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Preserving VHS Recordings For Another 20 Years? 605

efedora asks: "I have about 650 hours of VHS tape going back about 20 years (no, not my porn collection) and the tape is starting to deteriorate. What are the best options for preserving the contents? Quality is important but not critical, so long as it's close to the original. Very low labor cost/time and simple operation. are important. Is there an easy way to do this?"

"Some of the ideas I've had so far are:

  • VHS to VHS tape with an analog 'clean up' box between the VHS machines. This would give me the same number of tapes but should last another 20 years. Quality will degrade.
  • Burn DVD's direct from VHS tape. I have software that will do this. Expensive and the DVD's won't even hold a VHS tape if it's 2 hours long. Good quality with no degradation.
  • Burn VCD's. I don't know of any simple direct-to-VCD software that will do this so there would be a large labor overhead. Good quality with some degradation. Cheap.
  • VHS direct to cheap IDE drives. Good quality with no degradation. Relatively cheap. Probably could use the same technique as burn-to-dvd."
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Preserving VHS Recordings For Another 20 Years?

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  • DVD (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kai_MH ( 632216 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:32PM (#5896496) Homepage Journal
    I've really found that getting a Pinacle Video-editting compatible card and software is helpful. I've converted the majority of my VHS collection to DVD for a relatively low price... WHich comes out to be less than I spent on all the VHS.
    • Re:DVD (Score:4, Informative)

      by rkz ( 667993 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:54PM (#5896777) Homepage Journal
      I agree with the DVD idea. get one of these []
      hook it up to your VCR. Most people are suggesting stupid solutions with Video cards and Video editing software which end up costing around the 600$ mark anyway so for this extra ease of use you cant go wrong. Hey and its Phillips a cool electronics company.
      • by BigBlockMopar ( 191202 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @11:17PM (#5898202) Homepage

        Most people are suggesting stupid solutions with Video cards and Video editing software

        I agree.

        Okay. I used to work in a TV station.

        DVD is the big thing right now, but history has proven that formats with meteoric rises (as in, DVD went from nowhere to everywhere in four years) is that they have meteoric falls. Case in point: 8-Track tape.

        Every day, someone builds a shorter wavelength blue laser, and someone else builds a better compression algorithm, or even a better copy-prevention scheme. How long until the DVD format is revamped or replaced? Will the new players play the old discs?

        VHS was introduced in about 1977, and home VCRs didn't achieve anywhere near the market penetration of the DVD player for 15 years. CD players took almost 10 years to achieve ubiquity.

        Here's what's done at TV stations. We store the tape carefully. That's it, that's all. Now, TV stations buy good tape and use good video formats (ie. no crap like VHS with its ridiculous tape wear). The average VTR in a TV station is in the range of $10,000.

        The video is saved in a tape format which will be around in 20 years. You can still find an Ampex Quad machine to play nearly 50 year old tape; almost every large city will have at least one in a video production house or tape archive.

        Local stations tend to run Betacam SP or Digital Betacam. The investment in video formats is huge, most TV stations will stick with whatever format they chose for years after it became obsolete.

        As recently as 1993, I was carrying around an Ikegami camera and a 40 pound Sony BVU-110 3/4" VTR handing off my shoulder. The battery belt for the VTR and the sun gun was another 20 pounds. Meanwhile, the bigger stations in my area were all running around with single-piece Sony Betacam ENG setups.

        Interestingly, there's one video format that you can take anywhere in the world, and any TV station or production house can use it: 3/4". Razor sharp analog pictures, very little generational loss, good and fast tape speed. It's Beta's big brother, but it's old now, so the tape and the machines can be found used all over the place.

        Why not pick up a 3/4" deck? You don't need anything fancy, just make sure it will take the full-size (not just portable) 3/4" cassettes. The tape is cheap enough, the machine will last forever, and you won't be able to visibly see any image degredation from VHS. Hell, if the stuff was recorded 20 years ago, the VTRs at the TV station you were recording were probably 3/4". Look for a 25-year-old "U-Matic" machine, preferably from Sony (popular enough to be easy to service), top-loading is fine. Record a couple of DVDs to it - if it's working properly, most people could never tell the difference. Newer U-Matic SP machines are even better. Watch out for the machines which are player-only, and for the ENG machines which only take the small cassettes. (3/4" cassettes come in two physical sizes, but the full-size machines will play both sizes.)

        Tape storage - this applies for all formats, including the lowly VHS:

        • Note that tape != cassette; tape is the stuff inside the cassette.
        • Wind the tape from one reel to the other every year. Don't rewind it back if you come to the end of the tape, just leave it like that until next year's winding. You want to ensure the tape is evenly packed and doesn't stick together, but don't wear it unnecessarily. If it's VHS, use an old machine which doesn't thread the tape around the heads for fast-forward or rewind (ie. less wear). When you're done watching something from your archive, wind it *all the way* forward, then rewind it *all the way* with no interruptions for a smooth packing.
        • Store the cassettes on their edge, not flat! If you store it flat, the edges of the tape will rest on the reel; if you store it on edge, the tape will hang on the reel. Flat-stored tape will often develop rippled edges, leading to problems reading linear audio, control and timecode tracks.
        • Keep your machines well maint
        • by MidnightBrewer ( 97195 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2003 @12:21AM (#5898493)
          I worked in a television production studio for the last five years as well. I learned that my professional requirements and the requirements of your average home user are two different things.

          What works for a studio does not work for everybody else (not to mention that the way television studios currently work, with all of the details mentioned above, is incredibly antiquated.) This is a situation perpetuated by seasoned producers who can still edit a mean tape-to-tape session but have no clue what to do with a non-linear editor. I respect their ability, and the necessity for something that works reliably every time five minutes ago, but that's when your job depends on it. In the home user arena, there are already far better options that are just as reliable, they just require an investment of time to get everything set up.

