TVs & Home Theaters forum

General discussion

What to do with my VHS Library

by cindypd / November 30, 2009 10:35 PM PST

While I'm sure I'm not alone in this, I couldn't find anything in the forums after searching 10 pages.
I have over 100 VHS tapes containing movies, TV shows, etc., most of which I have recorded off the TV over the past 20+ years. Some are prerecorded VHS tapes. While you can still buy VHS/DVD combos, it's unclear for how long. I need to start thinking about the future. I purchased a VHS/DVD Recorder a few years ago with the intention of putting everything on DVD. I found out quickly that not only was the quality terrible once transferred, but that DVD's had no where near the capacity of a VHS & it was complicated to even put a 2 hr movie on a DVD from a VHS. So, I really need some advice here. What would be the best solution to get all my things that are now on VHS to some other media that won't go out-of-date in a few years & is relatively easy to do? Many of my VHS tapes were recorded in SLP mode so I could fit more on a tape, which I think now will cause me a quality problem when transferring but I'm not sure. Thanks in advance to anyone who can give me some advice.

Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: What to do with my VHS Library
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: What to do with my VHS Library
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
Pick and choose/economize
by Pepe7 / December 1, 2009 12:12 AM PST

Unfortunately, you have to deal with a small issue by using the lower quality SLP mode when recording for archival purposes. There's no real cheap or fast solution (other than what you're currently doing) that does not require significant expenditure for so many VHS tapes, esp. 6 hours per tape -> 90 min-2 hr max DVD-R ;(. You could have the pros transfer these to DVD for a nice chunk of change (see wolf camera or equivalent for transfer to DVD rates), but understand that the SLP quality will sort of leave you with 'garbage in, garbage out' quality on the final DVDs produced. I'm not so certain you will be impressed with the quality you bring home ($$$) vs doing it yourself with your DVD/VHS combo rig. Could you pick and choose from some of the content and only digitize those priority shows on tape(?)


Collapse -
My VHS library
by cindypd / December 1, 2009 8:16 AM PST

Pedro, thanks for your response. Yes, I guess I could pick & choose what I transfer on to DVD but my biggest problem with going to DVD is the 2 hr limit (I did hear about something that double sided but haven't figured out what it's all about yet). As I'm sure you know, almost every movie is at least 2 hrs. & that means sitting their monitoring the whole thing (or most of it anyway)to make sure I get the whole movie on one DVD. I tried one & somehow the end got cut off so the whole 2 hr effort went into the garbage! It's hard to believe in this day & age of 160GB storage media that fits in your pocket & have to battle to fit one 2 hr movie on a DVD!!
Would I be better off with some sort of hard drive solution. Do they make something like that where I can copy all my VHS tapes onto a hard drive of sorts? But I'm wondering how you would ever find anything.
Have any other thoughts about this mess I'm in? Thanks!

Collapse -
by Pepe7 / December 1, 2009 8:46 AM PST
In reply to: My VHS library

You could digitize to an internal/external hard drive, but that can be equally tricky. You could purchase an external capture card solution in combination with the accompanying software, or something built into windows such as Windows Movie Maker. In any case there will be a learning curve involved depending on your level of software proficiency. Actually having to edit anything from the footage you capture from the 6 hr tapes adds another layer of complication too. Ultimately, you might prefer doing what you are currently doing with the DVD recorder, or, over time spending money to have it converted professionally.

Some options-

Collapse -
My VHS Library Conversion
by radium_2005 / December 4, 2009 12:34 PM PST
In reply to: My VHS library

I have a large collection of old VHS tapes,which fortunately were in good condition which i preserved over the years since 1987 and was sucessful in transferring twenty five of these videos to CD/DVD.
Connected the A/V signal output terminals from the VHS Recorder to the Audio input of my Sound blaster card, and the video component to the video input terminal on my TV capture card.This TV card has provision for recording in AVI, Mpeg2 or Mpeg4 format.(My TV card uses the SAA 713XX processor,marketed with honestech software)...i could even enrich the audio quality through my sound card, as compared to that on tape.
It was comfortable to get those videos on my hard disk..although it did take a considerable amount of time for doing so....after which the files could easily be written to CD or DVD using Nero Burning software, or any other.
If one has the patience to tolerate slow transfers from tape to hard disk like i mentioned above,this procedure is economical, without investing in any additional hardware for VHS/DVD equipment.

