The digitization of photographs and videos has ushered in a new era where every smartphone owner is a potential filmmaker. This wasn’t possible with yesteryear technology, where events, weddings, and family videos were recorded using dated cameras, only to be later saved on VHS tapes.
It is very likely that you have an entire box of obsolete VHS tapes, tucked away in a quiet corner of your basement. If this is the case, it is in your best interests to convert the valuable information in those VHS tapes to a string of 1s and 0s (digital media). You can either give these videos to professionals who specialize in VHS to digital services for best results or convert them yourself.
There are many advantages of having a digital copy of your VHS tape, making your options more versatile. You can use a basic video editing software to cut unwanted segments, overlay with your own commentary, add in some background music, and even change the colour palette. You also gain a great way to make the video accessible to loved ones by uploading it to the Cloud or YouTube.
You can restrict the viewership to a few selected viewers who can either access through a link or membership account.
Transferring the VHS Tapes to DVD
The three easiest ways to convert VHS to digital are the following basic methods. Select the appropriate method depending on your budget, time and quantity of videos to be converted.
- Using an all-in-one VCR and DVD machine
- Connecting the VCR to a DVD recorder
- Attaching an analogue-to-digital converter to the VCR
All of the above choices require the use of a VCR. Most models are discontinued, so your best options are friends, family members, or thrift stores. You could run a search query on Amazon, eBay, and even Craigslist for inexpensive models.
Note: Please ensure that the VCR is in good shape. You don’t want a defected machine to ruin your VHS cassette. Purchase a cleaning tape to wipe the VCR’s head. You can also clean the VCR using a synthetic Q-tip dipped with isopropyl alcohol.
Next comes the choice of DVD recording media, you can choose between DVD-R and DVD-RW. The letter R stands for “Read Only”, while the letters RW stand for “Read and Write”. These terms are pretty self-explanatory; the DVD-R disc can only be written once while the DVD-RW disc can be written over multiple times. Since you want to preserve your memories, it is a good idea to get DVD-R.
You could always use Blu-ray discs, but there is no point in using such an expensive format because VHS tapes don’t support high-quality recording.
Method 1: Converting VHS Tapes to DVD Using an All-in-One Player
This is the easiest method among the three options, but you will need an all-in-one player. The process itself is very simple. Here’s how you can do it:
1) Boot the Combo player
Connect the combo player to your TV and boot it on. Ensure that the VCR heads are clean before inserting the VHS tape.
2) Inserting the VHS Tape
Press the play button and make sure that the quality you see on the TV is good enough. Rewind all the way to the beginning. If you don’t want certain sections of the video, you can make good use of the fast-forward and rewind features.
3) Insert an empty DVD-R Disc
Insert the blank DVD-R disc into the tray and press record. From this point on, the machine will do all the work. Once the recording is complete, test the new file by pressing play and watching the footage on TV.
Method 2: Connecting a DVD Recorder to the VCR to Transfer VHS Footage to DVD
The second method isn’t as simple as the combo machine, but provided you have the right equipment, the process is straight forward. One additional tool you will need is an RCA cable. Since these cables were fairly prominent in the early 2000s, chances are you already have RCA cables with you.
1) Connecting the VCR to DVD Recorder
The RCA cable is composed of yellow, white and red wires. These colour coded wires are used to transfer both video and audio components to the television. You should insert the cable into corresponding coloured slots on your VCR and then do the same with the DVD Recorder.
2) Insert Your VHS Tape
Once again, ensure that the video head in the VCR is clean. Insert the VHS tape and play it. Fast forward and rewind to portions of the video that you want. Insert your blank DVD-R disc into the DVD recorder.
3) Hitting the Record Button
Start playing the footage on the VCR and hit record on the DVD recorder. The recording process should be seamless.
Method 3: Using an Analogue-to-Digital Adapter
This method will require a few more steps, but it is generally worth it. You will need a VCR, a computer with a DVD burner, analogue-to-digital converter and recording software. This method is mostly utilized by professional VHS to digital services.
1) Connecting the VCR to the Computer
The analogue-to-digital converter will allow you to connect the VCR to the computer. This can be accomplished by using a cable that has a USB connection at one end, and the RCA colour coded wires at the other end. Connect the cables to appropriate slots on the VCR. Now plug the USB into the USB port of your computer.
2) Inserting VHS Footage
Ensure that the heads are clean before inserting your VHS footage. Insert the blank DVD-R into the DVD Drive.
3) Use Recording Software
Windows users can fire up Windows Movie Maker to import the video footage. This will normally take upwards of 40+ GBs of space on your hard drive. Follow the on-screen prompts or consult a manual to import the video.
4) Burning the Video
This is the final step. Once the import is complete, you can take your time to edit the footage and then burn it to a blank DVD player. There are several types of burning software. Our choice is Real Media Player, which is free, simple to follow and is a quick way to convert VHS to digital.
Brandon Harris is the owner of Smooth Photo Scanning Services – One of the leading photo scanning services provider in Lodi, NJ providing affordable Slide scanning services, Negative scanning services, ConvertCassette To CD and VHS To DVD Services etc Prior to that, Brandon owned and operated a small bakery. Other than working to grow and improve his business, he enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter, and family.