VHS to digital for Mac


#1

Hi
I am looking at preserving some of our family videos from VHS to digital.
Any of you fine members had any luck with such devices for example:

I have a MacBook Pro 2011/2012 model or Mac Pro 2010 model

Will this dongle work? Which software should I use?

Cheers,
Marcin


#2

G’day,

I haven’t used a box like that one, but presumably it works similarly to my method - using an older video camera (currently use a Canon MVX430 circa 2006; previously a Sony P104E) that includes the option to do “analogue to digital pass-thru”. (VCR plugs into camera via its breakout port / cable, then Firewire into your Mac.)

Hopefully you’ve got a VCR with “TBC” (time base correction) - it will improve the quality of the image. (JVC VCRs in particular often include this feature.) It’s not essential (depending on the source material), but it helps to correct issues such as chroma shift (when the colours of the image don’t line up with the rest of the image), and also “wobbly / wavy” images, where the image has a lot of horizontal distortions.

If the VCR doesn’t have TBC (like my own Sharp VCR), it can be achieved instead by the analogue->digital converter. This isn’t typically a cheap option though; “Canopus” is I think the best known brand for this, but you’re looking at around $600 (!) for one of their boxes that includes TBC (or pick one up second hand to save a few $$). I think it’s safe to say that the $25 dongle you are looking at won’t have TBC (it’s not listed on its features).

In terms of capture software - You could try iMovie, though historically it didn’t like USB input due to the limited bandwidth. This may have changed in the past decade though (!). Found this on Apple’s website - may help with this question:

I use an old version of Final Cut Pro (7). You may be able to track a copy down fairly cheaply now it’s getting old / been surpassed by FCPX, or even look for “Final Cut Express” - a cut down version that is still quite capable. You’ll prob need to watch some YouTube tutorials if you go down that route. There’s a lot of settings etc to figure out, but once you get it sorted, it should do a pretty good job, with lots of functionality.

As I don’t have TBC in the VCR or digitising box, I use a filter in Final Cut to correct any chroma shift. There’s also a filter to help correct other aspects of the image, ie boosting the chroma (colour) if it looks washed out, or reducing it if it looks too much like Charlie & the Chocolate factory. It does not have any way however to fix horizontal wibbly wobbly lines etc…

To directly address your query - for $25 I think the one you are looking at is worth a go, if you can figure out a good software option to go with it. Alternatively there’s options that include capture software, ie

But the price point increases considerably - ie at least $100.

FYI I am by no means a pro at this; but capturing from a VCR has been a long term hobby for me; obsessed about the Quadra 840av for years til I could afford to buy one (1997), and it was literally the first thing I did. When I upgraded from my TAM to eMac in 2004 I specifically also purchased the Sony handcam that had analogue->digital passthru for this exact purpose. Am still learning as I go, but have read a lot of info over the years, especially for Mac based (affordable) solutions.

cheers

cosmic


#3

Thank you so much, your answer is very detailed and has given me few avenues to try out as I just remembered that I have a camcorder that possibly can work as the pass through box :slight_smile:

Really really thank you heaps.

Marcin


#4

If your DV camera has “pass though” this is your best option.
As mentioned, a TBC VHS player or A/D converter box is primo.

USB dongles can be problematic as the resultant files are heavily compressed. These will work but expectations are best not set too high.

Al


#5

You’re welcome :slight_smile: Pet favourite topic of mine…

To give you a visual idea about TBC:

If the footage is in good condition - this may not be an issue… But if it is, then a TBC option is the best hope to make the footage enjoyable to watch again.


#6

Back when I had a lot of VHS and BetaMax tapes to convert I bought a Canopus ADVC 100 and did the basic capture on my 2nd machine using iMove and then importing across into FCP.

Still handy to have when those unexpected tapes pop up. They’re still available via eBay, but pricier than current USB offerings, but mine never missed a beat.


#7

I bought my Sony MiniDV camcorder back in 2005 specifically because it has the RCA passthrough function. I think it’s been used more for that than it ever did cam-cording…

It’s been in a box for a lot of year now, the batteries are completely fried, but last I checked it still powers up just fine (although the tapes all seem blank now?). I keep it around for that day that I need/want to transfer something to digital… although these days that might just be a little harder since I no longer have a machine (or dock) with a firewire connector on it. My sons PC might… I figure that a thunderbolt to firewire adaptor is easy enough to buy should I need it one day.

I’m happy to lend it out to a fellow Mac Nerd and while I live in Melbourne, I should be in Campbelltown for the weekend of the 26th and at Fairfield Showgrounds for the VW Nationals if any of that helps you out.


#8

G’day @The_Hawk; Might take you up on that one day!!!

As per above - I had a Sony consumer handcam from 2004, which we discovered at Uni could read video recorded on the professional Sony DCR300 cameras we used to record our short films. Together with a MacBookPro, we managed to do a lot of editing outside of the busy edit suites :slight_smile:

Unfortunately now I can’t revisit the tapes, as my Canon camera can’t read them. There was one project in particular I always wanted to re-edit…


#9

I found a pic from a few years ago, my camera is a Sony MiniDV DCR-HC42E :slight_smile:


#10

A better model than mine :slight_smile: Well, the one I had, until someone broke into my house and stole it.


#11

I had one of these back in the day but was always jealous of the Sony’s with their ‘passthrough’. The canon’s only ever had the ability to record analog to mini DV tape.

Still, for $95 that’s a pretty good deal…

Speaking of which… MAN I wanted one of these badly at one point! (thought I was going to be a director :man_shrugging:)


#12

My Canon does passthru from VCR to firewire - no tape required.

When I was at Grifith we used Sony - DCR300 and PD170 (“B” camera). After I graduated I did look at a PD170, but HD was just starting to take off, so decided against it. Eventually ended up with the Panny TM900 as per the other thread at the moment, though that was 4 years after grad… Needless to say - I’m no director either.


#13

Something else that you may want to consider…

If your tapes look like mine… they may well need a clean.

If however they appear to be covered in white stuff - ie mould - unless it’s like your wedding tape, just throw it in the bin. Mould destroys the tapes, and easily spreads to the VCR, and then onto other tapes…


#14

Really should try and find someone who could copy this to a digital (prores/MP4v) or DVD?

It’s a FUJI Beridox UMATIC Uni project from 1979 or 80. Borrowed a camera from the ABC. From memory it was a huge over shoulder unit. Shot in full colour in glorious standard definition. I thought it was height of camera development at the time.


#15

Wow, very not familiar with that format. :slight_smile: Not that I know much about professional formats from when I was born. :slight_smile:

There are certainly businesses around that offer various options for transferring various materials… I’m guessing in terms of DIY, the issue would be not just finding a machine that can read the tape, but also communicate with modern tech.


#16

From memory U-matic was one of the first videocassette formats with 3/4 inch tapes. One of my “house mates” worked for the ABC outside broadcast unit. He used a Sony U-matic camera, mainly for the Cricket and Rugby League. I thought this camera was amazing . No need to wait for film to be developed. Editing without cutting and spicing etc. You could dub audio afterwards.

It was all analogue so might need to look if there is a business that does conversions.