Transferring Movies from Video Tape to Computer

Another way to use my excess of time….

Technology creates an ever-present changing world.  Advances in electronics result in faster and better quality forms of recording history and entertainment, but leaves in its wake piles of useless machinery and the need to update modes of storage.  So if you want to keep those old home movies viewable, you have to transfer them from one format to another.  That is a daunting task for someone with heaps of memories on tape.

My story:  I tried a few times to record with a VHS/DVD player combo and a television.  It was a frustrating and completely unsuccessful exercise.  Sometime later, I did some research online and found good reviews for a product that connects a VCR to a computer.  A VCR was moved to our computer desk – it fit nicely under the printer/scanner.

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I used Honestech 5.0 Deluxe, available on for $50.48 as of 1-21-13.


 If you choose to use this software, the following information may be helpful….

The Honestech device was easy to hook up to and install on the computer.  It can also be hooked directly to a camera. (I’ve done both.)  There was some trial and error involved, but  once I was familiar with the process, it was not only easy but fun.  I’m sure there are comparable products on the market, but this is what I used and have tips for.

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Yep, it does help to read the directions first.  It saves time to know what settings to use for your movie – length, quality, etc.  I didn’t notice a dramatic difference in the quality when I opted for a longer recording time.  You can pull the directions up in a box and align it side-by side with the box where you view the movies.

This is what the screen box looks like:

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I have only used the “Advanced Mode”.  This is what the box looks like after you click on “Advanced Mode”:

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Capture:  The button you click on to start is red when not on and blue when recording – the opposite of what you’d expect.

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This is what the software box looks like in “Edit”mode:

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Edit –The middle box on the Honestech screen allows you to jump around from place to place (by frame, second, minute or 10 minutes). This allows you to edit out static or unwanted footage, or create separate clips/portions of your movies.   The software box/screen organizes  as you work.  The box on the left holds clips/sections as you cut the movie.  Then you can delete any sections you don’t want and drag those sections you do want (in the order you want them) to the horizontal box on the bottom to create the movie order and the vertical box on the right holds  saved clips.  Once the clips are placed in the horizontal box on the bottom, that is what will play in the main viewing box, so make sure you have a plan before you drag anything down.  As you drag things down, the first and last boxes are reserved for “Intro Title” and “Ending Credits”   If you don’t want one or both, you can right click on them to delete them. The boxes will remain there, but nothing will show on your movie.  You can add transitions (fancy screen movements) between clips if you wish.  There are a lot of options on the tool bar above the box on the upper left, including lighting and effects.  You can also alter sound by deleting voices or adding music.  When you are ready to save your arranged clip(s), you click on the disk icon and then label the movie.  The counter will count down for you so you know how long the wait is.  Only when you click on the disk and wait for it to render.   On my computer, the software automatically stored the saved movies in a file called “VHS to DVD” under Documents.

Note:  Before the movie is fully recorded and saved, the software places icons in the VHS to DVD file of my computer that are not playable.  I’m not sure why – I simply delete them.

As I saved the movies, I numbered them in order of time in history, labeled them with year and kept a separate list/Word document of what was on each tape.  By having that, we can look through the list and find what we want to watch, then find the correct movie number and gauge where the event is on the movie from the list.  Having both the list of events and the software screen on the monitor makes watching very user friendly.

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I own VHS tapes of movies no longer available for purchase, so I recorded those as well and put them in a file labeled “commercial movies”.

Burn:  At this point, you can burn the movie onto a DVD if you wish. You can put your own pictures on the Title.  The only problem I had with this step was that I couldn’t find a screen with no box in the middle.  If you figure out how to do that, please share how.

I created extra work for myself by snipping portions of movies that included relatives and friends and put them together in one string of clips. I burned them onto CDs and shared them with others.   They were grateful to have them.

Because we have room on our computer, I chose to leave the movies on the hard drive for easy access.  I also put them on an external hard drive which we have in our safe deposit box at the bank.

It was a time consuming project, but time was something I had.

About Climbing Downhill

Wife and mother of grown kids, in my 60's and dealing with MS, making life's moments count and trying to offer something of value to others along the way.
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