Technology > Video

Summary. To transfer video from VHS to a computer video file, one simply needs analog to digital video converter box and a video editing program that allows for DV video importing. The process from start to finish can be fairly time consuming, since exporting video to a usable format is slow.

The previous version of Apple’s iMovie software (iMovie HD 6) allowed for direct importing of DV video and saving it to DV format video files on the computer in real-time with no subsequent rendering. The same process with iMovie ’11 takes three times longer because the video is first imported and then shared to DV format, and there is no loss of quality. Today this is only possible with Final Cut Express or Final Cut Pro.

Using QuickTime. However, another possibility is available for converting VHS video in real-time. It’s possible to use Apple QuickTime version 10 with the analog to digital converter box described above. Start iMovie, then from the File menu choose New Movie Recording. QuickTime will create a new video from your source media and render it in real-time. There is a free QuickTime download on Apple’s website.

  • As an example, a 31 minute video would take 30 seconds to save. The resulting file would be 720×480 in dimensions and 476 MB in size. The format of the file would be H.264 QuickTime. Given that VHS recordings are of lower resolution and generally poor quality, this should be perfectly adequate for most people.

Final Cut Express. The alternative is to use Final Cut Express to import the videos to DV in real-time.

It’s possible to buy Final Cut Express for $200 in the Apple Store. The installation takes about 60 seconds (literally) from a single disc. So, for anyone needing to do regular video work it’s probably worth the price.

The process for importing is as simple as choosing Capture from the File menu, then pressing what appears to be a play button. Then click on the Capture > Now button.

Note: If you had a mini DV tape camera, the tape would begin to play as the video is being rendered in real-time. However, with an analog to digital video converter box, there is no control over the deck, so you’ll need to press play on the VCR.

It’s important to mention that with older VHS tapes this is the equivalent of taking a 18 megapixel photo of an old washed out black and white Polaroid picture. The additional information saved doesn’t enhance the quality of the poor original and it ends up taking about 15 times the necessary storage space.

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