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I have some old VHS tapes that I would like to digitize. I have seen some expensive converter boxes, that come with proprietary software, that you can buy that will auto-encode and create a DVD for you, but I'd rather be able to import the video directly to iMovie or Final Cut Pro so I can work with it how I want. Quality isn't critical, so I'm looking for an inexpensive, "do-it-yourself" solution, that would ideally allow me to import the video into my software of choice, rather than paying a company to do it for me.

What is the best way to connect a VCR to my Mac, so that I can import these videos into iMovie or Final Cut Pro?

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The Video Stack Exchange website may be another useful source of information on this topic, especially for the more technical aspects like getting the best quality, best equipment, encoding, etc –  drfrogsplat Mar 3 at 6:27

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

If you have an older DV video camera such as a Sony DCR-HC96, you can plug the VCR directly into the camera, which will convert the analog signal to a digital signal. The camera will output the video via Firewire, which will be recognizable by iMovie or FCE. This is my preferred option, because I have this camera and it works great.

Another option is something like what Chris Breen has talked about on his Macworld video. He recommends Roxio's Easy VHS to DVD
Roxio's Easy VHS to DVD
and Elgato's Video Capture (some similar products)

Elgato's Video Capture
I don't know how well it works, since I haven't tried it myself.

Yet another option would be to use a DVD recorder with RCA inputs to play the VHS to a DVD.

DVD recorder
Once you've burned a DVD of the VHS tape, then you can use conversion software, such as Handbrake to convert the DVD to a usable format. I would also recommend this, since I've done this before, although I prefer the first method, since it is faster.

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nice write up, thanks! –  Andrew Mar 13 '12 at 20:01
    
You are very welcome. I hope it helped you! –  daviesgeek Mar 13 '12 at 20:49
    
I had an Elgato Hybrid and I used it to watch TV and import a lot of VHS tapes to my Mac. I highly recommend Elgato products. –  pietrodn Mar 3 at 7:45

No, "cheap cables" will do you no good, because you require a computer peripheral to accept the analog video signal and convert it into a digital format. There is nothing inside your Mac that can accept analog video and convert it to digital.

Depending on the number of hours of video you need to convert, you may be better served by finding a company that will perform this service for you for a fee, rather that purchasing the equipment and learning to use it yourself.

I'm not up-to-speed on the latest technology, but working from VHS tapes, you would be looking for a conversion device that accepts Composite video or S-Video, along with unbalanced RCA stereo audio, and which performs the analog-to-digital conversion and outputs a digital signal, over FireWire or USB, that Apple iMovie can record.

Here is one such example, the Grass Valley ADVC55, which costs US $180.

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There are cables that convert the analog signal to a digital signal, but the price range and features are so drastic. I'm just trying to find the most economical solution that I can do myself, rather than paying a company to do it for me, and have the most options for encoding/transcoding the video. –  Andrew Mar 12 '12 at 15:06
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No, there is certainly no such thing as a "cable" that can do this. By definition a "cable" is nothing more than a piece of metal wire with insulation wrapped around it. Converting an analog signal to a digital signal requires active computer circuitry. You may know of analog to digital converters that are small and have cables wired to them, but such a device is certainly not a "cable". –  Wheat Williams Mar 12 '12 at 23:51
    
Furthermore, you get what you pay for. Cheap devices will produce very poor digital video image quality. Expensive devices will produce higher quality results. That is why you should consider sending your VHS tapes to a professional conversion company and having them do the conversion for you. –  Wheat Williams Mar 12 '12 at 23:53
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Or if you'd rather go on the end where you know your VHS is standard (480) why not pick up an EasyCap DC60 (you can find them on Amazon for about $10 or less). So long as you've got the software (EasyCapViewer) and the appropriate component cables you will be able to transfer the hard VHS to a digital format for very little cost. –  Jason Shipps Mar 13 '12 at 3:20
    
@JasonShipps thanks for the advice, you should post this as a separate answer –  Andrew Mar 13 '12 at 17:59

Thanks to Jason Shipps I decided to try going with a cheap analog to digital converter cable called the EasyCap DC60. For less than $10 it was worth a try and has worked pretty well so far.

EasyCap DC60

The reviews are mixed since a lot of people have had a hard time getting it configured correctly. You will need the right software to record the video. You will need the EasyCapViewer app installed in order to record the video. Make sure you get a genuine DC60 and not a DC60+ since it will determine your software support. There's a list of supported devices on the EasyCapViewer website.

Obviously, you get what you pay for, but if you want a cheap way to convert analog video, then this is worth a try.

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