Covert old VHS tapes to DVD or USB stick?
December 30, 2021 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend. Friend has a dozen or so VHS tapes and friend of a friend will convert them but needs to know the preferred format.

She has a laptop, maybe 5 years old, but there is no internal DVD player. Does not have a stand alone DVD player (the kind that hooks up to tv) anymore but kid does have an X box on another tv that apparently will play dvds. Main tv is a Samsung Smart tv which has a USB port in back. So which format is better for 1) ease of watching and 2) reliability/longer life span? Thanks.
posted by TWinbrook8 to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
It would be best to convert it to a video file format, of as high quality as is necessary (which shouldn't need to be too high to maintain VHS quality). Then once you have this file, you can archive it digitally, convert it to other formats, or even burn it to a DVD at a later date.
posted by jozxyqk at 3:43 PM on December 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Your question answers itself: your friend needs to convert the tapes because she doesn’t have a VHS player, but she also basically doesn’t have a DVD player. When the kid gets a new Xbox it is highly likely that it won’t have a DVD player installed, because that’s the way consoles are going, so she’ll have to convert the DVDs to USB stick.

Skip the middle step and go straight to USB stick.

Also: she’ll be able to transfer the video files to her computer from the USB stick, and then they’ll be viewable until the video file type becomes obsolete (which may happen eventually, but converting digital formats is much easier than converting physical formats).
posted by ejs at 3:44 PM on December 30, 2021 [5 favorites]


Best answer: The USB flash drive by far. DVDs can only hold so much (far less than pretty much any thumb drive), so the tapes will need to be spread across multiple DVDs. She might be able to get everything on one flash drive (depending on the length of the VHS tapes). Those files can then easily be backed up, posted on YouTube or view, etc. The TV probably plays mp4 files, too. I can't think of any way in which the DVD would be better than files on a flash drive.
posted by jonathanhughes at 3:44 PM on December 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: DVD encoding is absolute shite, because DVDs do not have enough storage space for movie-length video otherwise.

An mp4 (or mp5, if possible), while still lossy, will be a quality improvement over a DVD.
posted by humbug at 3:54 PM on December 30, 2021 [3 favorites]


Response by poster: Thanks for the quick answers. The guy wants to start converting right away.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:56 PM on December 30, 2021


Most TVs with USB ports can play from an external USB drive, also - which could be a hard drive or a solid state drive. Drives of large capacity are cheaper than sticks of large capacity (or they were last time I checked). Multiple tapes could be converted to digital format, but all stored on one external drive from which they could be played.
posted by TimHare at 7:34 PM on December 30, 2021 [2 favorites]


I concur with others that the Right Way is to get them put onto computer storage media (such as USB) as video files. It is certainly possible to go from there to a DVD if ever desired.

The only real benefit of having them on a DVD is immutability: you can't accidentally delete something off a DVD, and it won't be affected when your PC's hard drive inevitably fails.

For a certain kind of person (to wit: the person who is never going to be good about backups, or the person who is never going to be able to find anything stored on their computer), having things on immutable, tangible, physical media is valuable.

One compromise is to use a USB thumbdrive with a physical write-protect switch, or copy the files onto an SD card that has a switch. Flip the switch and put a piece of tape over it. Done—probably as safe as a DVD and a lot more useful in 2021.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:50 PM on December 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


I just want to suggest also getting the original tapes back if they are important. They will probably still work fine when the USB stick quits or is deleted or lost and you can have them converted again.
posted by fritley at 9:02 PM on December 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


For a certain kind of person (to wit: the person who is never going to be good about backups, or the person who is never going to be able to find anything stored on their computer), having things on immutable, tangible, physical media is valuable.

Indeed. That said, DVD is not a great archival medium because it will degrade over time all by itself, even if you manage not to ruin it early with heat or sunshine or careless handling. Just having digital information stored on a DVD does not exempt it from the rule of not really existing until you can put your hands on at least two copies.
posted by flabdablet at 10:27 PM on December 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


An mp4 (or mp5, if possible), while still lossy, will be a quality improvement over a DVD.

While this is true in general, it might not be so for material sourced from VHS. The quality bottleneck in that particular case will probably be the analog source tape, not the digital container format chosen for the conversion.
posted by flabdablet at 10:30 PM on December 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


Just to note, many things that take a USB storage device and 'play' them are rather limited in the actual formats that they can handle. Things like TVs or your WiFi router.... might not play anything that isn't bog standard MPEG-2 or such. Computers and consoles and such probably can be made to play anything.
posted by zengargoyle at 10:43 PM on December 30, 2021 [1 favorite]


A. Make sure the TV's USB port doesn't say "Service" (older TVs did this, and that port isn't for memory stick)

2. DVDs can be burned to behave like a video DVD (i.e. VOB) or for data (e.g. *.mp4). If you really want a physical copy other than a stick, burn in the data format. "Replicated" discs, like those you might buy with a new release movie or console video game discs, properly stored, will likely last longer than your ability to maintain playback hardware. The same is not true of "burned" discs, which will likely degrade faster than any solid-state memory. If you want any type of burned disc to last as long as possible, write it at the slowest speed possible.
posted by achrise at 8:30 AM on December 31, 2021


write it at the slowest speed possible

and keep it in a cool place that doesn't get sunlight exposure.

But again, if your strategy for longevity of your digital data relies heavily on the longevity of the physical media you're archiving it on, you're doing digital archiving wrong. Doing it right starts with maintaining verifiable replicas, preferably in multiple locations.
posted by flabdablet at 9:22 AM on December 31, 2021


DVD is not a great archival medium because it will degrade over time all by itself, even if you manage not to ruin it early with heat or sunshine or careless handling

Optical media has an unfairly poor reputation as the result of extremely shoddy discs that were marketed in the early CD-R days, in particular those made by RiTEK under the Philips brand, which were popular for a period especially in Europe in the late 90s. They are not representative of the format(s) in general.

The LOC has ongoing efforts to characterize the lifespan of various types of optical media. Based on accelerated aging tests, nearly all of the investigated types of recordable CDs and most of the recordable DVDs (which were sourced in 2004) have an expected lifespan in excess of 30 years, when stored in the dark at 25ºC (77F) and 50% RH. (It goes dramatically up if you store them at lower temperatures.) This is at the low end of most lifespan estimates; other estimates are as high as 100-200 years for -R/+R discs and 25+ for -RW/+RW.

This is largely consistent with my own findings from my backups, which I started making to CD-Rs in the late 1990s, and then later copied to DVD-Rs and DVD+Rs in the 2000s and 2010s (keeping all the CD originals, though). The failure rate has been very low.

Sadly, the optical media with the very best reputation—Kodak InfoGuard Ultima gold CD-Rs—are now out of production and hard to find (and if you did find them, you'd have to wonder about how they've been stored all these years). But I would put them up against anything Flash/NAND-based for data archival, and when you factor in the magnetic tape market's tendency to break backwards compatibility comparatively frequently, it probably stacks up well against tape too.

That said... I also keep backups on hard drives, just to be safe and make them easier to access.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:48 PM on January 1


« Older Facebook Marketplace is shadowbanning me   |   Help me find amazing print garments Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments