14 Replies Latest reply: Nov 24, 2011 10:09 AM by ChapelRocks
Mark and Montse Level 2 (255 points)

I have boxes of older, personal VCRs I want to put in digital format.


I've been trying to use Elgato Video Capture, but it either crashes or just stops recording at random points, making it all but useless.  I've spent hours working with their tech support over a couple of months, but with no results.


Someone told me that I might be able to get some sort of digital conversion device to pull in output via USB or FireWire on my MacBook Pro, and then use iMovie to capture and save the input on my HD....


Can anyone recommend a device for this?  (Or even an alternative to Elgato Video Capture that is more likely to work?)   The final product does not need to be in the highest quality - just reasonable audio/video quality.




MacBook Pro 15, Mac OS X (10.6.5), 3G memory
  • Badunit Level 6 (11,540 points)

    My solution to this was to use a VHS player and a DVD player/recorder along with my TV. I recorded the VHS tapes to rewritable DVDs, took the DVDs to my Mac, ripped them using RipIt, then converted the videos using Handbrake.  I used two rewritable DVDs in the process, one was recording while I was ripping the other, then I switched them for the next tape.


    But I already had the VHS player, DVD recorder, a few DVDs and RipIt so this was a no-cost and easy way to get the job done. In the end I have my "perfect" copies as dvdmedia files from RipIt and I have the converted videos.

  • elikness Level 4 (2,635 points)

    It's too bad the Elgato hardware didn't work for you. If you want to capture over firewire and you need something that works look no further than the Canopus ADVC-55. It's available on Amazone for the low price of 167.95 (through Adorama, a big camera/electronics outfit in NYC)


    Check out the link on Amazon It more or less converts to a Firewire cable that runs into your Mac. From there I think you can digitize straight into iMovie as if it were a MiniDV camcorder. I've used it's older brother the Canopus ADVC-300 when it was the only device  of its kind on the market. Rock solid, doesn't make you install any utilities or buggy software to get it to work.



  • AppleMan1958 Level 7 (27,405 points)

    I have successfully used the EyeTV Hybrid from El Gato, along with the EyeTV 3 software. I did about 40 VHS tapes with it. Here is a sample of VHS from the EyeTV Hybrid.

  • ChapelRocks Level 1 (0 points)

    Will a single DVD hold the entire 2hrs or 4hrs of VHS?  Also, reviews I read on Amazon for some of the VCR/DVD recorders said that some of the recorders save in a format that is not recognized by other players or by computer drives, but was recognized only by its own DVD device.  I am needing to convert hundreds of medical seminars on old VHS tapes to DVD.  Any advice?  I don't want to be stuck uploading one VHS tape at a time, and would rather have four or more VHS to DVD devices going at the same time.

  • Brad Wright2 Level 3 (700 points)

    Never put more than one hour of video on a DVD that came from VHS.  This stuff is very noisy.  If you have a bunch of VHS taps to capture, I would highly recommend getting a stand alone DVD recorder.  Make sure you have a Timebase corrector between your VCR and the DVD recorder.  The VHS/DVD recorder may have that built in because VHS has tons of frame drops and signal jitter.  I have a Sony VX2000 that I used for capturing old 8mm tapes and it has a Time Base Corrector built in.

  • ChapelRocks Level 1 (0 points)

    I have hundreds of not thousands of both VHS and 8MM tapes to convert and to edit.  Four stand alone DVD recorders that you recommend would allow me to record four at a time to then upload to an iMac with SSD (perhaps with three external DVD drives for $33 each on Amazon) for editing.  I still do not know if they recorded 2 hours or 4 hours of lecture onto a single VHS tape how that will record to a DVD.  Also, I checked the price for the Sony VX2000 that you use for capturing old 8mm tapes - $1000!!!  To record four a a time, which would require four computers, that's getting pricy.  Thanks for sharing.

