How to Upload Videos From an Old Camcorder to a PC

There's no need to lose your favorite memories

Shooting video on camcorders has been a great way to preserve precious memories. Many people have copied their videos to VHS and DVD to watch on TV or pass out to family and friends. However, with the demise of VCRs and DVD recorders, the most practical way to preserve videos is to upload (transfer) old camcorder videos to a PC.

The type of camcorder, the connections it has, and the supporting software on the PC determine how videos can be uploaded and saved.

Commonly Used Camcorder Recording Media

Here's a review of the recording media a camcorder may use:

  • Tape: BETA, VHS, VHS-C, 8 mm, Hi8, Digital8, miniDV, microMV, and HDV.
  • Disc: MiniDVD.
  • HDD: Hard disc drive.
  • Memory Card: Compact flash, memory stick, SD, and SDHC.

AV Output Connections You Might Find on a Camcorder

Your old camcorder might have one of two types of AV output connections you can use to connect it to a computer:

  • Analog: RCA Composite and S-Video.
  • Digital: USB or DV, aka iLink/Firewire/IEEE1394.

Analog and Digital Camcorders That Use Tape

Suppose you have a camcorder that uses tape, whether analog or digital. In that case, you need to play the tape in a camcorder or a compatible player and connect that device to your PC to upload the video to your PC, considering the following two things:

  • The PC needs an analog (composite) or DV (iLink) video connection to accept the signal. 
  • When transferring video recorded on tape, uploading is in real time. If the tape is one hour long, it takes one hour to upload from a camcorder or player to a PC.

If the camcorder records in a digital format and provides the DV (firewire, iLink, or IEEE1394) digital connection for transferring audio and video to a PC, the PC needs that type of connection for direct upload. If not, and you can't use the camcorder's alternate analog video connections, install a firewire card in the PC.

Some MiniDV camcorders use an SD or another type of memory card for taking still images. Check your camcorder user guide for details.

Camcorders That Use MiniDVD Discs

If the camcorder records on MiniDVD discs, it may have a USB port (mini or micro USB connection), but some may not. If it has a USB port, you can connect the camcorder to a PC using a standard or mini/micro-to-standard USB cable.

If the camcorder doesn't have a USB port, you may have the option of using standard AV connections.

However, if your PC has a DVD drive with the ability to accept MiniDVD discs, place the disc into the PC's DVD drive and transfer the video to the PC's hard drive without using a camcorder or player.

Camcorders That Use a Hard Drive or Memory Cards

If your camcorder uses a hard drive or memory card to record video and stills, check if the PC has a firewire or USB port, or another option for memory cards, the appropriate built-in card reader. If not, purchase a card reader with the correct slots that can connect to the PC's USB port. 

What to Do When Your PC Doesn't Have the Right Connections

If your PC doesn't have the required connections for your camcorder (most PCs don't have analog video inputs), use an external video capture device, provided your camcorder also has analog AV outputs.

  1. Connect the analog AV outputs of the camcorder to the AV inputs on the video capture device. 

    Elgato Analog to USB Video Capture Device
  2. Connect the USB output of the video capture device to a USB port on the PC.

    If the PC has both USB 2.0 and 3.0 connections, note the optimal version of USB for the device. If the video capture device has USB 3.0, it will support a faster video upload speed when connected to a PC's USB 3.0 port.

  3. Turn on the camcorder to the Playback, VCR, or VTR mode and make sure the PC is on.

    Make sure the tape or disc is at the beginning of the footage that you want to transfer.

  4. Open the video capture or video editing software you want to use.

    Most external video capture devices come with capturing and editing software, such as the example shown below. Depending on the software, it may allow you to remove sections and add titles, chapters, and background music.

    Elgato Video Capture Software – Get Started

  5. Go through any software prompts that remind you to connect the video and audio (if desired) from your camcorder or video playback device.

    Elgato Video Capture Software – Connect Video

  6. Select Import or Start Recording on the capture software and press PLAY on the camcorder.

    Elgato Video Capture Software – Record

    Uploading video through an analog-to-digital video capture device is done in real time.

  7. Note any other editing instructions you would like to take advantage of.

    Elgato Video Capture Software – Trim

  8. Finish the upload and any editing and follow any additional prompts to save or copy the video to a PC's DVD drive, memory card, or sharing method.

    Elgato Video Capture Software – Finish

Additional Considerations for Video-to-PC Uploading

The upload quality depends on how much RAM is on your PC, the processor, and the hard drive speed.

Note both the minimum and recommended system requirements indicated by the software. If your PC only meets the minimum requirements, it might not be enough for smooth video transfer.

When converting analog video to digital files, the file sizes are large. This large size takes up hard drive space, the upload might stall, and you may randomly lose some video frames during the process. These missing video frames result in skips when played back from the hard drive or the DVD that the hard drive transfers the video to.

Once you upload the video to a PC, you need software to view or edit it. You can use the video editing software that came with the camcorder or a capture device (such as shown in the steps illustrated above), but you may have other choices. Windows 10 PCs include a generic video editor that's compatible with several video file formats. There are other possibilities, including free video editing software.

Why Capture Video From a Camcorder to a PC

With alternatives dwindling, the best way to preserve old camcorder videos, exclusive of having it done professionally, is enlisting the aid of your PC.

Once you transfer videos to a PC, make sure to include those videos with your routine hard drive backups.

Another benefit of uploading camcorder videos to a PC is that you can edit the videos, save the edited versions, and then copy the edited videos onto DVD to share with family and friends.

If your PC is part of a home network that includes a smart TV or select media streamers, the PC (with additional software) can act as a media server. This enables you to watch the videos on TV (make sure your PC is on so it is recognized).

  • How do I use a camcorder as a webcam?

    To use a camcorder (or other camera) as a webcam, the camcorder will need audio and video output ports such as HDMI or USB. Then install some webcam software, like Logitech Capture, and connect the camcorder to your computer via USB or HDMI cable.

  • How do I convert 8mm tapes to DVD without a camcorder?

    To convert 8mm tapes to DVD without a camcorder, the best option is to use a DVD Recorder/VHS VCR combination device. Borrowing or purchasing an inexpensive used Hi8 camcorder is another option. Or, take the tapes to a video duplicator to have them digitized professionally—though this can get expensive.

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