How to transfer movies from VHS to DVD

Safeguard memories with our step-by-step guide

Here's how to copy your home movies from videotapes to DVD. It doesn't have to be difficult or time-consuming.

A few weeks back, I was trying to tidy up the dumping ground of old technology known as my attic. While digging through this graveyard of old PCs and cables that no longer plug into anything, I found some VHS tapes containing movies I shot years ago. In the spirit of spring cleaning, I decided to put these movies on to DVD.

Here is exactly how I did it.

Getting started

The first thing I needed was a VHS player. Although we replaced our VCR with a hard disk recorder some time back, I still had an old VHS deck lying around. But I didn't just stick the VHS tapes I wanted to copy in there; instead, I connected the VHS recorder to the TV and recorded and played back some TV on a blank tape. That way, I was certain that the device was still working and wasn't going to destroy the tapes I wanted to preserve.

Mechanical devices like VCRs can chew up a tape if they haven't been maintained, and ones that haven't been used in some time are especially prone to this.

Next, I had to decide how to copy the video to DVD. The simplest solution would be to connect the output of the VHS recorder to the input of a set-top DVD recorder. But I wanted to take video from several different tapes and compile it on to one DVD, which is awkward to do with a set-top device.

It's possible - you just record each video as a separate video on the DVD - but you can't easily edit the result. And you can't improve the quality of the videos you're transferring.

I decided to use a video-capture device instead. This would allow me to copy the video on to my PC, then edit it and output it to DVD. Plenty of these devices are available; I decided to try out ADS Tech's DVD Xpress DX2.

The DX2 has a video converter that can accept composite or S-Video signals. It converts these to digital format and sends them to a PC via a USB connection. It comes with Ulead VideoStudio 9 SE DVD software for editing the video.

After installing the software and connecting the DX2 to my PC, I connected the composite video and audio outputs of my VHS recorder to the appropriate inputs on the DVD Xpress device using the set of cables that came with it, and started the Ulead VideoStudio software.

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Richard Baguley

PC Advisor (UK)

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