Converting VHS to digital format

Here is something that works. It took a lot of internet digging to find this out but it was really simple in the end.

First I bought a brand new VCR for £60. This was to ensure I got the best possible transfer of data from the video tape. When I bought it (I wasn’t even sure you could still get them) I was hoping there would be a really useful modern socket on the VCR for getting the signal out, after all, the only people who can be buying these machines now are those who are desperate to reformat their old tapes, but no such luck, nothing apart from the standard SCART socket. It did have some phono sockets but they were ‘in’ only; like, sure, people are still going to preserve their treasured memories onto VHS! What were the designers thinking?

Most of the internet information I came across then blithely said “connect the VCR to your camcorder” as if this was a breeze. On inspection though, at least with my set-up, this would require a lead that had SCART at one end and Firewire at the other, a combination about as likely as a comedy double act made up of George Bush and Osama Bin Laden.

The alternative was to connect the VCR to my hard disk/dvd recorder and at least get the tapes onto dvd. A simple SCART lead was all that was required.

Great, I now had my old VHS tapes on dvd which is as far as most people want to go, but I wanted to edit the old VHS stuff using imovie. How could I get it off the dvd into my computer?

Again, much internet digging produced widely conflicting advice and a likely candidate; a piece of free software called HandBrake. This worked seamlessly and had plenty of options available, most of which I didn’t understand. Apparently though, the .avi format produces the best quality results. It was a slow process, but hey, the quality was acceptable and I can now edit those old VHS archives.

This is a Mac link for HandBrake but I believe it is available for Windows too.

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