|MICRO CENTER: COMPUTERS AND ELECTRONICS|
Capture Old Movies
"Hello, What hardware do I need to convert old VHS home movies to DVD format? Can you point to internal or external? Thank you."
To convert VHS home movies or VCR tapes to DVD format will require:
Since you want to convert old VHS movies, this implies that the original video will be at least TV "quality." Translated, this means your video output should be at a resolution similar to a (480i) television, or somewhere around 720x480 or 640x480 at 29-30 frames per second. Any internal TV Tuner card should be capable of capturing this resolution and frame rate. You should check the specifications of any external USB or Firewire devices to see if they can keep up. Even though some external USB capture devices may list USB 1.0 or 1.1 as the minimum requirement, you will likely have an upper resolution and or frame rate limit imposed if you try. For example, the adapter may be able to capture at 320x240 at only 15 frames per second, which would be barely acceptable in a webcam, and will look really bad for TV viewing. Firewire (1394) could probably do better, but it is not as common for either the capture device or as an installed option on many computers. If you were going to open your system to install a USB 2.0 or 1394 adapter, you might as well just install a PCI capture card in the first place unless you have other high speed devices that you need to connect. Check system requirements for CPU speed, memory and hard drive space to make sure your computer can support the adapter. If there are minimum requirements and recommended ones, apply the recommended requirements to achieve the best results. While the minimum requirements should work, you may be limited in video size, frame rate, or experience dropped frames in the captured video. Available system memory will typically have the biggest impact on your capture quality, with CPU speed a close second.
Cards like the ATI All-In-Wonder series are available as stand-alone TV Tuner cards or as combined TV Tuner / Video. These cards have connections for a coax TV antenna (or cable connection) on the rear, with a dongle attachment to connect composite video and S-Video. ATI includes TV tuner and recording software as well as a player. If you connect your camcorder or VCR to the antenna connection, you would set the software TV Tuner to channel 3 or 4, just like you do with a standard television. The recording software can capture in a compressed ATI format, but this is designed for playback using their software, not burning to DVD. You can also configure the recorder to capture in several different (fair, good, best) quality settings using a standard MPEG1 or MPEG2 format. These translate easily to DVD video format, and can be edited with most video editing software beforehand. You will still need editing and burning software to prepare the final video for DVD.
There are several other brands of TV Tuner cards available, many in the $50-100 range. The capture quality is typically the same, but the software applications may not offer all the bells and whistles of the ATI Multimedia Suite. From testing several of these different cards, I found that all had the ability to manually record TV signals at a variety of resolutions and frame rates; they also had the capability of scheduling recording sessions in advance, tuning your computer into a personal video recorder "PVR," although the capability to link with a channel guide was typically poor or non existent - if you want advanced channel guide scheduling and program information, take a look at any of the current Media Center Edition PCs. For converting videos, this probably would make little difference to you.
You can go with a stand-alone capture card like the Adaptec VideOh! Series, but this means that you would always have to have some sort of external tuner connected to convert or capture TV programs, not just your video tapes. I am not sure about the current cards, but the ones from a year or two ago did not show up as a video capture card to Windows XP; the only way to record video was to use the software that was bundled with the adapter. Windows Movie Maker and other camera capture software did not think any video input was present in the sytstem.
Most external capture and TV tuner adapters I have looked at provide reasonable on-screen viewing, although I frequently noticed dropped frames during capture unless you limit yourself to lower resolutions. The only advantage to capturing at 320x240 or lower is if you plan to create video CDs (rather than DVDs) or want to convert to a format for playback on your PDA, iPod, or other small-format player.
If you look at the back of a typical VCR, you should see a variety of input and output connections; On this vintage 1984 VCR, you can see composite video out, audio out; composite video in, audio in; screw-down antenna connections (in and out) and RF antenna / cable ready connections (in and out.) Up above the antenna and coax connections is a switch that changes the VCR playback between television channels 3 and 4. To record a show on the computer to burn to a DVD, you can connect the composite video output to the capture card input and the audio out to the capture card or sound card line-in connection. If you are using a TV Tuner card to capture your video, just run a coax cable connection from the "Out to TV" connection to the "antenna" connection on the TV Tuner card; set your personal video recording software to record from the same TV channel as the VCR channel switch is set to.
A quick overview of video capture sources
Video Capture Adapters (Composite, S-Video)
Video capture adapters are available as internal PCI expansion cards or as external devices that can connect to your USB or 1394 / Firewire ports; and there are PCMCIA versions available for those of you that have notebook computers. A few of these external adapters also have video out capabilities so you could play your video to a TV, or record the modified output back to your Video Cassette Recorder. (If your capture adapter does not have video out connections, then you would need a video card with composite video out. To record your digital movies with this setup would require connecting audio and video from your computer back to your VCR; set your screen resolution to 640x480 or whatever the maximum supported by the composite out connection; maximize your video player application and run your video with the recorder running. One simple way to make your final VCR tape recording look professional is to add a fade-in transition when you edit your clip. The transition should be long enough to start playing the video on the computer, and then start the VCR to record during the transition period to eliminate any start and stop glitches.)
Because of the interface being limited to composite or s-video, capture cards or devices are typically limited to an upper resolution of around 640x480. Video Capture Adapters are just one way you could convert your old video tapes to digital, and the first step you would need to do to burn the resulting clips to a CD or DVD. As long as you have your VCR connected to the adapter, you can use the exact same setup to capture television shows, as long as the VCR is turned on, tuned in to the correct channel, and set to pass the TV signal through to the output. While it is possible to connect a DVD player to the video capture card, you may have problems with recording the output to a digital video file. The same copy protection techniques that make it difficult to record commercial tapes from one recorder to another will cause similar tracking, brightness, and saturation issues with your digital recording process.
TV Tuner Adapters (Radio Frequency (RF) Audio and Video)
USB and 1394/Firewire Cameras
Digital Video (DV) cameras may save live video to a variety of media, including digital tape, flash memory cards, or by writing directly to small optical disks. Almost every one of these is capable of saving still images in addition to video, but unlike cell phones and stationary cameras, these devices are made to record video at a reasonable resolution and for comparable periods to the old tape-based camcorders.
Network Video Cameras
Direct storage media transfer
Video Capture Software
© Micro Center