Digitize VHS tapes from your GNU / Linux distribution

Each filtering bag VHS tape recorders (VCRs) They won't be around forever, nor will VHS tapes last forever, so little by little it will become more difficult to keep all our videos in this old format. If it is about movies, most likely they have already been remastered and digitized, so we will find them in formats such as DVD, BD, etc. But we will not find all the videos digitized, this is the case of our home recordings.

Therefore, if you have a VHS video recorder on your TV, it is best to start as soon as possible to convert it to digital format to be able to store it in a more durable and safe way, preventing loss of these videos when we can no longer find VCRs, not even second hand. And the process is simpler than you imagine, and it can be done from Linux ...

1-Hardware required:

The first thing is to have a VCR or VCR to play the VHS tape. In the computer that we use for the conversion, it will also be necessary a fundamental element, a video capture card. If you use a laptop you can find them external and if you use a desktop, you probably prefer some PCI.

Choose a card compatible with Linux, that is, there are free kernel drivers. This used to be a headache, but nowadays it is common that the best known already have support for Linux (Hauppauge, Avermedia, ...). It is possible that if you use a 100% free distro you will have problems having to install certain codec packages and specific firmware such as ivtv-firmware.

Once the video capture card is installed, it must have an RCA connection to be able to connect it through a RCA cable to VCR, everything is ready to start the conversion or digitization.

2-Check the video output

Once everything is connected and ready, we should open a video player such as VLC or mplayer to be able to check the video output that we have connected to our input of the video recorder is being captured correctly. Otherwise it will be necessary to install drivers properly or the package that I mentioned above. In principle there should be no problem, everything should be OK and you can see the video that is playing on the VCR.

You should also have other basic packages installed like ffmpeg and v4l-utils to work with the video signal ... And configure it to accept the RCA input (if you have coaxial or S-video cable you will have to change this step):

v4l2-ctl -i 2

3-Start digitizing

For, start recording what enters us through the video capture device, we can use different programs, although a good option for this is to directly use mplayer so that it captures from our capture device, in our case / dev / video0:

mplayer -cache 8192 /dev/video0 -dumpstream -dumpfile mi_video.mp4

And with that we will get a digital video called my_video.mp. By the way, make sure the video is correctly rewound or you will only capture the video partially ...


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  1.   Tecprog World said

    Very kind, thank you very much for sharing this entry, for my part, since it is the first text that I review on how to digitize those tapes; over here we have a tape from the year 1998 and I keep family moments in it, rather with this first step I encourage myself with more desire to do this step and that everything goes very well, thank you! 😀

  2.   gmolleda said

    Thank you very much for the article, there are many who are wondering precisely about this question and it could be a good way to do favors or earn a little money.
    I see an improvement for the article as it would be to finally use a modern compression format to reduce the size without losing quality: the modern h.265 or HEVC.
    I found a placehttps://trac.ffmpeg.org/wiki/Encode/H.265) where they explained how to compress in that codec but the audio aac does not have it by default LinuxMint 18 or Ubuntu 16.04 so I had to update with:
    sudo add-apt-repository ppa: jonathonf / ffmpeg-3
    sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade

    The command is:
    ffmpeg -i sourcefile -c: v libx265 -crf 28 -c: a aac -b: a 128k new.mp4

    I have used all this to transfer minidv tapes from the camcorder to the computer via firewire and an hour that took about 12 raw gigabytes left me at 300 megabytes.
    If it is done with many files at the same time, then in a loop:
    for i in / source_path / *; do ffmpeg -i "$ i" -c: v libx265 -crf 28 -c: a aac -b: a 128k "$ {i%. *}. mp4"; done

    Tiu ĉi these ĉio.

    1.    I know said

      gmolleda a question I am trying to capture a handycam from an old video camera but I do not know how to do it before I could capture it with kino and then with kdenlive but now kino like it is not there and kdenlive no longer has the option and says to do it one with dvgrab but it doesn't work, it gives an error and I don't know what to do. I would appreciate your help.