What's your best VHS storage

Digitize videos yourself with a video grabber

Updated on by vinett-video media service

The lifespan of VHS and other video cassettes is limited, so you should (have) digitized your valuable recordings. The cause is the aging process to which the magnetic tape is subjected and which decomposes the magnetic layer on the plastic tape. Unfortunately, this happens over the years despite careful storage, as well as mechanical stress due to frequent playback.

We present three ways in which you can transfer your video cassettes to your PC. If you do not want to invest time and nerves yourself or do not want to purchase the appropriate equipment, we will be happy to take care of your videos.

Equipment required

In the first part we explain video digitization using a video grabber. In any case, you need an appropriate player for the video cassette. In our experience, this has the greatest influence on a good picture and clean sound. If possible, an S-VHS player should be used for VHS cassettes and the recording device for camera formats.

It is also worthwhile to clean the player beforehand and to clean the reading heads with a cotton cloth and a drop of ethanol. Alternatively, you can also run a cleaning cassette.

connections

Of course, you also need a USB video grabber, which is available for as little as € 15. Corresponding cables are usually included.

Many grabbers have two different video connections (composite and S-video). If your VHS player has an S-Video output, this should be used, as the color and brightness signals are transmitted separately. This makes the picture sharper.

While S-Video is transmitted via the larger connector (Hosiden), the composite video signal is output via the yellow connector (Cinch). If necessary, all VHS recorders also output composite via their SCART socket, for which a SCART-Cinch adapter is required.

Connect the grabber to a free USB port. If possible, no other devices should be attached to this USB controller. Otherwise, this can mean that the bandwidth is not sufficient for the transmission of the video signal and that images are “dropped” (dropped frames). You should save your video on an internal hard drive. Avoid external USB hard drives that are attached to the same USB controller.

For digitization, you should first try the software supplied, as no compatibility problems are to be expected here.

Alternative capturing software:

General recommendation for the exposure parameters:

  • Use a variable bit rate (VBR).
  • Set the quality settings to “very high”.
  • It is advisable to record in the DVD resolution of 720x576 pixels.

Make several short test recordings to determine the optimal settings for your video. More is not always better. Too high a bit rate may result in more picture noise. Orientate yourself to 6 - 9 Mbit / s, if you later use it for example. B. want to create a DVD.

If your video cassette is a simple VHS or Video 8, you can also include the composite output in your experiments. In any case, the color and brightness signals are not stored separately on the cassette.

Alternatively, you can try using software to compress your video yourself. To do this, you need to tap the video as uncompressed as possible. Some users describe good results with saving in AVI format (AVI / 16bit / 720x576, 25fps - compression: YUY2, PCM 44.1 kHz / 16bit / stereo). However, post-processing is a lot more complex here. A workable compromise is often the DV format.

You can also keep an eye on your CPU usage while recording. Too high a load can lead to the loss of images as well.

In forums, there are often reports about image / sound misalignments. Asynchrony can occur depending on the hardware of the video grabber. The cause is the interaction between the video player and the encoder chip. Depending on how the chip deals with missing images, image and sound can diverge over time. Sophisticated hardware is usually more robust here, but also more expensive. Try to exclude as many influencing variables as possible (see above). With software you can try to synchronize the audio tracks later.

Some Video8 / Hi 8 cameras only output mono. If you try to pick up the stereo signal, it can happen that a hum can be heard on the unused channel. Here the audio signal can be deactivated later and duplicated from the other channel.

Summary

The digitization with the help of a video grabber is suitable for analog formats: (S-) VHS, Video 8, Hi 8 and Betamax. If you want to transfer the digital formats Mini DV and Digital 8, we recommend the transfer via Firewire, since a much better quality is achieved here.

The low price, assuming a good player, and an acceptable video quality, if you take the time to try it out, should be positively mentioned.

The temporal offsets in picture and sound, which can be a problem, should not go unmentioned. In addition, most grabbers offer few codec settings. This is problematic if you want high compatibility with many playback devices, especially older iOS devices.

additional Information