Updated: Oct 4
Analog VS. Digital
Transferring videotapes to DVD is not as easy as plugging your VCR into your computer. In order to understand how to transfer a videotape to DVD, you first have to understand how different your VCR is compared to your computer.
VCRs read what is known as "analog" signals while your computer reads "digital" signals. Think of this as two people speaking to each other in two completely different languages. In order for each person to understand the other, there needs to be a translator in the middle to translate each word. When transferring a videotape to DVD, this translator is what is called an "analog to digital converter." This converter sits between your computer and your VCR and converts the VCRs analog signal to a digital signal your computer can understand.
Buying a Converter
There are a wide variety of analog to digital converters out on the market and they range from cheap to pricey. Unfortunately, like everything else in the computer world, you get what you pay for. The cheap converters tend to lack video quality or the audio lags behind the video so my best advice is to read as many reviews before purchasing. Also make sure your computer is compatible with the converter as not every converter is compatible with every computer (hence why our convert is still running on a Windows XP machine....shhhh don't tell anyone!).
The second piece to converting your videotape is software. Just as there are a myriad of converters out there, there are also a myriad of software companies selling conversion software. The more expensive converters will more than likely come with software already which eases the purchasing process a bit.
Converting Your Tapes
Now that you have everything purchased, it's time to convert those tapes! My first word of advice when transferring a videotape to DVD is to check the tape before converting. This is a simple step that many people miss and can lead to disaster if the tape breaks. On the side of most videotapes is a small button you can push which releases the flap protecting the tape. Take a quick glance and check to make sure the tape isn't crinkled or torn. If you notice this, take your tape to a reputable company to have the tape repaired before putting that tape in your VCR.
If your tape checks out, follow the instructions that came with your software to get your program up and running. Hit that record button (on the program) and go do something, anything, while you wait for your tape to transfer. I recommend coming back every 30 minutes or so to check the tape to make sure nothing has happened. Your tape could take up to 8 hours to transfer (transferring videotape is a 1:1 deal) since for every minute of footage, it takes a minute to convert.
After your tape is converted, the fun part begins. At the beginning and end of every tape there is what we all came to know as "snow." To make your transfer look the best, I recommend editing out that footage to give yourself the cleanest looking transfer.
Now you get to decide if you want to put that footage onto a DVD, memory stick or save it to your hard drive. That's your decision and I'm staying out of that one!