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How To Convert Your VHS and Analog Camcorder Tapes to DVD

Most people know of the benefits of upgrading from VHS to DVD. One of the biggest reasons is that videotapes degrade in quality over time. Everytime you stick one in your VCR and hit play, it's one step closer to never being watchable again. This means that many of those treasured moments captured on analog tape is at risk of being lost forever.

Another advantage of upgrading is that it's gotten much easier for the average person to edit those videos on a personal computer. Adding in titles and music, transitioning between scenes, and cutting out video that you do not want has become fairly simple compared to days past. There is no better time than now to transfer those home videos to DVD.

There are a myriad of approaches to convert your video, depending upon what you want to covert, and what equipement you already own or are willing to purchase. With so many choices, it can get confusing, but the good news is that the actual conversion process itself is fairly simple and straghtforward. The difficulty lies in deciding which process you want to use based on the products you own and the time you want to spend doing the conversion.

Options For Converting Analog to Digital Video

Use a DVD/VCR combo device (may be separates)

A DVD/VCR combo device is a component specifically made to convert VHS tapes to DVDs. The key is that your combo must have DVD recording capabilities built-in, and can simultaneously record a DVD and play a VHS tape. If you own a VCR already, all you need is to pick up a standalone DVD player/recorder which may also be used to convert the video.

Advantages

  • Fairly easy and painless to convert VHS tapes to DVD (touch of a button in many cases)
  • Requires minimal technical knowledge
  • All-in-one device performs all recording functions - no need to purchase any other devices
  • Also can act as a normal VCR as well as DVD player

Disadvantages

  • Must purchase fairly expensive device
  • Limited or no editing allowed of original video depending upon the device purchased
  • May only convert VHS tapes and not other analog camcorder tapes unless it has proper inputs

Resources

Use a computer and an analog-to-digital conversion device

By stringing together two or more devices including your VCR or analog camcorder, you can convert the analog video to a digital video format for storing, editing, and burning to a DVD with your computer.

Advantages

  • You have the most control over editing of the video - adding titles, music, cutting footage, etc.
  • Most newer computers come with close to everything you need
  • You might already own everything that you need to perform conversion

Disadvantages

  • Some technical knowledge required
  • Computer utilized must be fast enough to support video editing
  • Could be expensive if you don't already have video editing software and/or a DVD burner

Resources

Depending upon the devices you own and the features of those devices, your options are numerous. The options listed first are the easiest and least expensive to implement assuming that you already own the devices and/or peripherals. You must own or purchase a DVD burner for all options.

  • Follow this article link if you want to: Convert Using a Computer with a Video Capture Card

  • If you own a computer with a video capture card, this is typically the best and easiest option for converting your video. Unfortunately, only high-end computers and media center PCs typically come equipped with these cards. If not, they are fairly expensive to purchase and generally not worth the money for this one time usage. If you are unsure if your computer came with a video capture card, refer to your owner's manual or look for composite, S-Video, or other video inputs on the back of the computer. The input should look like the output on your VCR.

    If your computer doesn't have a video capture card, consider an alternative for converting the video below. Internal video capture cards are quite expensive.

  • Follow this article link if you want to: Convert Using a Digital Camcorder

    Many newer digital camcorders have a feature called 'pass-thru' mode. This feature enables the camcorder to act as a video capture device, which enables it to convert analog video to digital video and pass it through to the computer. The best way to find out if your digital camcorder supports this feature is to read your user manual or refer to the manufacturer's website.

    Even if you are still unsure, you can still do the conversion, it just is more time consuming because instead of one step conversion, you have to record to the digital camcorder tape first, then record to the computer.
  • Follow this article link if you want to: Convert Using an External Video Capture Device

    If you don't own a digital camcorder, the next best solution for converting your analog tapes is to buy an external video capture device. It is similar to a video capture card that is physically installed inside a computer except that it is connected externally to the computer. The advantage of this device over an internal video capture card is that it is much less expensive (under $100 vs. typically several hundred dollars).

Thoughts and Recommendations

Consider performing the conversion yourself with a computer in the following situations:

  • You have some technical ability and aren't afraid to learn.
  • You want to edit the videos, particularly if you want to combine footage from multiple tapes onto a single disc.
  • You own a newer computer with a DVD burner.
  • You have some time on your hands and patience.

