Camcorder and VHS tapes to DVD and Web

Discussion in 'Amateur Video Production' started by powrwrap, Jun 5, 2006.

  1. powrwrap

    powrwrap Guest

    I've been Googling this group for a while today and yesterday and am
    not finding the answers that fit my situation. I'm looking for help.
    To help you answer my questions, I would say that my technical
    proficiency with computers is around a 7 or 8 out of 10. Here's what
    I want to do.

    I've got some source material that is in analog form, VHS tapes and
    analog camcorder tapes that I would like to be able to convert to VCD
    or DVD. Also, I would like to post snippets of these tapes, maybe 5 to
    15 second clips to my website. And I'd like to watch these converted
    tapes on my home DVD player.

    First off, my system. Dell Dimension P-4 2.8 Ghz, 80 GB hard drive, 512
    MB memory, CD-RW, CD-ROM, nVidia 128MB video card, USB 2.0. I have a
    couple of PCI slots open. (I would buy a DVD burner)

    First question--Is my system up to the task?

    I've been searching the web and it looks like I need hardware that
    can take my analog signals and convert them to digital, either a USB or
    PCI card solution. Something like a Pinnacle DVC90 (USB) or Pinnacle
    Studio 500 PCI, or Turtle Beach Video Advantage ADX (PCI) product.
    I'd like to keep it under $100 if possible. Any suggestions for other
    hardware are welcome. Comments on the video editing and burning
    software that comes with these devices would be appreciated.

    Second question--USB or PCI based?
    Comment: It appears I would need an adapter cable to convert the video
    and audio RCA connector outputs from the camcorder to S-video or
    composite. My camcorder does not have separate audio channels.

    Third question: VCD or DVD format? I'm leaning to DVD because I know
    it will play on my home player. I've had VCD's burned by friends
    that wouldn't play on it.

    Any other recommendations or comments are welcomed.
    powrwrap, Jun 5, 2006
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  2. powrwrap

    Scubajam Guest

    1) Your system is up to the task.

    2) I'd go a completely different route for converting. I have a Sony
    Digital8 Camcorder (and a HD one that won't do this) and use that to
    record off VCR and analog inputs. The DCR-TRV740 for sure, and MANY
    other Sony camcorders allow you to do this. But it's a little tricky
    -only if you don't read the manual. It's usually in the VCR mode
    section, but you don't record to tape, in fact, it doesn't work well if
    there's a tape in the camera. Just plug your Firewire cable into the
    computer (all video should be transferred via Firewire instead of USB),
    and the analog input/output (usually RCA jack to a miniplug converter)
    into the analog output. There's a menu setting for analog to digital
    transfer. No need to record, no tape involved, it's just a
    pass-through converter. Then record as in capturing digital on the
    computer. Use standard DV quality settings and make a full quality avi
    file. It's about 12-13 gig/hour hard drive space. If you don't have
    or can't buy a camera, borrow one, or rent one. Just check that it has
    this capability as not all do, but many Sony models, and some others,
    do. If anything, I recommend a PCI solution if you feel you must buy
    hardware. USB2 advertises 480 speed, but that's short burst; sustained
    is more like 200. Firewire is 400 sustained. I've heard of some who
    have had success using USB for video, but for sure it's slower. If you
    don't have Firewire on your computer, a card is usually less than $20.

    3) For sure DVD format. Use Ritek brand (or Toyo Yuden) DVD -R (more
    compatible than +R) I've created hundreds of DVD's. Usually of my
    underwater dives and I make DVD's and give them away. Get printable
    ones and print on Epson printer (under $100), or on a Canon after
    changing it to print on DVD (Google Canon print CD). I also buy
    standard movie DVD cases for less than $0.30 each (with shipping), and
    print on standard paper for the covers; it makes a professional
    presentation of a purely amateur production. Not the jewel case that
    breaks easily, the regular movie DVD case.

    I just converted 3 VHS tapes to digital last week. Works great!

    As an alternative, most digital camcorders will capture to tape, then
    can Firewire to computer. You may be able to do with without an extra
    purchase. Not much if any quality loss in conversion, then no loss in
    digital capture.

