A shoebox full of memories

box-of-memoriesSix decades in, one’s recall isn’t what it used to be, so it’s always a treat to uncover old photos, videos, and other memorabilia.

To that end, in an old shoebox in the basement, my better half discovered a collection of dusty VCR tapes—forgotten video recordings we made of family gatherings and other events over the years.

Forgotten but not gone, thanks to a technology that for all practical purposes is obsolete. But thankfully still functional.

With the help of a company that transfers VHS tapes to digital video, we were able to recover those memories. Each tape was converted and written to a standard DVD.

Way way back

In this household, even DVDs are somewhat antiquated, as we’ve long since discovered the benefits of streaming video and digital downloads.DVD-Memories

Fortunately, however, we still have a functional DVD player, so enjoyed an afternoon sampling some of the clips. Good stuff and very evocative.

The timing couldn’t have been better, as we had several family holiday events scheduled. Brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews were flying in for several days of family get-togethers.

Trouble was, after everyone arrived, we were busy making new memories, so never got the chance to sit down and watch the DVDs.

Setting out to share

But this is the 21st century, the age of sharing and social media. Short of making multiple DVDs, and snail mailing them, how best to share the videos with family?process-arrows

My goal was to get each clip into a manageable digital video file that I could edit, and add effects and titles to. Then, I wanted to output the videos to a format that my family members could access—whether they are iPhone or Android, Mac or Windows PC users.

The process would look something like:

1. Load a DVD.
2. Convert DVD clips to an editable format.
3. Import a converted clip to iMovie.
4. Add music, effects, and titles.
5. Export to a universal file format.
6. Upload the video to Dropbox.
7. Send out e-mails with a link to the video.

Should be easy, right?

Load a DVD

When you insert a DVD into a Mac, the DVD Player launches automatically. That would be fine if I wanted to watch the video.

But, really, what I wanted to do at this point in time was to open and view the DVD as a file folder, and search for VOB files on the DVD.


VOB is short for video object file. It is an entity within the DVD’s file system that contains the actual video clips, the actual data that I wanted to capture and convert.

Convert clips to an editable format

There are a variety of applications that can convert DVDs to digital video files. I’ve been using an open-source application called Handbrake for some years, and recently downloaded the latest version, 0.10.0.


Handbrake enabled me to convert each VOB file from the DVD into an MPEG-4, or MP4, video file. MP4 is an industry standard popularized by Apple and based on Apple’s QuickTime format.

Create and output the movie

For my purposes, MP4 is enough of an industry standard that virtually any smartphone, tablet, or PC user can view it. MP4 files can also be imported into iMovie, my video editing application of choice.


After I imported a VOB file to iMovie, the application enabled me to edit, splice, and rearrange the video clips. I cut out some of the video, and also added rudimentary transitions and titles. I wasn’t looking to make an epic, so used maybe 20% of the capabilities of iMovie in the process.

After I edited the movie, I used iMovie’s Share command to output the file to my format of choice, MP4.

Upload the video to Dropbox

The first movie I created was 10 minutes long and some 600 MB in size. Video files can be quite large. Consequently, although it’s possible, I wouldn’t want to e-mail the movie to multiple recipients.

A much better option is to upload the file to the cloud somewhere, and send recipients an e-mail that points to the link.

For this purpose, I use Dropbox. Dropbox gives me 2.5 GB of storage for free, and provides a Public folder into which I can upload files to share.

After uploading a file, when I right-click on the file in the Dropbox view, one of the commands is Copy Public Link. This copies the HTTP link to my clipboard, and I can paste the link directly into an e-mail to make life easy.


Send out e-mails with links to the video 

The last step, of course, is to actually share the link. Queue up an e-mail, add the perfunctory description, and include the link. Couldn’t be easier.

That’s one way to share old memories. Send me a comment to tell me how you do it.

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