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2,812 Tutorials

How to digitise analogue video content

As tape mould threatens VHS, it's time to go digital

The film industry is avidly pushing the transition from DVD to HD movie formats. While such a move would undoubtedly improve quality, the difference between the two formats is nowhere near as pronounced as it was between earlier format rivals digital and analogue.

When DVD technology first appeared, no one needed to be told why they it was a good idea to switch from the grainy, jumpy footage stored on their video cassettes. DVD offered a smoother, clearer picture - and it didn't flicker when you hit the pause button, either.

The switch from analogue to digital wasn't immediate, however. Many of us ran DVD players and video-cassette recorders side-by-side as we went through the time-consuming and costly process of replacing our hardware and vast film collections.

As Hollywood moguls encourage us to relive this process, many of us are still hanging on to our trusty old VCRs and video cassettes. We've not hoarding without good reason, you understand. A number of films have yet to be (and perhaps never will be) reproduced in a digital format. And it seems such a waste to simply throw out vast collections of family memories and once-loved movies.

Last month, PC Advisor reported that a virulent mould has been progressively destroying videotapes, and I was spurred into action.

It's not a new issue, of course, and there's no shortage of companies offering to digitise your VHS collection. But it's not cheap.

Luckily, there are some simple and far less pricey DIY options for digitising analogue footage. All you'll need is a VCR, a home PC and some conversion hardware.

Most video conversion packages also include a video editor with which you can turn your footage into a full-blown feature film, complete with its own titles and a soundtrack.

Digitising VHS

1. Install the software that came bundled with your chosen video converter. This may also include a video editor - the £40 Plextor PX-AV200U that we've used here includes Presto VideoWorks - which can be installed at the same time. Restart your PC when prompted.

Digitising VHS Step 1

2. Plug the USB cable into your PC, and either the S-Video or Composite cable into your VCR. Next, connect the left and right audio connectors. If your video has only a Scart connection, you'll need to connect a Scart-to-S-Video or -Composite cable, which can be connected to the Scart plug on your video player.

Digitising VHS Step 2

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