Hardware needed to convert VHS tapes to DVD

I’m undertaking a project to convert old VHS tapes to DVDs. I’m told I need a piece of equipment to do so.
What would be good quality hardware to interface between the VHS player and my computer? I know nothing about this area.


All things considered; quality, cost, speed and convenience; a set-top DVD recorder is your best option. If you have a decent VCR for a source unit, get a plain recorder. If not, get a VCR/DVD combo unit.

If you wish to do authoring with nice menus and multiple tapes per DVD, consider transferring the DVD video to your PC after recording and re-authoring. For that you will need a good authoring program on the PC. I like TMPGenc-Author. NeroVisionExpress will work, but is pretty buggy. I use DVD-RAM to transfer video from the recorder to PC, but this of course requires a RAM reader in the PC. DVDRW works just as well.

rdgrimes gives excellent advice. (As usual) :slight_smile:
However we may not all be able to afford that route.
How786 you do not say in which country you reside? So I can only offer limited advice.
I was in PC world (curse that shop) recently when I saw them offering a Phillips DVD burner with a USB adapter and leads for transferring VHS tapes to DVD with leads etc in one box.
It was quite pricy but makes me think that with a little research you could find the USB device for sale on its own and there are several graphics cards on the market with svhs inputs as well. The major drawback I can see with this setup is the time that re-recording lengthy tapes ties up the computer in real time.
To get the best possible recordings you will need a good quality vhs recorder or you will be disappointed with the results.

I have gone down the road rdgrimes suggested but bought an LG 7500 hdd/dvd recorder which I intend to do my tapes on in due course.
Hope this helps? :bigsmile:

I’d say, a decent capture card, ~50Gb of free space, time and patience.
Decent capture card: Leadtek WinFast TV2000 XP
Record in a lossless format such as HuffYUV, Lagarith or MSU.
Use Avisynth and additional plugins if needed (freeware) and do proper adjustments to the source, remove noise, bad cuts etc and use TMPGEnc (free trial version) or CCE to encode into MPEG-2. Use TMPGEnc Author as mentioned above or DVDLab to author the DVD.

Thanks for all your fine advice guys! Let me give you more details and see what you think. Firstly, I live in the USA. The project I am working on is transfering old ‘fair’ quality VHS tapes from the 1970’s to early '80s on to DVDs. The VCR player I have is a top grade pro unit (Panasonic 1980)
The idea of simply recording to a DVD recorder sounds appealing—it’s simple and easy. I’ve no idea how much a good recorder costs, but I’ve got a decent budget.
It’d also be nice to have files of the tapes stored on a HD as backups/archives but that is NOT crucial.
What can you guyd recommend now that you’ve got more info.

Panasonic ES20 is a good value at under $200. You can get a cheap capture card, but by the time you ad software and hours of aggrivation, it’s really not worth the trouble, plus having your PC tied up for most of the day doing one tape. True, if you intend to transfer the video to the PC for re-authoring, you will need much of the same software to do the authoring.

Here’s the scenario I went through:
Got decent inexpensive capture device. The included software sucked and didn’t do what I wanted to do anyway. After messing with a half dozen required “free” programs trying to get the job done, and tying up the PC for up to 10 hours per video, I got sick of it and wound up buying several good programs that would do the same job much quicker. Still tied up the PC for several hours per video, not to mention the real time capture that requires that PC be absolutely undisturbed or you lose frames. Finally gave up and bought the stand-alone recorder, and life is much easier. All totalled, I spent easily 2 x as much on the PC route than I did on the set-top route. And probably 10x as much time and aggrivation.

Thanks for your thoughts RD. Is the Panasonic a unit I just can wire the VCR in to and have it make DVDs? Will it take S video input?

I have an ES10. It has SVHS inputs front and rear and the results are excellent.


I also agree with [i]rdgrimes[/i]. Unless you have a lot of time and are willing to get pretty “involved”:bigsmile: in this project, I’d go the set-top route. If you goto videohelp.com, you will see that they usually reply to people who ask your question with the same advice.(buy a set-top recorder)

There are some very affordable recorders out there now. There is a $93.99 DVD Recorder at Best Buy, and there is also a $98.74 recorder available at WalMart.

Either way… good luck.

If you get good hardware, the quality you can achieve with a PC-based solution is higher than any DVD recorder can give you. It would take quite some time and the software + hardware you need doesn’t come cheap (the only good MPEG2 encoder is CCE, which doesn’t come for free).

Standalone devices give decent results and work quite fast, compared to the PC-based solutions. A solution like that would suffice for most people.

