How to Convert a VHS to a DVD for Mac OS X

By Christopher Capelle

Although once the dominant video technology, the VHS tape has now joined the 8-track tape, Polaroid film and dot matrix printers into tech obsolescence; yet many of us still have boxes of tapes that we would like to convert to a digital format. Although a decade ago, the conversion process was something that most home users wouldn’t attempt, today there are affordable software and hardware products that allow even slightly technically challenged people to accomplish it on a Mac.

Things You'll Need

  • Apple iLife software (iMovie, iDVD)
  • Video capture hardware

Step 1

To allow your Mac to capture the video content and convert it to a format that can be burned to DVD, you have to connect a VCR to a video capture hardware unit and attach that to your Mac. You’ll use Apple’s iMovie to edit and save the data to your hard drive and iDVD software to burn it to a DVD.

Step 2

Research the market before buying any hardware for your project. You’ll need to spend some money; anything under $100 is generally a bad choice. For some of the more popular choices, see Resources below.

Step 3

Install Apple’s iWork software on your Mac. Some Macs have iMovie and iDVD preinstalled; others require that it be installed. Run “Software Update” (found under the apple in the upper left of the screen) to ensure that you have all the latest fixes and updates installed before proceeding.

Step 4

Connect the audio and video out jacks on the VCR to the audio and video in jacks on the video capture unit using the RCA cables. Then connect the video capture unit to your Mac using a FireWire or USB cable. Confirm that everything is powered on and then launch iMovie on the Mac.

Step 5

Insert a VHS tape into the player and hit the play button. In iMovie, click on “Record” to start capturing your video and allow the tape to run uninterrupted. Remember that importing video is a time-consuming process and occurs in real time, so a two-hour tape requires two hours to import.

Step 6

Save your file upon completion of the import. By using the features included in iMovie, you can edit the video, add music and graphics or insert other video clips or pictures into the final project.

Step 7

Burn the final edit to a DVD using iDVD. This is also a time-intensive process; however, it varies depending on the size of the file and the processor speed of your Mac. Use movie-quality DVD-R media, not a bargain brand. If you plan on producing multiple copies of your movie, do it here so that you don't have to repeat the iDVD process at a later time. Test the finished product in a standard DVD player before moving onto your next project.

Tips & Warnings

  • You will need a large block of free space on your hard drive to import video, so check first.
  • Consider maxing out your RAM beforehand, otherwise your Mac may perform sluggishly.
  • If you plan on archiving your video files, store them on an external hard drive.
  • Violating copyrights is a punishable offense.