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How-To Guide: Convert Analog to Digital

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 21 comments

Do it for your family: Save that analog junk before it goes bad, and turn it into digital gold.

Most of us have boxes of photos, not to mention slides from the 1970s, sitting in the garage. And what about those VHS tapes that you never threw away? Even worse--if you owned a camcorder in the 1990s you probably have dusty old tapes from that as well. If you've ever thought about how to save that stuff from extinction, we've got the guide for you. Check it out on Tom's Guide.

We checked out a bunch of scanners--including slide scanners--to see which works best for photos, negatives, and slides. We tried to find the best balance between price, quality, and ease-of-use. We also looked at different software titles (at various price points) for converting old video tapes from analog to digital.

Do it for your family: Save that analog junk before it goes bad, and turn it into digital gold.

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  • 1 Hide
    dingumf , September 24, 2009 11:55 PM
    ugh. I have that exact same Pinnacle thing in the picture and Pinnacle software is horrible.

    Keeps crashing, buggy as hell
  • 1 Hide
    PLATTERMAN , September 25, 2009 12:36 AM
    One of the best ways to convert old VHS tapes is to do what i have done for years. Get a DVD recorder (home theater stand alone type) hook up the audio and video outputs directly to the inputs on the DVD recorder press play on VHS hit record on the DVD recorder. Use XP mode for the DVD conversion for best video results. If you have a recorder that does DVD ram you can do above process then with the ram disc you can make clean edits then burn ram disc to regular dvd-r. This does require 2 machines to do though but end results are worth it for special projects or archived memories.
  • 0 Hide
    IzzyCraft , September 25, 2009 12:49 AM
    Ionno why i would a computer enthusiast who reads this and is well versed in how to take apart and modify a computer not just use an internal capture card like from hauuppauge or another company that uses that same old composite or s video inputs for that same price it's not like i need multiple inputs and uncompressed video and audio at a professional level like something from Blackmagic.

    Although not as easy quality and flexibility of use is a tad more important to me when it comes to replicating video and audio.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 25, 2009 12:59 AM
    I do much the same as PLATTERMAN. VDR to TiVo and then over the home network to my PC, where I edit and burn to DVD.
  • 0 Hide
    bustapr , September 25, 2009 1:51 AM
    Thats not new???!!!
    Ive had one ever since windows 2000!!!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 25, 2009 2:58 AM
    I never thought this would be such an involved process. Goes to show you learn something new everyday. I think at the very least converting pictures to digital is an excellent idea. Now you can share them with everyone anytime.

    Monica
    www.sebecomputercare.com
  • 0 Hide
    tank , September 25, 2009 4:45 AM
    So is this article going to recommend anything... LOL. I would be really interested into getting recommendations from analoug to digital
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 25, 2009 5:32 AM
    I have an Sapphire Theatrix 550 PRO Tuner card which came with an input tuner block. Most of my old tapes were actually on S-VHS converted from camcorders. These were mostly tapes of the kids birthdays, Halloween, Christmas, etc. I simply plugged in my old JVC S-VHS recorder and (using S-Video, red, white) and set my GB-PVR software to record to my hard drive at 7500 Kbits/sec Video feed, Audo at 224 bitrate witha an audio sample rate of 48khz. That resulted in about 3.3GB per hour. But the quality was equal to the original source. Then I would use Womble DVD video editor to edit it down, add motion title screens to the menus. Each chapter has a window showing a segment equal in time to the main title screen. Worked perfectly. the only thing I was missing was an Epson printer that could print cover art for the discs.
  • -1 Hide
    dragoon190 , September 25, 2009 5:50 AM
    wasn't that article out... like a week ago or something?
  • -1 Hide
    abbadon_34 , September 25, 2009 7:12 AM
    Should this be under the "Olds" catagory ? Or maybe archive. I was doing this 15 years ago on my Cyrix 166+ with 2MB video card.
  • 1 Hide
    jellico , September 25, 2009 3:37 PM
    The biggest problem with a lot of the analog to digital solutions out there, like the Pinnacle products, is that the sampling rate sucks. Sampling IS a-to-d conversion; you take an analog input and make numerous, discrete measurements (samples) of that input. The more samples you have, the more accurately you will be able to approximate the original input.

    In the case of old video tapes, like Platterman suggested, the best way to copy them is using a DVD recorder. Use the high quality setting. This will give you only 2 hours of recording time, but you'll minimize the effect of copy degredation. You can then remaster the videos using a product like Adobe Premier Pro.

    For photos... pretty much any modern flatbed scanner will provide more than sufficient resolution for a high quality scan (aim for a minimum of 10 megapixels). Then you can clean up the photo using Photoshop, just make sure to leave the original scanned image unchanged so you always have a pure source document to work with.
  • 0 Hide
    techguy911 , September 25, 2009 3:55 PM
    I use my archos for that plug it into base plug in a camcorder press play then record on archos after i transfer the file to my dvd coversion software on my pc and burn on dvd.

    Lets see ipod/itouch or zune do that.
  • 1 Hide
    precariousgray , September 25, 2009 3:55 PM
    Sell your ancient homemade analog porn on the internet, because you're old now and since it doesn't look anything like you, no one will recognize you!
  • 0 Hide
    tomsguiderachel1 , September 25, 2009 3:56 PM
    IzzyCraftIonno why i would a computer enthusiast who reads this and is well versed in how to take apart and modify a computer not just use an internal capture card like from hauuppauge or another company that uses that same old composite or s video inputs for that same price it's not like i need multiple inputs and uncompressed video and audio at a professional level like something from Blackmagic.Although not as easy quality and flexibility of use is a tad more important to me when it comes to replicating video and audio.

    Hey there,

    This article was written primarily for the Tom's Guide readers (many of which have laptops not desktops), but we thought you might find parts of it interesting as well, that's why we highlighted it for you.

    Thanks,
    Rachel Rosmarin
    Editor of Tom's Guide
  • 0 Hide
    tomsguiderachel1 , September 25, 2009 3:59 PM
    tankSo is this article going to recommend anything... LOL. I would be really interested into getting recommendations from analoug to digital

    The article does recommend, based on your budget.
  • 0 Hide
    tomsguiderachel1 , September 25, 2009 3:59 PM
    dragoon190wasn't that article out... like a week ago or something?

    We did one on audio a week ago or so. This one is on video and photo.
  • 0 Hide
    Dave_69 , September 25, 2009 5:31 PM
    Avoid Pinnacle! I've tried two different versions over the past 5 years and both were junk.
  • 0 Hide
    rooket , September 25, 2009 10:06 PM
    Isn't Rachel the lady that bought the macbook pro for 2 grand when there's similarly equipped dell and hp for 1 grand {:) 
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 29, 2012 8:12 PM
    i have a analog tv card o my desktop, can i change it into digitala using drivers?
  • 0 Hide
    bustapr , December 29, 2012 8:16 PM
    ramadhanii have a analog tv card o my desktop, can i change it into digitala using drivers?
    i dont know the answer, but youll have much better luck posting your question in the forum. theres many good people there that may know how to answer you.
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