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Transferring VHS movies to VCD or DVD

Mail from Maurie Reed about VHS home movie transfers to digital formats.
MR: Dave, I’ve read all of your threads on video editing with interest. I’m not claiming to have understood everything but I’m less in the dark than I was before ( a 20 watt bulb as compared to a 10?).

DF: Remember, there are people who get 4-year degrees in this stuff. And graduate degrees after that.

MR: My question is: does the Pinnacle DV500 work in conjunction with a regular AGP video card or is it the sole video device in the system?

DF: It works in conjunction with another card. The DV500 does the heavy lifting and then sends its display over to the other card. So if you’ve got a DV500, any video card on the market today will be way more than enough. I used an S3 Savage4 card for a long time, and it was fine.

MR: Maybe better yet, what I’d lke to do is take the VHS tapes that we have made of the family over the years and transfer them to DVD. The first reason is to archive them for safety. After that’s done I’d like to edit them for quality, i.e., clean up, lighten,etc.

DF: PC Magazine’s Lance Ulanoff has done some columns on that. His approach, using Sonic MyDVD 4.0 (though Dazzle DVD Complete gets better reviews), is simpler than mine and eliminates the DV500, though you’ll still need some way to get the analog video into your PC. An ATI All-In-Wonder card would be good for that. I know Newegg has the less-expensive All-in-Wonders sometimes but they tend to sell out quickly so you’ll probably have to use their notify feature. Then you can spend the money you’d spend on a DV500 on a DVD writer instead (I suggest one of the Sony drives that can do DVD+R/+RW and DVD-R/-RW, that way if one format works better in your DVD player, you’re not stuck.

Keep in mind that Ulanoff used Firewire to get his video in, but that’s because he used Hi8 as his source, and those tapes will work in a Digital8 camera. If you’re using VHS, you’re limited to using analog inputs.

What you gain in simplicity you lose in power, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

MR: Toward this end I’ve been slowly building up a new machine: P4-2.4, Asus P4-533E, 512M PC-2700 RAM, 120G WD HD (SCSI’s not quite in the budget right now although I do have some Adaptec 2940 cards). I’m running an old S3 8M video card in it right now to test components (all from newegg…thanks for thesuggestion!) and I have no DVD-ROM drive or DVD burner yet (I do have a LiteOn CDRW). I thought I’d work on the video first. I’m sure at some point down the road we would like to do more video but never anything professional (read – making money at it). It would probably be my wife and daughters working with it anyway as I’m more of an audio person then video.

DF: You’re off to a great start. Add a DVD burner and an All-In-Wonder card (or a similar nVidia card with analog inputs–if your camera or VCR supports S-Video, use that, since its picture quality is noticeably better) and you’re ready to go. You might want to grab a smallish drive to hold your OS and apps so you can dedicate the WD drive just to video. Watch the post-Thanksgiving sales. For VHS-to-DVD transfers, IDE is sufficient.

Since you do have a CD burner, if you want to get started right away, get the All-In-Wonder and the software and start making VCDs, then get the DVD burner later.

As for being an audio person rather than a video person, I come at it from a magazine/newspaper background. I think it’s a shorter step from audio to video than it is from print to video! (And you knowing what it takes to make the video sound good is a very good thing. The audio quality on some of my projects has been positively awful.)

MR: I understand you’re very busy and NOT in the free advice business so I’ll understand if you decline to comment.

Thanks (no matter what the answer) in advance and have a great Thanksgiving!

DF: Thanks for the good questions. You have a great Thanksgiving too.

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8 thoughts on “Transferring VHS movies to VCD or DVD”

  1. comment
    Being a newcomer to this video and computer stuff, I find it extremely hard to put together. The staff at the software and hardware companies have horrible support( wait time of 40+ minutes). Hopefully you can shed some light.

    I have an HP7955 pavilion, with a CD burner. I have alot of VHS-c tapes, a JVC XV-S60BK DVD player. I would like to make vcds out of the old VHS tapes . could you suggest products that would be compatible. I am also looking at upgrading and buying a DVD burner, could you suggest one that is reasonable and reliable. Thanks, confused in Detroit, Cal

  2. Cal, the best I can suggest are these two links:

    Video capture
    VCD authoring

    Since Hollywood can’t fathom the idea of anyone wanting to do things with home movies, I doubt we’ll see a really easy, straightforward VHS-to-VCD converter any time soon, but I hope I’m wrong.

    NEC and Sony both offer burners capable of burning in both the DVD-R and DVD+R formats, which is the contemporary equivalent of a VCR capable of using both VHS and Beta. The drives are a little more expensive than a straight one-format DVD-R or DVD+R drive, but much cheaper than buying the wrong thing. I can’t vouch for either drive’s reliability over anything else, but my past history with both companies’ CD-ROM drives and burners has been good.

  3. Question: Which ATI all in one card do you recommend? I just ordered (backordered) the Sony DRU500A DVD R-/+ DVD burner. Now I need to get teh video card. I don’t game…just surf the net, do work stuff, will scan photos and DVD burn. Have a SOny Viao 1.8 GHZ ‘puter. I’m overwhelmed by the ATI choices and the website doesn’t give me a clear answer to my question…which card will let me hook up my VCR to copy my home movies to DVD?. In addition, how to I transfer the sound? I have Soundforge 6.0, but a crappy sound card on this ‘puter (an Audigy on my music ‘puter, I could always transfer it).
    Thanks for your help/input.


  4. If you don’t game, just get the least expensive card you can find with S-Video and composite inputs. I looked at; no luck on All-in-Wonders, but they’ve got an Asus card that’ll do the trick for $119.

    An SB Live! will run you $34 at Newegg if you need a decent card and don’t want to raid your other computer. The video capture software that comes with the video card ought to grab the audio automatically from your sound card’s input.

  5. As far as I know, it’s Windows-only and I don’t know how to get equivalent functionality under Linux yet. Linux is king of rendering, but as far as editing, it’s still in its infancy. The pieces are there for video capture, conversion, editing, and digital output, but I don’t know of a way to do analog output like the DV500 will, and I’d be surprised if the pieces work as well together as the DV500 package. In another year, that could all change though.

  6. I have just installed SuSE Linux 8.2 Professional, for its Main Actor video editing program, kernel 2.4.20, but I am dissapointed that it doesn’t recognize the Pinnacle DV500 DVD properly. As I watched on a Linux kernel discussion list, the support for this card might be included in the 2.6 kernel… until then… we are stuck to windows…
    I tried Linux because under windows, using a VHS video recorder and trying to capture a NTSC videotape, I get a black and white product, and tried it both composite and s-video, none of them wants to deliver the full color video to the computer.
    Other than that, I am happy with the DV500 DVD card… 🙂

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