          Once you know what you're doing, you can just zip on through faster than the conventional methods will allow. Just as reliable, way faster, and with access to your video catalog using search functions built right into your operating system. It also requires a fraction of the physical storage space and is far more attractive to look at.

          To summarize: DVD sky-rocketed because it filled a void. You're far more likely to find a DVD player with backwards compatibility than you are a VCR. Also, a lot more can go wrong with a video tape stored properly than a DVD stored properly.

          I'd suggest making the software investment (with the exception of the hardware needed to import the movies, most of this can be done with freeware, shareware, or open source software if you're using something like OSX.)

          VHS is going to be poorer quality already compared with a lossy format such as, say, a MPEG-2 compressed movie, or even a high-quality Divx. You could also use the DV format for good compression, and it's already compatible with modern DV video cameras. I had a lot of success with it when working on a spot for ESPN last fall, and had no trouble passing it on to my producer for use in an Avid editing system.

          MPEG-2 is the same format as used on commercial DVDs. It gives you the option of burning a DVD that can be dropped straight into a standard DVD player.

          If you use some other format that gives better compression but requires a computer for playback, consider video mirroring to a TV and playing back on your computer (again, on the Mac, this is ridiculously easy, and there are video cards for the PC that offer similar capabilities.)

          If you want to dedicate a hard drive to storing these movies, go for it, but consider a tape backup (not the VHS kind ;-) to make sure the data remains secure. I'd even suggest storing it on an external drive - perhaps one using Firewire (IEEE 1394) so that you can easily move it around and get incredibly fast transfer rates.

          If the tapes are worth it to keep around for another twenty years, I'd go with the hardware investment and go the DVD or hard drive route myself.
        • Keep each cassette in its case, in a ZipLock baggie, with a fresh silica gel packet (like hard drives are shipped). Avoid temperature extremes and sudden temperature changes.

          Too late for me... in Hong Kong for several months we have 95% humidity. All my "old" (more than 6 months) tapes have mould growing inside the cassettes. Same happens to hard disks if you aren't using them. Even my monitor gets freaky and turns itself off several times before it warms up and dries out. If you can't guarantee a control

        • by aaaurgh ( 455697 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2003 @01:32AM (#5898780)
          If it's VHS, use an old machine which doesn't thread the tape around the heads for fast-forward or rewind (ie. less wear)

          I can't agree about the old machine. Most older/cheaper models of v.c.r. run the tape at high speed until the optics detect the clear header tape at each end, then slam on the brakes (with that painful sounding thump). Modern, (higher cost) recorders user the relative spool rotation speed to identify position and slow the tape down as it reaches the end of a wind/rewind. Hell, our latest unit rewinds at 750x play speed! It can completely rewind a E180 in under a minute, you hear it decelerate from a high speed whine to a crawl before a gentle click.

          The result is that older units tend to stretch the start/end of tapes far worse than modern ones and may also tighten the outer winds of tape due to the braking action, potentially rucking/rippling the inner winds slightly. You should also avoid tapes longer than E180 (3 hr.) as the tape thickness is reduced significantly beyond this length to fit them on the spool, which can lead to more stretching.

          Try to keep the tapes in a dry and cool (but not cold) constant environment. If there is enough moisture around and the temp. varies enough you'll get condensation which can lead to mould between the tape layers.

          Finally, obvious though it may sound, check the walls and floors with one of those wire/pipe/stud detectors the electricians use to ensure there are no live mains cables within about 0.5m of the storage area. I lost a heap of audio tapes some years ago when I didn't know there was a lightswitch on the far side of a wall behind the storage case.

    • Re:DVD (Score:5, Informative)

      by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:42PM (#5897235) Homepage
      The problem with "converting it to DVD" is that what you probably REALLY mean is "converting it to DVD-R" ... and, say what you want, but I haven't actually seen much evidence that says a piece of DVD-R media is going to last any longer than a VHS tape. Those in the know say you want to be really careful about scratching it, and especially about exposing it to light.

      There's plenty of DVD players on the market that don't support it, besides ... even the DVD-ROM drive on my old PowerBook G3 won't read it.

      DVD-R is a nice development, but it's yet to prove itself as a viable archival format, IMHO.
      • Re:DVD (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Wateshay ( 122749 ) <> on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @09:52PM (#5897694) Homepage Journal
        The DVD may not last longer than the VHS, but it won't degrade form generation to generation. A 5th generation VHS tape is almost unwatchable, but a 50th generation DVD is just as good as a 1st generation one. As for the problems with reading it, I think that most new hardware won't have a problem, and certainly the burner he uses to make them shouldn't have a problem reading them.
      • by Chordonblue ( 585047 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2003 @02:42AM (#5899035) Journal
        I think we all know that there will be better formats in the future. No question about it and the wait won't be long.

        The question of format type for software (MPEG 2/4, DiVX, whatever), is a good point, but starting with the most lossless format possible will help maintain maximum quality with any needed conversions later.

        Besides, your average MPEG2, even at a medium bitrate, is overkill for old VHS material. We're not talking about anything more than 240 lines of resolution (on a good day), after all.

        Ah, but what about the media itself? Well... So what if that DVD-R doesn't store beyond 5-10 years? If the digital transfer process has been done at a point where the VHS is still viable, this won't matter much. A few years after the transfer, go ahead and copy your DVD-R
        s to your new Blu-Ray discs. You should be able to fit about 10 DVD-Rs each, if I remember correctly.

        Then 10 years later transfer ALL of it to Holocube or whatever.

        I do video archiving for the school I work for, and this is my stated plan. We use DVD-R because it's cheap, and when properly stored should last until the 'Next Big Thing'.

        I would be more worried about VHS analog degradation than digital format obsolesence for one reason: time of transfer. How long will it take to transfer a two hour VHS tape? Yup. 2 hours. How many tapes does this guy have? How long will this take? How long should he wait - this material is DYING in front of him!

