VHS -> DVD Conversion Recommendations

I want to convert some old VHS tapes to DVD. I know there are several ways of doing that, however I’m not familiar with any of them. I’m sure there are people here who already faced this issue a while ago, so I’m asking for recommendations.

Requirements for the conversion process:

  • Safety - The converion process should not risk breaking the VHS tape.
  • Low Difficulty - I just want to convert VHS to DVD, not make rocket science out of it.
  • Low Cost - I have plenty of empty DVDs, but I don’t want to buy a big VHS to DVD converter just for a one-time conversion of less than 10 VHS tapes.

I’d appreciate any hints leading me in the right direction.

Do you have any video input already? 10 years ago I had great success with Canopus ADVC55.
If you can get one for a reasonable price, I’d recommend that!
It’s exceptional good quality - however, you’ll need a firewire (1394) port.
Around march of this year I got a VHS tape to capture, and sadly had to notice, that my ADVC55 just broke. As I already had an HDMI -> USB3 capture device, I bought such a device:


It’s quite affordable. Not the highest spec/qualiy, but for an almost 20 years old VHS tape it’s just enough.
Capturing with that you’ll need a HDMI input.
I heard about Easycap that it works too.

If you walk the way with Canpous, you’ll need dvgrab, or Kino for capturing, DVDstyler to author DVD’s. (Do you really need DVD?)
If you take Easycap like device, which is UVC compatible, you’ll need OBS to capture.

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I actually already bought such a device over a year ago. So I’m set with that.

I want to put it on VHS replacements. I think DVDs are more or less the official VHS replacements. I don’t want to store it on HDD or something you need a computer or advanced device for. The medium the tapes are transferred to should be playable by any simple device, like e.g. a DVD player.

So then you need to capture with that device. If you do it with OBS-studio, it’s going to be x264 encoded file. Capture it with a high bitrate, say 3Mbps (for vhs resolution that’s a fairly high bitrate).
You can transcode that afterwards to be DVD compatible. I used ffmpeg for that purpose.
ffmpeg -i capturedfile.mp4 -f dvd -c:v mpeg2video -target pal-dvd -b:v 4700k -bt:v 4000k -pix_fmt yuv420p -g 12 -bf 2 -trellis 2 -s 720x576 -b:a 192k -c:a ac3 fordvd.mpg
Then used that resulting file in DVD Styler as the main title, but without reencoding.
Add chapters, etc, create a menu if you wish, but I made “single-movie DVD”.
That worked for me perfect.
Note that this is good for PAL, if you want an NTSC DVD, you need to tweak the settings.
You may want to tweak the bitrate settings too.
My source was progressive because of the way OBS captures.

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These are some really nice hints, thank you. I will see how I can try them, once I get access to the old tapes again, which are not at my place.

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As I see it, making a DVD from a captured video is pretty simple although nowadays, if you want it on a medium, I’d recommend a pen drive which is more reliable and durable than a DVD and can be plugged in directly into most TVs. If not, a Raspberry Pi with a media player on it makes it damn easy.
The biggest problem, in my opinion is to reproduce and to capture the VHS video in a decent quality. My experience with capture devices are not the best. They all do the job but I have not yet seen (also not on the internet) a single video that would look as good as the original tape in a high-end VCR and on a high-end analogue TV from the late 90s.

The best results so far I got with a specialized VCR with an included DVD recorder. I should still have it somewhere in a box. Should I stumble upon it, I will check whether it still works and if so, I can send it to you (@Akito , you live in Germany, right?) by Hermes or so some day I’m on the other side of the border. No charges besides the parcel.

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I haven’t tried anything like this for years, back when I was using Windows (circa 2004) - I used an Adaptec USB video “grabber” thingie… had mixed success… home movies of my kids and stuff, and a VHS of the film Born Free : then burned onto DVD… the home movies were okay, but Born Free was horrible with artifacts, tearing, stuttering audio… so I gave up…

More recently, on Linux - I used a “generic” USB doohicky (EasyCAP?) I bought off e-bay - my goal wasn’t to go to DVD, but to upload to youtube… but I got an mp4 out of it, that should be easy enough to transfer to DVD.

