These days everyone takes photos and records video of special family moments with their smartphone camera. That isn’t how it’s always been done of course. Prior to around 2010, family videos were mostly captured using video cameras. VHS, Hi-8 and mini-DV cameras were the primary way parents recorded their kids’ school programs, little league games and nearly every wedding.

Chances are good you have some old videotapes somewhere in drawers, boxes, or closets holding some of your very favorite memories. It’s time to get those on the computer to watch and share, but you’ll need a special gadget that makes a great Christmas gift.

For VHS, mini-DV and other video formats, the Pinnacle Dazzle converter makes it easy to get those videos off of the tape and onto a computer. The Dazzle doesn’t play the videos but it does digitize them for you.

You’ll need a VCR or camera to play the videos. You hook that up to the Dazzle device which looks a bit odd. Connect the Dazzle device to a computer with the cables that come with it. Included software converts whatever video you play, to something you can watch on a computer. Don’t worry, there are instructions. Dazzle even includes software to edit the video, add titles, and music. You can burn the video to a DVD, but I suggest uploading it to YouTube and sharing the link. You can also upload the video to Facebook and save it to a hard drive. Dazzle converts video from VHS, High-8 and mini-DV tapes, provided you have something to
play them on such as a VCR or camcorder. The Pinnacle Dazzle video converter is $60.

If your family memories go back even farther and they’re on film, you’ll need a different device like the Wolverine Film to Digital Converter. It looks an awful lot like an old film projector with two reels on either side and a play window in the middle. Load your film, whether it’s 8mm or Super8 onto one reel, and run it through a little window and then onto the empty reel. As you play the film, The converter takes a snapshot of each individual frame, then stitches them together and converts the film to a digital file that’s recorded on an SD card.

You can then transfer the film from the SD card to a computer to watch and share through YouTube or Facebook. It probably isn’t as difficult as I make it sound and there are good instructions included. The Wolverine film converter is $240

It’s important to note that old film is fragile and 20-year-old VHS tapes don’t hold up that great either. So get them converted before they’re gone forever. These gadgets make good Christmas gifts in two ways. Give them to someone on your list, or buy them for yourself and gift the family videos no one has seen in decades. Either way, someone will tear up like Clark Griswald.