Skip to Main Content

Digital Projects Toolkit: Videos

Video Digitization

Video Digitization: Overview

Best practices and standards for video digitization differ. Thankfully, there are exceptional resources available online that can assist you with your video digitization needs. Consult the "Resources" tab on this page for additional information.

Digitizing video is relatively simple and can often be done on your own. It does, however, take a little bit of practice and research. This page will primarily focus on digitizing VHS tapes.

Digitizing VHS tapes does not require much effort or hardware and software, and the cost is low. The downside, however, is time. However long the tape is, it is going to take the same amount of time to digitize. If, for example, you have a VHS with a 2-hour video interview that you want to digitize, the tape will take 2 hours to digitize (plus the time beforehand to set up and the time afterward to save and process). But in most cases, you can simply set it and forget it (once you have successfully completed a short test and determined the proper settings).

These proper settings, procedures, and resources will be explored further on the tabs under this page.

Digitizing VHS Tapes

The following is a sample method to digitize VHS tapes. Consult the "Resources" tab on this page for more information on video digitization, equipment, workflows, etc.

[Note: This process can also be followed to digitize other tapes (such as VHS-C). You just need to have the hardware to play them (like the original video camera), and perhaps the cords to connect the hardware to your computer (if the converter does not already supply them).]

Hardware and Software

  • VCR
    • Locating a VCR might be the trickiest part of this process. If you have a working one that has been sitting in storage since the 1990s, it is time to break it out! If you do not have one, you may have to ask around to see if anyone has one they are will to part with or let you borrow. Otherwise, you might be able to find one online or at a second-hand store.
  • VHS to digital converter
    • There are many converters available and most of them are fairly inexpensive (like this one).
    • Most converters will also come with video recording software. ArcSoft ShowBiz is a common software that is included with converters (this is the software that the ND State Library uses). If a software is not included, ArcSoft ShowBiz can be downloaded/ installed online, or there are many other options available.
    • Most converters will also come with the appropriate cords needed to connect the VCR to your computer.
  • Shotcut
    • This is a free and open-source video editor.
  • HandBrake (optional)
    • HandBrake is a free and open-source video converter.
    • After digitization of the video, the file size will likely be large. HandBrake can be used to create an access copy (or derivative copy). The software compresses (or shrinks) the file so it can be shared, emailed, uploaded online, etc.

Steps to Digitize a VHS

  1. Put the tape into the VCR and verify that both the VHS tape and the VCR are working.
    • Once you are finished with the verification, make sure to rewind the tape.
  2. Connect the digital converter to the VCR and then connect it to your computer.
  3. Launch the ArcSoft ShowBiz program on your computer.
  4. Review the settings in ArcSoft ShowBiz and make adjustments as needed.
    • Typically, the default settings will be fine.
    • If you do need to make changes, make sure to first review the digitization standards on the "Resources" tab on this LibGuide page.
  5. Do a short sample recording (or "test run") to make sure everything is working.
    • In ArcSoft ShowBiz, click on the Capture tab at the top to open the Capture Module. If needed, adjust the source, video, and audio so the program knows to record from the VCR.
    • Click on the red Capture button and then push the play button on your VCR. If everything is working properly, you should see and hear the video in ArcSoft ShowBiz.
    • After 10-30 seconds, click on the green stop button in ArcSoft ShowBiz. and then push the stop button on the VCR.
    • Don't forget to rewind the tape.
  6. Review the sample recording in ArcSoft ShowBiz to make sure everything looks and sounds alright.
    • Once you push the green stop button in ArcSoft ShowBiz, the video will open in the Edit tab. In this spot, you can watch and listen to the short clip.
    • If everything worked, right-click on the video thumbnail (on the left side of the Edit tab), and then click on Delete.
  7. Once you have completed a successful test, you are now ready to digitize the entire tape.
    • In ArcSoft ShowBiz, click on the Capture tab at the top.
    • Click on the red Capture button and then push the play button on your VCR. If everything is working properly, you should see and hear the video in ArcSoft ShowBiz.
    • Wait until the entire tape has played.
  8. When the video has finished, stop the recording.
    • Click on the green stop button in ArcSoft ShowBiz. and then push the stop button on the VCR.
  9. Do a little quality control and watch/ listen to the video in ArcSoft ShowBiz.
    • You don't have to watch the entire video. Just watch it here and there to make sure everything seems fine.
  10. If needed, edit the video.
    • By default, ArcSoft ShowBiz should save the recording to the videos folder on your computer. Verify this is the case before closing the program.
    • Editing should be kept to a minimum to ensure the integrity of the original video, but sometimes a little editing may be necessary (such as cutting out a long period of nothing at the end when the video stopped but ArcSoft ShowBiz kept recording).
    • Some software, like ArcSoft ShowBiz, have editing capabilities built-in. However, it is recommended to use other video editing software because they may have more features. The ND State Library uses Shotcut, a free and open-source video editor.
    • Just to be safe, make a copy of the video file on your computer. Then do the editing on the copy and not the original.
    • Import the video into Shotcut (Open File button at the top or File > Open File).
    • The video will open and play in the center box on Shotcut. You can trim the video there by clicking and dragging the small triangles at the beginning or end of the video progress bar (under the video and above the play, rewind, fast-forward, etc. buttons). You can also click and drag the entire video into the timeline section at the bottom and do your editing there.
    • If you need any assistance with Shotcut, there are many guides and tutorials available online (some from the Shotcut website but there are also numerous videos on YouTube).
  11. Finally, save/ export the video.
    • By default, the export options should be visible on the left side in Shotcut. If not, go to File > Export Video or View > Export.
    • Preferably, the video's master file should be AVI, MOV, or MXF. Access copies can be MP4 or WMV. Consult the digitization standards on the "Resources" tab on this LibGuide page for more information on video file formats.
    • There will be a long list of export options in Shotcut. You may want to consider the formats listed under the "lossless" section ("lossless" refers to lossless compression). If you don't see the format you're looking for in the big list, click on the Advanced button at the bottom of the Export Help area (left of the video). Then click on the Format drop-down menu.
    • Once you select a format, click the Export File button to save the video.
  12. Create an access copy (optional, but recommended)
    • It is generally best practice make an access copy (or derivative copy) from the primary file. HandBrake is a useful software to create an access copy of the main file that has a smaller file size and is easier to share or upload.

Resources for Video Digitization

Format Identification

Vendor Examples

Note: The lists of vendors are not comprehensive nor are they an endorsement for one company other another. A few companies are provided to give examples of the many that are available.

IMLS logo

Many of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.