As DVD players become more popular
— and VCRs slowly become obsolete — look at your video library.
Do you have any precious family videos on VHS? Memories of vacation
trips, family genealogy, or just your personal copy of Super Bowl
XX captured with the VCR?
Put it on DVD! When it comes to long-term
storage, consumer-grade VHS tapes are not your best bet. While they
have a shelf life of about 30 years, signs of tape decay can begin
to appear in as soon as 5 years. By moving your memories to DVD,
you'll gain a longer shelf life for your videos with a better image
You have two good options to make the
Have someone else do it.
How many videos
do you need to convert? If the answer is only one or two, getting
the equipment necessary to do it may not be your best move. Numerous
companies will convert your VHS tapes to DVD for reasonable prices;
for a low volume of tapes, or if you're concerned about your technical
know-how to do it, this may be your quickest and easiest answer.
Do it yourself!
If you're fairly familiar
with your computer and DVD burner, converting a VHS tape to DVD
can take only a few hours per tape.
What You Need:
Computer with a large hard drive
with considerable free space — allow at least 2.5 MB of disk
per minute of video; allow twice that per minute if you intend
to edit the video file
Video Capture Card — either a USB
video-capture device or a PCI-based FireWire card
Video editing software
Blank DVD media compatible with
your burner and DVD player
How to Do It:
Connect your VCR or camcorder to the
'Analog-in' ports on your video capture card.
Exit all other programs open on your
computer except the recording software that came with your capture
device. This will help your software run faster and minimize
Specify a video source within the recording
software. Most software and devices offer several options —
VHS tape, camcorder, TV show, etc.
Record video to your hard drive — Depending
on the source video quality and the DVD quality you hope to
make, this will take up a lot of space. Be sure you have it
by checking disk space before you start, and moving old files
off your hard drive onto CD or DVD backups.
Edit your video — if you use Windows
XP, you may already own Windows Movie Maker, which is a free
and easy-to-use program for beginners. Most G4 Apple Macintosh
computers include iMovie editing software that is also very
easy to use with many features for beginners and advanced users
alike. More advanced video editing programs are available from
Avid, Adobe, and Roxio, among others, once you've gotten some
Assemble ('Author') the DVD — Most video
editing programs will allow you to create menus and prepare
your video creations for burning. The burning software that
came with your DVD burner will also aid you in this process,
if your editor can't.
Burn Baby Burn — Get your masterpiece
onto DVD by burning it. Use DVD-R or DVD+R, depending on your
burner and DVD player, to make a permanent copy. If you're worried
about 'not getting it right,' try a DVD-RW or DVD+RW disc —
they can be erased and you can try again with the same disc.
After you've tested your DVD in your
player, be sure to either erase your raw original transfer from
your hard drive, or back it up to another piece of media if
you think you'll want to edit from the raw copy again later
(once you've got more editing experience!). This frees up hard
disk for other transfers, and will help your computer's overall
performance in other applications.
Similarly, always defrag your hard drive
after performing a VHS to DVD transfer. Using Windows, shut
down all programs and disable your screensaver. Then, click
Start and select Programs - Accessories - System Tools - Disk
Defragmenter. This may take a while, so go watch TV or get a
sandwich while it runs.
Another Way to Do It Yourself
Several companies, such as HP and Sony, have announced external
DVD burners designed to make moving VHS tapes to DVD a plug-and-play
experience. While these units are also suitable for burning standard
data CDs and DVDs, they are more expensive than 'standard' DVD burners
for your desktop. However, if you have a lot of movies to transfer
or want to avoid figuring out how to get video cards installed on
your computer, these devices may provide an easy solution for you.
More information can be found at this
Video Capture Devices page.
1. When converting old VHS tapes to DVD, using
the highest-quality recording setting is often a waste of DVD
space, as VHS quality is well below that of the higher-quality
DVD settings. Take a look at the quality of the tape before
choosing a recording quality level for your conversion.
2. Convert VHS tapes to DVD now. studies and experience
shows that VHS tapes can have a life span of as little as 10
years, depending on storage conditions and use. Conversion sooner
rather than later will help preserve picture and sound quality.
3. Store all CDs and DVDs in a cool, dry place. Ideal
storage temperature is between 23 degrees F - 86 degrees F.
Do not leave the disc in direct light or sunlight or in a hot,
humid environment - like your car on a summer day. These conditions
can warp and damage your discs!