Video capture tech has come a long way.

Back when Courtney graduated high school in 2008, I wanted to put together a DVD of home movies of her to play on a loop during her open house. Naturally, this required buying a video capture card so I could get the footage into my PC and then burn them out to a DVD.

KWORLD DVD MAKER PCI
Click to embiggen.

I ended up buying a KWORLD DVD MAKER PCI card. You put it into an open PCI slot in your computer and it had a single S-Video connector for the input. Plug your VCR into that, load up the capture software, press record in the software and play on the VHS and, in the amount of time it takes to play back the video tape, you had a video file on your machine. I don’t remember how much it cost at the time, but it probably wasn’t more than $80 to $100 and it worked reasonably well for what I wanted it for. I still have the card around here someplace, but I’ve not had a motherboard with PCI slots on it in ages.

I thought about it recently when I stumbled across the manual while digging through my boxes of computer stuff looking for something entirely unrelated. I realized that we have a number of home videos locked onto VHS that are going to end up deteriorating at some point so I should probably think about making digital copies. Mostly videos of Christmas gatherings, but also some parades mom marched in as a clown and I think a birthday or two. When my mother moved in, she brought a working VHS/DVD combo player with her so I had half of what I needed to make this a project.

So, today I went onto Amazon and started looking at video capture options and there is no shortage of products to choose from. With the rise of YouTube and gamers wanting to share videos of gameplay, there are a ton of them that don’t even need a computer to work. You just hook it up to whatever you want to capture from and pass the signal through to a display and it’ll capture the video to a microSD card in the device itself. There’s several that are full-on PCIe cards meant for industrial usage that have multiple inputs. Then there’s an absolute shit ton of USB based products.

The last option is the one I decided to go with, purchasing a “REDGO Video Audio VHS VCR USB Video Capture Card to DVD Converter Capture Card Adapter” as it’s labeled on Amazon. It should be arriving sometime tomorrow and the difference in size between the KWORLD PCI card and the REDGO USB stick is impressive.

Even more impressive? It costs $9.99. Now that could be because it does a crappy job and, admittedly, it is not the highest rated of the USB based capture cards out there. That said, it shows up on a lot of recommended lists as a second or third option behind the best.

The best one being from Elgato, maker of many of the stand-alone game capture devices as well as PCI cards. Their Elgato Video Capture will set you back $88, which was a bit more than I wanted to spend. I can justify tossing $10 and some change (after tax) at the REDGO option and if it turns out to be shitty, well, I’m only out $10 if Amazon won’t accept a return. Which they almost certainly would.

Elgato’s much more expensive, but arguably better, option.

Now I’m all set to digitize all the old home movies to my PC. With the 4TB mechanical HD I have as a data/backup drive, I should have more than enough room to save the files and then load them up in DaVinci Resolve for a try at editing them a bit.

Given that it’s been 13 years since I bought the last capture card, I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised at how the tech has advanced. Still, when I see the image of the naked board in the USB device compared to the PCI card of the old one, it still impresses me. I’ll let you guys know how good of a job it does. I’m not expecting miracles as we are talking digitizing Standard Definition VHS tapes and then playing them back on high resolution flat panels, but it’s better than losing the videos altogether.

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