One way to convert VHS to DVD is to use a VHS to DVD recorder, which will probably have the word “combo” somewhere in the title. The best are made by Panasonic or Toshiba, but there are alternatives from Philips, Sony and other companies. The best of these will transfer your VHS to DVD, and some may even improve the image quality. It could be a hard to pick a new one as the lasers can degrade with a lot of use and the machines can become clunky and even fail with extended period of neglect.
The drawback is that most of these machines record to VOB format rather than MP4, but if you really needed to convert them you could do that on a PC.
I assume a lot of people bought these machines to copy their VHS tapes and then sold them when they’d done the job. If you want to follow their example, sooner is better. The stock is aging and getting more unreliable every year.
The alternative, which is almost as simple, is to plug your best VHS player into a DVD Recorder or PVR (Personal Video Recorder). However, following the arrival of Freeview, modern recorders are going all-digital, and you will need one that accepts an analogue video input. I’d guess that your VCR has a SCART socket, in which case, a 21-pin SCART cable would do the job. SCART supports several different types of video (composite, component and S-Video) so you might manage with a SCART conversion cable. Check the back of your VHS player for output sockets.
You want to do the conversion with a PC, so you are looking for another device like your “cheap video capture lead,” which includes an analogue-to-digital video converter of the sort built in to combo player-recorders. There seem to be dozens of these, at prices from about £30 to hundreds of pounds or top the range ones can cost even more. Unfortunately, most of them have not been reviewed since they are unbranded.
Before buying a converter, check to see if you need a SCART-to-RCA phono plug adapter.
The simplest way to copy VHS tapes is just to put them to DVD. It’s time-consuming because the tapes have to be played in real time, but it does the job. The alternative is to save them to your hard drive and then either trim or edit them before burning them to DVD or, possibly, not. This is even more time-consuming and means you will also need video editing software and, ideally, the most powerful PC you can afford.
Standard DVDs store videos as video object (.vob) files, which are in MPEG format. You can copy them, rename them with an .mpg or .mpeg extension, and then import them into your video program for editing. You can then save them in whatever format you like, though bear in mind that MPEG is “lossy” (like MP3) and transcoding may not improve the result. You can even try to “upconvert” videos to a higher resolution, though again, it may not be worth the effort. Modern DVD players with built-in upscaling usually make a better job of it. Either way, editing MPEG and MP4 files seems to me to be more difficult and much more unpredictable than editing .avi files.
There are a lot of software programs to try, some free, some very expensive like Sony Vegas which is hundreds of pounds. Here is a good guide on the best FREE software programs for editing.
When it comes to video editing, it’s mainly a matter of finding whatever works for you, whether it’s something as simple as Windows Live Movie Maker or as complicated as the free version of the professional Lightworks software. But this is an area where, if you do a lot of editing, it’s probably worth splashing out on a cheap commercial program such as Sony Vegas Movie Studio or Adobe Premiere Elements, to name but two.
The easiest, most reliable, most experienced and affordable option is to use our services to convert your VHS to DVD. With 13 years of converting video tapes to DVD on the Fylde Coast from our shop in Cleveleys you know our experience and great service will be the best option to preserve your family movies for the future.