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The Best Way to Watch Tape Videos on your TV?

When I say "tapes" I mean VHS, Hi8, MiniDV (DV) tapes, or the little square recording devices you used in your video cameras from 1984 to 2010.  This article is focused on the specific workflow I recommend to watch those awesome memories on your big new amazing flat screen TV, and therefore I will not go into many technical details about formats, compression, transcoding, zzzzzz.... 

This post if for Mac users only, sorry PC folks.

In my last venture I started and grew one of the world's biggest video special effects software companies called Red Giant. My next mission is to rescue and help people enjoy the billions of memories stuck on tapes sitting in shoeboxes.  My first customer was me.  We like to say around here, "Those memories won't rescue themselves!" 

Let's get those memories to your TV!

I'm going to focus on Mini DV or DV tapes.  they look like this but the workflow for the other tapes is similar.

Here is the workflow I recommend and will detail in this post.

  1. Create a YouTube Channel
  2. Import the tapes onto your computer
  3. Choose your favorite videos or clips from a tape
  4. Trim or shorten each video
  5. Combine videos into a single video or "movie"
  6. Upload to YouTube
  7. Watch the video on your TV through the YouTube app via a Smart TV, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon or Chromecast. (If you don't have one of these, please stop reading and go to Best Buy immediately)

    Why YouTube?

      I recommend a YouTube Channel for many reasons but the main reason is its ubiquity on all devices including computer, mobile and TV.   Other reasons are that it's easy to setup and upload, videos are protected in the cloud (or would survive a computer meltdown), makes it really easy to share videos.  Over time you'll assemble a bunch of videos that you'll watch with your family sitting in your living room. 

      Creating a YouTube Channel

      A YouTube "channel" is something you create using your google username.  If you don't have a google account, create one here.  (nice video on creating a channel, watch). A Google account also gives you Gmail, online docs/spreadsheets and many other services for free.   Next you need to create a YouTube Channel here.

      Congratulations!  I can't emphasize enough how cool it is to pull up your Channel on your TV after a few years of uploading videos and watch them together with family and friends.

      Importing your MiniDV (DV) tapes onto your computer

      There are four good ways to get the videos to your computer but I recommend LifeFlix because it's the easiest, cheapest and most fun to use.  I also wrote an article explaining other techniques here.  Note: I'm a founder of LifeFlix so beware of my bias ;-)

      Launch LifeFlix, plugin your camera, click Import, wait 60 minutes and come back to enjoy all your lost memories.  (Here is a LifeFlix Getting Started summary, click).  Scroll through all the videos in the Scenes window, select your favorites.   I recommend trying to make your final video 3 minutes or less, 2 minutes is a good watchable length.  No matter how cute your daughter or puppy was, any longer and you may lose your audience. 

      LifeFlix allows you to trim, cut or shorten each video easily.  Select the video, then move the Begin and End points (or sliders) to the the points we want to start and end, click Trim.  (You can undo the Trim if you want to redo it).  We drop a Scissors icon on each video to identify which videos you trimmed.  To determine the length of video, LifeFlix shows you beginning and final or trimmed video length below the Scene name.

      Almost there!   After you've trimmed all the videos you want to include in your final video, go back and select each video or scene by holding down the Apple command key.  Then click the blue Combine button at the top.  This will combine all the videos into a single video using the first video in the sequence.

      Watch LifeFlix tutorial on trimming and combining videos, click here.

      Time to send your amazing new video to the cloud, or your new YouTube Channel!

      The cool thing about both YouTube and LifeFlix is that after the initial setup uploading more videos is just a single click. 

      Enter your Google Username here.  I recommend keeping the "Stay signed in box" checked.  LifeFlix is NOT saving or collecting your information, we just connect to Google's API or service, signing in here is just like signing into your Gmail account.  After entering your username you'll be asked to Allow LifeFlix to connect to Google.  


      LifeFlix gives you an upload progress bar to monitor when the video is uploaded and then we drop a YouTube icon on the video so you know which ones were uploaded.

      Now the fun begins.

      When the video is uploaded you can log into your account via your phone's YouTube app, on your computer or the YouTube app on your TV.  On all devices you'll need to login once, then your info will be saved.  

      Sharing your videos

      Sharing a photo via text or email works pretty well, but videos do not.  The file size is too large, that is why when you get a video via text message it's a postage stamp size.  The best way to share a video is via YouTube, or upload the video and share a link, not the entire video.  Videos easily play over cell phone connections.

      This is how sharing works on an iPhone.  Open the YouTube app find "My Videos", select an individual video and look for the Share button (below).

      When you click on the Share button, you can then send the video to all your favorite places, including email or Message.

      Getting your videos off your old tapes and learning how to create a YouTube Channel is absolutely worthwhile and you'll never regret it.  Once a month while watching TV with my family we will pull up one video, and inevitably watch a dozen memories laughing all the way. 

