How long does it take to digitize VHS tapes?

No matter who is doing the digitizing, capturing VHS signals is done in real-time. Therefore, a two-hour video takes at least two hours to digitize. One machine plays the tape, while another captures the signal into a digital format. Most VHS cassettes hold up to six hours of signal, so good digitizers will play through the entire tape (six hours) to ensure they don't miss an important video event later in the tape.

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VHS Editing

Video signal noise

No one wants six hours of captured static. Therefore, a good digitizer will clip out noise from the usable video signal. Perhaps there are only a few seconds of noise at the beginning of the VHS cassette, however, there are almost always countless hours to be discarded at the end of each cassette. This editing takes expensive software, careful attention to detail, and a considerable amount of time.

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Does your VCR work?

Playing signal from a VHS cassette requires a working VCR. Be careful, many VCRs start eating your precious tapes after years of use. Make sure your VCR is properly maintained. What is the condition of the head? Does your VCR provide stereophonic output, or are you only capturing half of the audio signal? Lastly, one VCR can only play one tape at a time. If you want to speed up digitizing multiple VHS cassettes, you'll need multiple VCRs running at the same time.

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How powerful is your computer?

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Powerful computer servers

Each VCR will need a connection to a separate computing device through a quality interface. The speed, memory, and processing power of that computer really matter. It's possible to capture video signals onto a computer without an expensive Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), but don't be surprised if you start noticing latency in the captured signal, particularly when a tape has been playing for more than a couple of hours. If you're doing it yourself (DIY), make sure you've got powerful computers.

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VHS Digitizing Math

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The equation to determine the time required to digitize VHS tapes

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Determining the time to digitize VHS tapes is a simple mathematical formula. Your primary variables are the number of VHS tapes, the number of working VCRs, and the length of each tape. A digitizer's level of knowledge will greatly affect the time to set up and test the operation. Greater experience contributes to a decrease in their editing time. In the end, it takes considerable time to digitize VHS tapes.

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What about the professionals?

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Professional digitizing companies are set up to efficiently digitize VHS tapes. They have multiple VCR/GPU setups and can handle orders of all sizes. In theory, a professional digitizing company should be able to process hundreds of VHS cassettes in mere hours. Unfortunately, many companies take months to digitize VHS cassettes. Less reputable companies forward your order to an overseas location where labor costs are lower. Some are simply overwhelmed by inefficient operations, outdated order management systems, or poor customer service. Other companies are delayed because they need to reprocess entire orders due to quality control issues.

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Why won't this file play on my computer?

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Written by Jennifer Jordan

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