Collapse -
by Dan Filice / December 2, 2009 10:07 AM PST

I was in the same boat. I ended up buying a converter (analog-to-digital made by Canopus, yes a bit expensive, but I use it all the time) and I digitized the select movies/programs into my computer which is a Mac and comes with editing software that allows me to digitize from the converter, then I use Roxio Toast which has a great auto-compression function that allows me to compress anything onto a 2hr DVD. (Roxio makes the same for a PC.) Of course, squeezing a 3hr program won't be great on a 2hr DVD, but it can be done, but the software works great if you need to fit a 2.25hr video onto a DVD. The big quality issue is the SLP mode. Even SP mode looks so-so because VHS was just a terrible format, but we didn't realize it until DVD came along. Yes, this took time, but doing this became sort of a hobby with me and I became a pretty good editor after ingesting many programs I recorded from The History Channel, SPEED, etc. that aren't available on DVD, and being able to watch again was worth the effort. By the way, I think you were referring to a dual-layer DVD, which allows you to burn twice the content on one side of a DVD. To use those, you need a specific DVD burner and software that will recognize it. I don't have that kind of DVD burner, but Toast allows dual-layer burning.

Collapse -
Dual Layer DVD burning not recommended
by Pepe7 / December 2, 2009 10:25 AM PST
In reply to: VHS to DVD

Even with top notch hardware/software & excellent media such as Verbatim, it is a much more error ridden process than the single layer. Regardless of the shorter record times, I'd stick with single layer to keep the process much more seamless.

Collapse -
I made out!
by volvogirl / December 3, 2009 12:32 AM PST

I picked up a Magnavox DVD recorder refurbished at Big Lots for only $29.99! Works great. I can record more than 2 hours, I think up to 6. Some of my taped tv series have 8 (1/2hr episodes) on them, so that's 4 hours and was able to put them on 1 dvd. I don't think the quality is any worse than my tape. Actually it might be better. My tapes are very old.

Collapse -
Please share your success!
by cindypd / December 3, 2009 6:22 AM PST
In reply to: I made out!

I'd really like to hear more details on how you managed to get 2+ hrs of VHS tape onto a single DVD! Are you just using the Magnavox recorder you bought? Does it have the one touch copy button? Thanks.

Collapse -
More Info
by volvogirl / December 3, 2009 6:48 AM PST

Here's the manual for it.

The model is Magnavox ZC320MW8
Before you record you press the REC MODE button to select 1-6 hours. It's like a vcr, you get HQ 1hr, SP 2hr, SPP 2.5hr, LP 3hr, EP 4hr, and SLP 6hr.

It doesn't have a one touch copy button, it isn't a combined unit with a vcr. You have to hook up a vcr to it. But there is a one touch timer recording button for 30min blocks.

Collapse -
This forum should have stickies
by Pepe7 / December 3, 2009 7:13 AM PST
In reply to: More Info

Especially for the success stories Wink

I may have to find one for a pesky relative who is tough to satisfy over Xmas (LOL)

Collapse -
here's a few ideas and a rant to boot
by porsche10x / December 4, 2009 10:55 AM PST

Just about all DVD recorders will let you specify quality vs. max. record time per disk. But it is in chunks. If you want to fit two hours and five minutes, you have to change the setting to four (or three) hours. You could, of course, fit a second program that's an hour and 55 minutes or less. Generally speaking, when you copy your tapes, there will be some generation loss, no matter how good the target medium (at least, not without some very fancy and expensive post-processing). An LP tape recorded to DVD will not magically be DVD quality. As Pepe7 said, garbage in garbage out. The best you can hope for is for something nearly the same quality as what you started with. Plus, if you try to compress six or eight hours onto a single DVD, you'll probably be doubly disappointed.

Here's another approach you might want to consider. It's a little roundabout, but might get you good results. Get a Tivo. You can record composite video directly into it from your VCR. It even has a VCR setting to do so. You can adjust the recording video quality as best, high, and good. Tivos allow copying to your computer over your network. After you copy to your computer, there's free software available for lossless conversion to MPG2 (directshowdump). Also free software to copy to DVD (DVD flick). The Tivo quality corresponds to 1hr on a DVD for best quality, 2hrs for high quality, and (I think) 4 hours for good quality. The 2hr setting is near-DVD quality. This won't improve your recordings, but further degradation shouldn't be too noticeable. Also, "DVD flick" will optionally further compress your files, so you can fit a 2hr 5min recording on a disk with little further degradation (but the compression takes longer to burn). This is pretty complicated and takes time, but you don't have to sit in front of your computer while stuff is copying/rendering/burning.

