Transferring VHS to DVD doesn’t have to be a scary endeavour.
People can tend to over complicate the process then decide to not copy their old video memories because they think they will do it wrong.
Imagine this scenario – you’re clearing old items stored in a cupboard and you find dozens of old VHS cassettes stacked neatly in a large box.
You begin to read the labels on the spines. New York Trip 1988.
And another says Jacob’s 1st birthday. You keep browsing through them.
Our Wedding. Kathy dance tapes. Mum’s 60th birthday bash.
Then you think – ‘I can still watch these, the VCR is in the garage.‘ But then you realize you want to keep these memories, preserve them somehow.
You also know that the tapes won’t last forever and you should get these copied to DVD at least.
So what do you do?
Do you pay someone to transfer the videos or do you do it yourself?
This story happens so frequently to me I’ve lost count.
You have probably asked How can I transfer my VHS to DVD at home?
I’m going to show you that it can be done quite easily and not only that, I’m going to show you the four options to transfer VHS to DVD yourself.
Option 1 – DVD/VCR Combo Drive.
I will stress, if you don’t already have one of these devices, trying to buy one could get expensive!
DVD/VCR combo drives are the all in one hybrid machine that will allow you to record from VHS to a blank DVD.
Funai were the last company to manufacture DVD/VCR combo machines in 2016. There is a great article in regards to Funai manufacturing the last DVD/VCR hybrid that you can read.
- 1080P up conversion from HDMI output
- Archive home movies from VHS tape to DVD
Last update on 2023-09-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Doing a search on Amazon for them, but they are becoming hard to find.
That being said, you don’t have to search for just that brand. All the major electronics companies made them during their popularity at the time.
Samsung made several different models which is the main brand I went with.
Searching on eBay or Facebook Marketplace will more than likely get you a bargain.
When burning a video to DVD I’d recommend using a DVD-R.
DVD-R discs are more likely to work with other DVD players.
Yes you could use other types of discs like DVD+R or DVD RW (re-writeable) but I certainly advise against it.
If for example you decide to use a DVD RW disc, you will find your DVD/VCR combo player will be the only device that can play it. You won’t be able to hand it to your family and expect their DVD player to recognize it.
What Do I Need To Do To Convert My VHS Tapes?
If you already own one or have borrowed/bought one, these are the steps you will be similarly following.
Obviously every manufacturer will be slightly different in their recording options.
Place in the blank DVD-R into the tray and click close. You may have to wait a minute as the device recognizes that it is a blank disc.
Place the VHS tape you want to convert into the slot.
Hit play on the machine to start the VCR.
Depending on your machine, there are several ways to record:
- If the DVD recorder has a quick copy function (like the Samsung image above) simply click the copy to DVD button and let the device record.
- Other brands only allow you to copy using the functions on the remote control.
When copying a VHS to DVD using this method, pay attention to the quality settings from in the menu.
Most VCRs will have at least several settings for recording quality:
XP – high quality mode will usually only be an hour but the picture quality will be great.
SP – standard quality mode will generally be two hours in length.
LP – long recording mode will give approximately four hours.
EP – extended long recording mode will be up to eight hours.
Rule of thumb: The longer the video time recorded onto DVD, the worse the picture quality becomes.
Two hours on a 4.5GB DVD disc is safe for good quality.
So you have chosen the quality you want, the VHS cassette has finished and you’ve hit stop on the DVD recorder.
So now what?
Before you can watch the disc on other devices (computers, other DVD players) you need to finalize the disc.
This can be accessed in the menu of the DVD recorder and by doing this also means the DVD cannot be erased by accident.
Can You Record To DVD From External Video Cameras?
The answer is yes. Most DVD/VCR hybrid machines have extra AV INPUTS allowing you to plug in RCA cables from another device like a video camera for example.
That being said, not all devices are equal. The Panasonic device above will only allow for composite cables for input.
While the Samsung has an extra option with a DV IN IEEE 1394 (FireWire/i.LINK). And is that connection important nowadays?
