View Full Version : VHS to DVD advice please.

02-15-2005, 10:47 AM
What is the best way to transcribe a large number of VHS movie tapes to DVD?

Is it worth it?

The tapes aren't mine, I'm not that big a movie fan, but storage space is at a premium and the tapes do take up a lot of room.

I am assuming the worst and suppose this has to be done in real time. Please someone, tell me it ain't so!

02-15-2005, 12:05 PM

I almost hesitate to respond because I am no pro level videophile. But here goes since you have a DP G5 with a fast SuperDrive.

How many is a large number? And how long are they in general? It can be worth it if short in length because you can combine them in iMovie and burn in iDVD. DVDs will last longer than tapes.

To transcribe you need a converter, either PCI card or standalone box, which I prefer with a power supply. PCI card means it is competing with other cards for bandwidth. PS because the conversion from analog VHS tape to digital output via long FW400 connector to your Mac is just better with a PS than with the mobo FW bus supplying power to the converter.

I don't think I would want to do it if there are a lot of tapes and long length just to save the SuperDrive.

As far as I know, yes real time. Maybe someone with more experience has a better way. k

02-15-2005, 01:09 PM
How many tapes? I haven't counted, maybe a hundred! Most are feature length movies. A standalone box would make sense if I get persuaded to go down this road, which is not a sure thing. Kaye, would you make an opening suggestion for a standalone? That would get me pointed in the right direction anyway.

02-15-2005, 03:27 PM
Lots of long tapes. OK, I have the Canopus ADVC-100. The current model is the ADVC-110 http://www.canopus.us/US/products/ADVC110/pm_advc110.asp . The 5V Power Adapter is Optional. Click Product Overview on that page for more details. Don't be confused by the diagram. The converter is capable of going both directions, analog > digital, or digital > analog. So you can import into iMovie via analog > digital (the Canopus is seen as a digital camcorder by iMovie) and once done with editing, save back to VHS via digital > analog. I have only done that a couple of times. The bulk of what I have done is analog > digital for editing in iMovie then burn in iDVD.

iDVD4 will burn up to 2 hours max, not one second more. I bought the Canopus for considerably less and there are online retailers that provide even greater educational discounts. I could not do that.

If those are commercial VHS tapes, they may have copy protection on them. I understand that there are ways around that but have never used the Canopus on anything other than what I have taped, mostly off of Discovery Wings 1 hour recordings with 5 minutes before to 5 minutes after with an SVHS recorder. Then import the entire recording in real time via the Canopus into iMovie for editing out commercials and the 5 minutes lead-in and lead-out. Like to get it exact. Usually ends up at about 45 minutes. That would allow Best Performance in iDVD4 preferences.

More great info:

02-15-2005, 06:53 PM
I have done a lot of this with my Formac Studio. Yes it IS real-time... sigh.

I have never had any copy protection give me any trouble during this process. Most of my tapes are at least 7 years old though so maybe a newer tape would be harder to do..

Quality is limited by your source material. Old VHS quality in means old vhs quality out to DVD

02-16-2005, 12:42 AM
Plus the burning in iDVD is going to be much longer than real time. And you will need some serious hard drive space, a scratch disk would be best. That way you could erase it when done. I wouldn't want to do it with that many long tapes. Maybe try a few to see what you are up against. k

02-16-2005, 05:34 AM
Thanks for the info guys. Kaye, the Canopus looks like an awesome piece of hardware, and their Flash animation's pretty good too (pretty, anyway).

Damien, the questions of quality and copy protection for each tape are unknows until the bounce is tried. If the movie buff in our house wants this done, then I reckon a standalone DVD recorder is what's needed: I believe some of them have big hard-drives and limited edit capability.

02-16-2005, 09:40 AM
I have some limited experience in this, mostly converting VHS home movies to DVD, via iMovie/iDVD. It is tedious and time consuming and mostly realtime, same as Kaye and Damien said. However, one of my projects was to burn a DVD of a movie I recorded from TV and after editing out commercials and waiting for the superdrive to burn it, I played it back to find out that the video/audio lost sync the further into it I played. By the end of nearly two hours it was off by a good two or three seconds. Very disappointed. I have not tried to do this again since, and the hardware was a PowerBook G4 1.5GHz 15". I hope only an isolated experience, but if I were going to have to look towards spending hours (days and months) into converting movies, I would want to be dam sure it would stay in sync. I wonder if it was my hardware? I had plenty of HD space and RAM. Anyway, food for thought.
ps. Damien, how do you like the Formac? I have thought of getting one for capturing TV into digital files.

02-16-2005, 10:38 AM

My old Canopus ADVC-100 has a dip switch for setting locked-audio mode, a feature to capture locked audio which ensures that audio and video stay in sync. I have never needed to turn that dip switch on because when I first started testing the Canopus I never experienced loss of sync on my QS-800DP and still don't with either the QS/PF or GigaMDD. Macworld article http://www.macworld.com/2002/09/reviews/advc/

You certainly make a very valid point about making sure that audio and video do not lose sync. That would hurt bad. k

02-16-2005, 11:45 AM
The more I look at this, the less inclined I am to take it on! I saw that the Canopus is clever enough to keep the audio in synch, but that I'd have to deal with such problems at all fills me with fear and loathing!