If you don't mind me getting on a soapbox for a minute, I have a comment about any VHS movies you actually bought. They'd like to throw you in jail for making a single backup copy of a DVD. This is your fair-use legal right that has already been established. DVD is a crappy medium. I have small kids. They have already destroyed thousands of dollars of DVDs. Think about it. just touching the damn things to put them in the player can destroy them irreparably. I'm not supposed to be allowed make a copy and watch the copy??? Oh NOOOO, they'll tell you, because you don't actually own the DVD, you just have a license to watch the show. OK, well, if I paid for a LICENSE, then, as far as I'm concerned, when I bought the VCR tape, I should get a free DVD when it comes out, a free blu-ray when it comes out, and free replacement of the inferior media forever, with rights passed on to my heirs in perpetuity. How many times do I have to pay for the same thing? Intellectual property rights aren't clear-cut. There are two opposing camps with different agenda. If it were up to the consumer, all media would simply be free. If it were up to the supplier, you would be charged money every time you simply thought about the movie/song/etc. Neither approach is tenable, nor is either right or wrong, per se. The problem is, intellectual property is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too sort of thing. That is, one person consuming it, doesn't diminish the quantity available to the owner or others. Thus, intellectual property laws are a balance between the needs of the consumer and the supplier. Too far one way, and no one will buy. To far the other, and no one will produce. It's fundamentally a compromise between opposing camps designed to maximize the benefits to all.

Collapse -
VHS library to DVD
by bmchelp / December 4, 2009 10:03 AM PST

I am an old movie buff and have about 150 movies I have taped. I bought Honestech VHS to DVD 3.0 Deluxe. I have had good success with this. Since I am not a computer whiz I find this quite easy to use.

Collapse -
by sshopkins / December 4, 2009 12:15 PM PST

I regularly record TV broadcasts on my DVR & then transfer worthy recordings to DVD via a stand alone recorder. My recorder has settings for 1-hour, 2-hour, 4-hour, & 8-hour. I have found that 4- & 8- hour recordings aren't good enough quality to watch. (Sadly, in the early years of recording I did the same as you using SLP to get the most on a tape sacrificing quality.) One valuable feature is a "flex-record" setting on the recorder. This allows me to set the exact amount of recording time. I assume it employs some kind of compression. I use that if the total time is about 2:00 - 2:40. If it's more than that I just break the recording into multiple discs. It's more of a hassle than having it all on one disc but the video quality is better...& that's the overriding factor. The same can be done by connecting your VCR to a stand alone DVD recorder. Just be sure you get one with the "flex-record" (I imagine the terminology varies among brands) feature. Good luck.

Collapse -
VHS to DVD - favorite subject
by aalake / December 4, 2009 1:12 PM PST

Some tapes I transferred to DVD with a simple set-top VHS/DVD machine. If the tape needed some kind of editing or screamed at me that it was protected, I used an ancient device called Director's Cut made by a company called Miglia which I think is related to Phillips which probably no longer exists but which works perfectly. Hook it up and use a capture program which will recognize it. Windows Movie Maker did but Roxio did not except now it does (?!). My favorite DVD is a copy of A Little Night Music recorded from Great Performances some time in the 1990's. Possibly the only one ever made. I also have a great music library created with the little analog recorder in Microsoft Plus (which alas is not compatible with Windows 7)from old audiotapes.

Collapse -
Just started doing transfers myself.
by mustangj36 / December 4, 2009 2:33 PM PST

I have hundreds of movies taped from television since the 70's as well as a hundred or so prerecorded tapes. I bought a Magnavox VHS/DVD recorder in order to make copying these tapes somewhat easier but found that it wouldn't allow copying the prerecorded tapes at all and the device itself is anything but simple to use, having an 88 page instruction manual! LOL A much easier way to make a copy of any tape, and DVD's too, is to use a capture device like DVDXpress from ADS tech. I've had this for at least a couple of years but didn't start using it until last week. The time needed to copy a film and burn it (about 3 hours each) is daunting when multiplied many times and, just having spent months doing analog transfers of nearly a thousand LP's and cassette tapes for my music library, I haven't been anxious to jump into an even more time consuming project. The Package from ADS Tech comes with everything you'll need to convert your tapes, including editing software and the learning curve isn't very steep. The resulting DVD's will look no worse than your tapes and as long as your not going to watch them on a big HD TV, they should be passable.

