Converting VHS Tapes to DVD: A First-Hand Experience

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Preserving family videos is an important task, because no one wants to lose the precious memories of their loved ones. Recently, my family started the process of converting several VHS tapes to DVD format. My mother had been thinking about doing this for years; however, since she doesn’t consider herself to be especially tech-savvy, she was intimidated and kept postponing the job. However, after recently watching some of the tapes with the family, she decided it was time to transfer them. She was reminded of how special these home movies are, and she also knows that the tapes can deteriorate over time. Some of them are more than two decades old.

First, she researched options and costs. Phone calls to professional companies that transfer tapes were discouraging. Prices she was quoted ranged from $15 to $50 per video tape, and since we have a total of 22 tapes, the estimates seemed cost prohibitive. Ultimately, she opted to borrow a VHS-to-DVD converter from a family friend.

The process was simple. She connected the VHS-to-DVD converter to the TV, put in the VHS tape, put in a blank DVD and pressed the “Dubbing” button. It was even possible to edit as it was recording, although this involved sitting with it while it was converting. If you don’t want to edit, you can just come back when the VHS tape is finished playing. The first conversion she did took 2 hours and 36 minutes. As my mother neared the end of the process, all she needed to do was to “finalize” the DVD, and she was finished.

While this isn’t the only way to transfer your VHS tapes to DVDs, it’s certainly an easy way. In addition to this option, there are three other methods for conversion:

  1. Use a VHS player with a separate DVD recorder.
  2. Use an analog-to-digital adapter bundled with software, such as an Elgato Video Capture, or similar products, such as Roxio Easy VHS to DVD for Mac, or Corel Easy VHS to DVD for Windows. These systems connect your VHS player to a computer, and enable you to create a digital file that you can burn to DVD.
  3. Head to the photo department of a retail store like Walgreens or CVS, or seek out mail order options. (Groupon sometimes offers mail-in deals on VHS conversions).

Click images above for more information.

While it’s time consuming to do this yourself, it’s not complicated. The cost savings can be significant—our family saved between $500 and $1,000 by doing it this way. Most converters, like the one my mother used, cost less than $175. Even though we already had a spindle of DVD-/+R discs, these are inexpensive and widely available. Plus, you have the satisfaction of doing it yourself.

DIY conversion also affords more control, because you can edit as you convert each VHS tape. A professional company can edit out blank or damaged sections, but they wouldn’t be able to do personalized editing, without additional effort and expense.

One more thing to note is that the DVD won’t improve the quality of the VHS recording, which, given the state of video recording two or three decades ago, can be spotty. Couple that with the effect of aging on the tape, and you may have a somewhat messy viewing experience. However, starting the VHS-DVD conversion process will preserve your priceless memories no matter which option you choose, and it may be better to have them with some artifacts than not have them at all.

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Okay, so I appreciate this article. Is it possible to create a menu with chapter selections through any of these processes? I have hours of footage and being able to select from the transferred video rather than having to fast forward to particular points would be preferred. I wanted to know before I chose a method and found out the hard way a) it's not possible or b) it is possible, but I screwed up. I'm not very tech savvy, so I was thinking of getting a VHS/DVD-R combo machine, but maybe a software via VHS adapted connection is the only way this is possible. Maybe you can educate me.

Hi Jeff -
First digitize the tapes first, then go back and re-edit the digital footage, adding titles, markers, chapters, etc. with software like:
Adobe Premiere Elements 2021 (Mac/Windows, DVD)

B&H # ADPREL2021  

Key Features:

  • Advanced Consumer-Level Video Editing
  • Basic/Advanced Step-by-Step Guided Edits
  • One-Click Auto Editing Tools
  • 73 Music Scores and 268 Sound Effects
  • Create and Export Animated GIFs
  • Photo and Video Slideshow Creation
  • Themed Instant Movies with Music/Effects
  • Adobe Sensei AI Machine Learning

Okay, cool. So, it sounds like the best way to be able to go about it is to connect VHS to computer and use software to digitize rather than VHS/DVD-R machine, yeah?

Hi Jeff - 

It certainly is.   A digital file can be transferred to another external HDD for archival purposes or saved to cloud storage, a DVD or BluRay disc or a USB flash drive or e-mailed.  Far more convenient, now and in the future.  Besides, the VHS/DVD combo machines have not been manufactured for years.

