How to digitize a Betamax videocassette

About Betamax


Before you start

  • Make sure the MT-VIKI video switch is switched to the “BETAMAX” option. The video switch should be located close to the video stack.betamax-video-switch
  • Turn the Sony Betamax player on. Make sure your tape is rewound – if not, use the player controls to rewind it.


  • 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 files to the desktop – you 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 blank until you begin playback of the tape in the Sony Betamax player.
    • You may have to start playing the tape first before recording in Machina if you get the error message “No video input is detected.”
  3. When your tape 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.

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 file and rename the file as something that distinguishes it from the Machina files (i.e. “living-the-story-001-picture-and-sound-FINAL”).
  4. To remove a blue screen or empty space 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 more standard for burning a DVD copy, use the HandBrake application (instructions on this tool coming soon).


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


Machina displays the error message “No video input is detected.”
  • Are the cables for the Betamax player and video switch plugged in? Is the video switch toggled to the BETAMAX input?
The video quality is still terrible after digitization!
  • This is harder to fix, because the issues may be the quality of the tape itself. Turn the TBC on when playing the tape in the Sony Betamax player to correct for some of the poor sound and visual quality.