If you have any kind of video collection dating back even to the 90s, then you probably have a number of VHS tapes collecting dust once you stopped using your VCR and switched to using your DVD player exclusively. Without having to go out and spend the same amount of money or more restocking your collection with DVD versions of your movies, you can obtain a hw/sw solution such as VHS to DVD 3.0 Deluxe and convert your VHS video tape collection to DVD yourself at the cost of about 4-6 movies. We tested out this product from Honest Technology (honestech) and found a very capable, complete solution that works without much fuss.
After installing the software and drivers on your computer, hook up your video (or audio) source to the small box (VID BOX – included with the Deluxe version) that fits easily in the palm of your hand using either composite or S-video cables, and then you attach the included USB cable to your computer. Launch the software application (VHS to DVD Deluxe 3.0), hit play on your VCR and check that you’re receiving the video output in the application.
Once you’ve performed the hardware setup, you will spend all of your time in the software application, capturing, editing and burning to DVD and/or converting to a compressed video format for storing on your computer. As we’re focused on this application’s ability to convert video, we won’t look a the audio converting features. Apart from the audio feature, there are 2 main video modes to the app – the Easy Wizard and the Advanced Mode.
Easy Wizard very quickly lets you pick a video tape and burn to DVD with a few mouse clicks. I spent all of my time in the Advanced Mode as I was more interested in picking sections out of my tapes and then editing them together with my choice of chapter breaks in the DVD. The advanced mode definitely takes more time, but is worth it if you want to ensure that your resulting DVD has better navigation than your VHS tape could ever offer.
In Advanced Mode (pictured), you can selectively capture pieces of your video content to your computer, then edit those together, including cutting out pieces you don’t want. The Edit feature also offers a few dozen different transition effects between clips such as fade ins, rotating boxes, etc. that would give your DVD a professional look. The 3rd tab lets you burn you video masterpiece to DVD/CD media.
Apart from creating DVDs, VtoD also offers you the ability to create VCDs, SVCDs, and long DVDs. You can also convert to a compressible video format such as WMV or AVI for storing on your computer.
One very nice feature that VHS to DVD includes is the ability to record directly to formats compatible with iPods, PSPs or PDAs. This is also pretty much just a one-click function, and also work right out of the box.
Results & Comments
The manual is actually worth reading and doesn’t take that long to get you quickly up to speed. In general, the application is really quite easy to use and after spending less than 10 minutes reading the manual, I was zipping along like an expert. The component that I found complicated or at least just overwhelming even for a tech savvy user is the sheer number of options available for codecs, and compression rates. At a minimum, there should be a section in the manual that covers these various options, and what the typical user would need. For example, what would be a good codec and compression rate to use if you wanted to store the videos solely on your computer versus needing it to burn to DVD.
Even though I have a pretty speedy computer (dual core CPU, 2GB RAM), I still found that I really shouldn’t be doing much else while capturing data, as it is in fact pretty resource intensive. Consider that every second of video is captured in raw MPEG2 format (at the ‘best’ quality) at approximately 1MB/second. Not only does that means that you need a great deal of space on your system, but that’s obviously pretty heavy processing. Resource restrictions could result in jitter and slight pauses in the captured video.
One issue I have with the installer (and this goes for any software application) – It should tell you what it’s going to install and give you options to de-select certain components. For example, it wants to install Adobe Acrobat & Windows Media 9 runtime files, but I already have those components and don’t want them re-installed or different versions. As with all other applications, they should explicitly display where and what files they are installing. Oh yes, installers should also say up front whether or not you will need to reboot at the end. Ok, enough of my ranting about software installers not being up front and detailed enough.
I had a few minor ‘wish-list’ items. It would be nice if the blue LED light on the unit blinked when it was receiving data. I wish there was a pause function when recording, not just a stop function. Unfortunately, when fast-forwarding on your VCR, it does not show the corresponding sped up video. Strangely enough, it works when rewinding.
The most important thing about this product, both the hardware and the software, and I almost took this for granted, is how easy it was to set up and that everything simply worked. Granted I did not try to ‘wing’ it, but followed the directions closely. Apart from a few ‘wish’ list items I noted on behalf of my perfectionist soul, Honestech’s VHS to DVD does what it claims to and does it without issues. Certainly, there are other products out there, but given the positive results I’ve with VtoD, I wouldn’t bother looking at others.
(Please note prices are subject to change and the listed price is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of posting)