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Converting old VHS tapes to DVD

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by manleywoman, Jan 7, 2012.

  1. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

    I know this has been discussed before, but since technology changes so fast . . .

    I have three bags of VHS tapes I'd like to copy to DVD. Some of them are movies, but a lot of them are old skating tapes I recorded.

    Some of them (gag) are old tapes of me competing, and are therefore very short . . . only about 10 minutes of content on a VHS tape. So ideally I'm hoping to find a device that will allow me to gang up a ton of my performances on one DVD so I don't have 20 different DVDs for 20 different performances when I could just run the performances all chronologically on one DVD.

    If that's not possible (because I imagine that would involve more video editing capabilities) then I'm fine with just burning old one VHS tape to one DVD, just so I can get rid of the old VHS tapes. Then perhaps later I can take the DVDs onto my Mac and edit them the way I'm thinking.

    Anyone have recommendations on a good machine to purchase to do this? It seems to me it would be cheaper to buy a $100 machine to do this rather than send the tapes out to a service, which from what I've researched so far will cost me a whole lot more. Can I plug this machine into my Mac laptop to use as a monitor so I don't have to mess with the configuration of my TV?

  2. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

    I take it you don't have a DVR? 'Coz that's the easiest method -- run an RCA cable from your VCR to your DVR, and record on the DVR.

    Failing that, I keep seeing Groupons / Teambuys etc. for this VCR-to-DVD kit. Can't vouch for how good it is, but at $40 the price is right! I'm sure there are similar products available near you.
  3. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Yuzuru, Medvedeva, T&M, Shibs, P&C

    I have a VCR-DVD player that can copy from VHS to DVD. I don't know if they are still selling it. I think I paid around $250-$280
  4. Jot the Dot Dot

    Jot the Dot Dot Headstrong Buzzard

    I got a Toshiba DVDR/VCR combo for just $179 Cdn. Shop around for good buys.
  5. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

    You must preserve the tapes of you competing, the mini-Manleys for generations to come will want to see them.
  6. acraven

    acraven Well-Known Member

    Doing it yourself will definitely be more cost effective.

    I use my computer (with a VCR connected) to convert tapes to DVD. For this you need a computer with analog-capture capability, which a computer with a TV-tuner card would have. You also need a lot of free space on your hard drive (rock-bottom minimum 100 GB, I'd say). If you have a newish computer, you may already have what you need, hardware-wise. You can buy an external capture device if your computer doesn't have a capture card. Here's some info (not sure how current) from about.com: http://dvr.about.com/od/tvcapturemethods/ht/ht1.htm

    I much prefer converting via computer, rather a than VCR/DVD combo, because of the comparative ease of editing. Just as an example, think about putting a title on a DVD: Would you rather do that with a computer keyboard or with a cellphone-style keyboard? The less editing you want to do, the less important this difference will be to you, obviously.

    I have a feeling that you could connect one of the combo devices to your computer only if the latter had a capture card. That's just a guess, though.

    I have a DVR with a hard drive and DVD-burning capability (Maganvox 515, available from Walmart.com). It's reasonably OK for making DVDs of TV broadcasts if you don't need to edit out commercials. For the latter, it's klutzy and really not precise enough, so I've never considered connecting a VCR to it as a means of converting tapes. I assume it's technically possible, and the DVR might have better editing features than the combo device (or not).

    It's definitely viable to focus initially just on converting your videos to digital form before the tapes deteriorate further, postponing actual DVD creation till you have more time. In that case I'd simply convert the tapes to .mpg format and store those .mpg files for later use. Easy on a computer; I don't know whether it's possible to do that with a combo device. I haven't been able to figure out a way to do it with my DVR.

    I've learned to store any video I might want to (re-)edit later in .mpg form, not as a finalized DVD. My one attempt to re-edit a completed DVD produced video and audio that were out of synch, which is fatal for skating videos. Perhaps a Mac would handle such re-editing, but I am doubtful. Googling "re-edit DVD" produces information that makes my head hurt.

    I store my unfinished .mpg files mostly on DVDs because I've had such bad luck with external hard drives. The resulting DVDs can't be played on a TV, but I can watch the video files on my computer if I need to.

    You mentioned movies. Many commercial movie tapes cannot be converted to DVD without use of additional equipment to remove the built in copy protection features often present. Google "video stabilizer" and see what turns up.

    More than you wanted to know, I'm sure...
  7. A.H.Black

    A.H.Black Well-Known Member

    Not more than I wanted to know. You are always a fount of information that is very helpful. Thanks so much for posting.

