I am interested in converting a variety of VHS tapes to digital video files. I once knew enough to have stumbled through meGUI and Gordian Knot guides in olden times of doom9 and afterdawn, but I'm afraid I may be even dumber now than I was then. I have poked around this and other forums and websites, read up on equipment and software and techniques, and feel mostly overwhelmed. I'm not even sure, for example, if I need to defeat Macrovision at any point, given that I am not interested in making physical copies onto blank media. If I do, I'm not sure which of the dozens of gadgets out there will be the right one for me, or where the best place to shop is for that right gadget. I have spoken over the phone with what appeared to be a well-vetted, professional media conversion/transfer/preservation company, who have impressed upon me a few key points which I have seen repeated elsewhere:
1. Don't give Target or Walgreens or whatever retailer your tape, only for them to do a crap job and/or lose/destroy the original.
2. Do not expect one deck or one workflow/setup to work for every tape and every kind of problem you might encounter.
3. Do not waste your money on little RCA USB dongle things.
4. The sky is the limit. It all depends on how perfect a copy you want.
I do not have the time, money, inclination, brain power or attention span to perform archival-grade captures and encodes. If I can generally maintain good quality and improve poor to medium quality from source to finished file, I am happy. For example, I look at all the videos posted in this thread:
and they all look fine and practically identical to me.
Any and all help is greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.
PS: I would love to be able to discuss this kind of stuff in person with someone. If anyone reading this lives in or around Central New York and would like to meet up, please PM me.
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1. I'm sure that some places are better than others, but most reviews you have to take with a grain of salt as well. Many people seem to think that because the final product is a DVD, that the material on the disc will be "DVD quality". Common sense would dictate to most people, that the output isn't going to be any better than the source material. Depending on the number of tapes that you want/need to convert, a conversion service could be a better way to spend your money.
2. Yes and no. Workflow can change. Hardware shouldn't be an issue assuming it's working properly.
3. True. And as with most hardware, you often get what you pay for. In other words, the $9.99 solution likely isn't going to work well.
Macrovision won't be an issue for home made tapes, it would only be present on commercial tapes.
So basically, you will need a decent VHS deck (which you hopefully already have, as decks are becoming rare), a capture device or card (I only recommend Hauppauge hardware, but there are other brands as well) for input into your PC, capture software (most hardware ships with software), and enough free HDD space to hold the capture and additional space to work with the material. Depending on the deck and tape quality, your capture file may be of adequate quality. In which case, you don't need to do anything further unless you want/need the file in a format other than the format in which it was captured. Otherwise, you may need some additional work and software to edit, clean up, or convert to another format.
There are several members here with great experience in this type of work, and I'm sure they will chime in as well with additional info and experience.Google is your Friend
Four years later, I am back at it again. To answer your long ago question regarding hardware, I did not then, nor do I now, own a deck of my own, and I see that they have only gotten spendier. Such is life. Thankfully I have some monopoly money to play with and am willing to invest in some decent equipment. Still unsure what that equipment ought to be. On the topic of point number two, I was hoping that the multi/world/worldwide decks I've been seeing:
would also have all the bells and whistles of the S-VHS level decks, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
has been a good resource for me lately, and I've asked on doom9 and a couple other places if this ancient but epic capture guide:
has seen an update since 2004.
Otherwise, I'm generally back to floating through forums, a wayward and nubile converter nerd in training, looking for safe harbor in this vast sea of info.
Any and all continued insights/assistance greatly appreciated.
Maybe I can make a guide for this.
I was planning to do something like this already, and have a draft version on my main video system, but perhaps you can help fine-tune. (And then later makes some Youtube videos, mostly just summarizing and repeating, for the reading-averse/illiterate.)
FYI, I hate the phrase "bells and whistles". The cliche refers to useless crap, not useful features, which is what S-VHS decks (mostly) have.
You don't want a worldwide deck. It's either low-end decks, a rabbit hole, or both.
I would be happy and honored to help however I can, within my ability level. I'm sure more people than just me would be interested in a current guide to VHS to digital conversion. The more I poke around relevant forums (here, doom9, afterdawn, avforums, digitalfaq, etc.), the more I see recent posting activity on the subject. And the more I see the name lordsmurf!