Why Go Digital With Your Media?

July 9, 2014

When I was a teenager we didn’t have CDs. We had records and we had cassette tapes. 8-track came and went and didn’t last very long. You could purchase your music on record or cassette, but I would always purchase records and record them to my own blank cassette tapes and listen to them on cassette instead of the record. I did this for two main reasons. One reason was that I wanted to lessen the wear on my records. I figured I could listen to the cassette until it wore out or got lost. Then I could record it onto another cassette tape from the record again. The other reason was that I had a cassette deck in my car that allowed me to listen to my recorded music in the car.

Today, although you can still purchase CDs and even records to some extent, music has pretty much gone digital. And for good reason. In fact, some of the reasons are the same reasons I recorded my records onto cassette. When you have a digital copy, you have flexibility and control. You can burn it to a CD if you want but you can also put it on an mp3 player, smartphone or tablet. Just like with my records and cassette tapes, if something happens to your CD or your device, you still have the music and can burn another CD or put it on another device.

But digital copies of your media give you even more power and flexibility than that. You can edit your media. Is a particular song not loud enough? Edit it and make it louder. Does a certain song go on too long? Shorten it. Let me give you an example. Most people have heard the song, “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. The end of that song gets kind of repetitive and goes on for a long time. If you don’t like that, you can edit the song and fade it out earlier and thus, shorten the song.

Digital media also gives you the power to share your music with others, but that would be a copyright infringement in most cases.

Movies are going digital too. Buying and renting DVD’s is still around but mainly only through RedBox machines and rent by mail services like NetFlix. You certainly don’t see video rental stores like BlockBuster anymore. And that’s primarily thanks to services like Netflix that allow you to watch movies on your computer, gaming console, or internet connected TV. You can’t really purchase digital copies of movies, but you can watch them which is kind of like renting.

So now that we know the advantages to having your media in digital format, how do we get our media into digital format? That all depends on what format your media is on. CD’s are easy. All you do is pop your CD into the optical (CD, DVD) drive on your computer and use a program to rip (import) your music from the CD into digital format. Windows Media Player (WMP), which comes with Windows, can do this. However, before you use WMP to do this, change the Rip Music format from WMA to MP3 in the options. You can also use iTunes or any other music player on your computer to rip music from a CD. Just check the settings to make sure it’s going to put them in MP3 format.

If your music is in a cassette tape, 8-track, reel to reel, or record, then it gets harder. In this case, what you have to do is come up with a device capable of playing the media and figure out a way to connect that device with your computer. Then you can used free software like Audacity to record it while you play it on the device. Another way to get your music into digital format is to re-purchase it from an online store like iTunes or Amazon.com.

Another consideration for getting the music you own on one format to another format is to download it for free from other people. I’m not condoning copyright infringement here. However, it seems to me if you paid for a particular piece of music in one format, you shouldn’t have to pay for it again to get it on another format. If I have the equipment to take a song on a record and get it into digital format, that’s not a copyright infringement, but if I download the song from someone else, that is? I don’t think so. Downloading music from peer to peer file sharing networks started with Napster which was the first popular file sharing application. Since Napster was taken down, there have been others that rose and fell including the popular LimeWire but the only real viable method these days is BitTorrent. Downloading music using BitTorrent, however, is dangerous. You can easily infect your computer if you are not careful. So for most people, the best bet is to either repurchase or come up with the equipment to record your existing media into digital format.

For movies, it’s harder. DVD’s can be ripped like music CD’s, but because of copy protection, you have to purchase DVD ripping software to do it. If you want to do this, I recommend Magic DVD Ripper. I haven’t used them all. In fact, Magic DVD Ripper is the only one I have used. But it works great. If your movie is on VHS, then you will need a VCR to play the movie and a capture device to take the output from the VCR and feed it into the computer. If your video is on film, you would be better off taking it to a specialist and having them do it. Unlike music, you can’t go online and purchase a digital copy of a movie. You can only subscribe to services that let you watch online. Just like music, most movies can be downloaded in digital format using BitTorrent. However, as I mentioned earlier, it’s dangerous.

Once you have your media in digital format, we recommend that you back it up so that you don’t lose it all if you have a hard drive crash, theft, flood, or fire. You can back up to external hard drive, but that only protects you against hard drive crashes. It doesn’t help if your home is destroyed by flood or fire and it doesn’t help if a thief steals your computer and your external hard drive. Online backup services are good, but you have to be careful to get the right one. First of all, movies take up a lot of space, so make sure you choose a backup service with unlimited storage. Next, some online backup services won’t back up videos by default. One such service is Carbonite. If you have videos you want to back up online, I recommend CrashPlan. One other thing to mention is that if you have a lot of digital media, especially video, it’s going to take a long time to do the first online backup after you sigh up with a service.

Another media I should mention are pictures. If you have pictures that are not digital and only exist on photo paper, then you should consider getting them into digital format as well. There are two ways to do this. You can scan each one yourself, or you can send them off to a service that will do it for you. They can even scan negatives and slides. However, some of these services are very expensive. Online services are usually cheaper. Research them thoroughly.

There are several advantages to having your photos in digital format. You can edit them and fix them so that they look better. You can share them with family and friends. You can back them up and thus protect them. You can use them on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). You can use them to create slideshows. Use your digital music as background music for your slideshow too!

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