Change those VHS tapes to DVD!

Question

What would be the best way to copy all my home VHS tapes to a DVD. I want to do this because the VHS tapes are losing quality and I am worried that they will be lost for good.

- David

Answer

This question was answered on May 2, 2003. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Taking analog recordings and converting them to digital has many great benefits Not only will it not deteriorate over time, subsequent digital copies will not suffer from the generational degradation that occurs when making analog copies.

The hardware necessary to do a good job can get quite expensive and the process to get them converted can be somewhat complicated, depending upon your comfort level with computers, so I will give you several options to consider.

If you want to do it yourself, your computer will need a variety of items that are not standard features on most computers.

The first item that you will need is a way to capture video from your VCR (both hardware and software) Some computers have special video capture cards such as ATI’s All-In-Wonder series or one can be added to your system Or you can use a simple external adapter like the DVC 80 from Dazzle (www.dazzle.com) that connects to a USB port (generally lower quality video) or if you want higher quality captures, one of the Pinnacle Studio products (www.pinnaclesys.com) which come with an internal card and the required software for video transfers.

The next ‘must have’ is a large and fast hard drive Video requires enormous amounts of hard disk space and the faster it is, the more frames it can capture Uncompressed video can take as much as 10 GB per hour, which will have to be compressed at some point in order to transfer it to DVD.

The last of the must have devices is a DVD burner, which needs to be chosen carefully in order for the disks that you create to be usable on standard DVD players Because there is no single format, I recommend the Sony DRU500AX, which has support for all of the current formats.

Anyone that has spent the money and the time (generally weeks) to learn how to transfer and manipulate video will tell you that letting a professional do it for you will be much less expensive and frustrating.

VHS transfer services average about $20 per 2-hour tape, so the price of the DVD burner alone would cover about 18 tapes Unless you really want to spend the money and time, a transfer service is probably the most cost effective method and will likely result in as good or better quality recordings than you can produce on your home computer

There are hundreds of services advertising on the Internet that you can access by searching for ‘VHS to DVD’ in your favorite search engine (I have not used any of them, so I can’t make a specific recommendation).

The final option is to bypass your computer all together and purchase a stand-alone DVD burner that will allow you to plug your VCR directly into it Philips (www.philips.com) recently introduced the DVDR985, which lists for just under $700 but can be found at various Internet retailers as low as $499

The bottom line on this subject is Don’t venture down the do-it-yourself path unless you have a lot of hardware, money, time and patience to spend!"

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on May 2, 2003