Collapse -
keep DVD-R lifespan in mind
by firstmental / December 5, 2009 2:35 PM PST

I do lot of recording for the kids on VHS, then move to DVD's they can watch in the car on on the plane for hours (they will! A 6 hour DVD is the magic potion!). Mylar/oxide tape has a LONG lifespan if well stored, but recordable CDs and DVDs may have dyes that start to degrade in as few as 3 to 5 years. You should be very careful about what you put on them that you want to keep indefinitely, and keep the back-up if in doubt. And a hint: I bought an adjustable image stabilizer that also has audio and video gain controls, cost about $20. It made a huge difference in making VHS to VHS copies, but makes a notable difference in copies of VHS-SLP made to DVD.

Collapse -
by rkinne01 / December 9, 2009 4:02 PM PST

Blu Ray writers are getting cheap and can hold up 25 gigs of data, which would allow you to record the shows at better quality.

You might also save some space by saving videos to hard disk to edit them, cutting out commercials or unwanted portions of the recordings could save alot of space. Once you've edited the videos down to size burn them to a DVD.

It might also be easier and/or cheaper to just buy the videos on DVD or Blu Ray. My local Blockbuster Video sells used video's for as low as three dollars, while Walmart has a five dollar bin on new DVD's, and I've seen some great deals on Amazon.

You could also catch some of the stuff on TV and record it to A DVR or record it directly to your DVD recorder (if possible). You should also keep in mind that you can stream shows like Dynasty or Cosby from internet sites like Hulu or even Netflix. My Windows 7 Media Center also has Internet TV which has quite a few streaming options. The Media Center (offered on XP, Vista, or Windows 7) will allow you to record content to your hard drive then to burn to disk whenever you choose. They only drawback with Windows Media Center is DRM, but if you google around enough you can find your way around that. *Please note that you must have TV tuner card installed to make MEdia Center to work with service.*

I transfered 12 VHS home family movies from VHS to DVD and have to say that the process was long and often frustrating, had they not been family videos I wouldn't have bothered after the first couple of tapes. The editing process alone was enough to make me wanna pull my hair out! I would say to just find what programing you can that is available by other means, transferring only what isn't available.

Collapse -
I think you missed some of the earlier parts of the thread
by Pepe7 / December 10, 2009 2:56 AM PST
In reply to: Options


Collapse -
by rkinne01 / December 10, 2009 9:14 AM PST

What a brillant addition to the conversation. Thanks for sharing.

Collapse -
n/t=no text
by Pepe7 / December 10, 2009 11:56 PM PST
In reply to: n/t?

The thread has already covered the basics of what you wrote. She seems to be looking for a basic/alternative solution that you really haven't provided, nor anything new that would help her. Suggesting that the OP throw old shows from VHS on a Blu Ray disc is not a very helpful solution since they won't look any better, and the process will be cumbersome. You also suggest she 'find her way around DRM'. That's not a very good out-of-the-box solution that the OP clearly is looking for. I guarantee you that most of the stuff she wants to transfer either 1) isn't available on DVD or 2) she won't pony up the cash for if a significant volume purchase would be required that adds up to more than a hardware purchase.

Collapse -
Well excuse me!
by rkinne01 / December 11, 2009 1:12 PM PST
In reply to: n/t=no text

How is Blu Ray cumbersome? Sure it might take longer to burn a Blu Ray vs DVD, but then Blu Rays have ALOT more storage. I also beg to differ that it won't improve the quality of the transfered video. One way to get a video to fit on DVD is to compress it, which will degrade the quality, since Blu Ray has much larger capacity compression is not needed. The fact that you can fit so much more data on a Blu Ray makes it less cumbersome than a CD or DVD.

Re-read my post in regards to DRM you missed the point entirely. I've not used DRM removal software but I understand that it is quite plentiful and easy to use. I would say going out to buy video capture devices and the accompanying software is not "out of the box" either.

I don't think or expect that this person go out and repurchase the media she already owns. It might be worth her time to purchase SOME of the videos instead of transferring all of her tapes. I've bought DVD's from places like E-Bay or Amazon for $1 which is close to the price of a blank DVD. I've checked Amazon and they have quite a few shows and movies from the 80's with alot of the DVD's at low prices. So if you can get a great deal on a DVD why spend hours transfering it?

