The ease by which we can access and manipulate digital data might be unparalleled but many of us have a wealth of media which is rooted firmly in the analogue age. From old black and white photographs and negatives that we inherited from previous generations through vinyl records we collected as kids and slides we took before migrating to digital photography, to our stash of old VHS tapes, many of these valuable resources are gathering dust and taking up space.
Perhaps the equipment required to view of play them is in a poor state of repair or maybe it’s just too much hassle to get out that old slide projector. Whatever the reason, though, one way to preserve and access this precious information is to bring it into the digital domain.
Here we provide practical advice on how to digitise your analogue media with the emphasis on photographic material, music, and video recordings.
For photos, we'll look at negatives, slides and prints; under the music banner we’ll look at vinyl records and cassettes; and for video recordings we’ll consider VHS tapes. We’ll also investigate means of preserving data which, despite being digital, is stored on obsolete media such as floppy disks or ZIP disks.
In each case we’ll describe a range of options to suit different budgets. Whenever possible we’ll include methods that rely on equipment you already own, through increasingly more expensive options including the use of professional services that will ensure ever better results.
It’s important to recognise, though, that despite the commonly held view that digital media is of an inherently better quality than its analogue counterpart – a view, incidentally, that is still not accepted by some of the Hi-Fi community – none of the methods we’ll discuss will improve the quality.
Indeed with the exception of repairing photographs from the effect of scratches, dust, creases and the like, it isn’t really possible to improve on something by digitising it. You're merely converting it from one format to another - not restoring or enhancing it.
Instead our aim, and one that we can easily achieve, is to make that data more easily accessible and save it from obsolescence.
Click the links below for guidance on each type of media:
Convert your photos
How to scan or photograph old slides