        How long will it take to copy a DVD? Hmmm. Depends on what year you're talking about doesn't it? 10 years from now, you'll probably be able to copy your entire library of material in mere minutes! You can have copies of the copies; no loss in quality, plenty of redundancy.

        That's a very real advantage. With analog there is continual loss (more if the tapes are actually played). the longer you wait to convert the material, the more video will be distorted. With digital, it's already converted and then it's just a factor of time for file copying.

    • Re:DVD (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nogami_Saeko ( 466595 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:46PM (#5897270)
      I'd look-into a standalone set-top DVD recorder. Expensive initial investment, but about as simple as you can get. Easier than running through the PC - just throw a blank in and let it burn.

      Depending on the manufacturer and model, you can set the bitrate so that 2 hours should fit with fairly reasonable quality (in the 5Mbps range off the top of my head, which should be plenty for a VHS source).

      Newer units should have no problem with generic DVD-R blanks that run in the $1-2 range.

      If you want to spend a little more money, Pioneer has a new "industrial" dual-burner model coming out with a built-in 120gb HD for storing video until it's ready to burn. Also has simple editing features I think. Cost is estimated at around $3,500 according to the magazine I read.

      Even still, 650 hours is a LOT of work. I don't envy that task.

      Fortunately 80% of my own VHS collection is just movies I've taped off of movie channels and the like - no great loss as I'll replace most of them on DVD eventually anyway.
  • by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:33PM (#5896500) Homepage
    You do have a porn collection then, just not on 20 year old VHS? Presumably you had the good sense to write that to something durable, like microfiche, or laminated paper.
    • by sbaker ( 47485 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @10:10PM (#5897787) Homepage
      If you are going to archive your pornography - you'd better make sure you archive a pornograph or you'll have nothing to play them on.
  • Old axiom (Score:4, Funny)

    by Bendebecker ( 633126 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:33PM (#5896506) Journal
    If it ain't porn, it ain't worth it.
  • ATI All In Wonder (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cruciform ( 42896 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:33PM (#5896507) Homepage
    Buy an all-in-wonder card, hook up your VCR to the video in, and you're on your way.
    You can pick up an 80 gig drive for very little money these days, so just divx the video up.

    Should cost less than 200 bucks, maybe more if you really want to preserve every pixel of visual integrity.
    • Chances are DivX won't last 20 years.
      • by Cruciform ( 42896 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:38PM (#5896580) Homepage
        true, but neither will most storage media.
        they can store the player software and codecs on the same hard drives, and when the next leap is required at least they'll be ready.
      • by The Turd Report ( 527733 ) <> on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:39PM (#5896587) Homepage Journal
        But, what *will* last 20 years?
      • by dvdeug ( 5033 ) <dvdeug@em[ ].ro ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:22PM (#5897069)
        Chances are DivX won't last 20 years.

        I can run binaries for the PDP-11 and play old Atari and Commodore 64 games, and old Amiga tunes on XMMS. But all the geeks who have hours and hours of anime and TV shows and porn in DivX are going to be unable to port the DivX codec to whatever system were running in 20 years, and not even be able to run xine under a x86 emulator? I regard that as very unlikely.
      • by Cheffo Jeffo ( 556675 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:28PM (#5897122)
        Better question is "why 20 years ?" ...

        VHS has been great in the absence of options that are easier to move forward.

        Now that you're thinking digital, why not think about 2-5 years and, since it's digital you can batch-convert everything to the next best thing.


    • by 1nt3lx ( 124618 )
      As the subject says. The card just doesn't work for more than 10 minutes. Value edition, feh.

      Otherwise this is a really good idea, I thought about doing it myself. I was trying to record the simpsons but my whole system just froze up. Tried all the drivers, different video cards, not worth it.

      My boss purchased a unit which has VHS and a DVD burner on it for around $600. Very high quality recordings too. He found it in an electronics catalog or something, he talks a lot though so I don't remember the
      • Things not to get (Score:5, Informative)

        by Jucius Maximus ( 229128 ) <m4encxb2sw@snk[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:31PM (#5897141) Journal
        Here's a short list of some other things to avoid:

        -Any Dazzle products. Especially the DVC-80. The price is right but this piece of trash is so terrible that it does not even belong in the trash. The FireWire DV Bridge is decent, but it has severe problems with slightly unregulated power source. And the only thing worse than dazzle products is dazzle tech support.

        -Pinnacle Products. Sometimes they work with excellent results. But they are very unpredictable, with often buggy software and whacked out compatibility problems. If you are starting out and don't have an existing video conversion infrastructure, avoid these things!

        -Adaptec VideOh. It looks good in the surface but I have heard reports of these things acting in a very whacked out fashion.

        So what do you get? Check out the card list at which has a huge list of products with many user ratings which tend to be quite reliable. The best products for converting your VHS to digital format in the lower price range that actually work tend to be the Matrox devices as well as the Canopus ADVC-100. From personal experience, I can say that the canopus (~US$300) kicks serious ass, and I have converted several VHS tapes to VCD with its help. The output from these into the computer can be sent to VCD, SVCD, DVD, etc.

        Also check out which is a low-spam, well populated newsgroup with people who deal with this kind of stuff a lot. I read it regularly.

