Converting VHS Tapes to DVD: A First-Hand Experience

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Preserving family videos is an important task, because no one wants to lose the precious memories of their loved ones. Recently, my family started the process of converting several VHS tapes to DVD format. My mother had been thinking about doing this for years; however, since she doesn’t consider herself to be especially tech-savvy, she was intimidated and kept postponing the job. However, after recently watching some of the tapes with the family, she decided it was time to transfer them. She was reminded of how special these home movies are, and she also knows that the tapes can deteriorate over time. Some of them are more than two decades old.

First, she researched options and costs. Phone calls to professional companies that transfer tapes were discouraging. Prices she was quoted ranged from $15 to $50 per video tape, and since we have a total of 22 tapes, the estimates seemed cost prohibitive. Ultimately, she opted to borrow a VHS-to-DVD converter from a family friend.

The process was simple. She connected the VHS-to-DVD converter to the TV, put in the VHS tape, put in a blank DVD and pressed the “Dubbing” button. It was even possible to edit as it was recording, although this involved sitting with it while it was converting. If you don’t want to edit, you can just come back when the VHS tape is finished playing. The first conversion she did took 2 hours and 36 minutes. As my mother neared the end of the process, all she needed to do was to “finalize” the DVD, and she was finished.

While this isn’t the only way to transfer your VHS tapes to DVDs, it’s certainly an easy way. In addition to this option, there are three other methods for conversion:

  1. Use a VHS player with a separate DVD recorder.
  2. Use an analog-to-digital adapter bundled with software, such as an Elgato Video Capture, or similar products, such as Roxio Easy VHS to DVD for Mac, or Corel Easy VHS to DVD for Windows. These systems connect your VHS player to a computer, and enable you to create a digital file that you can burn to DVD.
  3. Head to the photo department of a retail store like Walgreens or CVS, or seek out mail order options. (Groupon sometimes offers mail-in deals on VHS conversions).

Click images above for more information.

While it’s time consuming to do this yourself, it’s not complicated. The cost savings can be significant—our family saved between $500 and $1,000 by doing it this way. Most converters, like the one my mother used, cost less than $175. Even though we already had a spindle of DVD-/+R discs, these are inexpensive and widely available. Plus, you have the satisfaction of doing it yourself.

DIY conversion also affords more control, because you can edit as you convert each VHS tape. A professional company can edit out blank or damaged sections, but they wouldn’t be able to do personalized editing, without additional effort and expense.

One more thing to note is that the DVD won’t improve the quality of the VHS recording, which, given the state of video recording two or three decades ago, can be spotty. Couple that with the effect of aging on the tape, and you may have a somewhat messy viewing experience. However, starting the VHS-DVD conversion process will preserve your priceless memories no matter which option you choose, and it may be better to have them with some artifacts than not have them at all.

187 Comments

I've read reviews on Amazon that the Elgado doesn't work with Windows 10.  Can you recommend a device that does?  Thank you.

Hi Ann - 

Elgato USB Analog Video Capture Device BH #ELVC:  https://bhpho.to/3e7xOW3
 

System Requirements
Mac Systems Computer: Dual-Core Intel Mac
Operating System: Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later
Memory: 1 GB
Hardware: USB 2.0 port

Windows Systems
Computer: 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (or comparable) with sound card
Operating System: Windows 7 or later
Memory: 1 GB
Hardware: USB 2.0 port

Thank you!

Hi, thanks for the guide it's very helpful. I'm having a problem and wondering if you could help. I got my hands on a Video & DVD combo machine and after repairing it (hadn't been used in years and some parts needed replacing) I finally started to process of converting Video to DVD and everything was going smoothly until I tried to find the file on the DVD on my PC. I want to have all the video files on my PC to edit them and have them all saved on a hard drive but I don't see the file. I check the properties of the disk and there is definitely something on it as there's only 80mb of storage left and when I instert it into the Video & DVD combo it works just fine as a DVD but for some reason my PC cannot see the file on the DVD. I used DVD-R and I'm using Windows OS. Also the PC doesn't play the DVD like the DVD player does, it's like the disc is empty. Thanks in advance.

Hi Kivagn - 

What may have happened is that your rejuvenated DVD/VHS combo machine burned the footage to the DVD in a file format not recognized by your computer.  I have found that downloading this free open source software will allow you to open, view, and edit these files: https://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html  Good luck!

