DIY Memory Lab - Transfer VHS

NOTE: Our equipment only supports VHS formatted in NTSC, and recorded in Standard Play (SP) or Extended Play/Super Long Play (EP/SLP)

Capturing Video from VHS and S-VHS

  1. Open Black Magic Media Express icon in the dock. It looks like this:
  2. Media Express icon
  3. Click the Log and Capture Tab immediately to the left of the green Playback tab.
    Log and Capture screen from Media Express
  4. A test signal should appear in Media Express.
  5. Power on the power conditioner, VCR, and Ikegami TV monitor.
  6. The Time Base Corrector should turn on automatically.
  7. Press the two (2) Analog buttons on the BlackMagic UltraStudio 4K. These buttons should light up.
  8. Insert tape into VCR. Watch How to load VHS player if you need help.
  9. Make sure tape is rewound to the beginning.
  10. Click Capture in Media Express (towards the bottom of the Media Express window).
  11. Press Play on the VCR.
  12. Video should play on both the Ikegami monitor and in Media Express.
    • Video feed should appear in Media Express, but the computer will be silent. The two moving green bars at the bottom will indicate sound being recorded.
    • If you brought headphones, make sure they are plugged into the headphone jack on the front of the VCR to listen to the audio on your tape. A ¼” stereo jack adapter can be checked out if needed.
    • If no video signal appears, hit the Reset button on the TBC (Time Base Corrector). After you hit the reset button, begin again. If there is still no video signal, ask a staff member for help.
  13. When video capture is over, click Capture one more time. This will end the digitization process and create a video file.
  14. In Media Express, the video file you just created will show up on the left of the Media Express window. The video file will also be saved on the desktop as a MOV file.
  15. Check to make sure your video file is saved on the desktop, then close Media Express.
    • If Media Express asks: Do you want to save your changes to project? select Don’t Save.
  16. If you wish you can rename your video file on the desktop by double-clicking the file. In the .app toolbar, select File and then select Rename.
  17. Rewind and eject your tape.

Compressing and Saving Video

  1. Insert your personal USB storage device into the USB port on the computer.
  2. Open Handbrake software on the computer. It looks like this: Handbrake icon
    Handbrake main screenshot
  3. Open your video file in Handbrake.
    • The file should have saved to the desktop from Media Express.
    • If Handbrake’s Open Source window is not already open, select the Open Source icon in the upper left corner.
  4. Choose video resolution: Select the Preset drop down menu.
    • Select General.
    • Select Fast 720p 30 or whichever resolution you prefer.
  5. Choose video file format: Select the Format drop down menu.
    • Select MP4 or whichever file format you prefer.
  6. Near the bottom of window you will find the Save as text box.
    • Under Save as make sure the file extension is part of the file name. For example, file name should be XMAS1990.mp4, not XMAS1990. If the file extension is not included in the file name, the video will not play on all platforms. Handbrake save as screenshot
  7. Click Browse to choose where the file will save (near bottom right).
    • Select the storage device you brought with you and hit choose.
    • Your storage device will be listed under locations in the browsing window.
  8. Press the green Start button (near top of Handbrake window). This will compress your file, making it a more reasonable size.
    • The compressed video file will automatically save to the storage device that you selected.
  9. When the file is finished compressing, close Handbrake.
  10. Check your storage device to make sure that your movie is saved.
  11. Describe your file in MetaZ. Adding metadata to your home movie will ensure that you have it for years to come.
    • Click on the MetaZ icon in the dock.
    • MetaZ logo
    • Click on the plus (+) sign to select your home movie.
    • Select Home Movie as the Video Type.
    • MetaZ Screenshot
    • Enter the Artist name.
    • Enter the Title.
    • Enter the approximate Date it was filmed.
    • Use the Short Description box to provide other important contextual information and technical information such as: Names, Places, Description of event(s), Rights information, How it was originally captured (VHS-C, MiniDV, etc.).
    • To save your information, click on the Write icon in the top left corner of the window.

  12. Delete the original uncompressed .MOV file from the desktop by placing it into the trash can at the bottom of the screen. Open the trash can and hit the empty button in the upper left corner to permanently delete your file and to prevent other users from seeing it.
  13. Eject your storage media from the computer.
    • Click on the Finder icon handbrake-save-as at the bottom left of the screen (the left most icon on the Dock).
      Finder icon
    • Eject external hard drives, memory cards and more by clicking on the Eject icon next to the name of the device in the Finder window.
      Finder eject screenshot
    • Alternatively, you may drag the device to the Trash bin in the Dock to eject it.
  14. Inform Octavia Lab staff that you are finished using the AV Transfer station.
diagram of VHS transfer process

What hardware are you using?

  1. VHS deck: JVC HR-S3600U Super VHS Hi-Fi
  2. Monitor: Ikegami TM9-1
  3. TBC: TV One 1T-TBC
  4. A-D: BlackMagic Ultra Studio Express
  5. Computer: Apple Mac Pro with 27-inch Thunderbolt Display on El Capitan
  6. BNC cable
  7. S-Video Cable
  8. BNC cable
  9. Thunderbolt cable
  10. XLR cables

What software are you using?

  • BlackMagic Media Express
  • Audacity
  • MetaZ
  • Handbrake

How to identify a VHS tape

icon of a VHS cassette

This is a VHS (PDF)

Printable flier on how to recognize a VHS tape.

Helpful tips:

  • Buying a flash drive that is at least 32GB or an external hard drive that is at least 1 TB; either drive should have a USB Type A connector.
  • If not already, re-format your flash drive or external hard drive to exFAT or FAT32, so it can be read by Windows and Mac operating systems.
  • You can use QuickTime Player to split your clips into smaller chunks.
  • You can reduce file size by encoding in Handbrake at a higher quality (RF) rating, or choose not to deinterlace the file.

How much time will this take?

For every 1 minute of video, it will take 1.5x to digitize it. Capture happens in real time, and then the file must be encoded, described, and saved to your hard drive to ensure it will last.

We recommend digitizing no more than 2.5 hours of video in a 4-hour lab session.

How much storage space will I need?

1 hour of video = 100 GB
This is why we suggest compressing your videos using HandBrake. It will convert 100 GB of video to 4 GB! Way more manageable.

"Too large for volume format" message

If you are saving a file larger than 4GB on your flash drive, this message may appear.

Audio but no video playback

  • Confirm that there is no image on both the monitor and within Blackmagic.
  • Confirm with a staff member that the wiring is correct.