    • by Ricercare ( 671489 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:57PM (#5897341)
      No matter what you do, DO NOT USE DIVX. I do massive amounts of video editing and this will result in massive amounts of data loss. Also, I'd also suggest against using the ATI AIW. If you must capture, grab a Pinnacle DV500 for best quality, or for lesser quality, grab a Matrox. The ATI card depends on your processor, which cannot hope to compete with the onboard hardware on professional capture cards. Using the ATI card will almost always result in dropped frames and other bad stuff. Also, once captured, DivX and MPEG-1 are bad. They used to be great standards, but now, newer and better codecs have come out. If you use MPEG-4, use XviD instead of DivX. It's more customizable and has beat DivX out in almost every area. Instead of using MPEG-1, MPEG-2 (what .vob files use) would be a far better choice. Personally, if you have the space, I'd go with HuffYUV. Lossless data compression at a price (LOTS of space).
  • The simplest solution is to take a video-in card, for example any of the All-In-Wonder series form ATI, and transfer it over to either VCD (since its likely you already have a CD-burner) or DVD (which is more universally readable in home theater players.
  • Kinda simple eh? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cylix ( 55374 ) * on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:34PM (#5896511) Homepage Journal

    Grab a capture card that can capture to divx format. Since it is vhs, I don't think you would notice much of a problem.

    It doesn't take a studeo genious to use that technology and all that is really required is to choose which medium you want to store it on. Divx solves the basic problem of getting it managable.

    You can toss it on cdr, dvdr, or create a HD storage solution with protections and capacities for your needs.

  • Transfering (Score:5, Informative)

    by Subnirvana337 ( 572385 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:34PM (#5896519)
    Well, DVDs are said to have a shelf life of 50 years, VCDs I would not recomend, VHS tapes and Beta also become brittle. Multi-media backups wouldnt hurt, but if you're on a budget DVD and IDE HDs would probably be best. Remember, DVDs can be scratched so they must be preserved in pristine condition...well, thats my take (no pun intended)...

    good luck
    • Re:Transfering (Score:3, Informative)

      IIRC there was a story here recently, can't remember the link, about how some DVDs are already breaking down after only about 10 years. Plus, it was about commercial DVDs, which are stamped, while any that you burn will use optical dye, which again, IIRC, is a lot less durable than stamping.

    • ...good old fashioned polyester-based motion piture film, when stored at 45 degrees F, easily has a storage lifespan in excess of 100 years without color fade.
  • There is no quick and painless way to do this. The biggest tips I could offer if you are going more for the perseverance angle is to transfer it in the highest quality settings, you can also compress them more at a later date. My other suggestion would be to be sure to use a high quality transfer device, don't use a 10 year old VHS deck, and make sure it is cleaned before you start, and perhaps in the middle too.
  • DV (Score:5, Informative)

    by captaineo ( 87164 ) * on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:36PM (#5896547)
    I would consider DV as a good format for this purpose. Sony makes a series of combo DV/VHS decks (WV-DR5, WV-DR7, and WV-DR9). These have "one touch" dubbing from VHS to DV. You just insert both tapes and press "dub."
  • mpeg 4 - harddrive (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JamesSharman ( 91225 ) * on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:36PM (#5896550)

    You say quality is not critical. I would recommend using an mpeg4 codec (proberbly divx or xvid), if you capture at full vhs resolution (352x240) then you can store image quality that far surprises vcd (and your slightly degraded vhs) quality at about 300meg per hour. 650 hours of tape will bring you upto 195gig. How you store your data is really up to you, but I would recommend getting a couple of 200gig hard drives and keeping two copies for safety reasons.

    You might want to read this article [] on capturing from vhs.

    • by bani ( 467531 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:42PM (#5896632)
      if you capture 240 lines you are effectively throwing away half your vertical resolution.
    • by Y2K is bogus ( 7647 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:41PM (#5897227)
      You know, this whole 352x240 == VHS resolution is such a farse. First, NTSC signals are analog, which means there is virtually infinite horizontal resolution. It's well known that NTSC has 525 lines, which is 262.5 lines per field. Most VCRs are specced at 260lines of resolution, but because they don't have any concept of pixels, it's largely based on the quality of the unit. There are many factors that influence the quality of the recording. Honestly, 720x540 is the minimum acceptable digital analogue of the NTSC spec.

      The biggest problem with the analog to digital conversion is that most units do not convert the interlaced input into a progressive format before recording. Because of this the effective resolution of the digital copy is much degraded. If you want a semi-reasonable dub, you need to perform progressive conversion before downsampling the resolution. You will notice that many PVRs do this, I know that my Replay does.

      The other problem with encoding to digital is the loss of the interframe data. There are 21 lines of information that contains things like captions and program data. These are not preserved by the traditional conversion process. This is where the PVRs get it right again. They will store the data in the interframe area.

      The bottom line is that 1GB per hour of video is the bare minimum quality. 3GB per hour is better, realtime is closer to 4.5GB per hour. You need about 5-6Mbps encoding rate in MPEG to get decent video. 9Mbps is what Superbit is IIRC.

      I'll step off my soapbox now...
      • by nathanh ( 1214 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2003 @01:17AM (#5898716) Homepage
        First, NTSC signals are analog, which means there is virtually infinite horizontal resolution.

        Oh for fucks sake would you freaking idiots stop it with this "infinite analog" bullshit. The NTSC standard allocates 4.2Mhz of bandwidth for the colour signal which works out to 450 "pixels" of horizontal resolution.

        Read this [].

      • VHS != 720x540 (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tweakt ( 325224 ) *

        Honestly, 720x540 is the minimum acceptable digital analogue of the NTSC spec.

        I seriously doubt VHS recorded on a 20 year old VCR is going to output a picture sharper than DVD quality.

        Yes, 720x540 will perfectly reproduce a perfect, noise free NTSC signal. But NOT VHS. Even today's VHS recorders probably only output a usable resolution of 500x400 give or take. I say usable, meaning, that you would extract more pixels than that from it, but it would not increase the clarity of sample.

  • by EMIce ( 30092 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:36PM (#5896551) Homepage
    How about the recently made Ars Technica Guide to Capturing, Cleaning, & Compressing Video []? It was made with exactly what you want to do in mind.
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:36PM (#5896552) Homepage Journal
    Plenty of compaines will put them on DVD for you and go thru the process of cleanup..

