last 10 to 15 years; photos, which fade over time; slides, which become red over time; and old movie film, which becomes red or green over time and eventually curls up and starts smelling like vinegar.
Temple started his company in 2006 and has since helped hundreds of customers compile slideshows and other digital keepsakes of birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, sweet 16s, family reunions and everything in between. He says that no matter what medium people have used to capture their memories -- be it old film, slides or videotape -- his company can convert it to digital media.
Temple says that along with working with people's personal photos, his company also has worked with businesses and historical societies. He's seen photographs as old as 100 years and slides from the 1940s, and he even has worked with original NASA slides.
"I feel as if I've seen every spot of the entire world from every angle and from every year," he says. "It's cool; you kind of see everything. And you make people happy."
The importance of pictures and videos in people's lives is especially evident in times of disaster, Temple says, and he experienced that firsthand during the devastating Southern California fires in October 2007, which claimed lives and homes and forced thousands of people to evacuate. He says his San Diego store was as busy that November as it had been during the entire months of January through April of that year.
"The first thing people grab is, of course, their kids and family. The second thing would be their pets. And then the third thing is always their photo albums or their stack of videotapes," Temple says.
According to Temple, the digitization process is a one-time thing, and once you've gotten everything on a hard drive, you'll be prepared to transfer it to whatever format comes out in the future. He adds that all the media anyone could possibly have could fit into a 1- or 2-terabyte drive, which is relatively inexpensive, costing anywhere from about $100 to $150.
Fred Mentell, co-owner of Affordable Slide Scanning, says an added bonus of getting all your media digitized is that you then can make copies of them and give them to your loved ones. The cost for each scan at Affordable Slide Scanning is 39 cents, he says, and that includes scanning, Photoshop editing and the disk.
Mentell stresses that his company does all of its work in-house, which is important, as there are many companies that will ship your order out of the country, to places such as India, Costa Rica and Mexico.
"Once you ship it to one place and they ship it to another place, you lose possession," Mentell says. "Once a third person is in there, you no longer have any right to those slides, that film or those photos."
Temple, whose stores also do everything in-house, agrees, saying many people have lost something when companies ship them to other countries.
He says that no matter whether people are part of a "photo family, a video family or both," capturing and preserving those memories are a vital part of who they are.
"A lot of people define themselves by what they've done in their lives and what their family has done, and if you have some of that recorded, it's a big piece of who you are," he says. "It would be like losing a piece of yourself if that were to get lost. It's all related to human and personal connections, and that's why we're all here."