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Home / Tips and Tricks / Everything You Need to Convert Your VHS Tapes to Digital – Review Geek

Everything You Need to Convert Your VHS Tapes to Digital – Review Geek

  A series of VHS tapes arranged in horizontal lines.
Chutima Chaochaiya / Shutterstock

Many people have piles of old VHS tapes that they want to convert to digital tapes. The process is less overwhelming than you might expect. All you need is your VHS tapes, a VCR, a computer, and a capture card.

Why should you convert your tapes to digital?

People are converting their VHS tapes into digital for a variety of reasons. You may want to save old family movies, or you hate the new Star Wars Digital Remasters. In any case, VHS tapes will get worse over time. So the best time to convert your tapes to digital formats is .

But that seems a bit overwhelming, right? Do not you need expensive hardware or a huge nerd brain to convert tapes to digital?

No, not really. You only need a few tapes, a VCR and a recording card. Once you get it all together, tape conversion is a breeze. The completion of this project should not cost much more than $ 30 ($ 1

5 if you already have a working VCR).

Some companies, like Kodak, convert their VHS tapes into digital for you, but they charge about $ 30 per tape. This option is not really worth it, unless you just want to convert a tape to a digital format.

Preparing Your Video Recorder

 An Omnivision VCR.

You need a working VCR to convert digital files to tapes. For many people, this is the hardest part of the process. It is not difficult to find a working VCR. It's just a bit time consuming (you have to buy a used one).

How to Buy a VCR and Set it Up for Tape Conversion:

  • Find a VCR and Buy It: Goodwill is probably the best (and cheapest) bet. You can also rent a friend's video recorder or spend a little more to buy one from Craigslist or eBay (pay attention to shipping costs).
  • Test the Video Recorder : If you have a VCR, test it on a tape that you are not interested in – even if it has been tested by someone else. Accidents happen and you do not want to risk losing your precious footage.
  • Cleaning the Video Recorder : If you know that the VCR works, you want to clean it. The 25 years of dust that has accumulated on the clay heads can ruin the image. To do this, run a cheap tape head cleaner once or twice through the video recorder.

If you buy a VCR that does not work, try not to fix it (unless you know how). Instead, check to see if you can return it and buy a new one.

After setting up your VCR, it's time to assemble your tapes.

Preparing Your Bands

 A VHS volume from "The Big Lebowski".

There is a good chance that you will encounter problems with your tapes. After all, they are probably at least 20 years old. So it's time to search every band and look for problems.

Search the "windows" of your cassettes for obvious problems, such as mildew. Then open the top of your video cassettes to get a good overview of the exposed tape (you may need to press a button on the side of the cassettes to open the top). If the tape looks crispy, tangled, moldy or cracked, it may require some time.

Here are some common issues that you might encounter and how to fix them:

  • Crunchy or Bent Ribbon : This is not a problem. It's usually a big problem. You can wind the tape by turning one of the sprockets with your finger and assessing the extent of the damage. If it is just a small area, smooth it gently with a microfiber cloth (paper towels leave fibers). If the whole thing bends, you're probably unlucky.
  • Tape tangled or torn : To fix this, open the tape with a screwdriver and fix it manually. It's a simple but time-consuming process.
  • Yuck! Schimmelband : This is not uncommon for old VHS tapes. However, do not put moldy tapes in your VCR, or you will get a mold-infested VCR. You can either clean the belts by hand or build an automatic belt cleaner. If you want to discard the VCR and tapes after digitizing, you can skip cleaning. The video could look a bit strange though.

Now that your tapes can be converted, it's time to set up your computer with a capture card and software.

Preparing the computer

  A laptop with a cable attached to the USB port.
Prextimize / Shutterstock

Your computer needs a way to receive and decode the video signal from your VCR. This is a two-step process:

  • Buy a Capture Card : This will send the video and audio from your VCR to your computer via USB. A capture card that supports S-Video offers the highest quality digital transfers (S-Video delivers a better picture than RCA). Incidentally, do not buy a VHS converter – it's just overpriced admission cards.
  • Download Recording Software : When the VCR video is input to your computer, it must be recorded in real time through software. Capture cards come with their own software CD or download link. However, you can use OBS Studio if this is not the case.

Now you have set up the capture card, VCR and tapes. It's time to start converting this huge stack of VHS tapes.

This process is happening in real-time, so it may take a while. If you do not have a lot of time at the moment, in the near future, you can take a day off to turn all your tapes into digital files.

Convert these bands!

 A VHS tape is inserted into a VCR.

To record some VHS tapes, connect the capture card to your VCR and computer, start the capture software, and begin the tedious digital conversion.

Your recording The map software should contain all the instructions you need. If not, do not sweat! Here's what you need to do:

  1. Open New Project : Browse through the software until the option to open a new project file appears.
  2. Setting the Canvas Size : There's no reason to record your Blu-ray resolution tapes. If you set the screen size to 320 x 240, you will get a better picture.
  3. Enable interlacing : Browse the software until you find and enable the interlacing option (this emulates how tapes are displayed) on a TV). In most cases, this option is available when you start a new project file.
  4. Set Refresh Rate : Have you ever heard of NTSC and PAL? These are two different TV standards that determine the refresh rate of your tape. If you set the wrong refresh rate, the picture looks like crap. If you are in North America (NTSC), set the frequency to 60 Hz. If you are outside North America (PAL), set 50 Hz.
  5. Follow the shooting instructions : After your file is set up, guide you through the shot using the manual. Remember that tapes are recorded in real time, so do not rewind.

And that's all! This process may sound complicated but is quite simple. If you have problems with the Capture Card software, read the user manual or contact the manufacturer.

Securing your digital files safely

Leave your digital files only on your computer's hard drive, if you want to, you risk losing them forever (or do this time-consuming process again).

Instead, back up your newly digitized videos to an external hard drive and then upload them to a cloud storage solution, such as Google Drive. Dropbox, Amazon Drive or iCloud.

If you want to keep your tapes, you must keep them in a cool, dry place. You can also go the extra mile and throw it in some plastic wrappers or a tape storage bag. These prevent mold, dust accumulation or water damage.

If any of your tapes contain TV or commercials, please upload them to the Internet Archive. Most of television history has been lost, so every contribution to this archive is extremely valuable.

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