    Jim McG
    Scubajam, Jun 6, 2006
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  3. powrwrap

    powrwrap Guest

    Thanks for the response. Good advice. My problem is I don't have a
    firewire port on my computer so I'd have to purchase a card. That would
    be around $25 - $30. Then I would need movie making software so at this
    point I might as well spring for the PCI card and the video
    editing/burning software that comes with it. I do have Sonic DVD/CD
    burning software.

    Plus I have hours of camcorder tapes to go through and edit down so if
    I rented a digital camcorder for pass through purposes it might get
    powrwrap, Jun 7, 2006
  4. powrwrap

    PTravel Guest

    1394/Firewire cards cost around $15. You can often find them packaged with
    video editing software for well under $100. Also, if you're running
    Windows, Windows Movie Maker is free and a reasonable (though very basic)
    editing package. You can download the update to version 2 for free from
    PTravel, Jun 7, 2006
  5. powrwrap

    Scubajam Guest

    1) As noted before, a Firewire card is as cheap as $20, and is
    necessary for almost any type of work like this. Most camcorders with
    USB use it only to retrieve stills from the memory card, or for
    streaming to the 'net, which is a much lower quality output. Almost
    all use Firewire as capture method. Here's a link for $20


    2) Windows Movie Maker is free and should be on all machines with XP.
    If not, go to and download it. Not

    3) Virtually all major editing software programs allow a free trial. I
    use Ulead, which is one of the easiest to learn, but not the most
    popular. Even within Ulead there's Video Studio, which is designed for
    easy use by beginners with a simple interface; and there's Media Studio
    Pro, which is much more powerful, but takes longer to learn. Same for
    most other editing software. Some will cripple the trial versions, but
    Ulead offers full capability for 30 days. You just don't get support
    or updates.

    4) I've purchased 5 camcorder off eBay over the years. You may check
    there. Can often get one for under $200. Just make sure you check for
    Analog to Digital conversion pass through capability. You'll wind up
    with a nice camcorder also. I've used Digital8 because the code on the
    tape is exactly the same as a miniDV tape for the same quality
    standard, but the tapes are cheaper (and cameras larger). Of course
    each media also has it's own quality standards. Some record 290K
    pixels/frame, others 490K, others 690K, etc. Again, have to compare
    apples to apples with either miniDV or Digital8. And again, make sure
    you check that any model you buy has the conversion ability you want.
    I use the DCR-TRV740, which is Digital8, 1 megapixel gross single CCD
    and 690K per frame recorded. BTW, the TRV-240 & 340 also have analog
    to digital capability, but record 290K effective; the 740 & 840 record
    690K effective. Obviously more detail with better quality, but also
    higher cost. Although, I purchased my last 740 for about $170 off
    eBay. Cheaper than renting! Also try pawn shops, Craigs List, etc.

    5) You say you have hours of camcorder tapes. I take it they are all
    VHS tapes? If there were 8mm, even the analog 8, they will play
    through a Digital8 camcorder and you'll get a digital signal out the
    Firewire for recording. Digital8 also play the older analog 8mm tapes.
    Capture and edit avi, then render to mpg or let your DVD burn software
    render the avi file to mpg. You have a lot to learn.

    With hours of tape, you have a major task ahead of you. I plan on 1 to
    2 hours per minute of final DVD for my editing. I'm usually making 10
    to 30 minute DVD's of scuba dives and family events. That includes
    adding music, titles, and cutting out all the crap. You'll develop a
    6th sense of what's interesting and what isn't. Keep cuts short, even
    to 2-5 seconds unless they're really interesting. I'm in the middle
    of over 15 projects right now, some a couple years old. Editing takes
    a LOT of time, but the results can be rewarding. It's either in your
    blood, or it isn't. As you're learning, it isn't as simple as it first

    Hope this helps.

    Jim McG
    Scubajam, Jun 7, 2006
  6. powrwrap

    powrwrap Guest

    Thanks for the links to firewire cards and the heads up on MS
    Moviemaker. Yes, I have that on my system.

    I've got to make a decision on the Digital camcorder vs. a capture and
    convert analog to digital device. Obviously the camcorder would be more
    expensive and would render my old analog one obsolete (I guess it is
    already, for anybody but me!) but I would have a digital camcorder.
    I'll pop over to e-bay and have a look around.

