Thanks for the memories

  • By RaeJean Hasenoehrl For the Herald
  • Tuesday, November 27, 2007 3:55pm

Sometimes the perfect gift is just a memory away. A vintage photo enhanced by sepia tones, a water-damaged print restored to its original beauty, an old film reel given new life — all can become cherished gifts this holiday season.

Photo and Sound Saving in Stanwood specializes in creating such gifts. Owners Cheryl and David Balle use state-of-the art equipment to restore photos and to digitally preserve a variety of media onto disks. They also transfer and restore old eight-track tapes, cassettes and LPs.

Their services are a popular gift-giving option. “Eightieth birthdays, ninetieth birthdays, graduation—we get them all,” Cheryl Balle said. The business has produced digital slideshows, rejuvenated old photos, and transferred home movies to DVD for weddings, anniversaries, retirement parties and holiday gatherings.

“Sometimes an older couple will bring in a whole collection of film to be made into copies for each of their children,” Balle said. “On our order form we ask if the item is a gift, so if we call the home we know not to reveal the surprise.”

The Balles’ ambition to preserve media memories and make them easily accessible was partially founded on their own experience.

“There are probably a lot of people like me who have stored their media but can’t get to it,” Balle said. “You dig through boxes, getting stuff all over the place, then don’t have time to put the items back together again.”

The goal of their business makes sense. Pictures of the past can speak volumes from generation to generation. But stored in grandma’s attic, they are a buried treasure, lost and sometimes forgotten.

“A saying we often use with our customers is ‘bring your past to life,’” she said. “Usually it’s one or two people who have all the pictures of the family, and the other family members are asking where a certain picture is.”

Pictures, slides and film stored digitally, on the other hand, are right at your fingertips. Once they’ve been saved to disc, the images can be viewed, organized, printed and e-mailed with just the click of a button.

The digital storage also eliminates the clutter of bulky, outdated media and creates a safeguard for keepsakes.

“With the fires in Southern California, most of the people affected say I wish I had my photos,” Balle said. “You should ask yourself what you would grab first on your way out the door in a disaster.”

She thinks most would choose their printed memories. “The problem is photo albums are big and awkward. Cassettes and tapes are clumsy to carry. Through digital storage, additional copies can be stored offsite, such as in a safety box or another family member’s home.”

Another way to archive your memories is through the use of a portable hard drive. “We can format, partition, and upload your digital files,” Balle said. “Our starting price for a portable hard drive is two hundred dollars.”

This hard drive has 320 gigabytes of storage. Units with larger memory capacity (up to one terabyte or 1,024 gigabytes) are also available. Photos, slides, video stream, and music can all be stored on one hard drive, and in many cases, room is left for future additions.

Photo and Sound Saving offers convenient a la carte pricing and will soon open a do-it-yourself center. Its Web site describes services and prices in detail. Gift certificates are available for services, products and DIY rental time.