Digitizing analog videos

Due to the importance of digital cameras and camcorders, classical formats like Video8, Hi8 or VHS were faded out by the consumer electronics industry. Since about 2004 Video8 recorders are no more serviced or supported. Most consumers, however, just realize that their old camcorders have stopped to operate properly and are trying to find a substitute for digitizing their old cassettes.

Today there exist two general options to digitize with a computer: either use a TV-card for desktop computers or an analog USB video device for notebooks. The other computer-free option is: attach the player to a hard disk recorder. For the computer recording and digitizing process I recommend good software like Pinnacle, etc.. Notebook computers in most cases don’t have video cards, so the only choice are special USB devices, offered by several companies. The best option are USB devices with AV-input. Using the antenna is the less recommended option, as the signal has to be converted and reconverted, thus loosing quality.

Most Sony Video8 recorders offer a special advantage for copying and digitizing: the edit function, which optimizes the picture setting of the video to the best available digitizing quality.

The sound of your videos goes via the analog audio in (Micro) into your PC or Laptop PC. Special care shall be taken to the input volume, which normally is set to high, so that the sound is overdriven.

Before playing back your cassettes, they should be completely winded and rewinded with the same VCR you are using for playback. This is especially important, if they have not been in use during the last year. If a cassette has been played only half the way in the cassette, it is recommended to rewind it first, then wind it to the end and rewind it to the start. This way the different tape layers will have the optimum packing and position with reference to the drive of the VCR. Never the less dropouts cannot be prevented entirely. You should watch the video continuously during the digitizing, and check for dropouts and tracking problems, like tape flattering and white stripes at the lower picture margin. Once you find a scene on the tape, where dropouts seem to happen more frequently, a replication of that special scene might help. Should that happen over the rest of the tape, the heads might be dirty. In that case a dry cleaning cassette will help. Sony recommends to clean the heads after 50 hours of use.