How to Convert VHS Tapes to DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital


If you happen to spent any a part of the ’80s or ’90s lugging round a VHS camcorder (or being filmed by somebody with considered one of these huge contraptions), you most likely have a closet filled with outdated VHS tapes containing weddings, graduations, and sacred Disney journeys. And whilst you would possibly suppose these tapes are merely ready so that you can pop them again in a VHS machine, the reality is, that video footage is slowly decaying and is already in means worse form than when it was shot.

In case your valuable residence movies managed to outlive, you could wish to salvage that footage earlier than it turns into misplaced ceaselessly. Changing well-worn residence films won’t ever be flawless, however it may be achieved on a modest funds with a number of fundamental instruments.

Under, we’ll present you ways to save lots of your moments digitally on a number of codecs, together with by DVD switch, Blu-ray, or digital file. If you happen to’re simply too busy, we’ve additionally obtained a checklist of the assorted VHS conversion companies, together with pricing, that will help you protect that 20-year-old residence video of you bailing in your first bike. If not for you, do it for posterity’s sake.

Disclaimer: It’s unlawful to supply copies of economic movies and copyrighted content material, however there aren’t any restrictions on copying residence movies. Plus, you often can decide up a used copy of High Gun or The Breakfast Membership on-line for subsequent to nothing. 

Retail VHS-to-DVD conversion companies

For many who’d somewhat forgo the technical hands-on course of, many big-name retail companies provide VHS-to-DVD (and in some circumstances VHS-to-digital) conversion companies by means of their photograph departments. Shops like Costco, CVS, Walmart, and Sam’s Membership provide video conversion, and lots of of them use the identical firm for his or her conversion: YesVideo.

If you happen to head to the YesVideo web site, you’ll discover conversion companies ranging from $26 per tape for the primary two hours, after which a further $26 for each two extra hours of changing. However the worth you pay at Walmart or Goal could possibly be decrease. These costs have been trending upward in recent times, so when you’ve been ready to get your tapes transformed, you would possibly wish to get on it.

Obtainable switch codecs embody every part from VHS to Betamax, and most companies will mean you can switch as much as two tapes to a single DVD disc earlier than charging you additional. Alternatively, there are a few nice web sites that supply the identical service for a extra inexpensive worth when you really feel snug transport the VHS tapes your self.

Corporations like Legacy Field provide comparable companies. Merely mail your VHS tapes in, they usually’ll give you DVDs, downloadable digital information, or a thumb drive crammed with all your recollections, plus the unique tapes in return. Costs begin at $59, which incorporates the conversion of two tapes. Produce other analog media, like audio cassettes or 35mm slides? Legacy Field can digitize these, too.

Utilizing a VHS-DVD combo or separate VCR and DVD burner

Image of DVDs.

If you happen to’ve obtained a ton of movies to switch, you could wish to tackle the job your self to avoid wasting money. One of the best ways to transform by yourself is with a VHS-DVD mixture participant/recorder. In the present day, these are outdated and will be exhausting to search out. Yow will discover dinosaur fashions on-line when you look exhausting sufficient — strive looking out “combo deck” or “VHS DVD recorder” on websites like Amazon or eBay and even Craigslist — however these will sometimes run you $100 or extra (and take ceaselessly to ship), so it’ll solely be price it when you’ve obtained a sizeable tape assortment.

You can also purchase the gadgets you’ll want piecemeal. If you happen to don’t have already got a VCR, you would possibly be capable of discover one on-line for round $70 to $100, however once more, it’s not the best process. With the final new VCRs rolling off the meeting line in 2016, used machines are probably your solely possibility. You may strive wanting on Amazon (most choices there shall be secondhand), however you could have to resort to eBay and even your native Craigslist, although we advocate warning when you go these routes — at all times be sure your eBay vendor has excessive evaluation scores earlier than continuing. Then you definitely’ll want a stand-alone DVD recorder, which will also be a problem to search out nowadays. Securing one will probably require the identical strategies outlined above.

When you’ve obtained the products, you possibly can hook up the DVD recorder to the VCR by plugging a set of RCA audio/video cables from the VCR’s RCA outputs to the DVD recorder’s RCA inputs. On some fashions, you would possibly want an RCA-to-HDMI converter to attach the 2. That is primarily the identical course of you’ll want to make use of when you’re utilizing a VHS camcorder as your playback system — merely join the digital camera’s outputs to the DVD recorder through the RCA cables or, if crucial, the RCA-to-HDMI converter we simply talked about. With a combo participant, in fact, the method is easier.

Subsequent is the switch course of. Pop a tape into the VCR and a clean DVD+R or DVD+RW (some models solely settle for considered one of these codecs, so double-check that) into the DVD participant, then start the switch course of. The strategy differs between fashions, however it must be comparatively simple, and customarily includes beginning the recording mode on the DVD recorder, adopted by urgent play in your VCR or camcorder.

You could have to comply with the producer’s directions, however most manuals will be discovered by means of a Google search in case your parts didn’t include them. Consider, most DVD recorders have two levels: Recording and finalizing. Whereas in recording mode, you possibly can hold including footage to a single disc so long as you haven’t run out of storage capability. Finalizing “locks in” the recordings after which makes the disc playable on any DVD participant. As soon as finalized, a disc can’t be used for any additional recordings.

Professional tip: It’s at all times sensible to scrub your gear and the tapes you’ll be transferring. The efficacy of various cleansing strategies is some extent of rivalry, however the easiest way is to open the cassette’s protecting door and punctiliously take away any seen mud or grime utilizing a comfortable fabric or cotton swab. You may also contemplate cleansing your VCR’s heads through the use of a VHS head cleaner.

