Let’s face it: VHS is dead. The problem is that a lot of people still have a huge VHS collection, including all sort of personal mementos like birthday parties, weddings, Christmas, Bar Mitzvahs, trips – you name it. With a PC with a DVD burner, a video capture card (or a video card with VIVO function) and a VCR you can convert all your VHS tapes in DVDs. You may even start working with this and make some money – there is a huge market for this kind of conversion out there for people that don’t want to go through the hassle of converting the tapes themselves. In this tutorial we will show you how to convert your VHS tapes into DVDs. In this part we will cover the hardware part, i.e., the physical installation of your VCR to your PC, including how to install a video capture board to your PC.

To convert VHS tapes into DVDs you will need the following parts:

  • One PC.

  • Enough available space on HDD (minimum of 10 GB recommended) – if you are going to work professionally with this we recommend you buying a high capacity, high performance HDD just for storing the video files.

  • A DVD burner installed on it.

  • A video capture card or a video card with VIVO (Video In, Video Out) function installed on it.

  • A VCR (a stereo “6-head” VCR is highly recommended), system-compatible with the video system under which the VHS tapes were encoded.

  • Audio/Video cable (this is a cable with three RCA male connectors at each end, one yellow, one red and one white).

  • Audio cable (only if a video card with VIVO feature is used, this cable has two RCA male connectors, one red and one white, at one end and a 3.5 mm stereo mini jack at the other end). This is the same cable used to connect a Discman to a stereo.

  • Video capture/editing and DVD authoring programs (they usually come with the video capture board; more on that on part 2 of our tutorial).

  • Blank DVD media (DVD-R or DVD+R).

  • Your VHS tapes (of course!).

The video capture card is the heart of the conversion and it can be internal (the kind we will be talking about), external (installed on a USB or FireWire port, allowing you to use even a laptop instead of a desktop PC for this process) or integrated on your video card (VIVO, Video In, Video Out).

We need to spend a moment explaining how the video capture card works, to avoid common misconceptions. Video capture cards have two major components: a TV and FM tuner and a video decoder chip, as you can see in Figure 1. Video card with VIVO function have only the video decoder chip.

Video CaptureFigure 1: Video capture card components.

As you may have already heard, there are several different video signal coding systems in the world, including NTSC, SECAM and all flavors of PAL. So, if you want to convert a VHS recorded under SECAM system, you need to play it on a SECAM-compatible VCR.

We are very lucky because nowadays virtually all decoder chips available on the market can decode all TV systems in the world. Yes, you are reading it right. This means that you can convert a SECAM tape using a SECAM VCR on your computer, even if you are located in the USA, where the TV system is NTSC-M. By the way, SECAM is the TV system used in France.

However, to capture video directly from the TV system – i.e., record a show from cable TV using your video capture card – your video capture card tuner needs to be compatible with the video encoding system used on your cable TV or terrestrial TV (in the case you are using a regular antenna). So you won’t be able to record TV shows in Germany (where the TV system is PAL-B) using a video capture card using a NTSC-M tuner (standard used in the US).

In Figure 1 you can that the tuner used on our video capture card was an NTSC-M/PAL-M/PAL-N tuner (MTS, Multichannel Television Sound, is an audio standard).

So, the systems listed on the tuner refer only to the tuner itself, having nothing to do with the decoder chip capabilities. Take a look at the diagram in Figure 2 to have a better picture.

Video CaptureFigure 2: How a video capture card works.

Do you still not believe in us? Take a look at Conexant CX23883, Phillips SAA7133 and ATI Rage Theater specs – which are three very popular decoder chips – and see how they say they support all TV standards.

What you need to do is to install your video capture board to your PC and your VCR to your video capture board. Let’s see how this is done.


Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.