Hello,
Re: Method 1 - Use a VHS player with a separate DVD recorder
I have a RDR-HX715 and a ZDV-712 combo units. What is the recommended connection between the two: composite or coaxial? What is the best and fastest way to proceed?

Hi Tom -

You cannot connect and record using the antenna connections effectively.  Use the analog composite RCA connections.

Hi Mark,

Found out the hard way... :-(

The composite way takes as long as the tape lasts, i.e. play and record... Anything faster comes to your mind?

Hi Tom - 

I am afraid not.  Analog video tape conversion is time intensive.

HI PURCHASED VHS TO DVD3 RECENTLY TO CONVERT VHS TO DVD WITH EDITING, SEEM EASY BUT IF YOUR NOT A COMPUTER PERSON IT IS A LIVING HELL..YOU CANNOT GET ANY TECH SUPPORT FROM COREL..INSTALLED SOFTWARE FIRST DISC WAS FINE, AFTER THAT NOTHING BUT PROBLEMS, CANNOT GET IT TO BURN DISC, KEEPS REJECTING, THERE ARE NO INSTRUCTIONS OTHER THAN A SIMPLE SHEET THAT SAYS DO THIS THAN THIS, ALL OF A SUDDEN A SCREEN OPENS UP, NOT IN INSTRUCTIONS, ON WHAT TO DO AND THEN YOUR PROJECT FAILS..

Hi - does anyone know if this works with Mac iOS Catalina? I bought a converter (easy capture) and its not compatible. If this doesn't, does anyone know  what will work? I have about 75 VHS's that I want to edit using Adobe Premiere.

Thanks

Yes, the Roxio Easy VHS to DVD for Mac should work well with Catalina, BH #ROEVHSDVDM.

https://bhpho.to/2xSyMpH

I have an Emerson vcr/dvd combo. My video is 6 and 1/2 hours long.  How do I do this?  Will the machine finalize the first dvd and then ask for another blank? 

Hi Joy - 

Your  Emerson machine may very well just stop recording and not prompt you at all when the disc is full. You will need to monitor the recording process very carefully.

Hi Taylor - 

I am very sorry to hear this Taylor. It is always a best practice to make sure the anti-recording tab is punched out at the top of the VHS tape cassette to prevent accidental erasure.

Hello. I’m hoping someone can help me. 
i have a Sanyo progressive scan dvd vhs combo player, model DVW 7200. I was trying to convert my vhs to dvd. I was using DVD +RW. and in the process i think I Overwrote the vhs. Is this even possible? I played the vhs for a second to ensure there was content to record. But upon clicking buttons and trying to record the vhs to the blank dvd i fear that i might’ve done the opposite. Please advise!! Thank you. 

I am very sorry to hear this Taylor. It is always a best practice to make sure the anti-recording tab is punched out at the top of the VHS tape cassette to prevent accidental erasure.

I’m having some difficulty making backup dvds from vhs tapes.  My most successful ones have been by means of playing the vhs tape in my JVC HR-S9911U player, sending the signal through a Canopus ADVC-100 to iMovies in the Mac computer, and then burning the dvds by means of Roxio Toast 18 Titanium.  These are good copies in all ways but one:  When I play the dvds, the top and bottom have been cropped when I view them in the monitor (Insignia 32D220NA16).  When I view the original tapes in the same monitor, there are black margins on the right and left side of the screen, and no cropping on the top or bottom.

I’ve also tried copying by means of components, going from the JVC player to a Toshiba DVD recorder (D-RSKC).  When I do that, the image becomes distorted, elongating sideways.  It’s too upsetting to watch.

I used to have a Panasonic VCR/DVD player/recorder, which did a good job, but it quit working, so I bought another one, used, and it arrived OK, but immediately developed the same problem.  So I abandoned that course of action.

Do you have any helpful suggestions?

Hi Ken - 

The common denominator seems to be your Canopus ADVC-100.  Perhaps there is an issue with its processor now. You might want to give this a try: The Elgato Systems USB Analog Video Capture Device is a compact USB device, perfect for converting analog video to a digital format.

What is the best hardware/software to use to convert VHS to external hard drive?

Hi Richard:

If you have a VCR  to playback the tapes,  all you will need is this device:

The Elgato Systems USB Analog Video Capture Device is a compact USB device, perfect for converting analog video to a digital format. You'll be able to use the device to capture old home movies, VHS recordings, or any other analog media to a modern digital format. Simply plug your playback device into the S-Video or RCA composite input of the device, and capture.

