Transferring to DVD, Blu-ray, or digital file on Windows and Mac
This process is more involved and requires a few more materials, but it has its benefits. Specifically, you’ll be able to transfer your tapes directly from a VCR into digital files as opposed to another physical format, allowing you to preserve them on a hard drive or even in the cloud. You can then copy and save the files wherever you’d like, and transfer them to DVDs or Blu-rays.
Assuming you’ve already got a VCR, the first step is to buy a digital-to-analog converter if you don’t have access to one. There are many models out there, but this one from UCEC is made specifically with VHS transferring in mind.
Once you’ve got one, connect the digital-to-analog adapter to your computer and your VCR or camera. Most adapters come with software that walks you through the entire transfer process, including importing the resulting footage into a more comprehensive video editor or burning straight to DVD. Refer to the installation disc, instruction manual, or manufacturer’s website for more information on installing the software and downloading the necessary drivers.
As with the previous method, we suggest giving your tape and VCR a look over to make sure each is clean. Particles on the tape can cause blemishes in the video during the transfer, while dirty heads can ruin the entire project.
Now for the main event. Insert the tape into your VCR, and a blank DVD or Blu-ray into your computer (or external player/burner). The exact steps for conversion vary depending on which device and what software you’re using for video capture. Recording and digitizing will happen in real time, meaning you’ll have to painstakingly sit through the entire length of footage (or, more likely, go do something else for a while) before you can finish up the project. Once it’s done, however, the contents will be forever preservable in digital format.
At this point, if all you wanted was the digital file, you’re done; you can edit, move, and name the file as you want. If you’re planning on burning the file to a DVD or Blu-ray, of course, you’ve got another step to go. Most conversion software will have an option for burning a DVD or Blu-ray upon completion of transferring the footage. If not, locate the resulting file on your computer and open it in iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, VLC, or a similar program that can burn your footage to DVD. The burning process will vary depending on what software you choose, so consult instructions for further clarification.
Alternately, you can try using a direct digital conversion tool like this one to easily copy VHS footage directly onto a microSD card for digital use. Be aware, though — you might need extra cables and a bigger SD card (try 64GB), given some spotty reviews.
VHS to Blu-ray
As for a Blu-ray, you’ll need to be sure your computer is equipped with a Blu-ray writable drive (you can get an external drive if your rig doesn’t have one built in), and you’ll likely also need some third-party software. For Windows users, we recommend the free program ImgBurn. It hasn’t seen an update in years, though, so you might want to check out paid options like Opencloner or BurnAware, too. Similarly, for Mac, Leawo Blu-ray Creator is a solid choice.
There’s little reason to convert VHS (or any other tape, for that matter) to Blu-ray format, because picture quality is already fairly poor. If you prefer the shiny blue surface, more power to you, but Blu-ray players and writers also usually work for DVDs, so we wouldn’t recommend wasting your money there.
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