Transferring to DVD, Blu-ray, or digital file on Home windows and Mac

Panasonic DMP-BD91 BD blu-ray player tray.

This course of is extra concerned and requires a number of extra supplies, however it has its advantages. Particularly, you’ll be capable of switch your tapes straight from a VCR into digital information versus one other bodily format, permitting you to protect them on a tough drive and even within the cloud. You may then copy and save the information wherever you’d like and switch them to DVDs or Blu-rays.

Assuming you’ve already obtained a VCR, step one is to purchase an analog-to-digital converter when you don’t have entry to 1. There are lots of fashions on the market, however fashions such because the UCEC USB Video Audio Seize Card are made particularly with VHS transferring in thoughts. These small units are referred to as “playing cards” as a result of the unique model was certainly a card that wanted to be inserted into a pc, however nowadays they’re all plug-and-play USB dongles.


When you’ve obtained one, join the analog-to-digital converter to your pc and your VCR or digital camera. Most adapters include software program that walks you thru the complete switch course of, together with importing the ensuing footage right into a extra complete video editor or burning it straight to DVD. Consult with the set up disc, instruction guide, or producer’s web site for extra info on putting in the software program and downloading the mandatory drivers.

As with the earlier methodology, we advise giving your tape and VCR a look-over to ensure every is clear. Particles on the tape may cause blemishes within the video in the course of the switch, whereas soiled heads can spoil the complete challenge.

Now for the primary occasion. Insert the tape into your VCR, and a clean DVD or Blu-ray into your pc (or exterior participant/burner). The precise steps for conversion range relying on which system and what software program you’re utilizing for video seize. Digitizing will occur in real-time, that means you’ll need to painstakingly sit by means of the complete size of footage (or go do one thing else for some time) earlier than you possibly can end up the challenge. As soon as it’s achieved, nevertheless, the contents shall be ceaselessly preserved in digital format.

You’ve gotten the choice possibility of using a direct digital converter, which digitizes the VHS content material onto an SD card, with out the necessity for a pc. You may then insert the SD card into any system for viewing. Bear in mind, although — you would possibly want additional cables and an even bigger SD card (strive 64GB).


At this level, if all you needed was the digital file, you’re achieved; you possibly can edit, transfer, and identify the file as you need. If you happen to’re planning on burning the file to a DVD or Blu-ray disc, you’ve obtained one other step to go. Most conversion software program could have an possibility for burning a DVD or Blu-ray upon completion of digitizing the footage.

If not, find the ensuing file in your pc and open it in iMovie, Home windows Film Maker, VLC, or an analogous program that may burn your footage to DVD. You may also use these applications to edit the size of your movies. The burning course of will range relying on what software program you select, so seek the advice of directions for additional clarification.

VHS to Blu-ray

To transform outdated VHS to Blu-ray utilizing a PC, you’ll want a pc with a Blu-ray writable drive and the suitable third-party software program. You’ll want an exterior drive in case your PC doesn’t have one built-in. So far as software program goes, we advocate the budget-friendly (free), albeit outdated, program ImgBurn for home windows customers. If you wish to pay for a greater, extra trendy different, we advocate both Opencloner or BurnAware. Leawo Blu-ray Creator is the perfect and most user-friendly possibility for Macs.

Apart from these variations, the method is similar as we described above for creating DVDs in your pc.

High quality in, high quality out

Consider, simply since you’re transferring your antiquated VHS tapes to a extra trendy, digital format, you probably received’t see any considerable enchancment in picture high quality. The digitizing and burning processes hardly ever contain any tech wizardry that may create element that has been misplaced to deterioration of time or that was by no means there within the first place. In spite of everything, VHS tapes are from the times of three:four ratio NTSC video, and also you’ll most likely find yourself watching the transformed footage on a flatscreen TV with not less than 1080p decision, if not a 4K TV, which is able to probably make the entire grainy imperfections extra noticeable, not much less.

Nonetheless, so long as you set your expectations accordingly, you’ll have given your most valuable recollections a brand new lease on life — one that can hopefully hold them going for not less than one other 20 years.

What about digital videotapes?

If you happen to’re sitting on a group of Digital 8, miniDV, or the short-lived D-VHS, you’re most likely questioning what will be achieved to make these recordings extra simply viewable. Like their analog cousins, these codecs may even degrade over time, so don’t let the phrase “digital” lull you right into a false sense of safety.

Sadly, if you wish to protect that digital info (with out changing it to analog first), you’ll want some very particular merchandise.

  • A Digital 8, miniDV, or D-VHS camcorder or cassette deck for playback (when you nonetheless personal the one you used to movie, that’s most likely your only option)
  • An IEEE 1394 cable (also called FireWire or i.Hyperlink)
  • A pc that has an IEEE 1394 enter (most older Macs and a few PCs have this built-in)
  • In case your Home windows pc can take extra playing cards, you should purchase an IEEE 1394 PCIe card for little or no cash

Professional Tip #1: Don’t purchase one of many so-called IEEE 1394-to-USB adapters you’ll discover by the truckload on Amazon, as they received’t work for transferring digital video from a camcorder to a pc.

Professional Tip #2: There are a number of variations of IEEE 1394, together with FireWire 400 and 800. Be sure that the cable you purchase matches the model in your pc, in any other case you’ll find yourself having to purchase an adapter too.

Upon getting your gear collected, join the camcorder to the pc utilizing the IEEE 1394 cable and comply with the directions that got here along with your camcorder. As soon as the tapes have been transferred, they are going to be in uncompressed digital video information, which will be enormous. Utilizing a program like Handbrake, you’ll be capable of compress them with just about no lack of high quality however with considerably smaller file sizes.

Nonetheless, when you select to burn them to DVD or Blu-ray, it’s finest to make use of uncompressed video information.

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