The real fun of transferring my old VHS tapes to digital is the fact that I get to watch these old videos that I haven’t had the opportunity to watch for years! A key reason for not enjoying them more frequently is a simply matter of convenience; VHS really stinks when it comes to quickly accessing and easily moving through a bunch of old home movie content. To make matters worse, the quality actually degrades over time!
OK, I probably don’t need to convince you that ease of use and quality on VHS is poor. What I really want to emphasize is that undertaking a project to digitize your old content is really not that bad if you set up properly. Here’s what you need:
- A relatively recent vintage Notebook or Desktop system with USB 2.0, a dual core CPU and plenty of available hard drive space. 100GB (link to Seagate.com) or more is great because you can chew it up fast! Ideally, a set up that you can leave connected to your video encoder and VHS player is best. Using the system the rest of the family depends on for homework, email and surfing the net can be problematic!
- A good quality VHS player with S-Video output is preferred. Composite output will work but quality is best with S-Video.
- A video encoding solution, which generally includes cabling with supporting software that converts analog video to digital video, finding a solution that supports high-quality DVD format is ideal.
My setup uses a three year old HP DVD Movie Writer which combines a DVD+RW external drive with the video encoding hardware in an external USB integrated box – all with bundled software ready to roll. Other hardware options include some rather high-end video capture cards all the way down to really low cost, USB connect solutions. Beware – I’ve read a lot of frustrating reviews about the really low cost options!
Once you have your system set up the whole process just turns into a multi-day production process. Plug in the video you want to digitize, start the capture system up, press play and come back in an hour or so. I’ve been getting in the habit of pulling out an old video two or three times a week and kicking of the system before I go to bed. The next day, I have new home movie on my computer that I can edit, archive on DVD or just store for easy access from my hard drive. I do have a few more suggestions on the set-up, but I’ll save that for my next post.