Tutorial: Transferring Home Movies from VHS to DVD

It's not like you can keep those VHS tapes indefinitely. And those home movies aren't much use if you don't have a VCR anymore. We recommend digitizing those tapes as soon as possible if you want them to last for generations. Here are three options for digitizing VHS tapes and creating DVDs from them.


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

There are plenty of professional services that will transfer your tapes for you if you'd rather not go through the hassle yourself and are willing to throw a bit more money at the project just to get it done.

One well-liked choice, YesVideo(Opens in a new window), sells its service to customers via big-box stores like Costco, CVS, Walmart, and Target. Not only can you digitize old film reels, photographs, and slides for $25 each (sometimes less, depending on the retailer), but you can also transfer VHS tapes, Betamax, 8MM, and other types of tapes.

You can also do some research on Yelp or by asking around to see if there are any local shops that offer the same or similar services. Although the cost of this method rises rapidly in proportion to the number of tapes you own, you will have to do very little to benefit from it. It's worth it if it means the task gets completed instead of remaining unfinished indefinitely on your to-do list.

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

A DVD Recorder is a simple do-it-yourself option for those who are looking to save money without putting in a lot of effort. A VHS tape (along with a VCR) can be inserted into the device, and then a DVD-R disc (Opens in a new window) can be inserted and recorded over. There's a lot of waiting, but there's not a lot of actual work, and if you have a lot of tapes, doing it yourself can save you a lot of money compared to hiring a professional service.

A standalone DVD recorder that connects to your VCR via analog cables is one option, but if you don't already have a VCR/DVD player, I highly recommend picking one up. These are getting harder to find in stores, but you can find used ones on eBay(Opens in a new window) for as little as $50 (I found one at my neighborhood e-waste center for $5) and as much as $150.

Setting Up Your Recording Device

Make sure your player is set to record from VHS to DVD (and not the other way around, lest you erase your priceless home movies), then plug it into your TV, insert the tape, and hit the record button.

Once recording has begun, simply press play on the VCR side to have your video dubbed over. (Before you try to record, it might help to consult the DVD recorder's manual; you can usually find one online by searching the model number.) )

If you want to keep a digital copy of the video even if the DVD gets damaged, you can "rip" it from the DVD and put it on your computer.

The Custom Way: Connect a VCR to Your PC

The first two are the most obvious choices, and most people will likely pick one of them. In contrast, you can connect your VCR to your computer for more precise recording if you want to edit those old home videos on a PC or store them as separate clips rather than two-hour-long chunks.

It's a little more work, but you'll end up with the best quality video if you invest in a VCR-to-USB adapter like a href="MY_REDIRECT_PREFIXhttps://r.zdbb.net/u/8c46" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">this $14 one from Amazonspan>(Opens in a new window) If you connect the VCR to your computer with the supplied cable, the appropriate drivers should be installed automatically. (If not, run the installer from the disc that came with the adapter.) )

Download Your Recording Program
Even though I had trouble getting mine to open, many of these gadgets include their own recording and editing software. Fortunately, Open Broadcaster Software(Opens in a new window) (OBS) is a free, high-quality program that is compatible with these adapters. The easiest way to get started with OBS is to simply download it, install it, and launch it, at which point you can leave the recording settings as they are.
Prepare Software for Recording

While the main window may appear daunting at first glance, it actually only requires a few simple adjustments before you can begin recording.

The "Video Capture Device" can be added by clicking the plus sign in the "Sources" panel at the bottom. To make a brand new one, select "Create New," give it any name you like, and then hit OK. Then, in the window that follows, select the VCR adapter you're using (mine was labeled "AV TO USB2") from the "Device" drop-down menu. 0" Don't change anything else and press OK.

The video being read from your VCR will appear as a new square in OBS' main window, bordered in red. (In my case, I saw a blank blue screen. You can expect to see your video begin playing in this red box once you press Play on the VCR. To center the red box in the black window, resize it using the mouse and drop it there. Then you need to turn off any additional audio sources besides the one coming from your video recorder.

Change Recording Format
If you want to use a more widely supported file format than the default FLV, head to Settings > Output and select MP4 as the "Recording Format." OBS is actually a very powerful tool, and if you know what you're doing, you can tweak a lot of color, sharpness, and other settings to make sure your video looks as good as possible—so feel free to browse the settings or visit the OBS forums(Opens in a new window) for ideas
Start Recording

Press the "Start Recording" button on the left side of OBS' window when you're ready to begin recording, and then start the VCR by pressing Play. To start capturing the footage from your VCR, OBS will: Play the tape for however long you like, and when you're done, hit "Stop Recording." The finished video clip will appear in Windows Explorer's "Videos" folder. Check that everything was recorded correctly by playing it, and do the same with the rest of your tapes.

It'll take some time, but the finished clips can be edited in your preferred video program, burned to DVD, or stored in a cloud service like Google Photos.

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How to Find a Service That Does It for You How to Do It Yourself Using a DVD Recorder How to Do It Customized Using a VCR Connected to Your PC Downloading a Recording Program Preparing Software for Recording Changing Recording Format Beginning Recording The Best Free DVD Rippers
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