  • Mark and Montse Level 2 (255 points)

    It seems to me that going from VHS to DVD to iMac adds an extra step, and potentially room for mistakes?  I think going from VHS directly to a Mac HD is way easier? (Get a huge, external HD, which are relatively cheap, now?  1TB for $100 or so if you shop around, I think?  Isn't that also cheaper than using DVDs?  Unless they are rewritable DVDs?)    That's what I've been doing.  Its not as fast as running 4 at once, but if would save a big step (importing DVD to iMac)?


    The amount of space taken up for me (videos of presentations, mostly) was about 500MB per hour, very roughly, using the "modest" quality tools noted below.  Sometimes considerably more or less, if that helps at all?


    My goal was to find something where I could just set up Mac next to VHS player, and check it whenever I walked by, swapping in a new VHS tape when needed.  I tried 2 "home" HW/SW versions (Elgato and Roxio). Elgato video quality was OK for me, but the software crashed constantly, and Elgato couldn't fix it.  Roxio video quality was below my rather minimal expectations. So I'm planning to try one of those Canopus devices recommended above.

  • ChapelRocks Level 1 (0 points)

    A four-day weekend seminar, eight hours per day, with two hours per tape, I am figuring on 16 videos to convert per weekend, times about four seminars per year, times 15 years, it comes to about 960 tapes to convert.  But then there are the back up video cameras going at the same time during the seminars, and gaps to fill while changing tapes etc, while editing.  So I am looking at a major job.  I need good quality, and I am now thining heavily towards using Canopus devices recommended above.  But no doubt I need a way to upload more than one video at a time.  Will I need to buy four computers with four Canopus devices and four video players to go four times as fast?  If I had four tape-to-DVD devices ($200 x 4) all going at the same time, and if I used rewriteable DVDs, together with three external drives plus the one built in the iMac, all uploading at the same time, would the iMac with an SSD drive (for speed), 2.8 Ghz speed and 8GB (or more) RAM be able to upload fairly quickly despite the "extra step"?

  • elikness Level 4 (2,635 points)

    SSD is not going to speed up your conversion rate as much as a faster multi-threaded CPU will. So go based on the CPU clock rate (in Gigahertz) more than the speed of the internal storage. I would also mention external hard drives, or hard drive 'docks' that will hold a bare hard drive are a definite good investement if you are going to collect up so much video now and in the future. I use a USB hard drive dock because I might want to convert old tapes in the future too. So I got one 3TB bare hard drive that I moved all my older projects/event folders onto. I leave only the current 1 to 2 projects I have in process in the iMovie Events/Projects Library. You can digitize directly onto the external storage and save a lot of time shuffling stuff on and off the internal hard drive on the Mac.


    A minor workflow note: It comes down to a cost benefit analysis. Certainly if you don't have to convert new tapes as they come in from new conferences you will eventually catch up. A project like this would mean you should start digitizing each and every NEW tape as it comes in, while slowly whtittling away at the next most recent video tapes until at the very end you get the oldest video tape of all. That's how Library of Congress prioritized some of its book digitizing projects (some older stuff was moved ahead and prioritized because it was popular), but for the most part this makes the newest conferences more valuable to people immediately.

  • ChapelRocks Level 1 (0 points)

    Thank you for the helpful info.  I was planning on transferring edited data onto external hard drives.  How do I digitize straight to an external hard drive?  Both Best Buy and Apple both told me that I could not digitize straight to a hard drive, that I would have to digitize on the hard drive in the computer and then copy it to the external drive.  How can I learn to digitize directly to the hard drive? 


    Also I read various articles where people say the SSDs increase the speed of data transfer and rendering during editing to be nearly twice as fast.  An Apple support person advised me that the 2.8 Ghz i7 would be fast enough and costwise more appropriate for my project than the 3.1 or 3.4 Ghz.


    The 2TB external drives with Thunderbolt are priced at $550.  I can get Firewire 2TB external drives for $150, then copy files to the slower external drives overnight if they are first digitized and edited on the computer's internal hard drive.


