How to Convert VHS to DVD

VHS Video cassette tapes on wooden table

They’re so plentiful, you can find them at garage sales across the U.S. for as little as 25 cents and at thrift stores for a buck. Of course, a few rare VHS tapes may command much higher prices because they’re coveted by collectors. Today, it’s hard to imagine that VHS was considered a groundbreaking technology when the format was introduced to the U.S. market in August 1977. Two years earlier, Sony had introduced the Betamax, but in its first year, VHS carved away a huge profit from its predecessor and came out the victor, soon thereafter. By 1987, about 90% of VCRs sold in the U.S. played VHS format.

Sony created the first DVD player in 1994 and released the first machine in the U.S. three years later, yet VHS continued to rule for a few years until the price of DVD players decreased. A History of Violence was the final major Hollywood movie produced in VHS format in 2005, essentially bringing an end to the VHS dynasty.

VHS and DVD Fun Facts

• The first three American movies released on VHS were The Sound of Music, Patton, and M*A*S*H* at a cost of $50-$70 each
• The widely panned 2012 horror flick V/H/S/ featured a group of misfits who stole a rare VHS tape, then uncovered gruesome tales when they played the footage
• In 1997, Twister had the notable distinction of being the first movie released in DVD format
• By December 2006, more homes in the U.S. had DVD players than VCRs


Tips for Converting VHS to DVD

If you choose to do this yourself, here are your equipment options:

1. DVD/VCR combo player
2. VCR, DVD recorder, and RCA cables
3. VCR, a computer with or without a DVD drive, and analog-to-digital converter

While a few new DVD/VCR combo models are still offered online, they’re prohibitively expensive. Moreover, hundreds of gently used models are listed on eBay and Amazon or you might luck out and find one at a local thrift store. Like any used electronics, buyer beware—do some research and make sure to inquire if everything works, including the remote.

Before you start converting VHS tapes, check to make sure they are in good condition and all the equipment is working properly. The last thing you want is for a used VCR player to mangle your movies. You may still be able to find a VCR cleaning tape, but if not, unplug the machine and follow these simple instructions.

If you choose the third conversion option, the first step is to install the software that came with the converter to handle the transfer. Connect the two devices using the converter, then start the process of transferring the footage. It can take some trial and error if you need to edit out specific segments of the movie. You can store the converted files on your computer (which takes up a lot of space) or burn the movies on blank DVD-R discs using reasonably priced software you can purchase and install on your computer.


Benefits of Converting VHS to DVD

• More compact format
• No need to rewind
• Higher resolution and quality
• Can handle more data
• More durable format not subject to degradation
• Can easily share digital formats (e.g. MP4) with friends and family


DIY vs. Using a VHS to DVD Service

Sending your VHS tapes to a professional conversion company can save you time and aggravation. A quality service will take steps to ensure that the final output is as good as or better than the original, by:

• Correcting the color (which likely shifted over time)
• Omitting empty footage
• Removing tracking errors
• Stabilizing images
• Organizing the entire movie into chapters with handy titles

Unless you have nostalgia for a somewhat clunky technology that doesn’t possess any of the appeals of other vintage technologies (e.g. vinyl music and Polaroid cameras), gather up your best VHS tapes and convert them today.