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How and Where to Convert VHS to Digital - Step By Step Guide | 2021

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8min read

Take a moment to think about all the incredibly important memories you have saved on VHS cassette tapes. You probably have videos of your children or grandchildren blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. You probably have videos of you and your friends having fun during your teenage years. You may even have videos of some notable event like your wedding or a religious service. These are all precious and cherished memories that no one would ever want to forget.

However, your VHS tapes are deteriorating every day. VHS tapes used magnetic charges to stop their video, and those charges grow slightly weaker every day. They wear down even more when you play them. For these reasons, it is incredibly important to digitize your VHS tapes as soon as you get the chance.

Here are a number of various options for digitzing your VHS tapes.

How to Convert a VHS to DVD?

To convert VHS tapes to digital DVD media will help protect those memories from fading - not just from your mind, but from the VHS tapes themselves. We will cover two approaches.

The first approach uses a DVD recorder. This approach requires purchasing a standalone DVD recorder, so it involves an up front cost. It also is not flexible, as you will not be able to edit or change the footage in any way.

The second approach uses an analog-to-digital converter and a computer to import you VHS tapes as video files (eg. MPEG files) where they can be edited before burning to DVD. This approach is not as automated and will take more effort, but it has the benefit of allowing for the creation of a DVD menu with titles, or cutting out unwanted breaks in the tape.

Here are the steps for using the DVD Recorder approach:

Method
1

Using a DVD Recorder

1
Buy a DVD Recorder. Unfortunately, you won’t find anyone who will rent a DVD recorder, so you’ll need to buy one. This up front purchase may or may not be worth your money to convert one tape, but if you have many tapes you might consider it worth what it will cost. DVD recorders typically cost around above $250 and they can be hard to find, reaching into the $700 and up price range.
2
If using a camcorder to play back the VHS tape (or perhaps you’re recording a different tape, like SHVS, VHC-C, 8mm, or Hi–8), connect the camera’s A/V output cables to the DVD recorder A/V inputs. If using a Hi–8 or SVHS camcorder, you may have a S-Video output that connects in place of the yellow RCA cable. This cable will produce a higher quality output and should be used if you have it available. If you no longer have the proper cables, they can be obtained for a relatively inexpensive amount.
3
Insert the source tape first and make sure it’s rewound all the way.
4
Insert your DVD-R into the recorder.
5
Press D. Dubbing or Record in order to beging the process of recording the tape to DVD. If using an external camcorder and the A/V inputs, immediately press Play on the external camcorder. You may also have to press Play if using an internal VHS tape player.
6
Finalize the recording by pressing Stop, then check the DVD recorder’s instructions for finalizing a DVD. For many DVD recorders, this may be found in on screen menus.
7
You may be able to pause and edit the DVD by pausing the recording, finding the new content you want on the tape, and then unpausing the recording by pressing Record.

Here are the steps for using the digital converter approach:

Method
2

Using an Analog-to-Digital Converter and a Computer

1
Find and purchase an analog-to-digital converter, also known as a video capture card. These can be found for as little as $12, although beware that some of the very low cost options may be unreliable.
2
Connect the analog-to-digital converter to your computer using the USB port. Because of driver issues, if the analog-to-digital converter does not work with your Windows 10 or MacOS comptuer, you might consider finding an older computer that runs Windows 7. A reliable brand, however, should continue to provide driver updates.
3
Connect the analog-to-digital convert to your VCR or camcorder using the yellow, red, and white RCA cables. If your camcorder or VCR supports the black S-Video cable, use it instead of the yellow RCA video cable.
4
If the analog-to-digital converter included software, open it and follow its instructions to transfer the video to the computer. If it did not include software, open editing software on your computer. For instance, if you’re on Windows, open Movie Maker. (Windows 8 and up users may need to download Movie Maker from the Microsoft App Store.) If you’re using MacOS, open iMovie. Importing the video will take as long as it does to play the video back. You should also make sure you have enough space for the video files. You will need approximately 1GB for every hour of video trasnferred.
5
Once the video has been imported, you can edit it inside your preferred video editor. If you used an older Windows 7 computer, you will first want to copy the video files to a portable thumb drive to transfer them to a modern computer. With the imported video, you can use software like iMovie or Final Cut Pro on MacOS, or Windows Movie Maker or Adobe Premier on Windows. You will be able to fully edit your video using non-linnear editing techniques, just like the professionals do.
6
Save and burn the edited video to DVD. Depending on your software, you may need to select File > Save, or File > Share, or File > Export, but whichever way the menu is worded they will all have the same result. If you’re using Windows Movie Maker, you can skip saving and choose Burn DVD directly from the menu. If you’re not using Windows Movie Maker, you will need a separate DVD authoring and burning program. Popular choices include Roxio’s Creator and Roxio’s Toast.
7
While the DVD is being burned, make sure your computer is powered (if a laptop) and does not go to sleep. The easiest way to do this is to stay at the computer moving the mouse every once in a while. But if you need to walk away, navigate to your System Preferences or Control Panel and search for “Power” in order to find the settings for when the computer goes to sleep. To burn DVDs, configure the setting for Never. Be sure to restore this setting to your usual preferred time after the DVD burning is completed.

