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.
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.
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.
3. Launch the software installed in step 1 and select either ‘Record straight to DVD' or ‘Record while viewing'. The latter option lets you view the content on your computer as it's being converted. During this time you will be able to stop, start and pause the recording as necessary.
4. Click Settings and, depending on your setup, select either Composite or S-Video from the drop-down menu. Specify the type of cassette you wish to record from (long or short play), the format that the recording should be saved in and the country format. For viewing in the UK this is PAL.
5. Insert a blank DVD. If you selected ‘Record straight to DVD' in step 3, simultaneously press Play on your VCR and Record within the software. If you chose ‘Record while viewing', press Play on the VCR and the video will play onscreen. Press Record at the point where you want to start the transfer. You can pause at any time.
6. When you've finished recording, press Stop and save the file. Preview the file to ensure both audio and video have been converted successfully, then burn the file to disc. Be sure to click the burning option that enables the resulting DVD to be compatible with any standalone video player.
>> NEXT PAGE: Add animation and a soundtrack to your digital video
Add animation and a soundtrack to your digital video
1. Chances are, you'll want to digitise more than one video cassette. Basic editing tools that let you add a soundtrack, titles and transitions should be included in the software. Select Mpeg2 output if you're burning to DVD, and Mpeg4 if you want to transfer your video to a iPod.
2. Open the video-editing software and click the Import tab - in Presto VideoWorks this can be found at the top lefthand corner of the screen. Browse to the folder where your video files are stored and import them into the editor. You can now drag-and-drop the video files into the timeline bar.
3. To add a soundtrack, select Audio Files from the drop-down menu on the Import tab. In the same way that you imported video files into the software in the previous step, browse to the folder on your PC where the video is stored and click Import. Now drag-and-drop your soundtrack on to the timeline.
4. Next, import animations - the process for this is exactly the same as for audio and video. Once you've selected your required animation, drag-and-drop it on to the timeline. Drag the audio track in the timeline so that it's in line with the end of the video file; otherwise it may continue to play after the movie ends.
5. Once all the necessary files have been imported, you'll want to rearrange files on the timeline in order to create a seamless movie. For example, you may want the music and titles to run before the video footage begins. You will be able to preview your work before you save it as a finished movie.
6. You'll need a transition to move between the titles and video footage. Click the Edit tab and select the effect you require from the menu. A preview of each transition will appear on the righthand side of the screen. When you're happy, click Apply and the transition will be added to your movie.
7. When you're happy with your movie, it will need to be saved in the correct format for your chosen playback device. Once a movie has been ‘finalised' (finished), you won't be able to alter it. Select the file format you wish to create (Mpeg2 or AVI are obvious choices) and choose PAL as the region format.
8. You'll also need to specify a name and location on your computer for the file to be saved to before hitting Save. The resulting file can then be burned to DVD with any burning application. Alternatively, you may wish to transfer the file to your portable media player, iPod or PlayStation Portable.