Digitize VHS Video Tapes

If you've been an adult since the time of the Clinton Administration, it's likely you have a box full of VHS tapes. In addition to ancient episodes of The Larry Sanders Show, The X-Files, and Twin Peaks, it's possible that some of these tapes include beloved/embarrassing scenes from your past.

In case you're not aware of it, here's a hint: Those tapes aren't improving with age.

And because they aren't, it may be time to convert them to a format you can play on your Mac, burn to DVD, and upload to the Web. In this week's video I look at two products--Elgato's US$100 Video Capture and Roxio's $80 Easy VHS to DVD--that help you do just that.

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Something I don't mention in the video is that both of these tools ignore the Macrovision copy protection scheme used in commercial VHS tapes of the day. This may not make the movie studios happy, but one would hope that they're past caring about these old tapes.

Also, as I say at the end of the video, this isn't the only way to digitize content from video players. If you have a camcorder with video pass-through capabilities (check your camcorder's manual to see if it does), you can simply string video and audio cables between the output device (a VCR, for example) and the camcorder and then connect the camcorder to the Mac as you usually do. Then just launch iMovie and capture as you like.

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Update: In the video I incorrectly state that Easy VHS to DVD captures video as MPEG-4 files. In truth, it captures this content as MPEG-2 files. When you send the video to QuickTime Player, the video is converted to MPEG-4 (using whatever codec you have that performs that conversion). When you choose Edit With iMovie, the video is converted to the AIC (Apple Intermediate Codec) format.

[Chris Breen is a senior editor for Macworld.]

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