How to Transfer VHS to Computer

There are two options you can consider:

      - Save time by paying a professional for the service.
      - Doing it yourself.

If you choose option 1 and have a professional do the service, you should consider price and flexibility. Having someone else digitize your VHS tapes means that you will pay more and have less flexibility with formats.

If you choose option 2 and do it yourself, you will likely save money and have more flexibility, but it can also be complicated and time consuming. If you only have one tape to convert, it’s also possible that the up front costs of purchasing the equipment will outweigh the costs of the service.

Easiest Way To Convert VHS to Digital

The easiest way to convert VHS, VHS-C, 8mm, and HI–8 tapes to digital files is, by far, using an online service like LegacyBox or iMemories. You can also convert other formats like Digital8, MiniDV, and even Betamax or PAL. These services will do the work for you and allow you to save that bundle of frustration and headache for some other project you’ve wanted to tackle.

To use these online services, you will need to visit their website, set up an order and pay for it, and wait for a specialized box to arrive. Once their shipping material has arrived, you will catalog your individual tapes and package them for delivery. Be prepared for the turnaround time to be 6 to 8 weeks, as these services are popular and each conversion takes considerable time. You may or may not be able to pay to expedite your processing.

However, the online services will also offer many different delivery methods, allowing for you to receive your videos in your preferred way. You may, for instance, be able to access your converted video directly on your iPhone or Android device in order to download it.

Best Video Transfer Service Company Near Me

You may be able to find a local electronics store or video guru willing to do the same service as iMemories or LegacyBox locally. However, since this is a niche service category, you may not be able to find a local option. In this case you will want to choose from online services like iMemories or LegacyBox.

Here are some unique features of each service to help decide:

  • iMemories can process VHS, VHS-C, Betamax, 8mm, Hi8, Video8, Digital8, MiniDV, MicroMini, Super 8, 16mm, photo slides, and photo negatives.
  • LegacyBox can process VHS, VHS-C, 8mm, Hi8, Video 8, MiniDV, Betamax, MicroMV, PAL, Digital 8, 16mm, 35mm photo slides, as well as audio cassette, and reel-to-reel video.
  • Both services offer the return of your originals, free “enhancement” and a shipping time of approximately 5 business days.
  • LegacyBox may take as long as 8 weeks for the entire process to finish and be turned around, while iMemories offers shorter times of 2 to 3 weeks.
  • iMemories has a price of $11.99 per tape, where LegacyBox offers bundles starting at $53.99 for 2 tapes, 2 pieces of film or 25 photos.

Need more information on which VHS to Digital Service to choose between iMemories and LegacyBox? Check out this article that talks about the differences between these two. imemories vs legacybox

Final words

Whichever service you device to try, or perhaps you decide to DIY (Do It Yourself) you should make all reasonable efforts to digitize your old analog VHS tapes because the memories found on them are often precious and not something that should be lost to old, outdated technology and forgotten.

Written by Adam Moreno
With the continual development and increase in technology, gadgets, and gizmos, Adam never has a dull day researching new gadgets. Being an enthusiastic gamer, traveler, soccer lover, and avid car driver means that he always looks for the next cool thing to try out.

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