The Canopus would, I guess, work with the VCR and a standalone DVD recorder too, without the G5, if'n the DVDR's aren't smart enough to do the audio lock thing. More research is called for I think. Thanks chaps.

02-17-2005, 08:34 AM
One other point that Damien makes:

Quality is limited by your source material. Old VHS quality in means old vhs quality out to DVD
So true. When I record off of a TV signal I use an SVHS deck before converting. Also the Canopus ADVC-300 has the capability of improving picture quality during the conversion process. But the 300 is expensive. k

02-21-2005, 08:40 AM
New feature in iDVD 5:

You can have iDVD 5 create an entire DVD for you? If you want a quick-and-easy way to backup all the video footage on your camera onto a disc, connect your camera to your computer, choose OneStep DVD from iDVD's File menu, and insert a recordable DVD. http://www.apple.com/support/idvd/

So you can bypass iMovie altogether. k

02-21-2005, 12:33 PM
I have never had an audio sync issue with my Formac using iMovie. I have never used the Formac software so I can't comment on that š

07-04-2005, 08:13 AM
Using your mac would take an excruciatingly long time to copy 100 VHS's. (well, anyway you cut the pie, it's going to take a long time) Plus, if you have any tapes that are a frame over 2 hours long, you will have to span your movie over two discs using iDVD

I have used a sony set-top recorder to do this, very helpful when doing movies up to 3 hours long. Nowadays, DVD set top recorders can be purchased for $200. (I saw a cyberhome recorder, with firewire, for $99 the other day)

Or, if you were so inclined to get the absolute best quality, you could try this:

Get Lacie's new fastcoder. It looks like a promising device, it encodes video in real time to mpeg-2 and mpeg. It takes a firewire feed from your source video, and then a firewire out to your mac providing mpeg video. So, if you have DVD SP, this means no more waiting for mp2 encoding. Now, with these mp2 files, you could then burn the ones of 2 hours with SP, and then use Velan's Fast DVD Copy to further compress the longer movies to fit EXACTLY whatever 4.7 gigs is formatted, resulting in optimal quality. The program is GREAT for making back ups of DVDs, and you select if you want to take off an audio track or bonus features to make the DVD fit onto a DVD-5.

Hope this helps,

07-04-2005, 08:33 AM
I saw a unit on www.zipzoomfly.com yesterday (July 4th 10% off Specials) that is a stand-alone DVD DL recorder that will take multiple inputs, for under $300.

turn home movies into DVDs.

Simply connect your camcorder, VCR or other video source to DVDirect. YouÕll have a DVD that can be played on most consumer set-top DVD players or your computerÕs DVD-ROM drive.

Up to 6 hours of home video will fit on standard DVD recordable or rewritable discs, and with Double Layer DVD+R DL discs, up to 12 hours can be recorded on a single disc.

Connects directly to camcorder or VCR - No computer required
DV input and Analog Composite and S-Video inputs
Records on DVD+R/+RW discs, even DVD+R DL double layer discs
Make home movie DVDs you can easily share and enjoy
Works just like a VCR for convenient, hassle-free recording
Real time MPEG encoding ensures highest possible quality
Can even be connected to computer for high speed DVD burning/copying

Sony VRDVC20 DVDirect DVD Recorder (http://www.zipzoomfly.com/jsp/ProductDetail.jsp?ProductCode=172456-1)

07-04-2005, 10:56 AM
It's a question of speed vs. quality, of course, but something that needs to also be considered is the quality of the source video. If the VHS looks good, you could probably get away with using a constant bit rate encoder like a real-time DVD recorder. Most VHS at this point have noisy video from either being recorded in a slow speed or just from age. This noise is interpreted as motion and makes the recorder much less efficient at encoding the video you do want. Variable bit rate and two pass encoding are ways to drastically improve encoding quality, but to my knowledge no real-time MPEG-2 encoder uses them yet. JVC advertised a VHS - DVD real-time recorder with variable bit rate encoding, but I bought it and didn't notice any difference. On a large flat screen digital TV you can always tell the difference between CBR and VBR encoding. DVD recorders or other real-time MPEG-2 encoders may seem to have acceptible quality now, but as TVs become sharper you will notice more and more encoding artifacts. Even commercially encoded movies will have slightly noticable pixel refresh on a good TV. So what's the answer? In my opinion, if the VHS are precious to you, wait a little longer for a true VBR real-time DVD recorder, or convert them slowly using your Mac.

07-04-2005, 02:49 PM
My take is that doing something, even if not perfect, is fine for VHS and to have backup copies for preservation. Yes, technology always improves. I thought the PowerMac PPC 6100/8100 would usher in a "new age" in voice recognition that would really be acceptable.

If you are able to do 2-3 tapes a week, you'll get a lot of practice, first hand experience. All while waiting for your quad dual core 10GHz G7 with 32GB of RAM. :D

I have most of my photos on DVD and I really need to make copies for off-site storage. One of the first and primary things people take when they have to evacuate due to fire, flood, landsides, are family pictures. One of the reasons I bought 35mm slide scanner and then FW and now USB2. I remember when my parents took old 16mm films that they have dating back to the 1920s, and converted those to tape! Now, it would be nice to convert those to DVD probably.