I'm wanting to convert our old family VHS tapes to digital and then take some clips from those tapes to make a custom video for a family member. Can I use the Elgato system to convert them and customize them or do I need to purchase another product for that?

Hi Casidy - 

The included Elgato software features basic video editing tools, allowing you to trim unwanted footage away.  More advanced video editing software may be desired for further customization.  iMovie or Adobe Premiere Elements would work fine:
 

Adobe Premiere Elements 2021 (Mac/Windows, DVD)

B&H # ADPREL2021  

Key Features

  • Advanced Consumer-Level Video Editing
  • Basic/Advanced Step-by-Step Guided Edits
  • One-Click Auto Editing Tools
  • 73 Music Scores and 268 Sound Effects
  • Create and Export Animated GIFs
  • Photo and Video Slideshow Creation
  • Themed Instant Movies with Music/Effects
  • Adobe Sensei AI Machine Learning

Hey, I'm hoping with first hand experience you can help me out. I have the same Funai VHS/DVD recorder combo pictured. When playing the videos while capturing, on the TV it obviously looks like the original tapes are playing. They're not particularly crisp, but they're clean and look just as you would expect them to. Recording with the SP or XP modes on the recorder (2hrs/dvd and 1hr/dvd respectively), the end result on the DVD looks noticeably worse than the original. It's not so bad that you don't appreciate the fact that it is now easier to preserve, but with a side by side comparison it's quite obviously not the original.

My question is, is this a result I would get from all analog capture devices? Or is there some limitation with the recording in the Funai box or some bitrate limitation with real time recording where I'd get a better result with a different capture method? Possibly via the Elgato USB Analog capture device, or a 1080p 60fps USB 3 capture card on the HDMI output of the player.

I've spent hours digitizing footage with the VHS->DVD combo box, so I'm not looking to spend more money and have to redo everything unless I'm sure it'll get better results.

The quality will only be as good as the source.  I'm not sure you will see a big improvement if you capture the VHS tapes through a USB device.

I have been TRYING to use EASY VHS to DVD 3 and I cannot get the piece of <bleep> to work. I think I'm going back to the old way of using a DVD recorder with my old VHS units, of which I have 3. (BTW, for anyone considering this, it's best to use separate units if you need more precise control over where you start, as I've found with the single conversion units, you can't get it precisely and I always end up cutting the beginning off.)

I will attempt to find some more used ones on eBay, but does anyone know either where I can get some new Panasonic DMR-ES15s or something similar? Or what, if any, is the newer version of that? I love those, they work so well, but I think they stopped making them years ago. 

OR, if anyone has a suggestion for software that WILL work, I have the device that connects the VHS to my PC, but I need something to capture video and allow a little manipulation, such as removing extraneous material (outtakes) and just snipping it down to fit on a regular DVD. (If I can do other things, that's great, but the thing I couldn't do with EASY VHS to DVD 3 - aside from it never finalizing anything, LOL - was to snip out the junk in the middle. I absolutely need to be able to do that. I have old VHS tapes of skating competitions and there's time between skaters, for instance, that I could clip out to make it fit, but not with that crappy software, so looking for suggestions.

In the meantime, I guess it's finally time to figure out which, if any, of my DMR-ES15s still work.

I'm willing to spend a few hundred on a decent DVD recorder, tho, if it's new. I prefer Panasonic, if they still exist, because I'm familiar with how they work and muscle memory in my hand operates the remote without conscious thought! ;-)

Hi Sue - 
I am very sorry you are having issues with Roxio Easy VHS to DVD 3 Plus.
Video recorders like the Panasonic and others have not been manuactured for many years. 

You might want to give this a try: The Elgato Systems USB Analog Video Capture Device is a compact USB device, perfect for converting analog video to a digital format.

Standard USB interface

Captures from RCA composite and S-Video sources

Perfect for digitizing old home movies

Compatible with NTSC, PAL, PAL/60, and SECAM signals

Includes free download of Elgato Video Capture software for Mac and Windows

Software features basic video editing tools, allowing you to trim unwanted footage away

Exports to H.264 format, perfect for iTunes, the iPod, an iPhone, the Apple TV, YouTube, and iMovie

Compatible with Mac and Windows (please click on "Specifications" tab)

System Requirements

Mac Systems Computer: Dual-Core Intel Mac
Operating System: Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later
Memory: 1 GB
Hardware: USB 2.0 port

Windows Systems
Computer: 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (or comparable) with sound card
Operating System: Windows 7 or later
Memory: 1 GB
Hardware: USB 2.0 port

 

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your reply. Is there a free trial period with this software? I don't mind the expense . . . IF it works. I've gotten burned by one software package; I don't want to throw good money after bad, as it were. I'd like to work with it for a couple of weeks and see if it will do the things I need before I commit. 