    Sure its not cheap.. but your time is worth something and 650 hours of stuff would take forever...
  • by fmaxwell ( 249001 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:36PM (#5896553) Homepage Journal
    Quality is important but not critical, so long as it's close to the original. Very low labor cost/time and simple operation. are important. Is there an easy way to do this?"

    No. There is no way that you can copy 650 hours of VHS video simply, inexpensively, and with little labor. It's going to be time-consuming, expensive, and labor-intensive.

    That said, making more VHS copies seems like a poor idea as they, too, will degrade and machines to play them will cease to be available long before 20 years is up (remember Beta, 8-track, U-matic, and Elcassette?)

    You need to get them into the digital domain and, once there, moving them from format to format is relatively easy.
  • DV to HD or DLT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bani ( 467531 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:37PM (#5896564)
    DV capture device (sony dvmc-da2) and a couple 160-200gb hard drives. Should do the trick. (Does for me)

    Store what you can that will fit onto DVD-RW now, and save the rest for later when larger capacity DVDs come out.

    You can also get a used 35gb DLT drive off ebay and store DV onto that. Tapes are pretty cheap and DLT is pretty rugged.
  • Tricky decision.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by gilesjuk ( 604902 ) <<giles.jones> <at> <>> on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:37PM (#5896566)
    Stick with well known formats that have a future.

    DIVX, XVID etc.. could easily be forgotten in 20 years time, DVD and MPEG2 probably won't be.
  • dvd recorder (Score:5, Informative)

    by XO ( 250276 ) <{blade.eric} {at} {}> on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:40PM (#5896613) Homepage Journal
    Panasonic DVD Recorder [] .. I bought one of these bad boys at their original retail of $700... still well worth it. At $400, only a few months later, it's practically a steal. Media's still fairly expensive, about $3-$12 per disc, in singles.. though I haven't looked around too much for multi-packs.. I mostly have just been using 1 or 2 different DVD-RW discs with it...

    • Several advantages of these puppies:
      1. Comes out looking better due to Time code correction
      2. DVD will hold 2:20 at the next-to-best setting. I can't tell the difference, and some DVDs can't even deal with a higher bitrate.
      3. Record up to 6 hours at a time, then cut it into multiple files. Stick in the tape and walk away.
      4. Use the Hard drive to edit, pull out commercials, then burn to DVD.

      Panasonic DMR-HS2. $800 online, $1000 retail. Only downsides are that you really can't do chapters, and that it'll drop in p

      • Use the Hard drive to edit, pull out commercials, then burn to DVD.

        Nice idea, but I actually *like* having a few 20 year old TV commercials in there. Talk about nostalgia!

        Much of the stuff I've bothered to keep for 20 years is now starting to become availabel on pre-recorded DVDs, so I'm not sure it's worth copying myself. But I've got a 17" 1 GHz iMac with a DVD burner and I'm playing to see if it's worth-while (trying both iDVD and Toast Titanium).
  • by skinfitz ( 564041 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:41PM (#5896618) Journal
    Encode them to DiVX / Quicktime / etc and give them the name "Last Flight of The Osirisxxxx.divx" Where xxxx relates to your program contents.

    Leave them on a P2P file sharing network and watch them fly - they will still be around in 20 or so years doing the rounds- whenever you need them again just download them using any P2P client...
  • MPEG, not divx (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PapaZit ( 33585 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:42PM (#5896636)
    One of the biggest problems that you'll face a few years down the road is finding a player that'll read the format that you choose today. Do you really believe that $TrendyCodecDuJour will be around in 5 years, let alone 20?

    MPEG-2 is used in current DVD players. For that alone, if you go digital, you should store the data as MPEG-2. It's also supported by pretty much anything that's capable of playing video.

    If it were me, I'd use the copying sessions to decide what video really mattered to me. It's a chance to weed out some junk. Anything that I'd keep, I'd burn to DVD-R.
  • Tradeoff (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hendridm ( 302246 ) * on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:45PM (#5896664) Homepage
    I think you're going to have to make a tradeoff between something like this [] (easy, but expensive) or something that requires a bit of work (like All-in-Wonder or Pinnacle capture). I have yet to see a solution that is easy AND cheap...
  • What I did. (Score:4, Informative)

    by RatBastard ( 949 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:45PM (#5896671) Homepage
    I went out and got me a Dazzle 2 board and plugged my best VCR into it and ripped my VHS tapes to DVD. Thr prcess was painfully easy. The only thing I didn't like about it was the DVD authoring software. It was crap. I ended up using A program from ULead. It's not feature rich, but it's reasonably quick and it actually works.

    This is not the BEST solution, but it is a very cost-effective solution, especially if you have an aversion to ATI produtcs like I do.

    I did try using my Hauppauge Tuner card for recording, but results were less than what I liked and you had to convert to MPEG2 on your own.
  • DVD (Score:3, Informative)

    by midifarm ( 666278 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:46PM (#5896672) Homepage
    I got a Phillips DVD-R for Christmas and I can honestly say that tape sucks. I've been able to transfer my old tapes to disc quite easily and it's not expensive. DVD-R's are like $.20 a piece, a small price to pay for long preservation and the ability to set up index points etc.
  • Time Base Corrector (Score:5, Informative)

    by markrages ( 310959 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:48PM (#5896706) Homepage
    I do this for a living [].

    Between the VCR and the capture card, second deck, etc, make sure you use a time base corrector. Don't trust the TBC supposedly built in to the VCR or capture card, get an external unit. Otherwise, audio sync problems will haunt you forever.

    The broadcast video processor [] (also from b&h) [] is also useful for this application. I like to put it before the TBC.


