The VCR and VHS video cassette revolutionized the way millions of consumer watched television and movies. Additionally, VHS camcorders turned countless users into videographers and camera operators instantly allowing them to capture special events and create video memories they could view with a VCR and television. With VHS, consumers no longer had to deal with cumbersome tape reels as they did with Super-8 and other video recording formats. VHS was more reliable and easier to use than any format that preceded it. Nevertheless, modern DVD digital media is smaller, more resistant to damage and lasts virtually a lifetime if maintained properly. Therefore, if you have treasured video memories on VHS that you want to preserver or protect or if you simply want to convert the analog videos to digital format for archiving or viewing on a computer, there are several ways you can copy the cassettes to DVD.
Preparing the VCR
While a DVD provides much crisper and sharper images than VHS, it cannot improve the quality of video already saved on the tape. Therefore, you should ensure that your VCR delivers the cleanest and most accurate video signal possible during playback. Before connecting your VCR to a computer or DVD recorder, clean the heads in the machine with a head-cleaner cassette and blow out the tray or door area of the machine with a can of compressed air. Also, purchase a new set of high-quality RCA audio and video cables for the VCR to ensure that video quality does not degrade because of poor signal-to-noise ratios on old or inferior cables. A cleaner video signal sent from the VCR will result in a sharper image when transferred to DVD.
Recording VHS on a Computer
Very few computers ship with a port or connector that allows you to connect a VCR directly. However, connecting a VCR and importing video to a computer is still relatively simple via a USB video capture device. Devices such as the Diamond Multimedia VC500 Video Capture Device and others like it connect easily to a USB port on your computer and have all the ports needed to connect a VCR. By connecting a USB capture device, you can stream video from the VCR directly to your computer and record it using the video-capture software bundled with the device. USB capture devices usually have RCA ports for audio and video, and some even have S-Video connector if you wish to use that type of cable for transmitting the video signal from the VCR. After connecting the VCR to the USB capture device, you can capture the video from the VHS tape simply by pressing "Play" on the player and clicking "Capture" or "Record" in the capture application. The application will record the video from the VCR and save it in a format that you can burn to a DVD and watch on a computer or set-top DVD player.
Copy Directly to DVD
Another, and perhaps easier, option for copying VHS video to DVD is to use a stand-alone DVD recorder. DVD recorder are similar to computer DVD burners in that they record data to blank discs you can purchase at any electronics retailer or computer store. A DVD recorder records the video from a television and burns it to disc. Therefore, if you have a television that supports video-out -- most modern televisions do -- you can record video from VHS tape without connecting the VCR to the DVD recorder directly. Wiring the entire setup is as easy as connecting the VCR to one of the video-in ports on the TV and then connecting the DVD recorder to the television's video-out port. After you make the connections, select the input source on the TV to display video from the VCR and put a blank disc into the DVD recorder. After that, recording video from the VHS tape involves little more than pressing "Play" on the VCR and the "Record" button on the DVD recorder. After you press "Stop" on the DVD recorder, the unit may finalize the new disc automatically or prompt you for confirmation. After you finalize the new DVD, you can play it in a standard DVD player or a computer with a DVD-Rom or burner drive.
While creating DVD versions of your VHS tapes is relatively simple, it may not always be appropriate to do so. If you wish to create copies of videos you shot yourself or of those to which you have rights of distribution or ownership, then there are no legal issues with which to concern yourself. However, if you want to create DVD copies of rented movie tapes or commercial films, doing so is often a violation of the law. If you have an older film or video no longer distributed or produced on VHS or DVD, there is probably nothing wrong with creating a backup of the movie on a disc. If you do make copies of hard-to-find films or movies, though, never distribute them to friends or try to sell them -- doing so is illegal in most jurisdictions. If company that owns the rights to the film or movie still produces DVD versions of the video, you should not make copies of it if it is still available for rent or purchase.
- SimpleVideoEditing.com: What Is the Shelf Life of a Video Tape?
- Council on Library and Information Resources: How Long Can You Store CDs and DVDs and Use Them Again?
- Diamond Multimedia: VC500 Video Capture Device
- EZCap.tv: Ezcap116 USB 2.0 Video Capture Installation Guide
- AVS4You.com: How to Convert VHS Tapes to DVD Format?
- Sony: DVD Recorder Operating Instructions [PDF]
- Panasonic: Operating Instructions DVD Recorder DMR-ES40V [PDF]
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images