SUe

Hi Sue - 
The Elgato Video Capture comes with Elgato Video Capture software for Mac and Windows. I have been using this product for many years and have been vey happy withis function and software.  The  Windows software is free to download:  https://www.elgato.com/en/gaming/downloads
Full details here  https://bit.ly/2H7QryO

I was very happy to come across this thread, and I have read nearly all of the posts.

I am using Roxio VHS to DVD 3 Plus, and would like advice on two things:

(1) Choosing to create files on my computer and thereafter burn them to DVD, I see many choices and combinations of choices for the EXPORT process. I am not going to be streaming these, and I want to get the highest possible quality, regardless of file size.

H.264, MP2, etc--also the various rates? I have experimented with several of them, and honestly, the results look fairly similar.

So what are the advantages/disadvantages that you would caution me to become aware of before I spend a TON of my life with this project? Truly, doing this once, will be enough! :-)

(2) After I get these files created, if I want to go further, what would Premiere Elements lack, compared to the much more expensive Premiere Pro subscription based product?

I am not looking to do very much with these-just cutting out some repetitious and/or poor quality segments. Beautiful transitions and fancy menus, etc., will probably never happen. So perhaps you would say that what I already have from Roxio is enough for my somewhat rudimentary goals?

Thanks so very, very much to those with time to jump in here!

Hi Margaret-

The results will look similar as the native resolution of the recordings is probably quite low. H.264 will use less memory storage and create smaller file sizes. Premiere Elements will offer you many editing options, controls, and useful features. There is no need to go with Premiere Pro for this project.

I've read reviews on Amazon that the Elgado doesn't work with Windows 10.  Can you recommend a device that does?  Thank you.

Hi Ann - 

Elgato USB Analog Video Capture Device BH #ELVC:  https://bhpho.to/3e7xOW3
 

System Requirements
Mac Systems Computer: Dual-Core Intel Mac
Operating System: Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later
Memory: 1 GB
Hardware: USB 2.0 port

Windows Systems
Computer: 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (or comparable) with sound card
Operating System: Windows 7 or later
Memory: 1 GB
Hardware: USB 2.0 port

Thank you!

Hi, thanks for the guide it's very helpful. I'm having a problem and wondering if you could help. I got my hands on a Video & DVD combo machine and after repairing it (hadn't been used in years and some parts needed replacing) I finally started to process of converting Video to DVD and everything was going smoothly until I tried to find the file on the DVD on my PC. I want to have all the video files on my PC to edit them and have them all saved on a hard drive but I don't see the file. I check the properties of the disk and there is definitely something on it as there's only 80mb of storage left and when I instert it into the Video & DVD combo it works just fine as a DVD but for some reason my PC cannot see the file on the DVD. I used DVD-R and I'm using Windows OS. Also the PC doesn't play the DVD like the DVD player does, it's like the disc is empty. Thanks in advance.

Hi Kivagn - 

What may have happened is that your rejuvenated DVD/VHS combo machine burned the footage to the DVD in a file format not recognized by your computer.  I have found that downloading this free open source software will allow you to open, view, and edit these files: https://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html  Good luck!

I am currently doing this and my VHS-DVR  machine requires that you finalize the disc for it to be seen on other machines/PCs/DVD players etc. You do not mention the machine, but look in the corresponding manual or bring up the disk edit menu in the machine and see if the finalize option is there.

Hello,
Re: Method 1 - Use a VHS player with a separate DVD recorder
I have a RDR-HX715 and a ZDV-712 combo units. What is the recommended connection between the two: composite or coaxial? What is the best and fastest way to proceed?

Hi Tom -

You cannot connect and record using the antenna connections effectively.  Use the analog composite RCA connections.

Hi Mark,

Found out the hard way... :-(

The composite way takes as long as the tape lasts, i.e. play and record... Anything faster comes to your mind?

Hi Tom - 

I am afraid not.  Analog video tape conversion is time intensive.

