Ripping Camcorder Video to a computer

My brother called me before Christmas.

“You need to take a look at your old camcorder videos. It’s unbelievable. How can I get mine transferred to a computer?” – my brother, Mark

He also asked if I was still in bed. I was but I lied.

I am not a video person.

I promised I would figure it out. I used to own a Snap capture card thing about 20 years ago. You could take grainy snapshots of video directly from the camcorder. It was so much fun, I put it all in a box and forgot about it for 20 years.

A few things have changed for the better.

Computers have gotten SO much faster, memory has gotten SO much less expensive. Marie Kondo says its ok to digitize everything and stop carrying around the physical media.


My son’s fiancé had been converting her families’ videos. She pointed me to Elgato. The boys already owned an Elgato for HDMI. They bought it to stream video games. I could have figured out how to up convert to HDMI. Analog to HDMI was too much work. I had to create something so simple I could explain it to my brother.

I did a little research. My camera was a Sony Handycam BetaSP. It was component (Yellow and White RCA things) outputs. Amazon had a “REDGO Video Audio VHS VCR USB Video Capture Card to DVD Converter Capture Card Adapter

It’s $13. Comes with software on a compact CD/DVD. Runs on Windows only.

It works fine. My video camera skills were never good. Here are my notes on the process.

Here is what worked for me.

honestech VHS to DVD 3.0 SE

I used the provided software. Luckily had a couple of computers with CD/DVD drives. (You can buy an external CD/DVD drive). The key for the software was posted on the Amazon page. I had to run it as an Administrator, so that it could read and write to my computer and send my personal info to identity thieves.

The editing is kludgy. I might have it figured out. But it records from the A/V input fine.

It creates 480p MPEG files that are huge. I think this was designed for the straight to DVD market. It’s fine. But…

It has a timer, so you can set it like an old VCR and it will tape for 2 or 4 or whatever hours and stop. My tapes are two hours. I didn’t need to babysit it. Great time saver.

I have already ripped a TON of DVDs. I knew about compression and transcoding. So I made everything smaller with

Playing Videos – VLC media player – VLC

Open Source, Free

This is a light, fast, free, open source video player. It’s awesome. I have it on all my computers. One of a few tools, that I immediately install on all my computers.

It plays pretty much everything. It is simple, but more powerful than I need it to be.

I detest Microsoft Media Player. I just want to play something, now. I use VLC.

Making files smaller – Handbrake – 

Open Source, Free

This will take a MPEG file and turn it into a smaller file of many optional formats.

Right now, I am using the Fast 480p preset. This will reduce the size of the files by 66%. Not shabby. I have probably ripped a 100GB of tapes. I don’t have that much space on my big laptop. I don’t see a big difference in quality between the MPEG and the compressed file image or sound.

There are plenty of people who could tell me what I am missing out on with what ever compression scheme I choose. But just today,  I sent a friend a video of their wedding day from 1998. It has been sitting in a storage bin with all these amazing videos of my kids as babies for 20’ish years. My overall philosophy is if you can’t see it, it isn’t sparking joy. (Thanks Marie Kondo!). Also I am a bad friend, but I was the father of a 4 month old at the time and had several jobs.

Trimming and Editing – still looking –

There are a lot of options. I don’t know which one is the right one yet. VLC will let you let you trim, but it’s slow. I tried VIDSplitter and OpenShotVideo Editor. I think my main issue… It’s not as easy or fast as editing an audio file. It seems that the trimmed clip needs to be ripped as a new clip… So far.


I will keep you posted.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s