During the holidays my uncle asked me about converting old VHS video tapes to digital versions, and he showed me a converter he had found. Knowing that the specs on such things are usually not very specific, but that I’d find a way to make it work, I told him to order it. (The device is a Werecord BR120 Video & Audio Grabber Box from Digit!Now)
It’s simple to use. You just plug in some RCA cables coming from your VCR or old analog video camera, and press the “record” button on the device. It saves a digital file to an Micro SD card.
Oh, yeah… it’s an AVI file. If you don’t know much about AVI, it’s a ‘container format’, which means it could use any of a long list of encoding schemes, and you may have problems reading the file. Since I’m using Mac OS X in 2016 and AVI was introduced by Microsoft in November 1992, I had some problems.
The first attempt was to open it using Apple’s QuickTime Player 10. No dice. The “Tell me more” button takes you to a page explaining that QuickTime Player 10 sucks, and you should try QuickTime Player 7.
QuickTime Player 7 opens the file, but there’s nothing there… at least nothing it can decode properly. (You’ve let me down again, QuickTime Player!)
That’s enough fun with Apple’s offerings… on to the more powerful Swiss Army knife of transcoding video; MPEG StreamClip. There hasn’t been a new release for over three years, but it still works wonders on changing videos from one format to another.
Well, no better than QuickTime Player 7. Unless you like a white screen better than a black screen. Let’s move on…
Don’t worry, I’m not even half way through my list of the video conversion software I have on my hard drive. (Yes, I have hundreds of applications on my hard drive, not in some damn cloud somewhere!)
Our old pal Miro Video Converter was willing to accept the AVI file and give me an MP4, which is what I want, because it will probably play fine on any device I want to play video on…
Hey, look at that! Miro Video Converter is using FFmpeg under the hood. Excellent… especially since ffmpegX hasn’t been updated in many years.
As for the video, since I didn’t have one of my VCRs handy, I grabbed a old Raspberry Pi with a composite video output and used that for the test. I know, it looks terrible here, partly due to it being a GIF, but mostly due to it being a computer output scaled down to a 640×480 standard definition display. I’m going to assume actual video footage from 25 year old VHS tapes will look much better. (Sort of.)