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I want to transfer my family's analog video tape collection to digital form on my Mac (mid-2014 MacBook Pro). Unlike the asker in Best way to import analog video (VHS) to Mac, my goal is not to identify an inexpensive solution but rather to preserve video and audio quality. I would prefer to do it myself because besides being naturally hands-on I can't risk these being lost/damaged/not-returned if sent out.

Details

Details of my particular situation follow, but please feel free to provide answers, background, and further considerations useful to future readers with similar but possibly varying needs.

How can I best preserve the content of these tapes?

  • What device and/or software should I use to transfer and convert the videos into digital format?
  • What target video file format should I choose to preserve quality and maximize flexibility? Electronic-only files are fine with me -- I don't particularly need or want to burn to DVD or Blu-ray.
  • Have you seen this question? – agentroadkill Mar 5 '16 at 18:40
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    @agentroadkill: I guess you missed where I referenced that exact question and state: Unlike the asker of this question, my goal is not to identify an inexpensive solution but rather to preserve video and audio quality – kjhughes Mar 5 '16 at 19:20
  • The answers for the original questions most probably satisfy your needs as well. – nohillside Mar 5 '16 at 19:29
  • The goal of preserving video quality is very different from the goal of saving money, so, no, as I've stated, those answers do not satisfy my needs or those of anyone looking for mid- to high-end solutions to this problem. – kjhughes Mar 5 '16 at 19:36
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    @kjhughes, I did miss that part of your question. My recommendation to review the answers to that question still stands; you have the resources to import S-Video output to your Mac. As to which works 'best' (define your own 'best'), is better left up to a professional or amateur video encoding and editing forum, and most certainly off-topic here. – agentroadkill Mar 5 '16 at 19:39
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I recently did this type of project with a similar Sony Camcorder that didn't have a USB interface.

Here are the parameters (constraints) of the equipment we're working with:

  • Audio is stereo/mono - left and right channels
  • Video output (as stated) is either S-Video or component - both of which can handle up to 480i (in the US). IMO, color was better on the component, but YMMV.

What's important to note here is this is the highest quality that will be achievable. You won't be able to convert this to HD quality simply because the source isn't HD quality.

What device and/or software should I use to transfer and convert the videos into digital format?

I used (and highly recommend) the Elgato Video USB Capture.

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This was a plug-and-play device. The included software was extremely easy to use. When I used it, I was on Yosemite (10.10), however, I don't see any reason it wouldn't work with El Capitan or Sierra.

What target video file format should I choose to preserve quality and maximize flexibility?

Your best bet would be to use H.264 MPEG-4, which the Elgato supports. From it's Wikipedia entry:

As of 2014 it is one of the most commonly used formats for the recording, compression, and distribution of video content

H.264 MPEG-4 is a format that's commonly used for Blu-Ray (DVDs) and for Internet services such as YouTube. This will give you the highest amount of flexibility at the best resolution possible.

As far as audio, the Elgato Video Capture samples at 48 kHZ at 128bits which is considered "professional grade"

The standard audio sampling rate used by professional digital video equipment such as tape recorders, video servers, vision mixers and so on.

This is a rather inexpensive setup that worked extremely well (from personal experience). It took me just over a week (about 100 tapes, not all were "full") to digitize everything. But once that was done I was able to make backups to both HDDs and DVDs.

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