I just used VLC (on Linux), and it kinda worked… had to do some demuxing and stuff (from the cli using things like ffmpeg) but eventually got the audio in sync with the video and uploaded to youtube (it was a VHS tape from 1994 of my last day working at a hospital after nine years - it was filmed by someone else, it was a whole day of partying - as the hospital was being privatised and we all got made redundant that day - very little “work” was done on the mainframe that day [we powered it off at 12:00 noon after about our 10th glass of champers])…

So - TL;DR: if you get a /dev/video device when the USB dongle is plugged in - you should be able to just use VLC…

@daniel.m.tripp Once you’ve got a video file, the program “DVD Styler” sudo apt install dvdstyler does all the reformatting for you, including adding menus and so on.

@Jujjhi0938ej Would you mind writing proper sentences? Should you aim to communicate successfully, this would be a great help, especially considering that not all members of this community are native speakers who are able to fully comprehend mixed up fragments of slang.

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Ok Mina, next time i will keep this in my mind…i am new here. Will take some time to get adjust here…

I was testing the EasyCap Grabber just 2 days ago. I only notice the software was for Windows. So far, it looks pretty good. Testing thru Win 10. Pop in a VHS tape and it gets recorded to a file. I will be doing some more testing this weekend.

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Hauupage now has Linux support for a lot of their video tuners and interfaces:
https://www.hauppauge.com/pages/support/support_linux.html
I have a couple of items but so far have only used them on Windows.
Our local association (small town) has successfully recovered home movie and other recordings. Sometimes the quality is surprisingly good after >20 years. VHS recorder/playback machines in working order can still be found if you ask around. You need an adapter for the smaller VHS-C cassettes.

Slightly off-topic, digital miniDV cassettes can be recovered if you can find a camera or playback device. I’ve used analogue interfacing with Hauppage gear and digital via firewire. Some old PCs have the interface and slot-in cards are very cheap (firewire is still important in industry). The best software appears to be dvgrab; you need OpenShot or similar to stitch the file segments together.

I can only agree with you on the pen drive being more reliable than the DVD.
As far as I can tell DVD+R technology is even less reliable than CD-R. I used to work with CD-R from Sony and then I started to use DVD+R also from the same brand. The result was that the DVDs lasted less than CDs. I still have working CD-R but the DVD+R, which would be younger, are long gone.
About the image from a VHS being bad on new TVs/Monitors is simple: the quality of the new devices is so much better that they reveal all the flaws of the older image. Also, now, your brain has a means of comparison and it rejects everything not digital, because digital image s clean and analog image is not.

Well, this point depends on if your VCR is a professional device or not. Anyway, you can use a VHS Cleaner in order to clean the heads, etc. Check any of these tools for Cleaning:
https://www.amazon.com/s?k=VHS+Cleaner

If you don’t have any VCR, I recommend you to look at any local dealer, used or second hand shop. Sometimes it’s better in case you have any trouble with the VCR instead return any device you’ve purchased via e-bay, AliExpress or something like that. Apart from the VCR (you’ll find a decent one starting from ± $50), I’m pretty sure you should need any of these tools:
Scart converter


https://www.amazon.com/Converter-Software-Transfer-Camcorder-Digitizer/dp/B07Q2KH2PH/

Last April (while the lockdown where I live) I’ve successfully converted some old VHS tapes to DVD using my FullHD Pinnacle USB dongle with GNU/Linux support (I think any Kernel starting from 2.4 have support for this device) and OBS Studio program (since the Pinnacle Studio app is intended for Windows environment only).

In the VCR, I plugged the Scart/RCA converter (I mention before) in order to output the video and audio signal to the Pinnacle Input. After some testings about the better quality in OBS, I ended recording the footage in FullHD MKV format and edited later in Shotcut, but Openshot, Olive and Blender works properly editing MKV files (Cinelerra doesn’t work for me if I use higher FPS such as videos in Slo-mo). You can use MKV with 4K support too, but the end file is too big and encoding in 4K doesn’t mean you have a better image in that case (VHS is limited to SD resolution or HD in privileged devices)

In order to convert the final video in Shotcut, use “Export → DVD preset ⇾ Export File” or the options you find in your favorite NLE. Remember there have some restrictions in DVD video files. Please check this info in the Wikipedia. Later you can use DVDStyler, OpenDVD Producer, DevedeNG (from a friend of mine!), ManDVD, BombonoDVD or any other tool for titling, menu, etc.
Hope that helps!

Benny.

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