My parents have mountains of VHS tapes that are slowly degrading in various boxes, cabinets and shelves throughout their house.  For Christmas, I got them a Canopus (now Grass Valley) ADVC-300.  The results were pretty awesome.  Here’s what we did:

  1. Purchased the ADVC-300 online from Electronica Direct via Amazon.
  2. Went to Wal-Mart and got the cheapest VHS player they had.  I think this is important.  If you’ve got a ton of videos to convert, make sure you have a player that’s ready for the load.  If you dig out the old player from 1987, you might get poor results.
  3. Went to Best Buy and got a Firewire 400 to 800 converter cable.  The ADVC-300 comes with a 400 to mini-400 cable, but my parents have a newer iMac that has a Firewire 800 port so the extra cable was necessary.
  4. Plugged everything in: VHS player to ADVC-300 to iMac
  5. Opened iMovie, clicked import, pressed play on the VHS player

The results were very nice.  Obviously quality is determined by the tapes, but the process was generally hassle free.  The only pain point was that iMovie stops importing every time it reaches empty tape.  So if you’ve got several things on one tape and a few seconds between each video set, then iMovie will stop importing at the end of each and you’ll have to manually restart the import for the next set.  I’m guessing that if you used a “pro” application like Final Cut, this could probably be avoided.

If you’ve got a stockpile, now’s the time.  I found tapes with mold in the cassette and one tape broke during playback due to brittle plastic.  I’m glad we converted to DV because I’m not sure those tapes would last much longer and it would be a shame to lose 20+ years of video records.

Bottom line: the ADVC-300 is a solid purchase for anyone looking to convert VHS tapes to digital video.