Elgato Video Capture
Mac-up your dusty VHS collection
Review The usage is clear: you have a stack of old VHS tapes and you'd like to get the content they hold in a more convenient, digital form for viewing on an iPod or burning to DVD.
Elgato's meant-for-Mac Video Capture comes late to the party - people have been digitising VHS tapes for ages, either using a TV tuner or a standalone gadget like Ion's VCR-2-PC. Does this new offering come too late - or does it have something special to offer?
Elgato's Video Capture: too late to the party?
Well, a bit of both, actually. Video Capture's accompanying software makes grabbing video, topping and tailing it for a clean start and end, and saving it to disk all a simple process involving just a handful of mouse clicks. But we're not convinced many folk will get much out of this pricey item.
Physically, Video Capture is like a large TV tuner, with a USB connector on a wire at one end and a quartet of inputs - s-video, composite-video and RCA stereo audio - at the other. The box comes with a set of red, white and yellow male-to-male cables, and a Scart adaptor, so you'll be ready to hook up your video recorder, set-top box or whatever out of the box.
The software presents a basic, wizard-style UI that walks you through naming the recording; connecting and testing the video and audio feeds; starting and stopping recording; chopping off unwanted material from the start and end; and finally transferring it, if you want, to online sites or other apps: play it in iTunes or QuickTime Player, send it to iMovie or upload it to YouTube. It's all very, very straightforward.
Lest we forget...
To keep it that way, Elgato has tucked the app's only two settings - encoding format and the folder in which the completed recordings are saved - in the Preferences panel. Only two formats are supported: MPEG 4 and H.264. Both are iPod-friendly; the difference is largely down to compression. Thirty minutes of MPEG 4 will take up 570.6MB; the same duration of video encoded at H.264 will take up 349.2MB.
Just use a miniDV camcorder
A lot of miniDV camcorders handle FireWire passthrough, where you can plug in an analog source, have the camera on but not recording and it will pipe the signal into iMovie as DV. I compared this using an old Canon Elura and ElGato's EyeTV 250 which does on board encoding into MPEG 2. Using the camcorder provided far better final picture quality then the EyeTV 250.
Old old technology
This has been around for years! Why would you bother to convert your VHS tapes now if you haven't bothered to for the last 10 years?? You can use a £20 TV card to do an uncompressed capture and easily convert to MPEG4. What a pointless product and one that is at least 5 years out of date!
Albeit quite a bit more expensive is the BlackMagic H.264 converter:
That said, an analog video to DV converter like the Canopus ADVC-110 gives you more flexibility to edit out stuff. You'd have to let it run overnight to compress down to H.264, but that is seldom the limiting factor in converting old videos.