If you still have a FireWire cable with your video camera from twenty years ago, you are better off trying to copy those videos directly to a computer and not a DVD/VCR combo.
Most people still have the standard AV cables because that was how they watched the videos directly from their cameras so its not like you would throw those away.
You can record from a video camera directly to DVD using the AV inputs.
The steps would be just the same as recording from a VHS tape (select quality/ hit play on the camera/ record on the DVD recorder).
Something to remember: recording is in real time. There is no speed up process that magically records in half the time.
Not All VCRs Are Equal.
Before we venture into option two, I would like to address something about VCRs.
Say you don’t have a VCR anymore or the one you had has broken, what do you do?
Buying a second hand VCR PLAYER is still easy at the moment (who knows about the future though).
Straight off the bat I’m going to suggest you get hold of a four head VCR. This will definitely be able to play all standard VHS recordings.
Could you go with a higher six head VCR?
Sure, why not.
I would just make sure that if you are buying one, just try and get something that’s not over priced.
Do you know of any relatives who would let you borrow one? If you only had a few tapes to copy you may just ask friends or relatives if they still have a VCR.
I’ve been handed a VCR for free a few times as most people don’t even use theirs anymore.
Any VCR that only has 1 X VIDEO and 1 X AUDIO input /output I would try to avoid.
I know that makes no sense when I just said borrow a VCR for free, but hear me out.
You don’t want to play a VHS tape using older products than your original. Otherwise you will get mono sound.
The VCR would have to be really old in order to just have mono sound.
Stereo sound should be the minimum you are after.
All DVD/VCR hybrid devices will have composite out and component out.
A model like the Samsung DVD/VCR combo has component out, composite out, HDMI out.
Not all devices will have HDMI out options.
Generally you find there are two AV INPUTS.
The reason I bring up the VCR talk is because not everyone has or will have a DVD/VCR combo device.
Which brings us to –
Option 2 – Cheap Capture Cards.
Capture cards (no matter what type you buy) are going to be the better option than a DVD/VHS combo.
For starters not everyone wants a DVD. Some people prefer do have the digital MP4 version which can be read on way more electronic devices.
Also what sounds more enticing: paying $20 for a capture card to connect to a VCR or paying $200 for a combo device?
Using a capture card is the best option in my opinion.
The cheap capture sticks generally come with a CD driver and generic software. Most won’t allow you to modify the video file size and bitrate but on the plus side they are cheap.
Simply connect the RCA composite cables from VCR’s AV OUT.
And into the capture stick AV IN connectors.
Plugging into the USB port the device will light up indicating a connection.
At this point you may have to wait for Windows to install drivers to allow for the capture card to work correctly.
Driver issues can be hit or miss. Personally I haven’t had issues with the above Video DVR capture card.
But I have had driver problems with other brands.
Michael Visser has a blog post that goes in depth about his issues searching for drivers for the EasyCAP cards.
He also has a list of drivers that may work if you still run into problems with EasyCAP capture cards for your PC.
Most of the capture cards from China come with rubbish software.
In fact I’ve seen some cards listed on eBay saying they are compatible with OBS Studio. So what does that say about the confidence of the generic software supplied?
You are better off downloading the free OBS STUDIO and installing that.
A YouTube channel called TechGumbo has a video called How to Use OBS Studio (Beginners Guide)
Option 3 – VHS To Capture Card Without a Computer
There may be cases where people don’t have a computer or were never interested in getting one but do have old videos that could be transferred.
There are capture cards that don’t require a computer to convert the video (but you will certainly need a computer if you plan to burn the files to a DVD).
These types of capture box devices can vary in price.
Starting from the $30 range up and above the $199.
Most of these devices will record on a micro SD card up to 16GB.
On a personal note: If this is the only route you can go please make sure you back up the micro SD card as soon as possible because what’s easier to lose, a micro SD card with all your Christmas and birthday videos (the size of a finger nail) or the actual VHS tapes that are gathering dust.
