I have found that most software companies like to promote how easy it is to transfer your VHS tapes to DVD when using their software. Although their products do make this process very easy, I have found that the final video on DVD is worse then the original VHS tape. After trying several common VHS to DVD software products I became frustrated that I could not achieve the original video quality of the original VHS tape. DVD technology surpasses VHS tapes by a long shot and in my mind there is no reason why there should be any degeneration of video quality after the transfer. After much trial and error and hundreds of hours spent I have written this article. This article reviews three (3) popular software products and describes a method on how to convert your VHS tapes to DVD while achieving little to no degeneration in video quality on the final DVD.
Common Software Products Tested:
Three (3) software programs were tried:
1. Roxio VHS to DVD
2. Homestech 4.0 VHS to DVD
3. Pinnacle Systems – Dazzle DVD Recorder
The above software packages were the most popular and seemed to be very attractive to get the job done. They were available at local computer stores and were also the most popular software packages found within internet search engines. The above software packages use a small USB device that allows the VCR to be connected to the computer. The USB device converts the analog signal to digital before sending it into the computer. The final DVD produced by each of the three (3) products was less quality then the original VHS video. The software that came with each of the packages installed properly and was working fine. The Pinnacle Systems product did not come with a driver. Their website did not have any drivers. After several hours I could not get the Pinnacle product to work at all. The other 2 products were returned due to the video quality being noticeably lower then the original VHS tapes. It was determined that the digital signal produced by each of the small USB devices was a major cause of the final DVD being of poor quality. It was also determined that the software in each of the packages contributed to the final DVD to also have lower video quality then the VHS tapes.
Final VHS to DVD Process Used:
After trying and then returning each of the software products above, I spent many hours researching this task. I have managed to talk to some video experts and read hundreds of forum posts. The final process to convert VHS to DVD with little to no degeneration in video quality was:
1. Use the Canopus ADVC-300 Advanced Digital Video Converter to convert the VCR output to digital format. This unit needs a firewire connection on your PC.
2.Use a free software called “Win DV” to capture the digital video (DV) and create AVI files on your hard drive. Capturing digital video software only captures to AVI files. There isn’t software available that captures directly to MPEG files which is what you need for DVDs. Additional file converting is necessary.
3. Use “Canopus Procoder 3” to split the AVI files into M2V video and WAV audio files.
4. Use “TMPGEnc MPEG Editor” to combine the M2V video and the WAV files into MPEG files.
5. Use “TMPGEnc MPEG Editor” cut and remove portions of the MPEG files if needed.
6. Use “TMPGEnc MPEG Editor” to author and create the final DVD’s
The Canopus ADVC-300 is a unit design specifically for converting analog to digital signals from VCRs. It has several built-in filters designed to filter out common noise that is found on video tapes before it encodes the digital signal. Though trial and error I have tried all combinations of settings of these filters. These filters made no improvement in the final DVD quality. The 3D filter left a ghost trail behind objects as the camera panned. The 2D filter and the Y/C separation had no effect at all. My final DVD’s were created with all of the filters turned off. Although I didn’t use the filters, it is highly recommended that everyone try all combinations of these filters for each of their tapes. Every VCR recording has its own unique noise characteristic. One combination of filter settings does not work for all tapes so you need to experiment with these filters.
The output file settings on the Procoder were:
1.Quality/Speed: High Speed
2.Bitrate Type: Variable Rate (VBR)
3.Number of Passes: 2 Pass.
4.Video Bitrate: 4500 kb/s
5.Max. Bitrate: 7000 kb/s
6.Min Bitrate: 2000 kb/s
Increasing these numbers may make your final DVD non-standard compliant.
Why do many of the popular software programs degrade the quality of the original video? This requires an understanding each of the processes involved:
1. Convert the original signal from analog to digital.
2. Encode and create a file from the digital signal.
3. Convert file to MPEG file format.
4. Convert MPEG file to VOB files for use on final DVD.
Whenever there is an encoding or conversion process a “codec” is needed. A codec is a technical term that can be best described as being an interpreter between two different speaking languages. Most language interpreters have an accent. This accent is the interpreters’ own degeneration of the language they are interpeting to. Some interpreters have heavier accents then others. Very few interpreters have no accent. Since converting a VHS tape to a DVD involves more then one interpretation, or conversion, the opportunity for degeneration will always be present. The conversion process needs to be programmed by the software developer. The less the accent, or degeneration, the more time, knowledge, and skill are required on behalf of the programmer who is creating each of the codecs within the software programs. The three (3) software programs that were tested and returned cost around $ 50.00. The developers are not going to spend excess resources on a software program costing this little.
So how one to know which software is converts the best? You don’t. The only way is through lengthy, timely, and frustrating trial and error. The author of this article went though months of trial and error and reading forum posts from many experts. The purpose of this article is to give you a way to convert your VHS tapes to DVD with near perfect quality while sparing you the timely trial and error.
The Final Cost:
Although they cost around $ 50.00 dollars, the three (3) software packages tested earlier in this article have poor conversion and are not worth using if you are trying to achieve the best quality in converting your VHS tapes to DVD. I have purchased the ADVC-300 converter, Procoder, and TMPgenic software from eBay totaling about $ 550.00. After all VHS tapes were converted the ADVC-300 and software was sold on eBay and the net cost was about $ 120.00. Although the up-front cost of the equipment and software may be non-desirable, your final cost is well worth having the best quality of your old video tapes on DVD.
The PhotoWalk Egg in China
Image by Stuck in Customs
We had a great PhotoWalk in China! It was really so amazing… it was nice to meet so many people while having a great sunset on The Egg. I’ve been to this place many times, so I felt lucky to have good weather. Upcoming, I have a behind-the-scenes video of how this photo was made as well. I’ll try to get that up in the near future, but please feel free to remind me… I get overloaded sometimes!
– Trey Ratcliff
Read more here at the Stuck in Customs blog.