Convert Your Precious VHS Home Movies to High-Quality DVD with These Simple Tips

The VHS tapes stashed in your storage area won't remain in good condition indefinitely. Plus, if you don't possess a VCR anymore, those home videos won't be of much use. If you truly want those tapes to last, then it's imperative to start digitizing them immediately. In this article, we'll discuss three different ways to transfer your VHS tapes to your computer, or burn them to DVDs if you've got a DVD player available.

The Easy Way: Find a Service That Does It for You

If you're not interested in dealing with the logistics yourself, and are prepared to shell out more money to have somebody else do it for you, there are several professional services that can transfer your tapes for you. YesVideo is a well-known option and they offer their services via major retail chains such as Walmart, Target, Costco, and CVS. Not only can they transfer VHS tapes for $25 each, sometimes less depending on the store, but you can also digitize old film reels, photos, and slides too. Moreover, they can also convert Betamax, 8MM, and other types of tapes.

You may also be able to locate local shops offering similar services in your area, so give Yelp a go or ask around to see if such services are available. Depending on the number of tapes you have, this can end up being an expensive option, but it does free you from having to exert any effort. If it means the task gets completed, it's certainly worth it.

The Direct, At-Home Way: Use a DVD Recorder

If you'd rather save some money and don't mind a bit of work, a DVD Recorder is a simple do-it-yourself option. All it requires is a VCR, a blank DVD-R disc, and some patience. All you need to do is insert your VHS tape into the VCR, insert your blank DVD, and hit record to make a copy of the video. Although the process is relatively passive, it will require you to exercise some patience. However, this option is significantly cheaper than using a professional service particularly if you have a considerable number of tapes to convert.

It's recommended to use a VCR/DVD combo unit if you don't already have one as individual DVD recorders may require analog cables to plug into your VCR. Although these units are increasingly difficult to find in stores, you may be able to buy used ones on eBay for between $50 and $150. Alternatively, you may even be lucky enough to find one for a cheap price at a local e-waste recycling center.

Setting Up Your Recording Device

Once you have a DVD recording device, plug it into your TV, insert both the VHS tape and blank DVD, and press record. You must ensure that your device is set to record from VHS to DVD (and not the other way around) to prevent accidental erasure of your home movies.

Once you hit the record button, simply press play on the VCR to quickly and easily dub your video without any complications. It's advisable to peruse the DVD recorder manual beforehand, and you can conveniently find them online by searching the model number.

The Custom Way: Connect a VCR to Your PC

If you prefer to have a digital backup copy, you can rip the DVD to your computer using any of the free DVD rippers available.

While the above methods may suit most users, if you would like to get into some video editing and separate your videos into clips instead of single long files, there's a more precise method. Connect your VCR to your PC with a VCR-to-USB adapter such as this $14 adapter from Amazon. You will also need an RCA cable. Once you plug in the adapter to your PC, the necessary drivers should install automatically. Otherwise, use the disc that came with the adapter to install the drivers.

Download Your Recording Program

Some of these devices come with their own software for recording and editing, but in many cases, this software may not work as well as you'd like. In such cases, you can download the free and reliable Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) and use it with most types of adapters. Once you've downloaded OBS, install it and follow the prompts to start recording with its default settings.

Prepare Software for Recording

Don't be intimidated by OBS' main window—it's simple to use with just a few necessary settings. Under the Sources section located below, click the plus sign and choose Video Capture Device from the list. Choose Create New, name it as you wish, and click OK. Then, from the Device drop-down menu in the next window, locate the option for your VCR adapter. This may be called "AV TO USB2.0" or something similar. Leave the other settings at their defaults, and click OK.

Once you've selected the appropriate device, you'll see a red-framed square appear in OBS' main window. This is the video streamed from your VCR. If you hit Play on the VCR, your video should play in the red-framed box. Drag the red frame towards the center of OBS' window if it's not there already, and resize it accordingly. Finally, mute any audio tracks that aren't from your video capture device.

Change Recording Format

For optimal results, adjust the settings in OBS before recording by going to Settings > Output and selecting MP4 as the recording format, as it is a more widely accepted file type compared to the default FLV format. OBS can be customized to enhance the color, clarity, and other visual aspects of the video, therefore it's recommended to review the settings or explore the OBS forums for additional tips and tricks.

Start Recording

Once ready to start the recording process, simply press the "Start Recording" button on the left-hand side of the OBS window and press Play on the VCR to commence recording. Stop the recording when finished and ensure that the resulting video clip has been saved in your "Videos" folder in Windows Explorer. Repeat this process for all desired VHS tapes.

Editing the recorded clips can be done by using your preferred video editor, or you may opt to store them in a cloud service like Google Photos for safekeeping. Alternatively, you may want to burn them onto a DVD.

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Below is a table of contents that outlines various ways to record your VHS tapes at home. The direct method involves using a DVD recorder, while the custom method entails connecting the VCR to your PC. Additionally, a list of free DVD rippers is provided for further reference.

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