How to convert old VHS tapes to digital format

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Lluís Enric Mayans
How to convert old VHS tapes to digital format

And keep a legacy of memories

Who is it that does not find a heap of old women at home VHS videotapes with family movies? It is good to know that, in addition to collecting dust, they are subject to a slow process of demagnetization and damage which, as a first effect, causes the appearance of streaks, continuous or recurring, on the image, very annoying.

To avoid the total loss of these memories, and leave the VHS to their fate, it is possible to carry out a conversion process from analogue to digital in a few simple steps.

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First of all, it should be noted that in recent years the technology has advanced so far that it was previously recommended to convert videotapes to physical formats such as CDs or DVDs, which today have already become obsolete.

For this reason, the current trend is to pass everything directly to files, which can be stored on PCs or smartphones, USB sticks or portable mechanical hard drives or SSDs.

What, then, is needed to make this conversion?

1) a VHS video recorder. Who doesn't have it in the house, kept on top of some closet? And if you really don't have it, you can find it used on various ad and e-commerce sites

2) A VHS-C to VHS adapter: it is very common the case in which holiday movies were shot with video cameras that used the small VHS-C, a more practical derivation than the more cumbersome full size VHS. No problem, just insert the cassettes in one of these adapters (easily available online for a few euros) and it will be like playing from a normal VHS

3) A PC (or a Mac). It will be used for the final processing of the captured videos

4) A video grabber. It is the fundamental component used to convert the analog signals coming from the video recorder into a digital signal to be transferred to the computer. It is easily available on major e-commerce sites for a few tens of euros.

5) Cables and any adapters: a cable with inputs is sufficient RCA/S-Video on the one hand (to be connected to the video grabber) e Scart on the other (to be connected to the video recorder)

We digitize the videotapes: first of all we connect the VCR using the analog converter (or video grabber if you prefer). We insert the side with the USB port on the PC or notebook, and connect the other end to the VCR. Let's be sure to coordinate the colors of the three ports: red and white are the left and right audio channels, yellow is typically for video.

Please note: we use RCA cables or the SCART socket, not both.

Most converters work with very basic proprietary software included in the box. Its purpose is mostly to record the output of the VCR.

Now we will simply have to follow the software's on-screen instructions, which are usually very basic. Remember something pretty obvious, that you will have to play all the movies from the first to the last second.

That's all. Repeat the process for each videotape or sequence and you will have a series of files that you can keep on your favorite medium!

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