Yes, I’m digitizing everything — it’s like all of my belongings are slowly being vacuumed up into the computer.

This time it is VHS tape I’m working on. I’m not concerned about commercially recorded tapes — I got rid of all of those a while ago. Rather, I want to capture the tapes we have which are irreplaceable. In our case that is mostly videos which feature people in our family that we recorded from TV or other sources.

I figured the simplest method would be to feed the video out from a VCR to the AV IN on one of my cameras, then sent the output via firewire to my computer for capture using dvgrab. Turns out it worked like a charm.

I found a great explanation of the process here.

I used my old Panasonic PV-GS700 which no longer records properly — it works just fine to convert the analog signal to digital output. I had to switch the camera’s “DV OUT” setting to “ON” and it was ready to go. Here is the dvgrab command I used to capture the video (where “foo” is the base output filename):

dvgrab –frames 0 –size 0 –format raw -noavc -showstatus -d 02:10:00 foo

Note: if you are keeping an eye on it, you can stop the capture at the actual end of the tape by pressing ctrl-c and the output file will still be fine. You don’t have to wait until the 2:10 mark — that is just for convenience so the capture doesn’t continue to run indefinitely.

As per the instructions in the link, the following command is a handy way to trim off the excess from the end of each file (where the time element is the place you want to end the clip):

dvgrab -showstatus -stdin -d 1:05:10 -s 0 foo-001_trimmed.dv < foo-001.dv