Video is digitized into a format that is compatible with iTunes, any iPod, the iPhone, the Apple TV, YouTube, and iMovie. This gives you extreme flexibility as to how you utilize the captured video, without having to jump through the hoops of manual file format conversion. Elgato's Video Capture is an excellent tool for any Mac or Windows user who would like to bring their old analog videos into the digital age.

Standard USB interface

Captures from RCA composite and S-Video sources

Perfect for digitizing old home movies

Compatible with NTSC, PAL, PAL/60, and SECAM signals

Includes free download of Elgato Video Capture software for Mac and Windows

Software features basic video editing tools, allowing you to trim unwanted footage away

Exports to H.264 format, perfect for iTunes, the iPod, an iPhone, the Apple TV, YouTube, and iMovie

Compatible with Mac and Windows (please click on "Specifications" tab)

If you do not have the playback device contact us via e-mail:  [email protected]

What do you mean when you tell everyone that you need to finalize the dics.  I am just getting ready to investigate converting my VHS tapes to DVD and I want to avoid having to go back and redo the job because i didn't do it right the first time.  Thanks for your help.

Hi Ray - 

There will be a "finalize" button on the remote or on the chassis of the VCR/DVD recorder. This function must be initiated at the end of the recording session for each recorded disc.

Finalization of a recorded optical disc, also known as closing, is the process of writing out supporting data, including menus or tables of content and directory data, to enable it to play on all other systems. Once a disc has been finalized, it cannot have any more data written to it.

On a computer:

To finalize your disc:

  1. Start by clicking the “My Computer” icon.
  2. Find the disc icon for your CD or DVD; if you gave it a name it should show up there too.
  3. Right click on the icon and select “Close Session.”
  4. A pop-up box will appear once the finalization is done. Your disc can now be safely removed from your drive.

If you have burning software that allows finalizing, the process is even simpler. Once you are done burning, a “finalize” or “done” button will appear that will ensure this is completed.

 

We bought the ion vcr 2 sd stand alone recorder.  The video looks fairly normal as we play it on the vcr.  We then used handbrake to convert the file to an mov file.  The video then had a problem.  It appears that every time the camera moves the video distorts until the camera comes to a stationary position.  When it moves again it distorts again until the camera stops.  What are we doing wrong?

We also tried this same operation using mpeg stream clip.  We got the same results.  

I spent a lot of time converting family VCRs to DVDs. Many of the DVDs had several small segments of video not just one long sequence as we had some short parts of tapes to convert. They played back fine but only on the machine I recorded/converted them on. Then I realized I needed to finalize the DVDs before they would play back on another DVD player. I was upset to find that the DVDs only played back the first sequence after I had finalized them. Are all the other parts inaccessible now? I hope not. Thank you.

I am sorry, but usually you will need to finalize a DVD before it can be played on a DVD player.   You may need to convert the tapes again and make sure you finalize the discs.

Thanks.

Great forum.

May I ask - just in terms of the quality of the end product, is there a difference between a standalone machine(Samsung VR375) and a video capture system (Roxio Easy VHS to DVD)?

Also, is there a difference in terms of the likelihood of glitches, as with many hours of VHS tapes to convert, I won’t be able to fully view all the results, to see how they’ve turned out.

Many thanks J

The Samsung VR375 is not a product we currently sell.  However we now offer the ION Audio Video 2 SD Standalone VHS Conversion Recorder.  Rather than connecting a capture device to a computer, like the Roxio, you can connect your VCR to this and record right to a Micro SD Card.  It makes the process a lot more convenient.  As far as differences in quality, they should be around the same.

https://bhpho.to/2WKpvYC

Thanks!

Thank you! That sounds like a neat little product. However, I presume you would still recommended I then burn the video files to DVDs, for long-term storage?

Thanks again. :)

Not necessarily.  You could burn DVDs, you could save the footage to a hard drive on your computer.  You could even consider doing both.

Thanks again!

Jumping in on this question as I too am interested. I was looking at the Elgato Video Transfer to transfer a lot of old VHS to digital files. Are there any differences between that and the ION listed above that I should know about? Quality? Ease of use? Format output? I like the idea of recording directly to an SD Card since it's obviously very portable/easy to share but would still like to transfer it to my MBP for editing in FCPX. basically do you think one is much better than the other? In quality or any other aspect? Thanks! 

