How To Transfer Movies from VHS to DVD

VHS tapes and DVDs

VHS tapes and video cassette recorders are an obsolete technology. But if you’ve been a video file in the 1980’s, or at least have a lot of family videos still stored on VHS, you might want to transfer to a newer, more reliable technology, which is DVD (and arguably, high definition DVDs in the future). As a storage medium, DVD lasts longer, because they are not beholden to magnetic fields and molds. The only enemies of DVDs would be deep scratches and melting. DVDs also give better playback, in terms of clarity and resolution.

You can have your VHS tapes transferred professionally, but this might cost an arm and a leg if you have a big collection. If you want to save, you can transfer them yourself through several methods.

Computer capture. You can plug your VCR to your computer using an analog-to-DV converter. Most DV and digital8 camcorders can serve as a converter. Or you can purchase a standalone converter from an electronics store for about $100 to $150. Hook up the VCR’s RCA cable into the Video In socket of a DV camcorder or converter, then hook up the latter to the computer via FireWire. You can now use your camcorder’s PC-side software to record video playing from the VCR.

Once you have saved the video on your computer, you can now encode it in a suitable format, such a MPEG4 or AVI, and then subsequently burn it as a DVD video using DVD mastering software such as Roxio an Nero.

Using a combination DVD Player. Some DVD players actually serve as combo players, which let you play and record using DVDs, but also have slots for other formats, like VHS. With this machine you can take play a VHS tape while recording with a recordable DVD on the DVD slot.

Use an external DVD burner. Some standalone DVD burners might also be able to accept video input and directly record these onto discs as DVD movies. With a combo unit and DVD burner, you might have to slip the resulting DVD into your PC to finalize the disc from further writing, as some DVD players cannot play movies from discs with still open sessions.

Last resort: commercial solutions. As a last resort, you can simply look for a company or small studio that will do the conversion for you. If you only need to transfer one or two movies into DVD, then perhaps the investment of buying a new DVD recorder, or spending for analog to digital converters and the like will not be worth it. This doesn’t even include the time and effort you would need to spend in converting from analog to digital, and then setting up your burning software to burn a DVD in DVD movie format.

Again, the benefits of converting from VHS to DVD outweigh the costs, especially if you have videos that you want to preserve for a longer period of time. It will just be a matter of how much effort and money you are willing to give for this project.


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