For many of us, this will be the first Christmas in ages where we haven't been able to spend it with family. I started looking for some gift ideas that may help ease that pain a bit and keep the family close together during the holidays.
I'll bet you or someone in your family has a stack of old VHS tapes that contain memories of vacations, birthdays, and other big events. I'll also bet no one has seen those videos in years because the VCR hasn't been used and even be unplugged.
The Pinnacle Dazzle is a device that will preserve those video memories and give you the opportunity to share them. The Dazzle connects a computer to a VCR or video camera. For VHS tapes you can use a VCR, for other formats such as Mini-DV or Hi8 you'll likely need to use the camera so I hope that's still around the house somewhere.
Once connected you simply install the Pinnacle video software. As you play the video in the VCR or camera, the software converts it to a digital file which you save to a folder somewhere on your computer. You can make edits or add graphics and music fairly easily. Pinnacle's software is made for the average consumer, not a professional video editor. Just follow the instructions.
Once the file is on the computer you can burn it to a DVD and send it to family members or, better yet, upload the video to YouTube. If you don't have a YouTube channel it is free and you can start one by going to YouTube.com. Upload all of the files you have and then share the link with family members so they can enjoy the videos on a computer or their smartphone or tablet. Some people may feel a little funny about uploading family videos to YouTube for anyone to see; if you'd like to keep it private, just make the video "unlisted." Anyone with the link will be able to watch it.
You can also do something similar with old family photographs. We all have boxes of paper photos somewhere around the house in a drawer, photo album, or shoebox. Take those photos and download the Google Photos app. Scan the photos with your smartphone and they'll be saved to your Google Drive or Google photos account. If you have Gmail, you have a Google account. Once those photos are saved, you can share the links with family and friends. The photos will even be organized automatically.
Better yet, check out the digital photo frames from Nixplay. These frames are easy to set up, just plug them in and connect them to WiFi. If you gift one of these frames to a family member, just add it to a Nixplay account and app that you keep on your phone. You'll be able to upload and display photos from your phone and app to that frame no matter where it is. Add photos as you scan them or add them whenever you take a new picture with your phone.
For family members separated by several miles and a pandemic, I can't think of a better gift.