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How To Convert VHS Tapes to DVD Using a Computer and an External Video Capture Device (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 don't own or intend to own a digital camcorder in the near future, 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
  • An external video capture device such as the Pinnacle Systems' Dazzle Digital Video Creator or Adaptec's VideOh! DVD
  • A computer with suggested minimum requirements: Pentium 4 or equivalent, 512M memory, an open USB 2.0 connection, 20GB 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 come with iMovie. Also, the video capture device should come bundled with editing software.
  • 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 capture device, 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

Pinnacle Moviebox First, determine the video and audio inputs on your video capture device. A good device should have a composite and S-Video input as well as an Left/Right RCA audio input.

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 video capture device, you should use that video connection as it produces the best quality. Assuming S-Video, connect an S-Video cable between the two devices. Connect the white and red RCA audio jacks from the video capture device 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 three plug white/red/yellow RCA accessory cable available at any electronics store. Follow the color scheme (white/red/yellow) to make the connection between the two devices in this case.

Now, make the connection from the video capture device to the computer. Usually this is a USB connection. Find an open USB port on your computer and make the connection. Make sure that your computer has a USB 2.0 connection. Otherwise, it will be too slow and may not work.

Perform the Conversion

  1. Turn on the computer and the VCR. If using a camcorder instead of a VCR, turn it on by putting it 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 video 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.

  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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