Video Capture Device

There are several tape transfer options available today. In this option, we will discuss how to use a video capture device to transfer your video tapes to your PC. The digital file you get can be edited with your video editing software. Folks who choose this option:

  • Want to edit the video file after the transfer
  • Want to save $$ by doing it themselves
  • Are not afraid of learning new gadgets

Folks who want to transfer their tapes to a finished DVD they can pop right away into their DVD player should stop reading this page right now and click here instead.

Ah, you are not a short cut Charlie. You don’t want a finished DVD. You want to edit your video because unedited raw video is downright painful to watch. I’m with you.

First, what tapes are you trying to transfer? Here are the common tapes found in people’s closets:

Analog tape formats

If it is a mini-DV tape, the best way to do this is by connecting your camcorder directly to your PC’s Firewire port. To watch a video tutorial on how to connect your camcorder to your PC, click here.

If it is not a mini-DV, then you are dealing with what they call analog tapes. The technical definition of analog is: old. Old tapes. Tapes people don’t record to anymore such VHS, 8mm, Digital8, Betamax. For old tapes, you need a device between your tape player and your PC.

This device is called a Video Capture device (I bet you were expecting some really complex technical jargon). The one I recommend because it is inexpensive ($79 at Amazon at the time of this writing) and simple to use is:Dazzle Video Capture Device

The process involves these simple steps:

Step 1. Put your old tape in the tape player (VCR or camcorder). If you no longer have a player for the old tape, or if you don’t trust it anymore (fur balls in attic), you can easily rent one from a local video service.
Step 2. Attach your tape player to the Video Capture device
Step 3. Attach your Video Capture device to the USB port of your PC (see diagram).

Step 4. Start playing your old tape. The device will digitally encodes the analog video from the camcorder or VCR, and sends it to your PC.
Step 5. Import the digital file into your favorite video-editing software (I recommend Windows Movie Maker) and trim the boring parts, add transitions, music, captions, etc.

    Here are my tips for getting the best quality when copying your home movies to DVD.

    • Test your VCR or camcorder first. Here's what you don't want to do: Stick it in a dusty VCR that's been sitting in the attic for years and ends up chewing your precious videotape.
    • Don't skimp on the cables that connect the analog player to the capture device. It’s like stereo, good cables reproduce good sound.
    • Capture the video at the highest-quality setting the program offers. The highest quality is the .AVI format but the files are huge: 13 Gig for an hour of video. If you're short on drive space, buy a bigger hard drive. I just bought an 120 Gig hard drive for less than $100 from Costco.
    • After you edit the video, and are ready to burn them, don't skimp on the discs that will hold them. Buy brand-name discs with decent cases instead of the cheap ones on sale at your local drugstore. 100 year DVD.
    • You'll also want to write to DVD at the highest quality possible. Much like the software that manages the capture process, the software that writes the video to DVD will also offer you various quality settings.

    If you don't want to invest in a video capture device, there are many video transfer services that wll transfer your tapes to digital files for you. Click here to learn more about that.

    Related Articles:

    How to Choose Tape Transfer Options
    Transfer tapes to finished DVD