The difference really lies in how the product works.  The Elgato system, B&H # ELVC, connects directly to a computer through USB while the ION records directly to a SD card.  You would need to bring in the footage to you computer after the fact.  As far as quality, they will both be around the same but the Elgato Captures .MP4 files and the ION .AVI Files.  An MP4 file is a bit more friendly with FCP X.

Thanks!

I was able to copy a vhs tape on to a dvd, but it does not play on my mac. The instructions say to "finalize" the disc. How do I do that? Thank you

Hi Nicole - 

It depends upon your DVD recorder Nicole. E-mail us with more details:  [email protected]

Can you watch vhs tapes on these converters with sound?

Hi Marty -

Yes you can.  Just connect to a monitor or TV.

I want to copy VHS tapes to digital video files (I assume DVD files) to save on SSD's, not DVD discs.  I have VHS players, and Windows 10 PC's to perform the conversion.  

What is the best way to do this with minimum technical difficulty, and maximum quality (essentially no loss of image and audio quality)???

I assume there is software available to do this, but don't know what product will best meet these requirements.  

By the way, these are old VHS tapes of Chicago Bulls, Chicago Bears, and Dallas Cowboys games (I assume the are copywright limited), so I need something that will work with such tapes.  

Thanks for any help you may be able to provide.

one other thing.. don't buy into the 'Myth' of converting vhs to dvd. DVD discs were limited to 2 hr max before they started dropping pieces of the picture as macroblocking or artifacting. So unless you recorded the vhs at high speed, 1 vhs tape for 2 hour shows.. it will never ever fit on a DVD. Most people don't want to think about taking one vhs tape with 6 or 8 hours and converting that to 3 or 4 DVD discs.. but that's all that is really practical. Blu-ray came later and is rarer but had 5 times the storage capacity.. if you convert a slow SLP vhs tape to Blu-ray it will work.. but there were never any Blu-ray recorders in the United States.. only Blu-ray recorders for Personal Computers.. so if you go that way.. your going to need to capture to PC files and then use those to make Blu-ray discs.  Another way is to choose not to make standard DVD discs and make non-standard DVD discs using MPEG4 instead of the standard MPEG2.. but its not a standard and most people would never want to do that.. Blu-ray would be safer.. or just keep them as long term files on a PC drive you back up regularly.. unlike many things though you can't backup broadcast recordings up to the cloud or youtube since that would be taken down

one of the better ways to pursue this today, on your own is first find a vcr that works.. an SVHS vcr isn't really needed for 6 or 8 hour tapes, but if you have SVHS then a reputable model like the ag1980 or jvs9600 would be risky but justified. You really can't get these serviced anymore and spare parts are gone.. so its a one shot deal.. it either works or doesn't. Then get a reputable DVD recorder to use as a filter, many would clean up the signal and pass it on through to its outputs. Finally the recording device can be a usb dongle (but really they don't work well) or a capture card for a PCI slot, Magewell makes these, or a totally standalone capture device which records to computer files on a removable hard drive, AverMedia makes these. - Avoiding a PC is not really possible anymore because this such a niche hobby.. sooner or later a PC has to be used to touch up the capture or transform it into whatever you need for playback. its not that hardware got dumber or totally went away, they just stopped trying to make it easy to use for most people.. it all takes some expertise to use whats been left behind.. vhs has been gone for 10-20 years now and nothing ever really replaced it

Actually, the industry made great machines to replace VHS recorders and very few people bought them compared to VHS machines.  The DVD/Hard drive recorder was hands down the best machine I’ve ever owned for recording broadcast or home videos.  Simple to use.  Real time recording as well as high speed duplication from the hard drive to DVD or vice versa.  DVD’s could be recorded at different speeds too, so fitting a SLP recorded VHS tape to a DVD could indeed be done.  Things like indexing along with a thumbnail and title for every video were simple to do.

In the same way that the CD recorder solved every issue that existed with tape, (tape hiss, dynamic range and direct immediate track access) the DVD/HDD recorder did the same for video.  And somehow legions of buyers did not appear in the way they did for VHS and cassette audio recorders.  

In the grand old days of new A/V equipment design, these machines would have continued to be made better and better with real competition among brands.  Now they are disappearing and are almost gone.  We should have had Blu-Ray recorders that were simple to use and reliable.  And the CD spec should have continued to evolve. (Although I think it’s still quite excellent as it is.  I record all new vinyl records to CD-R and the results are stellar.  Picks up all the warmth and detail of the vinyl and sounds much better than most officially released CD’s.).  

