VHS to Digital Setup Questions


Novice Member
Hello AV Forums,

I come to you with a long standing desire to build my own VHS to digital setup, not having made the leap thus far. There is an ocean of data out there on the merits of one system/unit over another, the hazards and perils of old tapes and the delicateness needed to convert them safely and properly. Part of the reason I've put it all off this long is how daunting it is to stand in the middle of that ocean of information, not knowing up from down, leaving me overwhelmed. Of the many matrix disks I've long wished to jack into my skull for rapid upload, the world of AV ripping/encoding/conversion/etc. has long been a high ranking one.

In getting back in the saddle to do research on this topic for the umpteenth time, I have found your community, which seems a helpful and informative place. With that in mind, I wonder if you would be so kind as to help a greengill like myself to a: determine the most appropriate hardware for my needs, and b: suggest reputable sources/retailers from which such equipment could be obtained. Those needs are really nothing more than taking rare and hard to find media from one or more VHS formats to digital, retaining (if not improving) as much audiovisual quality as possible in the process. My ideal unit would have features capable of addressing/correcting for certain common kinds of damage/decay/noise/aberrations present on old magnetic media, with full recognition of the lipstick-on-a-pig reality of certain tapes.

I've had some dirt simple composite to digital adapters recommended to me in the past, as well as newer DVD/VCR combo decks, but I would be surprised if that's enough to produce archival grade digitizations of analog media. Perhaps "archival grade" is and will likely remain well outside of my skillset and I should abandon such lofty hopes. Maybe that is another question you fine folk can answer for me: with a mind as novice as mine, what level of quality is realistic to aim for?

Many thanks in advance for your consideration and advice,



Well-known Member
Something like JVC HR-S7XXX are supposed to as good as you are going to get,

For capture, black magic did some decent devices.


Novice Member
it's rather frustrating to try to understand the differences between all these JVC models when the descriptions repeat "best" and "top of the line" for several of them.

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Distinguished Member
I've read that component video is preferable to composite. Is this true?
Yes, but vhs is recorded with separate chrominance and luminance, so a component output - either RGB or YUV will be transcoded from the original signal anyway. S-video or Y-C is as far as you need to go.

A good quality player, well serviced, with heads in reasonable condition is required along with a high bandwidth time base corrector, standards converter and proc amp is the basis of your signal chain. This wants a high quality monitor calibrated to EBU spec so that you can ensure that the signal you are feeding into your capture device is as clean as possible. A Panasonic 76 or 77 series commercial SVHS player with built-in TBC would be excellent if you don't need multi standard, or the JVC mentioned above would be almost as good and will give you NTSC as well as PAL. A few different machines will help to increase compatibility across a wider selection of tapes, as some tapes will always play back better in one machine over another.

Prepare tapes first. Using a machine you don't use to capture, fast forward and rewind the tape to position it on the spindles correctly. Inspect the tape after you have done this for any shed oxide. If you see any, set the tape aside, as it will cause head clog and potential damage to your play back deck.

To capture, get a high end desktop pc and internal capture device, ideally with built-in hardware encoding. Black Magic is good, but an old Canopus Edius or Avid card might be better. Capture at full frame 720 x 576 for PAL and use the audio controls to set a good level. Use minimal compression on capture if you intend to edit the tape, DV standard AVI is a good starting point. This will consume about 1gig for 4 minutes for raw capture as an AVI, so either have some large drives to hand or edit and re-encode as H264 or something much more efficient.

Think about what you are saving to. DVD R discs have a shelf life of maybe 20 years if stored correctly and about 20 minutes if you leave them in the sun! Online cloud storage is a good option, so consider Dropbox or another provider. If you store to local hard drives, back them up and physically label the contents.

Hopefully this helps!
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I have done this job years ago. I preferred a DVD recorder than a pc. I tried on a pc but I needed more RAM and a better processor. The video was choppy and of bad quality.
A Sony 6 head 7 series and a panasonic DVD recorder that I cannot recall the model now because I have it in storage. Then I transfered the videos on my pc. We have better and faster pc's now but I have finished so I havem't tried again.
Excellent results.
The problem now is how to preserve the video recorders a have plenty of them. They need new belts once in a while and have to be serviced.

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