View Full Version : Converting old VHS tapes to DVD

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01-07-2012, 08:25 PM
Ok, so I don't have a VHS player at all anymore. And I love the idea of going straight to my Macintosh. So what's the best setup for that?

01-07-2012, 10:30 PM
Dvd recorders with a hdd are the best! But I can no longer find them in NA. Too bad. I have 4 of them. I hope they last for awhile (one is dying).

Magnavox still makes them. The 500GB model (MDR 515H) seems exclusive to Walmart, but there's at least one other model that's more widely available, the MDR513H/F7.

I think the hardest part of this though is getting a good VCR to play the tapes in- my old one broke and the one I have now keeps showing tracking lines I can't get off the screen.

Keep you eyes open for garage sales and the like. The best VHS VCR I've ever owned is a 1999 Panasonic I bought for $15 at an apartment sale last year. I assmue the original owner didn't use it much.

Ok, so I don't have a VHS player at all anymore. And I love the idea of going straight to my Macintosh. So what's the best setup for that?

You will need something (plain VCR or VCR/DVD combo) to play the tapes, but that's the easiest part of the problem. My research was done 6 years ago, and I ended up deciding to buy a new, media-capable PC partly so I wouldn't have to deal with external devices and software compatibility. Thus no useful info from me. If you Google "analog capture device" and explore from there, you'll turn up some options. Be aware, however, that some of the products are internal boards (TV tuner cards) rather than external devices. If you want to capture new TV programming, you'd actually want a tuner card.

It's critical to find some reviews, though, to be sure what you're buying will serve your needs. For example, one reviewer says the Diamond VC500 One Touch Video Capture Device cannot compress data so you are limited to about 1 hour per DVD. If true, that would be a deal-breaker for me since I like to organize my DVDs by competitive segment, not make artificial breaks at the 60-minute mark. And for movies, of course, you'd probably want to record at least 2 hours or a bit more on a DVD. (I've never tried to use the dual-layer DVDs.)

Now, that 1-hour limitation is probably related to the software provided with the device rather than the device itself, but I think it's best to find a one-stop solution rather than planning to use X software with Y hardware--unless you find multiple reliable-sounding reviews saying that X and Y work together smoothly. Once you figure out the conversion process, it's not all that complicated, but if you don't start out with a workable hardware/software combo, you'll waste a ton of time and perhaps never uncover a solution. It's definitely worth spending some time on the Internet, seeing what current users are saying, before deciding what to buy.

I was going to suggest AVS forums, which is where I did a lot of my initial reasearch on analog capture, but now I can't find that type of info on the site, though I'm sure it's there. Pertinent threads might well crop up if you use Google.

After Google, I'd check out websites like cnet, pcmag, and pcworld. Also, put the word out to your more technically savvy friends; someone has and is using exactly what you need, it's just a matter of locating that person.

Of course, you must be especially careful about Mac compatibility. I have no idea whether that could possibly be an issue.

01-08-2012, 07:18 PM
By coincidence I stumbled this morning on an avsforum thread started by a Mac owner who wants to convert video tapes. He seems to be shooting for mp4 files (are those HD?) rather than standard DVDs, but much of the info seems applicable to DVD production. I cannot vouch for any of this info personally other than agreeing that the "best" VCR is not necessarily the best for every individual tape, but I hope this will be helpful:


In particular, note these Mac-specific comments (emphasis mine):

Follow-up by original poster: "...I have started transferring some VHS to DVD (mostly personal home videos) using an older Samsung GoVideo DVD/VCR combo out to my Panasonic DMR-E55, and it actually has worked good, although with sporting events I'm a little more picky about quality, my ultimate goal for this is to get them on my iMac to edit in iMovie. As of now my method is record to DVD -R from VHS copy, then convert .vob files to .mp4 and edit in iMovie."

Responder CitiBear: "Your current workflow is running against your quest for quality: if you really must have iMovie-editable MP4 files as your end result, you're wasting your time with the intermediary Panasonic DVD recorder. The dub from VHS to VOB is manageable, but reconverting those VOBs to Mac files is just gonna kill any advantage of an upgraded VCR or DVD recorder.

"You should probably look into an external USB2 or FireWire breakout box with encoders that feed directly into your Mac, and encode the VHS straight to AVI or MP4 right from the start...

"Unfortunately... finding really good inexpensive or freeware video apps [for the Mac] is getting increasingly difficult (and will only get harder with the misbegotten new breaks-everything "Lion" OS). If you can't find any really good software/hardware encoder combos for your Mac, you may want to consider acquiring a dirt-cheap second-hand WinTel box just to do VHS>AVI conversions and DVD authoring."

Responder sunsetandgower: "You have the same workflow that I have - VHS to imovie. This is what you want for the transfer:


It is the analog to digital passthrough between your vcr and your mac via firewire."

I highly recommend avsforum. It seems to be the a/v equivalent of FSU. I've belatedly figured out, though, that I need to browse it with Word open so I can copy and paste useful information as I find it. It can be hard to relocate useful information because of the size of the site.


EDITED TO ADD: There's another forum with a wealth of information about video processing: http://www.videohelp.com/

06-28-2012, 08:04 PM
The subject of converting VCR tapes to DVD has come up again in a different thread, so I thought I'd add a link to this website that I used in the past but had forgotten until yesterday. It may have more accessible information about capturing analog video from videotapes than other sites I've recommended.


Check especially the "Guides" tab and the Forum.

Always remember that many/most of the folks on the video discussion boards are a lot geeker about their videos than a skating fan with hundreds of videotapes can afford to be. If you have hundreds (or thousands) of hours of figure skating coverage, you probably just want a decent conversion method that doesn't make your videos look a lot worse than they do on tape, plus some basic editing ability. I skip over all discussions about color filters, capturing uncompressed video, and the like; there's just no time for that level of detail. It's a different story if you just have 10 or 20 hours of home movies you're trying to preserve, of course.