HI PURCHASED VHS TO DVD3 RECENTLY TO CONVERT VHS TO DVD WITH EDITING, SEEM EASY BUT IF YOUR NOT A COMPUTER PERSON IT IS A LIVING HELL..YOU CANNOT GET ANY TECH SUPPORT FROM COREL..INSTALLED SOFTWARE FIRST DISC WAS FINE, AFTER THAT NOTHING BUT PROBLEMS, CANNOT GET IT TO BURN DISC, KEEPS REJECTING, THERE ARE NO INSTRUCTIONS OTHER THAN A SIMPLE SHEET THAT SAYS DO THIS THAN THIS, ALL OF A SUDDEN A SCREEN OPENS UP, NOT IN INSTRUCTIONS, ON WHAT TO DO AND THEN YOUR PROJECT FAILS..

Hi - does anyone know if this works with Mac iOS Catalina? I bought a converter (easy capture) and its not compatible. If this doesn't, does anyone know  what will work? I have about 75 VHS's that I want to edit using Adobe Premiere.

Thanks

Yes, the Roxio Easy VHS to DVD for Mac should work well with Catalina, BH #ROEVHSDVDM.

https://bhpho.to/2xSyMpH

I have an Emerson vcr/dvd combo. My video is 6 and 1/2 hours long.  How do I do this?  Will the machine finalize the first dvd and then ask for another blank? 

Hi Joy - 

Your  Emerson machine may very well just stop recording and not prompt you at all when the disc is full. You will need to monitor the recording process very carefully.

Hi Taylor - 

I am very sorry to hear this Taylor. It is always a best practice to make sure the anti-recording tab is punched out at the top of the VHS tape cassette to prevent accidental erasure.

Hello. I’m hoping someone can help me. 
i have a Sanyo progressive scan dvd vhs combo player, model DVW 7200. I was trying to convert my vhs to dvd. I was using DVD +RW. and in the process i think I Overwrote the vhs. Is this even possible? I played the vhs for a second to ensure there was content to record. But upon clicking buttons and trying to record the vhs to the blank dvd i fear that i might’ve done the opposite. Please advise!! Thank you. 

I am very sorry to hear this Taylor. It is always a best practice to make sure the anti-recording tab is punched out at the top of the VHS tape cassette to prevent accidental erasure.

I’m having some difficulty making backup dvds from vhs tapes.  My most successful ones have been by means of playing the vhs tape in my JVC HR-S9911U player, sending the signal through a Canopus ADVC-100 to iMovies in the Mac computer, and then burning the dvds by means of Roxio Toast 18 Titanium.  These are good copies in all ways but one:  When I play the dvds, the top and bottom have been cropped when I view them in the monitor (Insignia 32D220NA16).  When I view the original tapes in the same monitor, there are black margins on the right and left side of the screen, and no cropping on the top or bottom.

I’ve also tried copying by means of components, going from the JVC player to a Toshiba DVD recorder (D-RSKC).  When I do that, the image becomes distorted, elongating sideways.  It’s too upsetting to watch.

I used to have a Panasonic VCR/DVD player/recorder, which did a good job, but it quit working, so I bought another one, used, and it arrived OK, but immediately developed the same problem.  So I abandoned that course of action.

Do you have any helpful suggestions?

Hi Ken - 

The common denominator seems to be your Canopus ADVC-100.  Perhaps there is an issue with its processor now. You might want to give this a try: The Elgato Systems USB Analog Video Capture Device is a compact USB device, perfect for converting analog video to a digital format.

What is the best hardware/software to use to convert VHS to external hard drive?

Hi Richard:

If you have a VCR  to playback the tapes,  all you will need is this device:

The Elgato Systems USB Analog Video Capture Device is a compact USB device, perfect for converting analog video to a digital format. You'll be able to use the device to capture old home movies, VHS recordings, or any other analog media to a modern digital format. Simply plug your playback device into the S-Video or RCA composite input of the device, and capture.

Video is digitized into a format that is compatible with iTunes, any iPod, the iPhone, the Apple TV, YouTube, and iMovie. This gives you extreme flexibility as to how you utilize the captured video, without having to jump through the hoops of manual file format conversion. Elgato's Video Capture is an excellent tool for any Mac or Windows user who would like to bring their old analog videos into the digital age.