      I hope you enjoyed this post, if you have any questions send me an email to


      About me - Drew Little

      I've been in the professional video space for 16 years and founded Red Giant, the number one developer of plugins for Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Final Cut Pro.  I pride Red Giant on making special effects and color correction accessible to 100's of thousands of less technical (or still learning) users.  I've since founded several small companies, done angel investing. which includes a $100 million acquired company called Buuteeq.  I blog on a variety of topics here, but am most proud of living a balanced life for my family and teaching others to achieve the same freedom.


      Top 4 Best Ways for Mac Users to Import MiniDV Tapes

      Do a google search for "import minidv tapes to mac" and you'll get a rousing debate on the best methods to import tapes.  How do you choose?  

      Full disclosure, I'm a founder of LifeFlix, one of the recommended methods.  But I don't think it's best to rank them strictly 1 through 4, rather your choice should depend on what's most important to you or what kind of user you are. Here's a FREE copy of LifeFlix - Click Here <

      Consider the following

      Are you a technical user?  Are you price sensitive?  Are you less price sensitive and more time sensitive?  How many tapes do you have?  And finally, what do you want to do with the videos?

      One thing is consistent with all MiniDV camera users, of the 150 million cameras sold, all those tapes (and memories) have remained stuck in a drawer or shoebox.   That is why I founded LifeFlix and developed a technology that makes watching those memories easy.  These memories were captured between 1995 and 2005 and most haven't been seen since.  Other than curiosity about the memories on the tapes, and the potential of making your spouse cry when seeing the memories, it's important to understand that tapes deteriorate over time from oxidation.  If you've seen old VHS footage that is shaky, yellowish and breaks up, that chemical process is happening to your MiniDV tapes now. (yes, that's me fear mongering you into taking action!)

      Top 4 Best Import Solutions

      Now the top four best ways to capture those memories onto your Mac (in no particular order).  You decide what's best for you.  Personally I use a combination of LifeFlix and Final Cut Pro X.

      iMovie. iMovie is a basic video editing program designed for beginners, it's really nice (I've used it since 1.0).  I would recommend this as a MiniDV import solution for those that don't mind a learning curve (because importing is one of 50 features) or if you don't have many tapes.  Learn more

      • Pros:   lots of editing features like titling, cutting, color correction, stabilization, export and audio controls, one of the easiest to use editors, and it's free.
      • Cons:  a long list of features clutters the import and export experience, doesn't organize all tapes and video clips well, videos need to be moved into the editing timeline before uploading to YouTube or shared.

      Tape transfer services. There are few services that allow you to ship your tapes to them, they capture the videos and send you a DVD or digital files to download.  The two I would consider are iMemories (they are the big boys, and used by Walgreens) and Southtree. I recommend this service if you don't really use a computer, are less price sensitive (because it can get expensive), trust delivery services and are willing to wait a couple weeks.

      • Pros:  you don't have to do any work and you get DVDs and/or digital files.
      • Cons:  you pay per tape (about $10 per) and extra for DVDs, you have to ship your tapes then wait to see the videos a few weeks.

      LifeFlix. LifeFlix is a dedicated import application developed for MiniDV, HDV and DVCAM camcorder tape capture. It is designed to have no learning curve and handle quick import of many tapes and allow instant viewing and sharing of memories. I recommend LifeFlix for those that don't want to mess with complicated software and want to just import, archive, watch or share taped memories.  Also, if you've tried using iMovie, Final Cut Pro (or Premiere Pro) and can't figure them out or are unhappy with the import and cataloging features. Learn more

      "I use Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Media Encoder, but for archiving old DV tapes, LifeFlix is a winner. - David B"

      • Pros:  no learning curve, good for multiple tapes, basic editing, direct to hard drive archiving and sharing, click and "walk-away" import feature.
      • Cons:  lacks extensive editing features, costs money.

      Final Cut Pro X. Final Cut Pro X is iMovie's sophisticated big brother and is very similar in workflow and interface. But has more formats, audio and video layers & effects, finishing tools and handles things like multi-cam.  I have used FCPX for a few years and love it for more sophisticated editing.  Learn more.

      • Pros:  professional level editing quality, will grow with you, lots of great transitions, effects and titles, import multiple video and audio streams.
      • Cons:  Costs $300, has a relatively steep learning curve,  if you just want to import tapes you have to navigate all the other features.

      I hope this helped you decide, whatever you choose, please don't wait to rescue your memories!



      Help connecting your DV camera to a Mac

      Connecting to modern Macs is a little tricky, here is some help.  Apple computers have long since moved on from the Firewire connector used on our old DV cameras so you'll need an adapter.  The following diagram shows what's necessary to properly connect the camera to your mac.  Learn more and find purchase links at

      Connection diagram

      About Me 

      I've been in the professional video space for 16 years and founded Red Giant, the number one developer of plugins for Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Final Cut Pro.  I take pride in Red Giant making special effects and color correction accessible to 100's of thousands of less technical (or still learning) users while continuing to serve the most technical and demanding professionals with the highest quality.

      I've since founded several small companies, done angel investing. which includes a $100 million acquired company called Buuteeq.  I blog on a variety of topics here, but am most proud of living a balanced life for my family and teaching others to achieve the same freedom.  If you'd like to send me an email, click here.

      - Drew Little