Simple step-by-step guide to transferring your beloved VHS tapes using a converter
There’s more than one reason to convert VHS tapes to DVD.
Old VHS tapes and VCRs are fast becoming an obsolete technology – many may argue that they already are. If there’s any footage that you want to preserve that’s currently in a VHS format, now’s the time for converting those videos to DVD. VCRs are still available, as are services and machines that will help you make this transfer. If you continue to wait, you’ll see fewer and fewer conversion options; it will be more difficult to save your VHS footage.
Another concern is damage. Even if your VCR doesn’t eat your VHS tape, the film in it will slowly degrade over time-whether you play it often or you don’t. Tapes can start falling apart in as little as 3 years, whereas DVDs can last anywhere from 20 to (some say) even 250 years. Whether it’s your favorite blockbuster movie or a sentimental home video, you should make the switch and convert VHS to DVD sooner rather than later.
So how do you transfer VHS to DVD? What equipment do I need? Well, there are several methods for copying VHS to DVD. The good news is the equipment is easy to find.
- Use a Combination Unit. If you have a combination DVD/VHS machine, you may be able to easily transfer data from a VHS tape to a DVD. Check to see if the DVD component of your DVD/VHS machine has a recording option. If it does, you should be able to insert a blank DVD R (or DVD-RW) into the DVD tray of your machine, insert the VHS tape that you want to transfer into the VCR portion of the machine and then follow the steps in your particular machine’s instruction manual to complete the process. You will not be able to modify the video, so if you need to altar the menus or chapters, you should not use this method. Otherwise using a combination unit is the simplest and fastest type of VHS to DVD converter.
Note: You may need to finalize your burned DVD before removing it from the DVD/VCR unit, otherwise it might not play in standard DVD players. What a shame that would be, going through the converting process and then realizing the DVD doesn’t work!
- Use a Video Camera. If you have a digital video camcorder, you can use it as an intermediary to convert your VHS tapes to a DVD format. You’ll need to hook your VCR up to your video camera using composite video cables (the red, white and yellow cables). If you don’t have these, you’ll need to purchase them from any electronics store so you can complete the conversion. Attach these cables to your VCR’s video out port and to the video in port on your camcorder. Different makes and models of camcorders work differently, so your best bet is to read your camcorder’s instruction manual to determine the exact steps. With the press of a few buttons you should have your VHS data on your video camcorder. You can then transfer that data by connecting your camcorder to your computer or DVD burner.
Note: You may need an analog-to-digital converter to use between your VCR and camcorder if your camcorder does not have this feature built in.
- Use a Computer. You’ll need an analog-to-digital converter to use as a middleman between your VCR and computer to convert VHS data into a format that your computer can recognize. There are a variety of converters available. Depending on the quality and precision you’re looking for in your new DVD, you may need to do some research to determine which product is best for you. You also need to ensure that your computer can burn DVDs. Just because it can burn CDs does not automatically mean it burns DVDs as well. Devices like Hewlett-Packard’s DVD Movie Writer solve this problem by providing the analog-to-digital conversion and the DVD burning hardware in one machine.
- Use an External DVD Burner. Believe it or not there are machines made for just this purpose. If you have a lot of VHS tapes to transfer to DVD, or you don’t mind buying some extra hardware, purchasing an external device might be the way to go. For $100-$150 you can get a decent DVD burner that will hook right up to your VCR and create DVDs from your VHS tapes in no time. The good news: burning DVDs is easy, and once you burn a DVD, you can copy it as many times as you’d like.
- Use a VHS to DVD Conversion Service. If you don’t want to deal with wires and buttons and the responsibility of converting your VHS tapes into DVDs yourself, there are a variety conversion services that would be happy to help you – for a fee of course. These companies can sometimes copy protected videos to DVDs. Sites like Home Movie Depot and APM Studio will make the transfer for anywhere from $10 to $30, depending on what specific services you require.
Some tips for VHS to DVD conversion: If you are using a method that includes VCRs or camcorders, make sure the tape heads are clean. Also: please be aware that any flaws on the VHS tape will be more obvious when you transfer it to DVD.