I would say it’s one of the more worrisome aspects of memory documentation: How to keep track of all the photos, videos and audio clips captured over the years. Enter LegacyBox, a service that helps people digitize their memories, specifically outdated media formats like VHS tapes, 8mm films, 35mm slides and hard-copy photo prints. (A full list of what they digitize is available here.)
It’s hard to trust a company with things as irreplaceable as your precious memories, but LegacyBox is known for its attention to detail and caretaking when it comes to converting decades worth of non-digital archives into a more modern format, so I decided to take the risk and test it out.
Here, how the process works, plus the pros and cons of the service.
How it works. The first step is to select the LegacyBox kit that’s right for you. You can choose different quantities of items you can digitize (for example, 10 tapes or 10 films or 10 sets of 25 pictures is just one of the package deals), but you can also decide exactly how you want your memories to be preserved. (I chose downloadable files, but you can also pick a thumb drive, DVDs and more.) From there, a LegacyBox package with a prepaid shipping label comes direct to your door, complete with barcodes that are to be placed on every item so that all of your media is safely tracked. Once it’s back at the facility, the process of digitizing begins.
I sent in a lot of old Mini-DV video tapes from when Spencer and Annie were little, as well as some ancient reels of me singing when I was a baby, and our wedding VHS.
The pros. It was a little nerve-wracking sending off my box, but from the minute it left my front porch, I was pleasantly surprised/relieved by how communicative LegacyBox was. I knew where the box was at all times, and was constantly getting updates about where I was in the different stages of the project.
What helps is their barcode system: After affixing those labels to my items, I was provided with status updates at every turn so I knew when my media was “in production” and when the originals had been shipped back (phew). To give you a sense of how long the process took, I placed my order on December 8, received and mailed back my box, and got everything to the facility by December 28. It began processing on January 20 and all my newly digitized files—plus the originals—were back in my hands by end of March. It’s not the speediest process, but it’s done by hand and, again, the communication (i.e. regular status updates) is what makes this service sing.
The cons. First of all, it’s not cheap. Packages start at $35 for just two 2 tapes, 2 films, or 50 pictures. I bought a 10 item package for $159 and ended up adding a few more items before I mailed back the box (they send you extra bar code stickers to make it extra tempting to add additional pieces… and charge you accordingly).
For the most part, I found the quality to be decent, but there was one item that didn’t digitize well (an old VHS tape that had been in the garage for a while). While they sent me a note saying the final output “wasn’t up to their normal quality standards”, there wasn’t really any way to dispute/not pay for the sub-par transfer. I guess it makes sense that they can’t be responsible for the quality if the original is garbled/problematic in some way.
In addition, they will send you your files either as a digital download, a DVD or a thumb drive… but they don’t digitize CDs or DVDs. This is a bummer since it’s getting less easy to fire up old DVDs these days, so I’d love to digitize a few that are full of old movies.
Overall, if you’re looking for a trustworthy and communicative service that will take diligent care of your keepsakes, but also helps you cross a task off your list when it comes to archiving your memories, LegacyBox is a solid bet.