Old school stuff: digitising VHS resources for £26 #uoltech #edtech

Old school stuff: digitising VHS resources for £26 #uoltech #edtech

I don’t know about you, but over here it’s not always iPads (though there is a fair amount of that starting to happen, too). Over the last couple of weeks I was asked by four people from as many departments if there was any way of digitising VHS tapes (provided, naturally, that the persons in question had the right to make copies). Our lecture theatres have fewer and fewer VHS players (understandably, I guess) and sometimes people need to use videos where folks’ haircuts and clothes look a bit funny, but the main ideas are still relevant (after all, if researchers into learning theories can re-jig slightly ideas that were around in the 1960’s and try and pass them as breathtakingly new, why should we throw away good VHS material?).

The solution:

I didn’t choose to change my PC’s video card to allow S-video in signal from the VHS player or get a TV tuner – too much of a hassle. I used a CnM Click & Convert USB device (£25.99 at the time of writing from this website) which has all the cables to connect your VHS via SCART to your PC via USB. It also came with a piece of software called ArcSoft ShowBiz DVD2 which was painless to install and very quick to run.

The default capture format from your VHS player is 640X480 .MPG, but I also tried with a 720X576 setting (the biggest available). I prefer the latter, especially as the size of the output file was pretty much the same for both settings: 39MB for one minute captured.

The Capture & Playback Screen for ShowBiz DVD 2 - here is the Playback mode

Once you’ve digitised your video, you can either take the .MPG files created or you could use the video CD functionality which comes with the software (alongside the DVD creation one; by the way, you can also skip the editing part and simply record straight to DVD but I wanted to go the longer way round). I was woken up quite suddenly (long day, and my eyelids were doing their own thing) when I saw the funky ducks template. Moreover, the compression when writing the video CD also seemed quite impressive: 24MB for two files which in raw .MPG format took closer to 80MB:

Funky video CD template which comes with ShowBiz DVD 2

So there you go, folks. Stay on the right side of copyright laws and know that there is hope out there if you need to digitise VHS tapes quickly and painlessly.

PS: The video in these screenshots is only there because that was the only VHS tape around my office. No copies of the original material were made, distributed, etc.