Converting DigitNow! BR120 Videos


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.

AVI Format

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.

QuickTime Player 10

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

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!)

MPEG StreamClip

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…

Miro Video Converter

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.

Raspbian Boot

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.)


MPEG Streamclip MP4 Encoding

MP4 Encoding

Settings in MPEG Streamclip for encoding to an MP4 file.

This is mostly here for my own reference, but if you find it useful, or have another suggestion, I welcome your comments…


Video… for Windows and OS X

We recently had to create a jump drive with promotional content on it that we wanted to be reasonably sure people could open. For the HTML pages, this was pretty simple. We kept the design very easy, and used just a single file, with the CSS in the head of the document. Any web browser created in the last 10 years should have been able to read it. (Even IE6 did fine with it!)

We also put video content onto the jump drive. I had a sample someone had given me from a company they used to do business with, and while it worked fine on my Mac, Windows was a no-go. Windows XP was the test platform, without QuickTime installed. Now, granted, lots of Windows machines would have QuickTime if iTunes were installed, and iTunes is installed on a lot of Windows machines, but locked-down corporate PC’s may not fit in that category.

So, we wanted to create a video that would be playable on Windows without QuickTime installed. And, we’re a Mac shop, so we wanted to do this all on a Mac. We ended up exporting the video from Final Cut Pro, and then using MPEG Streamclip to create an AVI file, using the settings you see in the screen shot below.

Encoding Video with MPEG Streamclip

It worked well, and testing with various Windows VM’s seemed successful, with the videos playing fine where QuickTime was not installed.

So for now, this is my solutions. Unless someone has a better one.