A primer for transferring your tape collection to DVD
Written by Robert DeMoulin
© 2003 Sony Electronics Inc.
So, you're considering the purchase of a DVD burner with the
idea of preserving your aging tape collection to DVD. Certainly
it's a good idea as most tape technologies begin to lose the
ability to hold the recording over time. In as little as 10 years,
you may experience drop-outs and fuzziness in the video. The
solution? Transferring the tape to a more stable medium is
probably the best solution. DVD is an excellent medium due to the
fact that the penetration of DVD into the home is already a
staggering 54% in only 6 years of DVD player being available. As a
result, you'll have plenty of places to play the DVD once its been
made. DVD is an optical technology, with a media shelf life better
than 30 years, making it ideal media to preserve your video tapes
on. Up to 2 hours of video can fit onto a single DVD disc, and
with the falling cost of DVD recordable/rewritable media, it's
A Word About Copyrights - Please respect the
rights of copyright holders and don't record anything onto a DVD
or CD if you do not have the rights to do so.
What You'll Need to Get Started
As with many things in life, you get what you pay for. Getting
good quality results when transferring tape to DVD depends on
having a fast enough computer and, most importantly, a good
quality capture card. Burning the DVDs after capturing the video
brings into question what kind of DVD burner is best and which DVD
format you should use.
Here are some considerations for equipment:
Computer - For the purpose of this paper,
we'll keep it simple and deal with Windows PCs only. CPU speed,
RAM, and hard disk space are critical. While you can get by with a
Pentium III 800mhz CPU, you'll find that a Pentium 4 or equivalent
CPU is worth the money. Rendering of video is very CPU intensive,
so the faster the CPU, the quicker the video will be rendered. Go
with a minimum of 256 RAM, and get as big of a hard drive as you
can. You can also add an extra hard drive to your system if
needed. Capturing video for DVD is typically about 35Mb per
minute, so you'll need almost 5GB of hard drive space for a 2 hour
Video Capture equipment - A very critical
component. The better your video capture hardware, the better the
capture will be. Be sure to pick one that can capture video for
MPEG-2/DVD. There are solutions from ATI
or Nvida that are add-in cards for your PC, or solutions from
that are external to your computer, using USB 2.0 or
IEEE1394/FireWire/i.LINK to connect to the PC. Be sure the video
capture solution you choose has analog inputs, typically composite
video (the yellow RCA jack) and left/right stereo (Red and White
RCA jacks). If you're fortunate enough to have S-Video (DIN style
connector with 4 pins) outputs on your tape deck, pick a video
capture solution that has S-Video inputs and left/right stereo
inputs. S-Video will give you a better signal than composite. All
of the video capture solutions will come with software for doing
capturing. If your PC came equipped with a video capture port and
audio inputs, you may want to try out the quality of your built in
solution before looking to buy something else.
DVD recorder - Another important
consideration, for both hardware and bundled software. The
flexibility of the
Sony Dual RW
DVD recorders is hard to match as they record on both DVD+R and DVD+RW discs.
Why is this important? You may want to share your DVDs with others
and its possible that a friends DVD player may prefer one format
over the other. Most modern DVD players manufactured after 2000
should be able to play either format, but there are still some
players out there with a preference. Having the ability to burn
both formats also protects your investment in the burner no matter
which of the two formats ends up dominating the market. The
bundled software is also important. MyDVD from Sonic Solutions
is the most popular DVD video authoring solution for consumers and
it comes with many of the DVD recorders being sold out there,
including the Sony Dual RW drives. The software is important
because some do a better job than others of creating fully
compliant DVD video discs that adhere strictly to the DVD video
standard. This gives you an extra margin of compatibility with the
vast majority of DVD players out there.
Word to the Wise - Do your homework when it
comes to choosing equipment. Be sure the video capture equipment
is compatible with your PC and operating system. That goes for you
DVD burner and its associated software. A little research on the
front end will save you loads of trouble later.
Step 1 - Connect Your Equipment
setup for transferring VHS tape to DVD
In the above picture you'll see a typical setup for
transferring VHS tape to DVD. In this image we have:
Following the manufacturer's instructions, install your
hardware and software and ensure it is operation correctly.
Step 2 - Capturing Video
Launch the video capturing software that came with your video
capture solution. Typically you'll see a screen that looks like
MovieStar 5 capture window
Before capturing, here are some things to remember:
Select the resolution that is appropriate for DVD. Some
software packages make it easy by stating the resolution that is
appropriate for DVD. If its not clear, be sure you are capturing
MPEG-2 at the highest resolution available.
