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How To Convert VHS Tapes to DVD Using a Digital Camcorder (Page 1 of 2)

If you have analog home videos, either VHS tapes or analog camcorder tapes (Hi-8, etc.), to convert into DVDs and you own a digital camcorder, this article will assist you with that process. To view other options to convert analog tapes to DVDs, read How To Convert Your VHS and Analog Camcorder Tapes to DVD first.

What You Need

In order to convert your analog tapes, you need to have the following:

  • A VCR or an analog camcorder
  • A digital camcorder
  • A computer with suggested minimum requirements: Pentium 4 or equivalent, 512M memory, 20G disk space (you will eat it up fast, especially if you convert at a high resolution)
  • Video editing software - Windows XP comes with Windows Movie Maker, newer Mac's ship with iMovie. Check your computer and do some investigation before you purchase a video editing software package.
  • A DVD burner
  • Blank DVD media

The Process

At a high level, the process consists of playing the analog (VHS, Hi-8, etc.) tape through the VCR or analog camcorder, converting it to digital format through the digital camcorder, and then storing the digital formatted video file on the computer. This file can optionally be edited using video editing software (such as Windows Movie Maker on the PC or iMovie on the Mac) and then burned onto a DVD for playing in a DVD player.

Make the Connections

First, determine the video and audio inputs on your digital camcorder. Your camcorder should have a composite and/or S-Video input as well as an audio input (probably 1/8" line in plug). You may have to open a compartment on the camcorder to find the inputs. Refer to your owner's manual or manufacturer's website if you are having trouble.

Next examine your VCR or analog camcorder for the outputs it supports. If you have an S-Video connection on both this device and the digital camcorder, you should use that video connection as it produces the best quality. Assuming S-Video, connect an S-Video cable between the VCR and the digital camcorder. For audio, connect a Left/Right (white/red) RCA accessory cable available at any electronics store to the VCR audio output and 1/8" stereo plug on the other end to the digital camcorder's audio input. Connect the 1/8" plug to the line in on the computer and the white and red jacks to the VCR or camcorder's audio output.

If you don't have S-Video on one end, you must use the composite (yellow RCA) connection. For this connection, use a 1/8" stereo plug to three plug white/red/yellow RCA accessory cable available at any electronics store. Connect the 1/8" plug to the digital camcorder 'audio/video' jack (usually yellow) and the yellow, white and red jacks to the VCR or camcorder's audio output matching yellow to video, white to left and red to right.

Now, make the connection from the digital camcorder to the computer. Usually this is typically done with a FireWire (IEEE-1394) connection. They use standards-based cables that can be purchased easily if you don't already have one. Look for something labeled 'iLink', 'DV out', or a small 'i' symbol (the FireWire logo). In the picture above, the 'DV in/out' port is used to connect via FireWire to the computer.

If the connection is not FireWire, a proprietary cable is required for the connection. That cable probably came with your camcorder when you purchased it. If you lost the cable, purchase a new one through the manufacturer.

Perform the Conversion

Digital Camcorder Supports Pass-Through Mode

  1. Turn on the computer, digital camcorder and the VCR. If using an analog camcorder instead of a VCR, turn it on as well as the digital camcorder by putting them in 'play or vtr' mode.

  2. Start the video editing software on the computer if it already is not started.

  3. The video editing software should recognize the camcorder device that is connected to it. If not, recheck your connections and ensure all devices are turned on properly as described.

  4. Check your resolution for the video capture. Make sure that you have enough space on your computer for the length of the tape. Usually the software will give you hints about how much disc space video will take up. If not, experiment first with different resolutions before editing a whole video.

  5. Check your format settings for the video capture. When capturing the video, the file(s) created will be in a specific video format which varies based on the software being used. Make sure that the format used can be burned onto a DVD in a format your DVD player can support (usually the default setting for editing software).

  6. Rewind the VHS tape (or analog camcorder tape) to the appropriate place where you want to begin capturing your video.

  7. Hit the play button on the VCR and the record button on the video editing software simultaneously.

  8. The video should appear on your computer screen and digital camcorder. Note: If you cannot see the picture on your computer, but see it on your digital camcorder, your camcorder probably does not support 'pass-through' mode. See below for an alternative in this case.

  9. You are now capturing the video on the computer. Some software also plays the sound while capturing, but others do not so don't be alarmed if there is no sound coming out.

  10. Let the tape run through to the end of the video, then stop recording. The software should sense the end of the tape autmatically so you don't need to wait around for the tape to end if you don't want to. You might also want to try and capture 10 second clips initially just to get the hang of how your software works.

Video editing software will vary in how it splits up the captured video into 'clips'. Some software will find the breaks automatically and turn them into separate clips that can be edited easier. If this is not available automatically, you may want to create your own clips as you find natural breaking points in the video tape.

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