  • archival encoding (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Herr_Nightingale ( 556106 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:50PM (#5896729) Homepage
    capture it to disk encoded with something lossless (huffyuv springs to mind) then archive using DivX 5 Pro CBR encoding. Set DivX to 1-pass, quality-based encoding; set the quantizer to 2 or 3. You should definitely be able to fit a video on a DVD this way.
    I've found VirtualDub to be nice for DivX compression, but VegasVideo has a vastly better interface for 95% of users.. also, the standard compression profiles in VV are OK for non-space-critical applications (eg. burning to DVD) and should replicate your VHS source with no noticeable degradation.

    If you want to take a bit more time and care with your tapes, you might want to create some SVCD sets by running the huffyuv-encoded source through TMPGenc.
  • Related Question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suwain_2 ( 260792 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:53PM (#5896762) Journal
    I've had this long-standing theory that you could play a video multiple times, and merge them to get a higher-quality signal. Obviously, VHS has it limits, but in theory, with the right magic, you could filter out some noise and stuff?

    One time I saw something on a TV show where detectives took a video from a store CCTV system that was almost COMPLETELY unusable. They took it to some experts (at NASA, actually, IIRC), who were able to work out a formula for the horrible noise almost completely obscuring the video, and get pretty good quality video from it.

    Now I realize the original post here wanted a *quick* way to to do, so taking his home cassettes to NASA isn't quite what he wants. But what I'd like to know is... Is there stuff out there that can do what I've described (play a video multiple times and take the best parts from each), or is this just some insane, impossible idea I dreamed up?
    • You are not insane. (Score:5, Informative)

      by GeneralEmergency ( 240687 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:38PM (#5897208) Journal
      I recall seeing a TV news item on this as well.

      As I recall the processing technique did contrast and edge definition enhancement based upon movement within the frame. Items that moved frame to frame became clearer and sharper. Stationary objects did not improve, making this ideal for surveillance cameras.

    • There's more work done on extracting stills using this technique, but the technique could probably be applied to video, if you can get the synchronization right.

      I've had good luck capuring the same frame several times and running it through an averaging filter on a binary combination basis. Some astronomy software packages have averaging filters. If you take 8 stills, average 1 and 2 to a, 3 and 4 to b, 5 and 6 to c, 7 and 8 to d, a and b to A, c and d to B, then A and B into the final image. Seems to gi
  • ReplayTV (Score:4, Informative)

    by Arthur Dent ( 76567 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:57PM (#5896820)
    Low labour, cost, time: pick any two :)

    If you picked low labour and time, try a ReplayTV []. Hook up your vcr to your replay, click record on the replay, start vcr playback, come back 2 hours later. Then get DvArchive [] and stream the recorded show off the Replay onto your pc. The stream is an MPG2 format. Use VideoLan Client to view the stream. Archive as desired.

    Have fun!

  • DVD Recoding Deck (Score:3, Informative)

    by parawing742 ( 646604 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @07:59PM (#5896841) Homepage
    The fastest and easiest way would be to use a DVD recording deck. I have a Samsung (Panasonic) unit that works just like a VCR. Decent quality too, much better than your VHS tape and it's very fast and easy!
  • by StandardCell ( 589682 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:00PM (#5896861)
    I've consulted for video applications for a while now, and I found the best solution is:

    * Relatively fast PC - Athlon XP1800+ or faster roughly.
    * Decent video in card - ATI All-In-Wonder Card (even the non-Radeon AIWs are good for this).
    * Good DVD Burner - Pioneer DVR-105 or DVR-A05 that burns DVD-R. Don't worry about the +/- debate, -R media is cheaper and has virtually the same compatibility as +R.
    * Easy software - Sonic MyDVD is great software that you can capture from and burn to DVD in one app. Plus, if you buy the A05 above it usually comes with this software in a bundle.
    * (the trick) Solid long-lasting archival media - Mitsui Gold Archive DVD-R for longevity.

    I cannot stress the last one enough. It's so easy to get a great system only to flounder on the choice of media because the goal is to keep the videos. The best DVD-R media generally are Mitsui, Verbatim, and TDK. I wouldn't trust anything else. Just capture in 640x480, and you can burn up to two hours at a time. If you want to get really fancy, you can delve into more advanced software, cut bitrates to get additional time, and do ultra slick menus.

  • by jrl87 ( 669651 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:02PM (#5896878)
    Blue laser DVD burners [] will be readilly available and probably cost about the same amount as the current DVD burners. This gives you two options:

    1) You could buy the standard DVD Burner for around a $100(??) and use something such as the All-in-Wonder (~4.7 gigs per disc)
    2)You could buy the blue laser burner for around $350(??) and use the same capture device (~24 gigs per disc)
  • by EverDense ( 575518 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:03PM (#5896893) Homepage
    You CAN store more than 2 hours of video on a DVD, just create the videos
    in VCD format (MPEG-1 video), and store them on a DVD disk. This will give
    you around 7 and a half hours of video per DVD.

    As you are converting from VHS, the quality has probably already degraded to
    the point where using a codec that captures the full PAL or NTSC signal is not
    really warranted.

    One of the new VIVO capable ATI or NVidia graphics cards will suffice for
    capturing the video files (they usuaully come with simple video capture software).

    Then I'd recommend using TMPG Enc to encode the files.
  • by Sebastopol ( 189276 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:03PM (#5896900) Homepage
    seriously, no matter what you do, it will eventually turn to dust...

    the only way to keep data safe would be to constantly keep massive RAID-4+ disk drives constantly checking and correcting mistakes as the disks degrade over time. only through active monitoring of the integrity of the data could you correct errors before they appear. and then spread redundant copies of this all over the known universe so that no planetary activity interferes.

    what am i smoking...

    oh... right...

  • miniDV is a horrible option. Anyone who suggests that hasn't really worked with the format much. It's great for camcorders but not archival of this volume.

    You DO need a good deck. I use an upper-end JVC S-VHS deck with integrated comb, genlock, and digital buffer to stabilize. The importance of a clean incoming signal CANNOT be overstated. Garbage in, garbage out and bandwidth wasted. S-Video is important because it delivers a far higher quality image. Composite video mushes parts of the signal together.

