BOOT CAMP 465 (27/02/07)
Video Tape to PC to DVD part 2
The first and until very recently, biggest
hurdle for anyone wanting to transfer their aging video tapes to DVD was how to
connect a VCR or camcorder to a computer.
With just a few exceptions PCs have never been equipped to handle
analogue video signals and to this day video input sockets are still a rarity
but it is no longer a problem.
Nowadays there is a wide choice of plug-in
video adaptors and expansion cards; most of them come with basic recording and
editing software and prices start at less than £30. It’s also possible to use
some digital camcorders to do the job (see Tip of the Week) however, before you
dig out those old tapes it is important to make sure that your PC is up to the
Last week I touched briefly on the basic
requirements for video editing and DVD authoring but there’s more to it than
simply owning a multimedia PC with a DVD writer and plenty of free hard disc
space. Video editing is a demanding application and I wouldn’t try it on a PC
with a processor slower than 1GHz or less than 512Mb of RAM, and even that’s
pushing it. A good starting point is a 2GHz or faster CPU, at least 1Gb of RAM,
decent graphics capabilities and USB 2 ports, otherwise you are going to spend
ages waiting for things to happen and run a high risk of jumpy or jittery
You should also take the claims made by
manufacturers of computer video editing hardware and software with a big pinch
of salt. Whilst it may be true that some programs and devices will run on older
and slower computers the results are often disappointing. One final point,
video editing is possible under earlier versions of Windows, and I have several
wonky but watchable discs to prove it, but it’s really not worth effort so if
you are waiting for an excuse to upgrade to a fast Windows XP or Vista PC, now
is the time.
Back now to adding an analogue video input
facility to your PC (see Tip of the Week in part 1 for information about digital
‘FireWire’ connections). The two methods we’ll be looking at are external
‘Capture’ devices and graphics cards with video inputs. The latter makes sense
if you want a dedicated video editing and authoring setup or you are planning
to upgrade your PC’s graphics capabilities, in which case you should definitely
add this facility to your shopping list. Fitting a new video card to a desktop
PC is not difficult but unless you know what you are doing it is better to
leave it to the experts.
The alternative is an external capture device.
Most recent models are USB 2 compatible but they usually still work on slower
USB 1 ports but performance may suffer. Beware of older analogue video capture
devices with a Serial type connector, as they are totally unsuitable for this
sort of application.
External capture device are (or should be) easy
to set up and use and they are convenient for occasional use. They are also a
good deal cheaper than a fancy video card, but there are tradeoffs. They work
best with faster PCs and the picture quality on some budget capture devices can
be poor. The bundled software that comes with cheaper devices often has limited
functionality or they are ‘trial’ or demo versions of commercial programs.
Freebie programs can be a useful introduction to video editing and authoring
but you will quickly discover their shortcomings so budget for some decent
software and just use the capture device for getting video and audio into your
Next week we’ll take a look at the software
options but to finish off this week a quick word about connecting cables.
Virtually all capture devices and cards have RCA/Phono type sockets for both
audio and ‘composite’ video input connection and by convention these are
coloured yellow, for video, and red and white, or red and black for stereo
audio, and it’s usual for the red colour lead to used for the right stereo
channel (red for right…). This won’t be a problem for most camcorder owners as
they normally come with a set of phono-to-phono AV cables, but you might run
into difficulties when trying to connect a VCR. These are fitted with SCART
sockets, so you will need to obtain a SCART-to-phono cable, but be careful, you
need one that is wired for AV output.
Most capture devices and cards also have an S-Video or ‘Y/C’ socket.
This is the video connection system used by ‘High Band’ Super VHS/C and Hi8
equipment, to ensure the best possible picture quality, in which case you
should use an S-Video cable (usually supplied with camcorders and VCRs) for the
Next Week – Video Tape to PC to DVD part 3
Part 1 3 4 5 6
COMPOSITE VIDEO (see S-Video)
Standard video signal connection system used by most analogue
video devices whereby colour and brightness information is carried along a
Euroconnector or Peritel)
Constructeurs d'Appareils Radio Recepteurs et Televiseurs. Plug and socket
system used to carry video, audio and control signals between items of AV
equipment (TV, VCR, satellite receiver etc.)
S-VIDEO (aka Y/C)
‘Separated’ video, higher quality video connection system where
the luminance (Y) and chrominance (C) components are carried on separate wires
to avoid interacting with one another
TIP OF THE WEEK
Some mid-range and high-end Digital Video (DV) camcorders have
analogue video inputs and these can be used to convert VCR and camcorder tapes
into a digital format, either by direct recording onto DV tape, or by using the
camcorder as a real-time analogue to digital converter. Not all models support
this facility but the idea is you connect your camcorder or VCR AV output to
the DV camera’s analogue AV input, and connect the camcorder to the PC using a
FireWire cable (or USB connection, if available).
© R. Maybury 2006, 2102