    They are analog 8 tapes, and yes, I have a lot to learn.

    It's in my blood. I did some film editing with 8 mm film in my younger
    days and I like to touch up digital photos. I can already see that I'll
    be boiling down an hour of camcorder video to about 10 minutes of saved
    digital video. The wife has a tendency to keep the camera rolling no
    matter what. :-D

    It does. Thanks again.
    powrwrap, Jun 7, 2006
  7. powrwrap

    jerry_maple Guest

    I believe you said you also needed to buy a DVD burner? You'll
    probably find that a movie capture/edit program comes bundled
    with it. When I bought my HP DVD burner about 2 years ago,
    it came with a program called ArcSoft ShowBiz. Works very
    well for basic capture, slicing, dicing and DVD production. If you
    buy the program instead of getting it bundled, I think it's around

    I am using a mini-DV videocam set for analog-to-digital
    passthrough for converting old tapes. I have 40 or so VHS-C
    tapes from my old videocam that I am gradually putting on
    DVD. Dirt-simple, but mind-numbingly time consuming, once
    you've got the process down. Play the analog tape into the
    analog video input on the digital videocam, hook the digital
    output of the digital videocam to the Firewire input of the
    computer (yes, you will need a firewire input), capture using
    the program that came with your DVD burner, edit as
    needed, burn the DVD. Rinse, lather, repeat. I have been
    working on that pile of tapes on and off for about a year
    now, still have maybe 15 to go.

    Summing up, you need:
    - DVD burner
    - Software (comes with burner, OR, Windows Movie Maker)
    - Firewire input for your computer
    - Hardware analog-to-digital converter
    - Digital videocam with analog-to-digital passthrough

    jerry_maple, Jun 8, 2006
  8. On 6/07/2006, posted this:
    That might not be so bad. It's more to edit, but it improves the odds
    of having plenty of good footage and also the odds of not missing that
    one important scene :)

    Best of luck
    Gene E. Bloch, Jun 8, 2006
  9. powrwrap

    curvature Guest

    I have a related question:

    I have *both* VHS tapes and analog 8mm tapes. Would the camcorder
    capture solution work for this? (It doesn't seem like it would) Or is
    there another type of solution for the VHS?
    curvature, Jun 8, 2006
  10. powrwrap

    powrwrap Guest

    Here's a question: Can I play my analog HandyCam tapes in a digital
    camcorder and have the output digitized as I'm playing the tape?

    In other words eliminate having to play the analog tape in my old
    camcorder with patch cords through the digital camcorder and then a
    firewire cable to my computer.
    powrwrap, Jun 8, 2006
  11. powrwrap

    Jukka Aho Guest

    Some Digital8 camcorders allow this. MiniDV camcorders, of course,
    don't, as the cassette is of different size and shape.
    Jukka Aho, Jun 8, 2006
  12. powrwrap

    Scubajam Guest

    Read the thread from the beginning. It started with converting VHS to
    digital. Get the right camcorder and it will do the pass through.
    Pass through means without having to record to tape first. Connect
    camcorder RCA plugs to VHS player output and Firewire from camcorder to
    computer. Go into the camcorder menu and select Analog to digital
    conversion pass through, then capture with a digital video capture
    program on the computer. Don't forget to change back to use your
    camcorder as normal. Many miniDV and Digital8 camcorder do this, but
    not all. That takes care of your VHS tapes. Now, most if not all Sony
    Digital8 camcorder will play older analog 8mm tapes and output digital
    through the firewire. So, if you get a Digital8 camcorder that does
    pass through, it will do both types of operations. But make sure the
    model you get will do the pass through. I know the -40 models will.
    DCR-TRV240, 340, 740 and 840. I think they will all play the old tapes
    also. The 740 and 840 are much better quality recorded images. They
    sold for about $1,000 new and now go for about $300+ on eBay. I did
    buy one without charger, remote, etc (I already have that stuff) for
    $170, but had to wait and shop to get it.

    Jim McG
    Washington State
    Scubajam, Jun 8, 2006
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