[This extract is taken from the September 2010 issue of PC Authority magazine.]
Making the right connections
With your hardware and software arsenal amassed, it's time to hook up everything and begin the process. There are two types of analogue video connection used by all the capture devices we've mentioned here, and most VCRs will offer one or the other.
If you do have a much older VCR with alternative connections such as BNC you may have to purchase a small adaptor to utilise an RCA plug. This shouldn't cost you more than a couple of dollars. Composite video uses a standard RCA plug, and S-Video a round four-pin plug.
The latter provides the best quality, as the brightness and colour signals are sent along different wire pairs, so there's less interference. But it's only available with analogue sources offering this kind of signal, such as Hi8 camcorders and some more upscale late model VHS or S-VHS systems.
Audio connections will usually be in the form of a mini-jack. The output from your analogue video device could well be two RCA plugs, so a cable routing one to the other will be required.
If you're transferring from a VCR, you're more likely to find RCA than anything else. Some models also sold in Europe may feature a SCART socket. This isn't a different type of analogue signal; it's just a different connection and includes audio, and as with BNC type connectors, you'll need to source an adapter to connect up RCA or S-Video capable equipment. But the S-Video will only work if you actually have a video device that produces the appropriate signal, such as Hi8 or S-VHS.
Once everything's connected and you've followed our walkthrough to set up the capture software, you'll now be faced with the task of lining up your analogue tapes and capturing them to disk.
Each tape may include lots of different clips. Although you could capture these clips individually, this would mean standing by the tape player and hitting pause when necessary, and manually starting and stopping capture each time. This is much more easily performed with software. So take the easy route instead, by capturing the whole thing in one go - just make sure you have enough hard disk space beforehand.
You may also want to disable background applications that might kick in and start thrashing the hard disk. Applications like Google Desktop, Skype, or your Anti-Virus software may deem the PC to be idle since you won't have touched the keyboard or mouse for 15 minutes, but since video capture produces a large volume of data, you don't want background tasks competing for hard-disk time.
You should now be merrily bringing video onto your PC and filling its hard disk. But that's only the first half of the process. In an upcoming issue we'll explain how to split up your recordings, clean up the video and burn to disc.