    For the bulk of my straight archival I use an Athlon-based system with USB2 connected to an ADS USB Instant DVD MPEG-2 encoder and an iMic USB sounde device.

    USB2 is important because you need lots of available bandwidth. The iMic uses the same AD/DA chip as some of teh pro Roland devices. Doing the sound grab outside the computer's case helps cut down on noise. (Yes, I use a USB extension and the iMic is "housed" near the VCR.

    Some people prefer the Snazzi USB encoders. I found the ADS, factory refurbished, at TigerDirect for $150. hard to find a hardware capture at that price.

    I've also got a Canon DV camcorder with passthrough and an ATi All-in-Wonder. Neither is a good solution. DV is HUGE compared to the quality of the source and any cheap capture card has poor performance. If you want to spend $1K for a Canopus, well, that's a different story...

    For plain-vanilla VHS and S-VHS you're going to be just fine if you use CVD which is half DVD resolution and is compatible with the DVD spec.

    Which leads to storage medium. You can burn CVDs to CDR if you want. It's cheap because, at least in the U.S., you can find CDRs for full rebate a lot and the drives also. Right now, if you're lucky, you'll find both at Alternately, got to DVD.

    Now, a word about bitrates: Your comment that a DVD can't hold 2 hours is incorrect. Sounds like you tried and captured at too high a data rate for your source.

    If you're willing to re-compress, you can easily use various clean-up filters and get at least as good an image as you have on tape, putting 3.5-4 hours per disc in CVD format on a DVDR. That's not a typo. If you properly use filters the result of cleanup on onld VHS source can be better than the raw version. There are filters specifically to deal with the various colorswim and dropouts of magnetic tape.

    For a list of links and info on hacking the ADS capture device:
    A/V Utils for the Masses!!!
    Curator of links at

    For info on the iMic:

    • wrt the comment somebody else made about capturing at 640x480:

      video pixels are not square and 640x480 has no proper reationship to VHS resolutions. Capture at 720x480 and downsize. You're trying to fit a curve which means you want to sample at a multitude of the initial frequency then downsize to a proper video size.

      640x480 would mean a distortion during the sample then a distortion when you change the size to be standards-compliant.

      Then again, you could also get in a time machine and go beat some sense
  • by jbridges ( 70118 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:13PM (#5896986)
    First you can easily fit 2 hours of video on a DVD-R. Remember, it's 4.7GB. You were considering VCD yet you could fit 6 hours of SVCD quality video on a single DVD-R!

    Second, blank 1X DVD-R discs are 58cents in quantity 100. I picked up 200 Princo DVD-R blanks last month, they work fine in several DVD players I've tried.

  • by The Evil Penguin ( 308976 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:19PM (#5897041)
    "The Philips DVDR-985 will copy DVDs, VHS tapes, TV shows, VCDs, audio music CDs, and more onto DVD+R and DVD+RW discs. Then, it can be played back on DVD players and on your DVD-ROM [computer] drive.

    With this DVD recorder, you can record using video-in (RCA), s-video, or firewire (lEEE1394) connections. It also has a built-in TV tuner for your convenience.

    The most compatible of all recorders, the recorded discs (DVD+R and DVD+RW) can be played on more than 90% of all DVD players and on DVD-ROM computer drives. Also, with DVD+RW, you can erase the recorded disc and re-record onto it again for thousands of times.

    There are four recording modes: DV quality (1hr ), DVD (2hr), S-Video (3hr), and VHS (4hr).

    As an added feature, the DVDR-985 will also play play CD-R, CD-RW, SVCD, DVD-R, DVD+RW, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD, and VCDs.

    And like most stand-alone DVD recorders, the Philips DVDR-985 is as easy to use as a VCR."

    Easy , just not as cheap as you would like to go, bout 700 bucks but i'm sure you can find a better deal as i spent only 4 seconds looking.
  • Archival Mediums (Score:3, Informative)

    by JonBuck ( 112195 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:19PM (#5897045)
    As a library science student I have learned that there is not yet a reliable archival medium materials like this. About the only thing I can think of is film, but that's clearly not an option here. Continually changing formats and technology have made being a librarian very complicated. This stuff is fragile to boot, and its shelf life is dubious. An instructor said that he only expected his DVD to last five years.
  • Outsource? (Score:3, Informative)

    by slagdogg ( 549983 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:24PM (#5897085)
    If your content is non-personal, you may consider outsourcing. Companies like Vidipax (link withheld to avoid spam accusations) offer such services which would save you some time.
  • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:24PM (#5897088) Homepage Journal
    Capture it to MPEG and then change the name to "N_Portman.MPG". It'll never disappear off of Kazaa.
  • easy (Score:4, Funny)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @08:37PM (#5897186) Homepage Journal
    1. watch all of your porn... er, vhs collection

    2. create an oral narrative that captures the heroic and essential nature of your vhs collection

    3. create a religion based upon this oral narrative that centers upon wise men who have committed your narrative to memory from father to son for generations

    4. enjoy your porn collection in the afterlife as a demigod
  • by ArcticCelt ( 660351 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @09:03PM (#5897386)
    Many good ideas here but I think we all act with suggestions like if the world is going to end tomorrow and this is the last chance you have to preserve your video collection. Let's see some facts.

    *You want to be able to see your video in 20 years.
    *You want a cheap, painless and effective strategy.
    *The technology wont be the same in 20 years.

    What I recommend is to put it on a digital media that will allow to preserve good quality and that is easy to access. DIVX on DVD or Hard disk are good choices. I don't recommend CD's because in my opinion to many CD's is a pain in the ass and in a couple of years you will deeply regret that choice. (Like it was for me when I did a clean up in my hundreds of 1.4 Floppy Disks of data.)