The captured file
should be an .avi or .mpg file. Most DVD authoring packages accept
avi or MPEG file formats. Some will accept others as well, check
the documentation that came with you DVD authoring software.
Be sure you are saving the capture to a location where you have
enough available hard drive space.
Connect your tape deck or video camera to the video capture
inputs and power it on. Select the proper input device in your
capture software (if applicable) and hit play on the tape deck or
camcorder. You should see the video in the capture screen on the
video capture software. Stream the tape to the desired start point
using the reverse or fast-forward buttons on your tape deck or
Once you're at the right start point, click the record button
in the capture software and let the tape play. It's not necessary
to end the capture exactly at the place you want to stop as you
can edit this later in the DVD authoring software, but it is
important to start at the right point. Remember, you can always
trim video later but not add video. Click the stop button in the
capture software when you want to stop the capture.
Note: Now is a good time to think about the DVD that you're
going to make. Each capture you make is going to be a "chapter" on
the DVD. It's generally a good idea to make each major "scene" a
chapter so you'll have the flexibility to jump easily to the part
of the video you want to see, just like the scene index on a
commercial DVD movie. This means more work for you on the front
end, as you will need to capture each scene one at a time
following the instructions above, but the end product will be
worth the effort! If you don't want to make each scene a chapter,
you can just let the tape play and make one big capture of all the
video. You won't have the ability to jump around like you would if
each scene was a chapter, but it's less work.
Word to the wise - keep track of the captures you're making and
name them so you'll remember the order of scenes later when you're
authoring the DVD.
Once you have captured your video, you can use the editing
software that came with your video capture hardware to add any
desired title screens, or transition effects. For your first time,
its generally better to minimize editing and head straight to DVD
Step 3 - Authoring the DVD
Launch your DVD authoring software and start a new project.
Typically, the first step is to choose the background theme. This
is the screen you'll first see when your DVD in inserted to a
player. Most DVD authoring software packages have pre-canned
themes, and often times you can use a JPEG image you have as the
background theme. Typically, you can also add an audio file to
play when the background screen is displayed.
Solutions MyDVD DVD Authoring Software
Note: You need to decide if you want your DVD to "play through"
like a commercial DVD movie, or return to the background screen
after playing a chapter. Set this option in the "options" or
"preferences" of your project.
Once you have chosen your background theme, its time to add the
video you've captured. Choose the "Get Movies" or "Get Video"
option in the DVD authoring software. Add the video clips in the
order you want them to play on the finished disc. Now aren't you
glad you kept track of the video captures? Each clip becomes a
chapter. You can typically re-name each chapter by clicking on the
title. By default, the name of the video clip is the chapter name.
Once you've added your video clips, you can adjust the start and
end points of each clip (if necessary) so that each chapter starts
and ends on the desired video frame.
Trimming Video Start and
End points in MyDVD
In MyDVD, you would simply double click on a chapter to bring
up the trimming window, which has easy to use sliders that you
click and drag to set the start and end points for the video. You
can also select the video frame that will be the "thumbnail" for
the chapter. Note: You're not affecting the original captured
video file on the hard disk, only what will be recorded to the
Step 4 - Burn the disc
Now that you have added your video clips and adjusted them, its
time to see how the finished project will look. Insert a blank DVD
recordable or rewritable disc into your DVD burner and click the
"burn" or "record" button in the DVD Authoring software. It may
take some time to trans-code all the video and build the DVD menu
structure, this is where having a fast processor really pays off.
Eventually, the disc will be burned.
Note: Be sure to follow the DVD burner manufacturer's
recommendations for DVD media. Stick with name brand DVD discs for
Word to the wise - Its generally better to use a rewritable
disc for the first burn, that way if the project doesn't turn out
the way you wanted, you can always erase the disc and re-burn in
after making adjustments.
Step 5 - Check the disc on a set top DVD player
Now you hold in your hand the masterpiece you've created. It's
time to pop it into a DVD player and see how it looks. When the
disc is inserted into the DVD player, you should first see the
background screen you selected and the video chapters displayed.
Clicking play should start the playback of the first video
chapter, and each chapter should play sequentially unless you
selected the option in your DVD authoring software to return to
the menu after each clip plays.