Before I begin, here are a few definitions:
DVD disc - a round, silver disc used to store data; sometimes encoded in a special way to store video data and called Video DVDs.
standalone player - a electronic unit that doesn’t require a computer to view/listen to the contents of the video DVD/Audio CD. And example is the DVD player next to your TV or the CD player in your car.
MPEG-2 - the digital video format used on Video DVD disc. Image resolution is higher than broadcast TV or VHS tapes.
MPEG-1 - an older digital video format used on Video CD (VCD) discs popular in Asia. Image resolution comparable to VHS tapes.
Firewire/IEEE/iLink - a new input connection slot on most newer computers that permits the fast transfer of data from connected devices. You can connect most new digital video cameras to your computer using this Firewire connection. Costs about $120.
A lot of people (myself included) would like to transfer interesting VHS video to a more long-lasting storage solution. The one that seems most obvious is the DVD disc, which - thanks to Hollywood - is widely used to distribute movies for home use.
Because video DVD requires digital data, the question is: How do I covert my analog VHS tapes to digital data and store that data on those little round, silver items called CDs or on those other ones called DVDs?
Believe it or not, there is a very easy way, but it’s gonna cost you. Pioneer sells a standalone DVD recorder (DVR-2000, $2,799 US)… but only in Japan! Basically, you connect your VCR, or camcorder, or TV into this unit, and it converts the analog info into the MPEG-2 video format and then copies that digital data onto a DVD disc. Voila! Instant video DVD which you can play on your grandma’s video DVD player! (For more info on this product, go to: http://www.planetjapan.org/pages2/dvr2000review.html.
But this is probably too expensive for most, so what are the other solutions?
Take your VHS tapes to a company that specializes in these transfers. It’s also expensive. One transfer might cost up to $100.
Get a fast computer with a Firewire port and connect your compatible digital video camera to it and transfer the video data to your computer’s hard drive. If you want to transfer VHS data, then you’re have to buy a video capture card (e.g., Pinnacle DC10+, Matrox G400 Marvel, etc.) and connect your RCA cables from the VCR to the capture card.
Once the data is on yoyr hard drive, convert it from AVI to MPEG-1 format. You can then back the data to a CD-R or store it on your hard drive. Alternatively, you can use a CD burning software like Nero or Adaptec Deluxe to make a VCD disc, which is a CD-R (or CD-RW) disc encoded in a specially defined way and containing a standard MPEG-1 video data file. You can then play that VCD-formatted disc on your standalone DVD player. I have done this with some home movies and it is cool. The quality is comparable to VHS, but it is neat to be able to play home movies on a standalone DVD player from a CD-R disc!
P.S. Digitizing analog (VHS) data won’t make the orginal footage any better. The solution of video images stored on a VHS tape is low and won’t improve if digitized.