    Then in the next 5 to 10 years you will see if DIVX or DVD technology will be in the way to be extinct. At that moment you will be able to easily decide how to transfer your videos to a new format and then maybe you will have better solutions that will last for very long or maybe you will simply transfer your data on another media for another 10 years. The most important is to keep a good quality (DIVX 200 meg/hour will be OK and take around 150 gig) and keep it on a media where it will be easy to access when you want to watch your stuff and will be easy to do the transfer when YOU WILL NEED to do the transfer.
  • by An Ominous Cow Erred ( 28892 ) * on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @09:28PM (#5897550)
    To follow up on what someone earlier said, make SURE you run the output from your VCR through a good professional (or at least semi-pro) external time base corrector.

    If you have a high end consumer video deck, it may have a built-in TBC -- disable it. These consumer TBCs work great on good-quality tapes but can actually mess up your image pretty badly on degraded tapes. Use a real, adjustable professional TBC.

    Not only will it give you a stable signal for capture (preferably with a pro capture card rather than a consumer one), but it will actually make your videos look better when you view them!
  • by Rui del-Negro ( 531098 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @09:43PM (#5897638) Homepage
    If you buy a DV-CAM 184-minute tape and use it in a "plain" DV recorder, it will magically become 4 and a half hours long. This is because one of the differences (in fact, the main difference) between DV and DV-CAM is the tape speed (this is to make DV-CAM more durable; the actual data is the same, you can copy between the two with no loss).

    Not only is DV durable and (reasonably) affordable, it's also extremely easy to capture and manipulate (a DV capture card is very cheap compared to a decent analog capture card). The only expensive part is the recorder itself.

    There is another option that might be cheaper, but I don't know how big the tapes are: Digital-8. The data is in the same format as DV; the main difference is usually in the quality of the equipment (ie, Digital-8 cameras usually have worse CCDs than DV cameras, etc.), but here that probably wouldn't matter much (the AD converter is probably worse than the ones on good DV decks, but I doubt it'll be noticeable with VHS).

  • by lingorob ( 563531 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @10:52PM (#5898032)
    Set the whole lot on fire and forget about it.
  • by diabolus_in_america ( 159981 ) on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @11:02PM (#5898101) Journal
    This is the solution I use. I bought a Leadtek WinFast TV2000 PCI Video Capture card for $29.95. Then made a trip to Radio Shack for the necessary RCA cables. You'll need one male RCA to male RCA for the video and another dual male RCA to headphone jack for your sound card. The cables were about $15.00 for both. So, for less than $50 bucks, you have a solution in place for transferring VHS to a digital format. The cool thing about the Leadtek card is that it includes software that lets you choose the format you want to use. The options are MPEG-1, MPEG-2, NTSC VCD, PAL VCD, DVD, or AVI. It also syncs the audio for you, so you avoid that very time-consuming task of ripping video and audio separately and then having to synch them up again.

    The main thing is getting the VHS tapes converted in some fashion to your hard drive. Then, you really have many choices on how to proceed. I bought a Plextor DVD+R/W drive because I wanted the maximum compatibility with home DVD players. DVD-R is OK, but not quite as reliable as DVD+R, in my experience.

    But a DVD burner is not an absolute requirement if you decide to burn SVCD or VCDs. You can use regular CD-R's which play in most home DVD players. I choose DVD+R just to cut down on the number of discs necessary to transfer a standard VHS tape.
  • by NetSettler ( 460623 ) <> on Tuesday May 06, 2003 @11:27PM (#5898252) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how this entire conversation would be different if the VHS tapes had copyright enforcement like everyone's making now under DMCA. Most of the preservation techniques discussed here sound like they're "fair use", but in the future will they even be possible?
  • by gerardrj ( 207690 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2003 @12:29AM (#5898529) Journal
    Most of the suggestions I saw are to put the video on to some sort of rotational media. Disk drives, or DVD are the two most common offerings.

    There's one thing I think that history has show us is that rotational media go obsolete quite quickly, and when they do the technologies to play them quickly disappear from the marketplace. If you go this route, you will also need to archive the entire playing system, not just the media. In that vein, the TiVo idea is perhaps your best bet. Ex: if you performed this project 15 years ago, you would likely have used MFM or RLL drives, now you can't buy them, their controllers or cables, and I don't think modern hardware or OSes would even know what to do with them.

    Tape has a much longer life-span in the consumer marketplace. Without too much difficulty, one can still purchase an open reel tape deck, an 8 track or cassette player. Try finding a phonograph that plays 78rpm records though. It's damned near impossible.

    I fear CDs and DVDs will get the same treatment. Once the next thing replaces them, their players will disappear from the market. and locating one in 15 years may prove difficult. For instance, once we get enough bandwidth, video on demand may get us to all toss out our DVD players and disks.

    I think the best compromise you can make is to use MiniDV. Especially if you have a compatible camcorder or deck already.
    The benefits are:
    1. No problems dealing with time-code transcoding or creep
    2. No audio sync problems
    3. Digital storage on tape. Later generations will not suffer degradation
    4. Easily imported to computer for duplication or storage on other media (back to VHS for example)
    5. If similar to other tape formats, will endure longer than most rotational media of its generation
    6. You can fit two hours of VHS tape on to an 80 minute MiniDV if you use EP; which on MOST devices yields no degradation of video or audio. I personally have not encountered any more dropouts from EP than from SP on any of four devices I've used.

    I might even import the video from MiniDV to computer, perform some enhancements (sharpness, color, contrast) then write it back out to MiniDV. Then write back out to VHS so you can watch the video on a regular basis. You don't want to use your digital master tape for regular viewing.
  • hdd and vhs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2003 @02:05AM (#5898913) Homepage Journal
    I'd suggest that you copy your vhs originals to a harddrive and then make copies back to vhs for day to day use. That way you have the convience of what you're used to but can continue to produce copies without further degradation.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"