Consider purchasing a standalone DVD recorder or DVD/VCR combo drive only if:

  • You generally avoid technical projects.
  • You only want to convert VHS tapes and want a straight copy to DVD.
  • You intend to buy a new DVD player anyway and don't have an interest in DVR technology such as TiVo.
  • You can't seem to find time to do the transfer.

Of course, if you don't want to bother with doing the conversion yourself and don't want the tape edited at all, you can always use a third party service. There are numerous companies that will convert your VHS tapes to DVDs for you. Search the Internet or ask your friends to find a service right for you.

Discussion:    Add a Comment | Comments 1-15 of 15 | Latest Comment

February 13, 2009 10:10 PM

Hi will this work to convert to a cd?

February 16, 2009 3:05 PM

If I understand your question correctly, you want to put the video that you created onto a CD instead of a DVD? If you do, you won't be able to play it in your DVD player. Using a CD would be like using any other type of storage media, so when you create your file to burn onto a CD, you would want it in a digital format like WMV or MPEG. It will just be stored on there as a file and you can put it in your computer and click on it to play in Window Media Player, or other video player software.

Does that help?

March 30, 2009 4:48 AM updated: March 30, 2009 5:04 AM

Hi... We have a plethora of 'STORE-BOUGHT' VHS movies that we've purchased over the years. We now want to convert them into DVDs.

I have read elsewhere that you can only use the VCR/DVD-combo player/recorders, (or a separate VCR and DVD-player/recorder), to convert 'HOME-MADE' VHS-tapes into DVDs-- (such as a VHS-taping of your kid's birthday party), not 'STORE-BOUGHT' VHS-tapes (such as 'Star Wars').

If this is correct, then how does one go about converting the 'STORE-BOUGHT' VHS tapes into DVDs? Thanks.

March 30, 2009 11:11 AM

"Store-bought" VHS tapes are copy-protected, hence it is illegal to copy them. You aren't even allowed to copy them to another VHS tape. You're only "legal" option, unfortunately, is to buy a new copy of the DVD movie.

View unverified member's comment - posted by Cindybrown

View unverified member's comment - posted by JimE

May 14, 2009 3:41 AM

Great article Ron.

In case you're interested, we did a round-up of some popular models of these types of products last month. There was 1 Panasonic VHS/DVD combo player and a few of the A-to-D converter ones that come with software to help you burn the digital version onto DVD. One of them actually is more versatile and can take any audio signal (as long as you can get it output via S-Video and/or RCA A/V plugs!) and convert it to a bunch of different digital formats.

Here is that round-up of VHS to DVD Converter.

Whoever Has The Most Toys Wins!

View unverified member's comment - posted by Lavinia Dunkin

May 25, 2009 10:35 PM

Lavinia Dunkin said: I have old camcorder tapes that will not fit into the adapter for the VHS. How can I convert them to a DVD. They will not fit into my new camcorder either. The reels on the back of the old tapes have two spindals and the new tapes have one spindal. I hope you can help me the tapes are priceless to me. Thank you
Do you still have the camcorder that you recorded the tapes with?  What kind of tapes are they?

View unverified member's comment - posted by Charles G.

September 4, 2010 7:15 PM

I just bought a new computer that has a line in connector but not the typical yellow video in. The manual states this will connect to a record or playback device such as a microphone, cassette player, CD player or VCR. Would this be the video in for a VCR? Thanks for any help and your articles are some of the best written that I have found.

December 4, 2010 2:04 AM

I have a lot of videos of my kids that I took using a camcorder. I don't have the camcorder I used. Is there a device that I can purchase that I can put the camcorder tapes into and it converts them to DVD?

April 5, 2011 4:46 PM

Hello. I have a JVC DV mini digital vid cassette with no camcorder. Can you tell me if there are
ways to play this tape. Are there bigger video cassettes that you place the smaller one in to, and play?

Hope this is ok and you understand!

kenny

October 23, 2011 3:41 PM

I have a DVD onto which I have recorded 3 VHS tapes.  They are in very good viewing condition.  Now I have copied them to my computer, but they are listed as VIDEO_TS.IFO just as they were on the DVD itself.  Is there a way of converting these to regular DVD format?  My DVD player doesn't recognize this format.

View unverified member's comment - posted by Tawd

Discussion:    Add a Comment | Back to Top | Comments 1-15 of 15 | Latest Comment

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