Connecting a VCR to these types of capture cards is very easy. Simply plug in the composite cables matching the video/left/right audio.
Click on the record button and the recorder will copy the video.
Some of these devices don’t let you see what you are recording at the time which means you have to just hope/guess that it’s working.
Others like ezcap 272 (pictured above) at least allow you to plug into a TV at the same time while it’s recording.
Clearclick and Digitnow created devices that have built in little monitors which makes recording easier to see.
The downside is that most (not all) of these products just record in the simplest, lowest quality available and with a set frame rate.
That doesn’t help for other parts of the world that want 50fps or even 60fps for NTSC.
Option 4 – Gaming Capture Cards.
Game capture cards take themselves more seriously. Companies like AVerMedia and Elgato produce great products but at a price.
But when I say at a price remember this: you can buy high quality game capture cards second hand on eBay or Facebook Marketplace.
And they have a reputation to uphold as many celebrity game streamers use game capture cards to run their business.
A device that I use is the Live Gamer Portable C875. Unfortunately at time of writing, they appear to be out of stock (or ridiculously overpriced).
This capture card will accept HDMI input and can do COMPONENT input.
The Samsung DVD/VCR combo drive will let you output via component whether its a VHS or DVD. This does give a slight better quality than composite video.
But some branded combo drives will not do component out for their VHS playback that’s why you will see a lot of photos of Samsung brands in my posts.
The capture card has an adapter to allow for connection with cables.
USB will connect to your computer for copying the video.
If your VHS player only has composite out then you will need an adapter to work with higher quality capture cards.
The reason for this is that these devices don’t cater for lower quality settings like a composite signal.
An AV to HDMI converter will at east let you connect an old VCR to a these higher quality capture cards. It will allow you to convert the analogue signal into a HDMI output signal.
The CM401 (black box in the picture above) is just a converter/adapter.
There are websites that are saying this is a capture device. It’s not.
If you did get the CM401 adapter it would work with any HDMI gaming capture card, not just AVerMedia’s products. So in theory you could buy a second hand capture card and get great results.
And speaking of great results, the selling point for gaming cards is the software they come with.
The C875 live gamer portable allows to record in MP4 format or VIDEO_TS DVD files which makes life easier when creating a DVD straight after the transfer.
Not all brands of gaming cards will do that.
The software that is supplied (downloaded) gives complete freedom to change bitrate quality, frame rate and audio.
These three options alone give a better reason to use a higher quality capture card.
Was the video of your wedding recorded in 60FPS, not a problem as these devices are built to record video at that frame rate.
If there was a downside it would be PC specs. Don’t try and run these kind of capture cards if you’re still running really old hardware!
Choosing a Software To Burn VHS to DVD?
This will only apply if you don’t have the DVD/VCR combo drives.
If you decided to go the route of capture cards and have successfully transferred your VHS to computer, you will then need to burn the video file to be able to play on a DVD player.
There are numerous free DVD burning programs that you can download and will burn the final DVD disc for you.
The caveat being when you install any free software make sure you read and un-tick any extra bloatware they try to bundle with it.
DVD STYLER has a great interface and allows for creating chapters and background layout.
CD Burner XP is another freeware program that will create a DVD from Video_TS files (AVerMedia’s portable gamer pro will capture in this type of file as an option).
Ashampoo have a free version of their Burning Studio software which is also popular.
Conclusion – So Which Method is Best?
The answer to that question would rely on your budget.
If you can borrow or buy a DVD/VCR combo drive and you’re not worried about editing out bits and pieces, then go for that. It will be a quick copy method.
If you already own a VCR but just want to digitize the VHS videos and burn them to disc later, go for the smaller ezcap USB capture sticks. If you use OBS Studio, you will have a very flexible control with your capturing.
Maybe you are not fussed on budget then definitely get a Gaming Capture Card and use their software supplied.
You will get the best results.