Standard USB interface

Captures from RCA composite and S-Video sources

Perfect for digitizing old home movies

Compatible with NTSC, PAL, PAL/60, and SECAM signals

Includes free download of Elgato Video Capture software for Mac and Windows

Software features basic video editing tools, allowing you to trim unwanted footage away

Exports to H.264 format, perfect for iTunes, the iPod, an iPhone, the Apple TV, YouTube, and iMovie

Compatible with Mac and Windows (please click on "Specifications" tab)

If you do not have the playback device contact us via e-mail:  [email protected]

What do you mean when you tell everyone that you need to finalize the dics.  I am just getting ready to investigate converting my VHS tapes to DVD and I want to avoid having to go back and redo the job because i didn't do it right the first time.  Thanks for your help.

Hi Ray - 

There will be a "finalize" button on the remote or on the chassis of the VCR/DVD recorder. This function must be initiated at the end of the recording session for each recorded disc.

Finalization of a recorded optical disc, also known as closing, is the process of writing out supporting data, including menus or tables of content and directory data, to enable it to play on all other systems. Once a disc has been finalized, it cannot have any more data written to it.

On a computer:

To finalize your disc:

  1. Start by clicking the “My Computer” icon.
  2. Find the disc icon for your CD or DVD; if you gave it a name it should show up there too.
  3. Right click on the icon and select “Close Session.”
  4. A pop-up box will appear once the finalization is done. Your disc can now be safely removed from your drive.

If you have burning software that allows finalizing, the process is even simpler. Once you are done burning, a “finalize” or “done” button will appear that will ensure this is completed.

 

We bought the ion vcr 2 sd stand alone recorder.  The video looks fairly normal as we play it on the vcr.  We then used handbrake to convert the file to an mov file.  The video then had a problem.  It appears that every time the camera moves the video distorts until the camera comes to a stationary position.  When it moves again it distorts again until the camera stops.  What are we doing wrong?

We also tried this same operation using mpeg stream clip.  We got the same results.  

I spent a lot of time converting family VCRs to DVDs. Many of the DVDs had several small segments of video not just one long sequence as we had some short parts of tapes to convert. They played back fine but only on the machine I recorded/converted them on. Then I realized I needed to finalize the DVDs before they would play back on another DVD player. I was upset to find that the DVDs only played back the first sequence after I had finalized them. Are all the other parts inaccessible now? I hope not. Thank you.

I am sorry, but usually you will need to finalize a DVD before it can be played on a DVD player.   You may need to convert the tapes again and make sure you finalize the discs.

Thanks.

Great forum.

May I ask - just in terms of the quality of the end product, is there a difference between a standalone machine(Samsung VR375) and a video capture system (Roxio Easy VHS to DVD)?

Also, is there a difference in terms of the likelihood of glitches, as with many hours of VHS tapes to convert, I won’t be able to fully view all the results, to see how they’ve turned out.

Many thanks J

The Samsung VR375 is not a product we currently sell.  However we now offer the ION Audio Video 2 SD Standalone VHS Conversion Recorder.  Rather than connecting a capture device to a computer, like the Roxio, you can connect your VCR to this and record right to a Micro SD Card.  It makes the process a lot more convenient.  As far as differences in quality, they should be around the same.

https://bhpho.to/2WKpvYC

Thanks!

Thank you! That sounds like a neat little product. However, I presume you would still recommended I then burn the video files to DVDs, for long-term storage?

Thanks again. :)

Not necessarily.  You could burn DVDs, you could save the footage to a hard drive on your computer.  You could even consider doing both.

Thanks again!

Jumping in on this question as I too am interested. I was looking at the Elgato Video Transfer to transfer a lot of old VHS to digital files. Are there any differences between that and the ION listed above that I should know about? Quality? Ease of use? Format output? I like the idea of recording directly to an SD Card since it's obviously very portable/easy to share but would still like to transfer it to my MBP for editing in FCPX. basically do you think one is much better than the other? In quality or any other aspect? Thanks! 

The difference really lies in how the product works.  The Elgato system, B&H # ELVC, connects directly to a computer through USB while the ION records directly to a SD card.  You would need to bring in the footage to you computer after the fact.  As far as quality, they will both be around the same but the Elgato Captures .MP4 files and the ION .AVI Files.  An MP4 file is a bit more friendly with FCP X.

Thanks!

I was able to copy a vhs tape on to a dvd, but it does not play on my mac. The instructions say to "finalize" the disc. How do I do that? Thank you

Hi Nicole - 

It depends upon your DVD recorder Nicole. E-mail us with more details:  [email protected]

Can you watch vhs tapes on these converters with sound?

Hi Marty -

Yes you can.  Just connect to a monitor or TV.

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