If your tapes are protected, you are going to need a device between the VCR’s video out and the DVD recorder’s video in to remove the macrovision. The audio connections can be direct. Just do a google search on vhs macrovision removal.

Great advice and info! I wish I had known to look here before trying to build a PC solution. I also wanted to transfer old home movies from VHS and 8mm tapes to DVD. I bought and installed an I/O Magic Internal DVD-RW Drive, a WinTV-PVR 150 capture card, Nero Express, and other editing software. I still can’t get the software to capture both video and audio from either the vcr or camcorder trying all the various input possibilities (coax, component, s-video). I’ve about given up and will probably buy a set-top DVD Recorder. I originally wanted to slice and dice them as I have a jumble of holidays, kids’ school plays, birthdays and such and would like to piece them all together differently on DVD. My experience is that without experience - go the simple route.

If I simply transfer full VHS or 8mm tapes to DVDs via a set top recorder, will I be able to read, copy, and edit them on my PC if I want to capture pieces from different ones and combine them into a new DVD? For example, grab all my daughters birthday and school play segments (which are spread over many different VHS & 8mm tapes - and will then be on many different DVDs) and edit them together to burn a single new DVD.

Or, better yet, are there DVD Recorders that will let me pause while I swap out VHS tapes in the source VCR (fast-forwarding and finding certain segments), and do my editing while copying and creating an original DVD?


If you get good hardware, the quality you can achieve with a PC-based solution is higher than any DVD recorder can give you.

I’ve found the opposite to be true. Using high-bitrate recording modes, I get results that are far better than the AVI I’ve gotten from capturing.

Or, better yet, are there DVD Recorders that will let me pause while I swap out VHS tapes in the source VCR

Most all of them do. DVD-RAM also allows more flexible multi-segment recording. DVD-video recording will take multiple tracks (segments) and create a menu for them. (if you hit stop instead of pause). If you use pause, you’ll get one long MPEG2 that you can edit however you like on PC.

What I’d recommend you doing is what many do. Get you some DVD+RW or DVD-RW(whatever works well with your recorder) discs and then you can record all you want to the RW disc with your set-top recorder… take that to the PC and rearrange, trim, etc… the footage… then write the final to a normal -R or +R disc with your PC. Erase the RW disc and repeat the process.(so you technically only need one RW disc)

As far as being able to swap VHS tapes while recording… pretty much every recorder I’ve used allows for that. You can use as many different tapes as you want as long as you haven’t had your recorder “finalize” the current disc.(Do that at the end… right before taking it to your PC)

Did you perhaps use any noise filters?

I tried this with the hardware my parents have: a Pioneer DVR-533H-S DVD recorder at the highest bitrate (1hr/DVD) and as player a Panasonic SVHS video recorder (with a hq SVHS recording; no home recording but from a pro studio). In fast scenes, the Pioneer still generated some MPEG artefacts (when you put the device on pause while playing, MPEG blocks are noticable!). CCE can deal with that, at a lower bitrate. Only when using multipass VBR (9 pass for instance).

In fast scenes, the Pioneer still generated some MPEG artefacts (when you put the device on pause while playing, MPEG blocks are noticable!)

I’ve never seen anything like that. I’d say that the problem was the Pioneer.

If you have a LCD TV you can easily spot MPEG-2 about at any bitrate but I’ve found that capture card + filtering gives far superior quality compared to a DVD-recorder not to mention the ability to repair bad source(s).

If any of you want to buy a DVD videorecorder, try to avoid
the ones that write on minus dvd r media, like -R -RW,
these recorders, most of them i guess, when you record some channels that send a CPRM tag/flag with their transmissions,
your recorded disc, wil also have that tag in the id sector of that disc and will switch on the protection mechanism in de pc burner drive, and will complete fail to read in that drive,
check out the subject : (it’has become a list) : CPRM (or not) drives list

Solution: use old dvd-rom player in pc, (first generation)
but one from 2000 will also do, i noticed, > Panasonic SR-8585 firmware 1W26

btw. i bought the JVC DR-MV2 VHS DVD combo recorder,
becuse of its unique Time Base Corrector, Frame Synchronizer, and Blocknoise Reduction features, a tape
(without Macrovision) looks even better when transferred onto disc, and the ones with Macrovision i transfer with my ADVC100 from Canopus, which has a special function (button) to defeat Macrovision, great feature of the Canopus box is that it locks the audio, so it’s impossible for the sound going out of sync, and the Firewire connection is used, which is also a good feature.