How do I transfer old videotapes to my Mac?
February 7, 2007 11:01 PM   Subscribe

I have: a bunch of family videos, and the two old camcorders they were taken on. I also have: a PowerBook G4. I would like to get these old videos onto DVDs, using the copy of iMovie on said PowerBook. How do I go about this? What new hardware do I need?

A little more info: the video cameras in question have RCA audio & video out; no S-video or Firewire (otherwise I wouldn't be asking.) I've poked around online, and I assume I need something like this to get the video stream off of the camera and onto the computer; is this right? Are there better choices on the market for what I want to do? (I'm not looking to do anything fancier than this, video-editing/capture-wise.)
posted by Johnny Assay to Technology (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, an analog to digital converter is what you want, but there are cheaper ones out there.
posted by planetkyoto at 11:39 PM on February 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Depending on how many videos you have, you should seriously just consider taking it to a local transfer service that will do this for you and give you the results on a DVD. The quality will probably be better and you won't have to immerse yourself in all the details of video encoding. The prices seem to be about $20-$25 per DVD (60 - 120 minutes).
posted by Rhomboid at 12:02 AM on February 8, 2007

Not sure if I have understand your situation correctly but when confronted with the same issue, i.e. getting family videos onto DVD, I eventually settled on buying a DVD recorder and connecting it to my old VCR. That way you avoid using the computer at all. Works like a charm.
posted by vac2003 at 12:33 AM on February 8, 2007

I did this on a G4 converting 12 years of 8mm vacation tapes through that ADS converter (S-Video to USB). I hated the whole process and the quality was less than what I wanted to work with in iMovie. The audio tended to go out of synch if any background process kicked in while converting.

Unless you want to learn about video conversion in great detail and suffer from hours of wasted effort, go with an outside service. You'll spend your time better having fun editing the clips.

Be advised, if you do buy the converter, it could lead to the hard stuff. I'm now up to Final Cut Pro, shoot with an XL-2 and edit on a G5 Dual through FireWire. There is never enough room to cache clips. So I steal my children's lunch money to buy swappable SATA drives. I plead with my wife for "just one more gig of DDR RAM and I'll stop. Honest!" The videos I convert and edit reflect happier, innocent times when I wasn't here at my office editing videos of same. Before the car got repossessed. Because I had to have the latest Boris FX filters.
posted by hal9k at 1:12 AM on February 8, 2007

I have used the Dazzle DV converter with good results.
posted by unSane at 6:06 AM on February 8, 2007

I've found that using the analog-digital converter that is in every DV cam a good way to go.

old camera plays tape, rca to newer DV camera (there is usually a cable for this), and then firewire to your computer (or media drive and then your g4.)

quality is ok, no sync probs and you can edit in imovie.

btw, transferring to dvd (as suggested above)means you won't be able to edit in imovie. Dvd is not exactly a dead-end format, but close. It's encoded and muxed and hella complicated to extract clips.
posted by kamelhoecker at 6:49 AM on February 8, 2007

If you decide to buy an A/D converter like the one linked to in your post I highly reccommend the Canopus. The main advantage that they offfer over solutions like the ADS one linked to in responses is a time-based corrector chip, meaning audio and video stay in synch over long runs. I have digitized 4 hour tapes using this unit and the audio and video stay in perfect synch, while cheaper units like the one by ADS and older dazzle units often start to drift after as few as 30 minutes.
posted by bcnarc at 7:24 AM on February 8, 2007

This method might be more of a hassle, but its a real cheap solution. I got an mp4 camcorder for about $100 and a 1GB SD card. I then recorded my videos to SD card at 640x480. Then I transferred them to my mac and converted them from asf files to DVD.
posted by sswiller at 9:14 AM on February 8, 2007

I'd second the idea of using the video-in jack on a modern Firewire-capable camcorder to do the conversion. It won't cost that much more than a dedicated conversion box, and hey, it's a camcorder too.

Check the features carefully before you buy, however. They don't all have video inputs. I saved about $50 by buying a camcorder without a video input jack, and I've been kicking myself ever since.
posted by designbot at 1:44 PM on February 8, 2007

I own the predecessor to the Canopus unit that you linked to at the Apple store. It's a great piece of gear, if you can stomach dropping that much dough on what's basically a single-purpose gadget. But it's really the best tool for the job. You might want to shop around on eBay and see if you can get a used one, as long as the seller is willing to guarantee you "no DOA," it's probably a fairly safe purchase. (They don't really wear out, they have no moving parts, etc.) The older model looks exactly the same, but is black. I think it might be the model 100, but don't quote me on that.

I would think that a lot of people buy them for projects and want to unload them later, so finding a used one ought not to be that hard.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:36 PM on February 8, 2007

« Older Looking for foam core board   |   Were VirtualDubMod to have an Linux equivalent... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.