Memories have a lifespan. That is why we do our best to capture the most valuable moments from birth to graduation through photos and videos. In terms of aging, old photos are fairly easy to digitize. Scan, upload and save on your computer, USB stick or in the cloud. On the other hand, digitizing old videos can be a little more difficult, at least when it comes to footage shot on the almost dead Medium Video Home System, also known as VHS.
The format should never last forever and worsens over time. If your valuable home videos have survived so far, you may want to save the footage before time takes its toll. Converting worn videos will never be error-free – the slightest hiccup can interrupt the broadcast signal – but it can be done with a few simple tools on a modest budget.
Below we show you how to save your moments digitally in various formats, including DVD, Blu-ray or digital file. If you're just too busy, we also have a list of different VHS conversion services, including prices, so you can keep the 20 year old footage of you getting off your first bike. If not for you, do it for posterity.
Disclaimer: It is illegal to make copies of commercial films and copyrighted content, but there are no restrictions on copying home videos. Also, you can usually pick up a used edition of Top Gun or The Breakfast Club online for next to nothing.
VHS-DVD conversion services for retail
For those who prefer to forego the technical process, many well-known retail companies offer conversion services from VHS to DVD (and in some cases from VHS to digital) through their photo departments. Stores like Costco, CVS, Walmart, and Sam’s Club offer video conversions, and many of them use the same company for their conversion: YesVideo. If you visit the YesVideo website, you will find conversion services starting at $ 26 per band for the first two hours and an additional $ 26 for every two additional hours of conversion. However, the price you pay at Walmart or Target could be lower. These prices have seen an upward trend in recent years. So if you've been waiting for your tapes to be converted, you may want to access them.
The available transmission formats include everything from VHS to Betamax. Most services allow you to transfer up to two tapes to a single DVD before charging additional fees. Alternatively, there are some great websites that offer the same service at a cheaper price if you want to ship the VHS tapes yourself.
Companies like Legacy Box offer similar services. Simply send in your VHS tapes and you will receive DVDs, downloadable digital files or a USB stick with all your memories as well as the original tapes. Prices start at $ 59, including two-band conversion.
Use a VHS-DVD combination or a separate VCR and DVD burner
If you have a lot of video to broadcast, you can do the job yourself to save some green. The best way to convert yourself is with a VHS DVD combo player / recorder. These are outdated and difficult to find today. You can find dinosaur models online if you look closely – try searching for "Combo Deck" or "VHS DVD Recorder" on websites like Amazon, eBay, or even Craigslist – but these usually cost $ 100 or more (and it takes forever to be shipped)), so it's only worth it if you have an extensive band collection.
You can also buy the items you need in pieces. If you don't have a VCR yet, you might be able to find one online for around $ 70-100, but again, this isn't the easiest task. You can try checking out Amazon (most options are available second hand), but you may need to use eBay or even your local Craigslist. However, we recommend caution when choosing these routes. Always make sure that your eBay seller continues to achieve high valuation results beforehand. Then you need a standalone DVD recorder, which can be a challenge these days. To secure one, the methods described above are likely to be required.
Once you have received the goods, you can connect the DVD player to the VCR by connecting onefrom the cinch output of the video recorder to the cinch input of the DVD player. For some models, you may need one to connect the two. This is essentially the same process that you need to use with an older video camera that uses tapes. Simply connect the output of the camera to the DVD recorder using the cinch cable or, if necessary, the cinch to HDMI converter mentioned above. With a combo player, of course, the process is easier.
Next is the transfer process. Put a tape in the VCR and a blank oneor (some devices only accept one of these formats, so check again) into the DVD player and then start the transfer process. The method differs between models, but should be relatively simple. You may need to follow the manufacturer's instructions. However, most manuals can be found through a Google search if your components are not included.
Pro tip: It is always wise to clean your equipment and the tapes to be transferred. The effectiveness of different cleaning methods is a matter of dispute. However, the easiest way is to open the cassette cover and carefully remove any visible dust or dirt with a soft cloth or cotton swab. You can also use a to clean the heads of your VCR.
Transfer to DVD, Blu-ray or digital file on Windows and Mac
This process is more complex and requires some additional materials, but has its advantages. In particular, unlike any other physical format, you can transfer your tapes directly from a VCR to digital files so you can keep them on a hard drive or even in the cloud. You can then copy and save the files wherever you want and transfer them to DVDs or Blu-rays.
Assuming you already have a VCR, the first step is to buy a digital-to-analog converter if you don't have access to one. There are many models, but models such as the UCEC USB 2.0 Video Audio Capture Card have been specially developed for VHS transmission.
If you have one, connect the digital-to-analog adapter to your computer and your VCR or camera. Most adapters come with software that guides you through the entire transfer process, including importing the resulting footage into a larger video editor or burning directly to DVD. For more information on installing the software and downloading the required drivers, see the installation CD, user guide, or the manufacturer's website.
As with the previous method, we recommend that you check your tape and VCR to make sure they are clean. Particles on the tape can cause video errors during transmission, while dirty heads can ruin the entire project.
Now for the main event. Insert the tape into your VCR and a blank DVD or Blu-ray into your computer (or external player / burner). The exact steps for the conversion depend on which device and which software you use for the video recording. Recording and digitizing takes place in real time. This means that you have to carefully go through the entire length of the footage (or do something else for a while) before you can complete the project. Once this is done, the content will remain in digital format forever.
If you only wanted the digital file at this point, you're done. You can edit, move and name the file as you like. If you want to burn the file to a DVD or Blu-ray, you obviously have to do one more step. Most conversion programs have an option to burn a DVD or Blu-ray after the footage is transferred. If not, locate the resulting file on your computer and open it in iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, VLC, or a similar program that allows you to burn your footage to DVD. (You can also edit the length of your videos with these programs.) The burning process depends on the software you selected. See the instructions for more information.
Alternatively, you can try afor easy copying of VHS footage directly onto a microSD card for digital use. However, be aware that you may need additional cables and a larger SD card (try 64 GB).
VHS on Blu-ray
With a Blu-ray, you need to make sure that your computer has a recordable Blu-ray driveIf there is no integrated device in your rig, you will probably also need third-party software. For Windows users we recommend the free program ImgBurn. However, no update has been displayed for years. Therefore, you should also try paid options such as Opencloner or BurnAware. Leawo Blu-ray Creator for Mac is also a good choice.
There is little reason to convert VHS (or any other tape) to Blu-ray format because the picture quality is already pretty bad. If you prefer the glossy blue surface, you'll have more power, but Blu-ray players and writers usually work for DVDs too. We would therefore not recommend wasting your money there.