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Digitizing Video with Ease

By Steve Wildstrom Q: Reader Bruce Jackson writes: I read with interest your article on converting LP records to digital form in the July 11 issue. I have a similar problem. I want to take VHS-C video tapes and get them into digital form. Can you help me?

A: There are services that will transfer VHS tapes to DVDs for you. Do a Web search for "VHS to DVD," and you will turn up a bunch of them. The going prices seem to start at around $10 per two-hour tape.

You can also do it yourself in a couple of ways. One involves a stand-alone DVD recorder, which you can buy for less than $200 these days. You connect your VHS-C camcorder to the DVD recorder via standard audio cables and either composite-video or S-video cables, then play the tape in the camera while recording the input. This, of course, has to be done in real time, so recording a two-hour tape takes two hours.

If you want to do any editing of the tape as part of the transfer, you should employ a PC with a DVD burner. You will need both editing software and a hardware device that will capture analog video from the camera, digitize it, and transfer it to the hard disk on your PC using a USB or FireWire connection. Check out Pinnacle Systems or ADS Technologies for a range of hardware/software packages starting at under $100.

One warning: Transferring from VHS to DVD won't give you DVD-quality video. VHS is inherently lower in quality, and conversion will cause some further image degradation. Wildstrom is Technology & You columnist for BusinessWeek. You can contact him at

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