How to Capture Analog Video to PCs Using a Capture Card

Digitize and save those old home movies

If you have a box of VHS tapes gathering dust in your closet, you can convert those tapes into a digital format and save the digital files on your computer. Nothing lasts forever, and this way, you won't lose precious memories. Here's how to capture analog video using an external capture card or converter.

The video you capture is only as good as the source from which it came. If the tapes are worn, the captured footage reflects that. Store old tapes in a cool, dry place.

What You Need

You need the following equipment to capture analog video on a computer:

  • A computer.
  • A VHS to digital converter or capture card with RCA/S-Video inputs (such as this one available on Amazon).
  • Video capture software (it should come with the capture card).
  • A VCR or other device to play the analog video with RCA/S-Video outputs.
  • Video editing software such as Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro to edit the video.
  • DVD recording software and a DVD burner to record the video to DVD.
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How to Capture Analog Video to a Computer

Once you have all the necessary equipment and software, follow these steps to convert your analog video into a digital format:

  1. Set up the video capture hardware by plugging it into a USB port on the PC. Power it on by plugging it into an electrical outlet, if necessary.

  2. Turn on the computer. It should recognize the device.

    If the capture device came with software, now is a good time to install it.

  3. Connect the capture device's RCA cables into the source device (such as a VCR).

    If the source device has S-Video output, use that instead of composite (RCA) video output. S-Video delivers a higher picture quality than composite video.

  4. Connect the capture device to the computer using the USB cable.

  5. Open the capture software. It should walk you through the process of beginning a recording. You can create a name for the file you're creating and change a few settings like the aspect ratio and file format.

    Before recording, pack the videotape by fast-forwarding to the end of the tape, then rewinding to the beginning before playing. This allows for smooth playback while capturing the video.

    Video capture happens in real-time, so an hour-long video takes an hour to capture. Plan accordingly.

  6. After the video is captured to the computer's hard drive, it can be imported into a video editing software application for editing or recorded to CD or DVD using CD/DVD recording software and a CD/DVD writer.

If you want to capture lots of videos to burn to DVD, make sure you have a large hard drive, or use a separate hard drive to store the videos.