Good night and n/t to you Pepe!

Collapse -
You certainly are...
by Pepe7 / December 11, 2009 3:14 PM PST
In reply to: Well excuse me!

...beating to a different drummer Wink

I'm certain the OP is aware that one can purchase pre-recorded DVDs of TV shows from the 1970s <sigh>. Blank single layer DVDs are much less than a dollar, btw. 50 Verbatims can be had typically for somewhere in the $12.99 price point from many big box retailers.

I can tell you have not completely thought through the potential quality issues concerning video transfer/analog to digital issues, esp. going to something finicky like Blu Ray. Garbage in, garbage out still applies. Yes, you can fit more of the VHS content on a blu ray, but it won't look better. In fact, it may look worse regardless of the compression issue you seem to be hung up on. If the OP plans on viewing such created content on an HDTV she may notice more issues than you would see viewing the tapes on an SDTV.

Collapse -
Maybe so but....
by rkinne01 / December 15, 2009 12:45 PM PST
In reply to: You certainly are...

"I can tell you have not completely thought through the potential quality issues concerning video transfer/analog to digital issues, esp. going to something finicky like Blu Ray". Huh? I use a Blu Ray burner and don't find them anymore finicky than DVD. I never once did I say that putting VHS content on would magically improve quality. What I did point out is that you could preserve the exsisting quality by putting the video on Blu Ray. If a movie she had wouldn't fit on a DVD she would have to use two disks or reduce the quality of the film to fit it on a single DVD. She should be able to place the whole film on a Blu Ray disk without compromising picture or sound quality.

"If the OP plans on viewing such created content on an HDTV she may notice more issues than you would see viewing the tapes on an SDTV.".
If she has a HDTV the transfers aren't going to look good anyway whether on DVD, Blu Ray, or even VHS. So your statement is not completely thought out is it?

You're right DVD's are about thirty five cents each, but I use the double layer disks which do cost alot more. You got me on this one, I guess.

Look Pepe, all I did was present an option to this person, she doesn't have to listen to me or anyone else. I never said Blu Ray was the only or even the best option, but an option it is. Slowly but surely DVD's are being phased out and it may not be a bad idea to transfer some of her stuff to HD Disks or maybe to an external drive. By the way the OP did ask for a format that is or will be future proof so the OP could well have to end up transfering those DVD's to a Blu Ray in a copuple of years anyway.

Unless you are a moderator keep your nt's to yourself, if you are moderator and see something that doesn't add to the conversation then delete it. IMO there is nothing more annoying than someone who posts such drivel, if you can't post something useful then please post nothing.

Collapse -
Just leave them on tape
by rje49 / December 14, 2009 9:02 AM PST

After reading all the comments, I'm saying to myself: 1) How often are the VHS tapes actually watched? 2) If you get about the same picture quality from viewing the DVD as the original tape, what's gained? 4) Is it all worth the time and effort? 5) So why not just keep the tapes, as is?

Collapse -
We have a winner(!) (n/t)
by Pepe7 / December 14, 2009 10:05 AM PST


Collapse -
Keep on tape makes sense, except for...
by Dan Filice / December 14, 2009 12:43 PM PST

1) Storage space. VHS tapes just take up a ton of space.
2) Convenience. DVDs can be taken anywhere and watched on a portable DVD player, a computer, etc.
3) Longevity. Soon, VHS decks will have gone the way of the Do-Do Bird.

Believe me, I agree with your idea, but VHS is just an inconvenient format. I decided a few years ago to invest into an Analog-to-Digital converter and it's been great. Yes, it takes a lot of time and effort to digitize tapes, but it's been worth it, and I've learned a lot about video editing in the process.

Popular Forums
Computer Newbies 10,686 discussions
Computer Help 54,365 discussions
Laptops 21,181 discussions
Networking & Wireless 16,313 discussions
Phones 17,137 discussions
Security 31,287 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 22,101 discussions
Windows 7 8,164 discussions
Windows 10 2,657 discussions


Help, my PC with Windows 10 won't shut down properly

Since upgrading to Windows 10 my computer won't shut down properly. I use the menu button shutdown and the screen goes blank, but the system does not fully shut down. The only way to get it to shut down is to hold the physical power button down till it shuts down. Any suggestions?