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Transfer VHS to DVD

How to convert and transfer VHS tapes to DVD, transferring movies to DVD

Nothing you can do will prevent your video tapes from wearing out. Most VHS tapes wear out somewhere after only 10-15 years even if you don’t watch them. Transferring VHS movies to DVD helps add more life to the original tape, while also preserving your investment. (for simplicity sake I use VHS, but this process also applies to VHS-C, SVHS, Hi8, 8mm, 16mm, regular, even Beta).

Easiest Solution: VHS -> DV -> DVD

If you already have a DV camcorder, the easiest solution is to plug your VCR into it (audio and video RCA connections) and attach the firewire output to your PC (all DV camcorders should have firewire). Capture the VHS video to a computer video editing program using an analog-to-DV converter (which includes many DV/Digital8 camcorders as well as standalone analog-to-DV converters), transfer to DVD directly using DVDSanta.

Solution 2: VHS -> Video Capture Devices -> DVD

If you don't have a DV camcorder, you can get a video capture card or a dedicated external analog-to-digital converter (I have the Canopus ADVC-100, Dazzle also makes a device). The external device will feed to your PC via firewire or USB, whereas the video capture card uses your PC's PCI bus. I prefer the firewire/USB solution because I had issues with video and voice synchronization during capture. Video capture cards typically come with a TV tuner, like the Flyvideo 2000 or XCard and can make your PC act as a TV; the picture can be very good when used in conjunction with a free deinterlacing program called DScaler, and these cards are relatively cheap. DScaler does not work with ATI TV cards (different chipset). Once you have the hardware, get a good video capture program (Pinnacle Studio or Ulead DVD Movie Factory), and then burn to DVD using a great video converting and burning program.

Solution 3: VHS -> DVD Recorder

Connect your VHS VCR or camcorder to a standalone DVD recorder that works much like a VCR. This VHS to DVD recorder basically gives you a DVD copy of your tape in real time. You don't have a lot of flexibility as far as menus, buttons and chapter settings, but it's the fastest and easiest way to convert VHS to DVD. If you get a "DVD VCR" with Firewire connections you can plug a DV/Digital8/DVCAM camcorder or VCR into it and transfer the tapes to DVD at even higher quality than by using the analog connections.

What is VHS, SVHS?

VHS stands for Vertical Helix Scan. VHS is the video casette format and technology introduced by JVC in 1976. It is an analog format capable of delivering 240 lines of video resolution, along with stereo sound that's nearly as good as CD. Blank tapes usually feature either 120 minutes or 160 minutes of recording time at the highest recording speed (6 hours or 8 hours at the slowest speed).

Super-VHS (SVHS): A higher quality version of the VHS videotape format. Separates chrominance and luminance information to a produce a sharper picture than regular VHS videotape.

S-video (Y/C video): Hi8 (High-band 8mm) and S-VHS signal that transmits chrominance and luminance information separately to minimize loss of picture quality.

Tips: Transfer VHS to DVD

A warning: if you do convert your analog video to DV before transferring it on DVD, don't be shocked when you see the size of the DV file it captures to your computer. DV files take up almost 14 gigabytes per hour. That's what the MPEG-2 encoder does: it compresses the video to a much smaller size so that video, audio and menus all fit on a DVD (which actually holds 4.37GB of computer data).

If the analog-to-DV option sounds likes the best one for getting your video into the computer when you start to transfer VHS to DVD and you don't already own a DV camcorder or one of the analog-to-DV converter, I recommend getting a DV camcorder with analog inputs instead of simple converter box. The DV camcorder will allow you to save your edited projects back to tape as a high quallity DV master and, you will have something to shoot new video in the DV format. Some DV camcorders cost only slightly more than a converter. If you have a lot of old Hi8 or 8mm tapes, then consider purchasing a Digital8 camcorder with analog inputs and the ability to playback those older analog 8 tapes. In addition to "analog inputs," some camcorders also advertise "analog pass through." This means that the analog signal does not have to first be recorded to DV tape before being sent down the Firewire cable as DV. This can save plenty of time and tape if you plan to do a lot of VHS to DVD conversion.

If you transfer two hours of VHS to a DVD it can result in a significant loss of quality unless you have a high quality MPEG-2 encoder or use methods that encode the video at "half resolution." The normal DVD video resolution is 720x480 for NTSC, but some encoders and DVD authoring programs allow you to use 352x480 resolution. When you convert and transfer VHS to DVD this smaller resolution can still deliver very good results at the low data rates (bitrates) required to fit two or more hours of video on one DVD, especially if you use an analog-to-MPEG2 encoder or a standalone VHS to DVD recorder that bypasses the analog-to-DV step.

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