    Someday I will PM you about capturing streaming video. You posted once about it but it's too long ago to find.
  8. Skate Talker

    Skate Talker Replaced the display under my name

    I also prefer to capture on my computer. On my old PC I did not have a cable/tv card so I invested in a Hauppauge WinTV PVR. This allowed me to connect either RF cable or composite feed into my computer and also included the software to record as mpg files. I hooked up the tv cable box for capturing live broadcasts and my VCR to capture and save my old skating tapes. Originally I used to do this, then convert and burn them to create DVD movies. I experienced some difficulties with the DVD creation and at times ended up with out of synch audio/video. Possibly my computer was not powerful enough. Whatever the cause, I always had to check every DVD to make sure my DVD player would read it without freezing up. This was a pretty time-consuming effort. Because of the unreliability of these DVD movies, almost from the start I started making backups of the captured mpg files on DVD's and discovered that although my more expensive Sony DVD player refused to recognize them, my cheapo DVD player would play them just like my computer. No more need to burn movies and the bonus is that burning them as individual files resulted in being able to put more on each DVD and in much better quality too.

    A number of years ago, I was given a Western Digital Media Player for my birthday. This allowed me to connect external hard drives, or USB sticks filled with photo, video, or music files to my TV and play them flawlessly. For video it accepted many types of files, from avi, wmv, mpg, mp4 and on. Unlike acraven I have had good experiences with my external hard drives though I am careful to also back up to DVD.

    With convergence of TV, Computer, wireless networks etc. I really don't see any reason to be creating movie DVD's anymore anyway. This summer I got a new computer running Windows 7. Again it did not have a tv tuner built in but now that most of the skating is broadcast in HD I decided to treat myself to a Hauppauge HD PVR. It allows me to capture as MP4, TS or M2ts files.
  9. allezfred

    allezfred Master/Mistress of Sneer Staff Member

    I have a Sony HDD/DVD recorder that I love. Very easy to use and I just hook it up to an old VCR with a Scart lead and transfer videotapes that way.
  10. Clytie

    Clytie Member

    I agree with what others have said- buy a software program with an external capture device(you will need those yellow/red/white/ cables ie. audio/video plug ins) to hook up from the device to the VCR. This will save the videos to your computer harddrive were its so much easier to edit them. And yes you will need lots of harddrive space especially if you save in mpeg, which I also highly suggest.
    I have old soap tapes (don't judge please!) and family movies that I've converted into dvds. It really is'nt that hard. The right software is important. I had Pinnacle originally, that I liked- but my last one was VHS to DVD that I did'nt find as user friendly.
    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. So I've stopped. I am also to cheap to invest in a new VCR. And yes save the originals to dvd. You can always import them into the program later and make viewable dvds later.

    I think the movies manleywoman is talking about could even be tv movies. There are some out there that I wish I had on dvd but they are either not available on dvd or are never re-aired. I know I wish I had a few more classic soap tapes to save- especially with OLTL going off the air next week.
  11. Twilight1

    Twilight1 Well-Known Member

    I just started the process of transfering my old VHS tapes to DVD. What a time sapper!! My dad had a converting machine so I have started converting all my compilations tapes for ice dance. I have done 4 so far, but have well over 100 left to go. Crazy the amount of figure skating I have copied over the years.

    I also have a few tapes with soap opera's on it. Santa Barbara of all things!! I think I have a few of Another World as well. lol!
    aka_gerbil and (deleted member) like this.
  12. Erin

    Erin Well-Known Member

    I also love my Sony DVD recorder. Very user-friendly. It was about $500 when I bought it, but that was over four years ago, so I'm sure the price has come down significantly since then. It's very durable as well - I've probably burned over 500 DVDs and haven't had any trouble with it. (In contrast, I had a Phillips that worked for less than a year and turned out to be unrepairable :mad:)
  13. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Yuzuru, Medvedeva, T&M, Shibs, P&C


    I always shop around for good buys. That was the best price I could get at that time. No need to show off how smart you are (and to imply that I am an idiot who does not know about shopping around).
  14. allezfred

    allezfred Master/Mistress of Sneer Staff Member

    I had the same issue with a Phillips. Never will buy one again. Had it serviced a few times and it came back unrepaired. :rolleyes:

    I think I've burned significantly more than 500 DVDs on the Sony. :shuffle:
  15. manhn

    manhn Well-Known Member

    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).
  16. manleywoman

    manleywoman podcast mistress

    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?
  17. acraven

    acraven Well-Known Member

    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.

    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.

    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.
    manleywoman and (deleted member) like this.
  18. acraven

    acraven Well-Known Member

    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/
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2012
  19. acraven

    acraven Well-Known Member

    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.
    manleywoman and (deleted member) like this.