How to turn VHS into digital
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How to convert VHS to digital
Step 1. Connect your video capture device
For USB video cassette converters, it’s just a matter of plugging the converter into a spare USB port; if you want to convert a cassette to digital using a TV tuner or frame grabber card then you’ll need to open up your computer and install the device in a free expansion slot.
To convert VHS to digital, the software you’re using has to have special drivers. Drivers are little bits of software that tell Windows how to connect to and capture video from a VHS-to-digital converter. These are often included with your VHS-to-digital software but it’s worth checking the manufacturer’s website to see if there are more up to date versions.
Step 2. Connect your VCR
For VHS-to-PC converters, it’s a similar process. To connect your VCR to digital you’ll need to use an RCA cable or S-Video cable: the former transmits audio and video, but the latter only transmits video so you’ll still need RCA plugs for the left and right stereo audio tracks. To connect RCA plugs to the sound card on a PC such as a Windows 10 PC, get a cable with RCA plugs on one end and a 3.5mm audio cable on the other. That should pop straight into your PC sound card’s Line In port; the RCA plugs go into the Line Out on your VCR.
RCA plugs are color coded. The red and white ones are the left and right audio channels; the yellow one is for video. If you’re using an S-Video cable for higher quality, leave the yellow RCA plug disconnected and put the S-Video cable into the S-Video sockets on your VCR and your VHS to digital connector.
Step 3. Insert your VHS cassette
Finally, switch on your computer (and if your capture device is an external one with a power supply, switch on your VHS converter too) and wait for the message telling you that Windows has found your hardware. Now you can insert the first of the VCR tapes that you want to digitize and turn your attention to your VHS capture software.
If you already have VHS-to-PC software, great. If not and you want to convert VHS to digital with software free of charge, we’d suggest the Movavi VHS Converter: it’s really easy to use but produces really high quality results.
Step 4. Install the Movavi VHS converter
When you need to change VHS to PC, the converter from Movavi will help you. Get Movavi Video Editor, run the installer and follow the on-screen instructions. Now, open the app and click on Record Video. This enables you to record video from any source: not just VCR tapes but cameras, webcams and other devices too.
Step 5. Set your VHS capturing preferences
Now you need to tell your video capture application what hardware to use. In most cases when you convert VHS to PC, software will find the right devices automatically, but if it doesn’t you can do it manually:
Video capture device: This is your TV tuner, capture card or USB capture device.
Audio capture device: Most likely your PC sound card, unless you’re getting your audio from a different source.
Save files to: This is the folder where you want your captured videos to be saved.
Step 6. Start the VHS conversion
It’s time to rip the video to your PC. Don’t worry, it’s not as aggressive as that sounds. Simply click the Start Capture button and then press play on your VCR. When you want to stop, just click Stop Capture. Congratulations! You’ve converted your first video cassette to digital. It’ll be stored automatically in the folder you specified. And that’s how to convert VHS to digital on Windows or Mac.
Step 7. Edit, share and store your videos
Movavi Video Editor makes it easy to edit and enhance your old analogue videos. You can improve the video quality, add special effects, give them new soundtracks, add titles, speed them up and slow them down and much more. You can then export the video in the format of your choice: MP4 is usually best, because it’s compatible with almost every kind of device or service. Once you’ve done that you can easily upload your video and share it on sites such as YouTube or Vimeo.
To store the videos you’ve converted from VHS to digital, save them on your hard disk / SSD or on an external drive. It’s always a good idea to have multiple copies, especially if the video has important sentimental value. We make backups of our videos to external USB drives and via online cloud storage: you might want to do the same on iCloud Drive, Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive.
Movavi Video Editor
*The free version of Movavi Video Editor may have the following restrictions depending on the build: watermark on exported clips, 60-second video or 1/2 audio length limit, and/or some advanced features unavailable when exporting videos.
Frequently asked questions
How can I convert VHS to digital without a VCR?
No VCR? No problem: all you need is a video camera that uses VHS tapes. You can connect that to the same video capture device that we’ve described in this article, enabling you to turn the VHS original into digital video you can then edit, store, burn to DVD or share.
What is the best format to convert VHS to digital?
That depends on what you want to do with the video. For the vast majority of people, the best video file format for turning VHS video into digital video is MPEG-4 (MP4) using H.264 compression. That’s the format used by massive video sites such as YouTube and iTunes, and it delivers very high quality without taking up too much room (although video files in any format are still pretty large, so if you’re going to digitize a lot of video tapes make sure you have plenty of digital storage space!).
The two other common formats are Microsoft’s AVI/WMV and Apple’s MOV. The rival formats have fallen out of favor now because while they offer high quality, they don’t have the clever compression of H.264 and MPEG-4 so their files are very big.
There are tons of other video formats but they’re best avoided unless you have a very specific reason to use them, such as because you want to use your video on a fairly old device that doesn’t know about more modern video formats.
What is the best VHS-to-DVD converter to buy?
We think Movavi Video Editor is the best VHS digital converter to buy. As you can see from the steps above it’s really easy to use and contains all the features you need – and because it’s a video editor as well as a VHS-to-digital converter you can edit the VHS footage, improve its appearance and even add titles and effects.
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