Saving Your Analog Data from Oblivion

Saving Your Analog Data from Oblivion

Article from Issue 219/2019

If you have old VHS tapes or audio cassettes lying around, the hardware to play these analog formats is becoming more difficult to find. Here's how to convert those old analog treasures to digital format for future enjoyment.

Transferring VHS tapes, audio cassettes, and other analog home media formats to a digital format, such as Ogg or Matroska, can be a complex and expensive process with archival-grade conversions. In this article, I show you a simple and inexpensive method for digitizing your VHS tapes that is perfect for personal use.

Shopping List

To convert a VHS tape to a digital format, you need two pieces of equipment: a playback device for the original medium and a capture device to read the playback device's output. In addition, you need transcoding software to process the data that the capture device retrieves from the playback device. For a list of what I used in this project, see the "Software and Hardware Requirements" box.

For the playback device, you can find a used VCR for less than EUR100 online ($100-$200+ for NTSC/PAL/multisystem). Keep in mind that your chosen playback device must match the color encoding system of the VHS tapes you intend to transfer. Trying to play a PAL VHS on an NTSC device won't work (see the box "PAL vs. NTSC").


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