How to digitize a VHS cassette

Before you start

  • Make sure the MT-VIKI video switch is switched to the “VHS” option. The video switch should be located near the video stack.
  • Turn on the Magnavox VCR player, and toggle the switch to VCR input.

magnavox-vcr-dvd-toggle

  • Make sure your VHS is rewound. If not, rewind it in the Magnavox VCR player.

magnavox-vcr-player

  • Open the computer application Machina. machina-icon
  • In Machina, navigate to the “Setup” tab and check that the application options are appropriate for your projects. If you’re not sure, the following settings should work for most projects (and should be the default settings in Machina).machina-setup
  • Note the Video and Audio directory in the right-most column – if you want to save to a folder that’s not the default, make sure to change these settings. Do NOT save work to the desktop – it will max out computer space very quickly.

Digitizing in Machina

  1. Navigate to the “Capture” tab in Machina. Edit the clip name and reel name fields to match the title of the video or project you’re digitizing.machina-capture
  2. At the bottom of the screen, click the red button to begin capture. The screen will be blue until you play the VHS in the VCR player.
    • If you get the error message “No video input is detected,” you  may have to start playback of the VHS before you start your capture in Machina.
  3. When your VHS begins to play back, note that the quality of the video will look terrible in Machina—it will look normal in the video file created when you’re finished. Click the button at the bottom again to stop recording.

machina-capture-2

machina-capture-actual

Combining audio and video

If your video is very long (one hour or more), Machina may not save your audio correctly. Double-click the .wav file to check its playback! If it is silent:

  1. Open the software program Audacity.
  2. From the File menu, choose Import… and then Raw Data (at the bottom). Change the following settings:
    • Stereo (not mono)
    • 48000 sampling rate
  3. Audacity may take up to a full minute to comply.

  4. Now choose Export… to save the repaired audio file. Make sure Audacity is saving as a 32-bit PCM file (usually it’s fine).
  1. Check the folder you selected to save Machina outputs. You should find two file types for your project – an .avi (video) file and a .wav (sound) file.
  2. Right-click the .avi file to open the file in VirtualDub.VirtualDub1
  3. Before editing the video, go to Audio ? “Audio from other file…” and find the .wav file associated with your project. If you edit the video before this step, your image and sound will not sync properly and you’ll have to start over. Save the combined sound/video project as an .avi and rename the file as something that distinguishes it from the original files (i.e. “living-the-story-001-PictureandSoundFINAL”).
  4. To remove the blue screen at the beginning and end of your project, go to Edit ? “Set selection start” when you have found the beginning of your video by dragging the bar at the bottom through the keyframes. You can eliminate dead space at the end using the same process – Edit ? “Set selection end.” Save your file.VirtualDub2
  5. Your final file (video and audio) will be an .avi file. To convert it to something else, use the HandBrake application (instructions on this tool coming soon).

Saving

Do NOT save files to the C:\ or the computer desktop. RADD has a 2TB spinning hard drive (E:\) for temporary file storage. Saving large files anywhere else will max out the computer space very quickly. There is a shortcut on the Desktop to the E:\ drive called “SaveWorkHere.”

If possible, always save your work to your own external hard drive or USB thumb drive, or cloud storage if you have enough space. If you forgot to bring a storage device with you, SLIS Library offers portable hard drives for check-out.

When you’re done

  1. Remove your VHS from the JVC VCR player and take it with you – be kind and rewind if you borrowed it!
  2. Make sure you have all your video files on your USB stick/hard drive. SLIS Library offers portable HDs for personal checkout if you forgot to bring one.
  3. Exit Machina and VirtualDub.