I’m not sure what has happened in the current time.  My Pioneer and Magnavox DVD/HDD recorders are no longer made. CD recorders are still made but are on life support.  Is it the content distributors (many who own A/V hardware companies) that no longer want anyone to be able to record anything or is it public apathy?  Or has the times changed so considerably that having simple media to record on that can then be played back on machines that everyone has in their homes no longer important?  It still is to me and it will never fade.

Archiving tv content is very important to me as well. Movies, operas, special events—all worth preserving, not just to time shift. Streaming programs cannot be recorded so I don’t bother with them...

I’m trying to convert 8mm tapes to digital.  I’m using vidbox. The process is very easy,but the video quality on my Sont camcorder is sharper and more vivid the the digital version.  I realize I can’t make old 8mm tapes HD quality, but was hoping for at least as good as the original.  Any advise would be greatly appreciated!!! 

Hi Patti -

Use the S-video output of the camcorder for the highest resolution capture.

I am copying my old VHS tapes using a Sony Video Cassette Recorder SLV-N51, VIDBOX, and HP Pavilion.  Occasionally the copy comes our fairly clean, but more often the top 1/5th of the screen looks as though it has been pulled to the right with a flickering rainbow of colors showing just as it transitions to the fairly good screen.  When I say "fairly clean" I mean that there appear to be horizontal lines that are distracting.  If I simply play the VHS tape, the image is clear MUCH better than DVD version!  Everything is plugged in firmly, I am following the instructions, I tried cleaning the head and it did not make any difference, and yet the problems continue to occur; what am I doing incorrectly? 

I really don't want to lose these memories, but don't have the money to have it done professionally.  Can you help?

Hi Flohr -

 It may be time to get the recorder serviced by a professional.

Flohr wrote:

I am copying my old VHS tapes using a Sony Video Cassette Recorder SLV-N51, VIDBOX, and HP Pavilion.  Occasionally the copy comes our fairly clean, but more often the top 1/5th of the screen looks as though it has been pulled to the right with a flickering rainbow of colors showing just as it transitions to the fairly good screen.  When I say "fairly clean" I mean that there appear to be horizontal lines that are distracting.  If I simply play the VHS tape, the image is clear MUCH better than DVD version!  Everything is plugged in firmly, I am following the instructions, I tried cleaning the head and it did not make any difference, and yet the problems continue to occur; what am I doing incorrectly? 

I really don't want to lose these memories, but don't have the money to have it done professionally.  Can you help?

If you are looking for a professional company, Classic Memories does a fantastic job and their prices are very reasonable. I recommend classicmemories.com

I have 2 different kinds of tape that I'd like to convert to digital. VHS-C and Mini DV. And I'm working on an old macBook Pro running 10.9.5. Any help would be appreciated!

Hi Diane - 

If you have a VCR and a camcorder to playback the tapes,  all you will need is this device:

The Elgato Systems USB Analog Video Capture Device is a compact USB device, perfect for converting analog video to a digital format. You'll be able to use the device to capture old home movies, VHS recordings, or any other analog media to a modern digital format. Simply plug your playback device into the S-Video or RCA composite input of the device, and capture.

Video is digitized into a format that is compatible with iTunes, any iPod, the iPhone, the Apple TV, YouTube, and iMovie. This gives you extreme flexibility as to how you utilize the captured video, without having to jump through the hoops of manual file format conversion. Elgato's Video Capture is an excellent tool for any Mac or Windows user who would like to bring their old analog videos into the digital age.

Standard USB interface

Captures from RCA composite and S-Video sources

Perfect for digitizing old home movies

Compatible with NTSC, PAL, PAL/60, and SECAM signals

Includes free download of Elgato Video Capture software for Mac and Windows

Software features basic video editing tools, allowing you to trim unwanted footage away

Exports to H.264 format, perfect for iTunes, the iPod, an iPhone, the Apple TV, YouTube, and iMovie

Compatible with Mac and Windows (please click on "Specifications" tab)

If you do not have the playback devices contact us via e-mail:  [email protected]

I am in the process of converting VHS to DVD on my own     We have a system that converts VHS to DVD    I have made copies and replayed them in my VHS player and the work fine.   However, when I try in my portable DVD player of my Mac Lap top it says I have inserted a blank disk.   I use the -R DVDs as well.   HELP???

Hi Sheryl - 

Most likely the discs were never finalized.  That means they will play back on the machine that recorded the copy and sometimes a computer with a DVD drive.

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