    I would appreciate hearing more advice on how to do this. Thanks you.

  • Mark and Montse Level 2 (255 points)

    I thought I was able to set up one of those applications to point to the external HD?  I could be wrong, though - its been a couple months.  At any rate, I would think its WAY easier to drag the files onto the external HD that to burn to DVDs, then later load the DVDs and copy that to the HD.  Expecially if you use the Thunderbolt drives!  (My older MacBook doesn't do Thunderbolt, so I have used USB 2 external HDs)


    I haven't tried using SSDs, but it makes sense that if the rendering/editing is working from something other than the HD, it could run faster? 


    I had boxes of VCRs of my wife's programs, so I didn't bother to edit at all.  I just wanted to digitize all of it, to get rid of VCRs.  If she ever actually needs to use any of it later, we can edit at that point. 


    Also, I would do whatever it takes to eliminate any further inbound VCRs, if you haven't already done that!  Record in digital format to avoid all of this conversion!

  • elikness Level 4 (2,635 points)

    If you use iMovie to do the digitizing (and you could use other apps, it's the iMovie Discussion Group, so I'm using that as an example) you open the Import from camera. The Video digitizing device you use will be considered a 'camera' in this context. When you capture video it will ask you 'where do you want to save this stuff'. At that point if you have already have the hard drive attached and have recognized it in iMovie and also gone to the View Menu > Group Events by Disk, then your external hd (whatever it is) will be recognized as a legitimate place to store Events AS THEY ARE DIGITIZED. This is a function of iMovie, not the Mac OS or the digitizing hardware you decide to purchase. So take what the Apple sales folks and Best Buy sales folks have told you and also consider they aren't using iMovie as regularly as participants in this Discussion Group.


    Also know this, your Video Tape will playback from your VCR in Real Time (meaning 2 hours of tape material will take 2 hours to playback and subsequently 2 hours to digitize as it playsback). That is the limiting factor in ALL of this. You can digitize faster than the tapes will play back. So hard drive speed only comes into play when your moving stuff AROUND (internal <-> external). If you are digitizing straight to External HD you don't have to move anything at all. So maybe neither the hard drive nor the Mac processor speed will make any difference in this case. Save some more money, and buy more medium quality, medium speed hard drives as opposed to a Thunderbolt SSD?! Some more things to consider I guess.

  • ChapelRocks Level 1 (0 points)

    Thank you for that helpful info to know that I can digitize directly to an external HD.  As for video tapes playing back in Real Time, it will take far too much time to digitize an entire ROOM full of video tapes.  That is where I am still wondering whether I should digitize using four or more VCR to DVD self contained recorders that can all be recording in Real Time and saving to DVD RW independently from the computer, then later uploading the four digitized DVDs all at the same time (using cheap external $33 DVD player drives from Amazon).  That is where the SSD might come in real handy to be able to save data from four drives at the same time.  It is an extra step, to digitize to DVDs and then upload and convert those DVDs as noted above by Mark and Montse, but my computer could be uploading multiple DVDs at the same time (one task) while multiple VHS to DVD recorders digitize (a separate task AT THE SAME TIME).  Somehow I must avoid the problem of playing one VHS VCR tape at a time in Real Time into my computer.  I wish I knew how professional companies handle the task when multiple people each bring their boxes of VHS VCR tapes to them to digitize at the same time.

  • ChapelRocks Level 1 (0 points)

    @ Mark and Montse: I don't have boxes of tapes to convert.  I have a room full of VHS tapes to digitize from a school of medicine.  I agree it is an extra step to digitize to a DVD using an external device, then upload that DVD to the computer.  But if it works, and if anyone has tried it, I could have multiple VCR VHS to DVD devices digitizing at the same time, completely separate from the computer.  I am hoping that I could use several cheap $33 external DVD drives to then upload those DVDs WHILE the other devices are digitizing, so that no time is wasted with that extra step of digitizing then uploading.