What's the best video capturing device to make home movies and VHS tapes digital?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by alexreich, Jul 2, 2012.

  1. alexreich, Jul 2, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2012

    alexreich macrumors 6502a


    Jan 26, 2011
    As stated above, I need something to get all of my families childhood videos on my home server for viewing, and to preserve them in a digital age. There are birthday parties, holidays, special events, and all sorts of home movies on VHS tapes, and I do not want to lose these valuable memories due to the aged form they're in.

    As you can see in my signature I have a 2010 Intel Mac mini, and a Late 2004 PowerMac G5 available for capturing these videos. I would like to use a product and/or software that is Universal so I can use it my PowerPC and Intel machines, but if the best quality (maintained frame rate and quality) is in an Intel only-product that's okay too...

    Point me in the right direction folks!
  2. Ben8472 macrumors member

    Mar 22, 2008
    i faced the same problem.

    solution was that a friend had a panasonic vhs / dvd recorder combo.

    it can transfer vhs content right onto dvd-disc, which i than transfered and converted over to my mac.

    since there is a minimum of analog/digital converting in this process i'd guess that the quality will be at least equal to any highend usb -> s-video adapter :)
  3. monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    I've been using this:


    and it works perfectly -- unattended.

    For playing, I'm using an old Panasonic AG1980 VHS deck that has S-video output, so the VHS is as good as it gets. I've captured from a Canon Hi-8 camcorder as well.

    The Blackmagic app reports itself as "universal."

    A device like this is pretty much useless after you convert all your tapes. I sent out notices to my friends, looking for somebody to share the expense, using it in turn. Nobody was interested, but I'm still looking.
  4. spacepower7 macrumors 68000

    May 6, 2004
    What is the final format that you want the video to be? A DVD or MP4 file for computers and iOS devices? Do you want to edit or put titles in the home videos?
  5. dgalvan123 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 16, 2008
    I second the suggestion for a VCR/DVD Recorder device. I use one I found on ebay used (cost~$100 I think).

    The benefit of it over a direct computer transfer device is that 1.) you go directly from VHS to DVD without tasking your computer. 2.) If you don't have time/interest in storing the video on your hard disk, you are done after recording to DVD. 3.) After pressing play/record, you don't have to babysit or watch the tape while it's transferring. Saves your time.

    For some of the home movies, I just transfer VHS to DVD and then I'm done. If I want to make additional copies for other family members, I make a disk image of the new DVD on my mac (using Disk Utility) and burn it to a new DVD-R.

    If I want to do any editing, I use Handbrake to rip from the DVD and import into iMovie. . . but so far I haven't actually done that yet. You can also rip from the DVD using Handbrake and import to iTunes for watching on Apple TV. But I think having it on DVD is very beneficial, since you now have it in a digital format that you can store on a shelf without taking up HD space and can duplicate to your heart's content.
  6. ftaok macrumors 603


    Jan 23, 2002
    East Coast
    Your solution will depend on what kind of gear you have (or have access to) and what kind of budget you intend for this project. Without knowing this, my generic answer will be the following.

    1. Buy (or obtain) a very good VHS for playback of your treasured tapes.

    2. Buy (or obtain) a miniDV camcorder (preferably with s-video input) or a Canopus AVDC100 DV Bridge.

    3. Firewire Cable

    4. iMovie'06

    5. miniDV tapes AND extra HDD space.

    I'm suggesting miniDV route because this will be the best digital format to archive your footage. Anything else will degrade the video more than miniDV. miniDV is also very compatible with your VHS footage in that it's the same resolution and NTSC 60i.

    After you get the footage in, you can use one of many apps to convert the DV footage to something more compressed (and de-interlaced) for your home server needs. iMovie'06 will do this (note that iMovie'09 thru '11 has a nasty feature that will throw away half of your interlaced frames upon export). Other apps you could use ... MPEGStreamClip and Handbrake.

    This is certainly the easy route, but it's certainly not a route I would choose if retaining image quality was important.

    DVDs are highly compressed with very low bitrates. Consumer level DVD-recorders aren't big sellers, so they haven't been updated with the latest encoding chips. Plus, the bit rates that they can use isn't that high. Also, I'm not aware of any DVD-recorder that can do Variable Bit Rate encoding.

    Then, if you want to edit the footage, you have to convert from DVD-MPEG2 into another format (probably DV or MPEG-4) and then encode the edited stream for the Home Server.

    And if you want to archive the footage, the DVDs will be OK, provided you keep extra copies. But the actual footage itself isn't that great. Why not get the best copy you can and use that as the archive?

    Anyways, just my 2 cents and how I would do it.

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