OK, just a few more suggestions for those of you planning to undertake the noble task of converting your home video tapes to digital movie files. Let me first mention a few items associated with Mini DV tapes since those are probably the second most common format next to VHS. Yes, I do have a good bit of my content on Mini DV – I’m not that old!
Mini DV content is already digital, so no analog to digital conversion is needed as with VHS. You can just connect your digital video camera, usually with a Firewire Cable, to your PC and capture the video to your hard drive in the form of movie files, usually AVI . Keep in mind these files are uncompressed and take up a lot of space. Further, if you want to burn your videos to a DVD you will need to have software that will transcode AVI video format into a more useful (and efficient) digital format. If you have video editing or DVD authoring software then you likely have a utility to transcode your AVI content already. There are also quite a few freeware utilities available for this task. One of my favorite sites to peruse for these little gems is http://www.doom9.org/ (ominous name – great site!).
This brings me to my final tidbit – encode your content at the highest bit rate possible. This will allow you to preserve the best quality video from your original content, and although it consumes a bit more space, it worth it! Typically, this will be DVD or MPEG-2 encoding. Common MPEG-2 resolution is 740 X 480, 24 bits and 30 frames per second. Don’t mess around with VCD or SVCD formats, I find the quality disappointing. Further if you create your digital library in MPEG2 format it gives you a wide range of possibilities for further use. You can easily import into a DVD authoring tool, there are many good MPEG-2 domain video editors and MPEG-2 playback is near universal. If you need to transcode later into a lower resolution version for the internet or if you want to play around with newer MPEG4 formats that are more efficient, you can always move on to that on an as needed basis.
If some of the terms I’ve used in here still seem daunting, don’t be put off! Once you invest in a basic video capture solution, it will walk you through this step by step. If you want to do some more research just Google “VHS to DVD” or “VHS to digital” and you’re going to find all the help you need.
In the end, you will find having your home video content readily available on your hard drive or burned onto DVD will provide a lot more opportunities to go back and relive some of your best memories again and again. Enjoy!