I have about a dozen videos on VHS tape, all of them family videos. They're tucked away in the closet and I worry that they'll start degrading. There's some controversy about how long a videocassette will last; some experts say CDs won't last long, either.
To play it safe, I'm going to keep the tapes, but also burn the videos onto DVDs. I'll do it myself rather than buying an expensive device, like Sony's DVDirect VRD-MC1. I don't want to send the tapes to a lab to burn them onto DVDs, either. I want to make the editing decisions myself.
One device I'm experimenting with is Honestech's $100 VHS to DVD 2.0 Deluxe. The process is straightforward--and if you want--wizard driven. Start by attaching the capture device to your PC via the USB 2.0 port. Then connect your VCR to the capture device using standard RF cables or S-video. Once transferred, you can use the software to do the usual stuff--add titles, transitions, and special effects, and trim out unwanted scenes.
If you already have a capture device, or a graphics adapter with capturing capability, you might play around with just the $50 software (it's exactly the same as the Deluxe version, except that it doesn't come with the USB 2.0 TV/Video capture device). There's a free trial that lasts for 45 days; unfortunately, there's a watermark plunked down in the middle of the screen.
You may want to dig deeper into VHS to DVD conversions. If so, I have a couple of articles for you to look over: Bob Rankin covers the basics in "Convert VHD to DVD"; PC World contributor Richard Baguley discusses the process in "Making Movies: From VHS to DVD."
Dig This: A bunch of people got together and did something wacky at a Home Depot in New York. The thing is, if you see one person do this, you think they're crazy. It's art if 225 people do it. Either way, reading the story and watching the videos is a terrific way to spend 15 minutes. Get started at the Slo-Mo Home Depot page.
A Better Way: VHS to DVD
A reader recently shared his video conversion secrets with me. Bob H., from Springfield, Illinois, says he knows a cheap way to convert home movies from VHS to DVD.
You can download DVD Shrink from the company's Web site.
Dig This: The Tennis Challenge is a killer.