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User Guide

Overview

This is your basic guide to help you capture your favorite memories from all those old tapes, like your VHS, Hi8, Digital8, MiniDV and HDV tapes. You will learn how to easily capture them to your computer and/or external hard drives. We’re going to focus on the consumer versions of cameras and technologies and skip a few older formats that had lower use, like Betamax.

Tape size comparison

VHS (1980-1990)

Hi8 (1990-1995)

MiniDV (1995-2007)

Are your tapes analog or digital?

First, you need to know if your tapes are analog (slightly older) or digital format. The equipment you need to capture these videos differs for each format. See the list below for what tapes are in what format. The years in the table are from the time period when the camera was at the height of it’s use and are there to give you an idea of what kind of camera you owned. Analog tapes require a hardware device to convert (or transcode) from the analog to digital format, where as digital tapes can be captured straight to your computer without an analog to digital converter. See the “Steps & Equipment to Capture Your Tapes Section.”

Tape name & years it was typically used

VHS (1980 - 1990)

Digital8 - D8 (2000-2004)

MiniDV(1995 - 2007)

DVCAM(1998 - 2007)

HDV (2004 - 2008)

VHS

  • 1-Your tapes
  • 2-A VHS camera or VCR machine
  • 3-An Analog to Digital converter. I recommend VIDBOX Video Conversion for Mac. (purchase here)
  • 4-A computer (this example is for Macs)

Getting Started Basics

When importing your old tapes, there are some basic steps you need to know so you can enjoy the amazing process of seeing all of the old moments that have been stuck on those tapes come back to your life. Capturing the videos can only be done in REAL TIME, meaning all your tapes need to be played at normal speed, then captured to your computer or external hard drive. This means TWO THINGS, capturing the videos take a while because each vieotape can contain 60-90 minutes of video AND you need a device to play the tape, like your camera. Don’t worry, we’re going to tell you everything you need to make this important process as easy as possible.

What do you need to import your tapes?

For both analog and digital tapes, you need a player to transmit the video, which could either be a camera or a deck device. In addition, if you are capturing analog tapes, you’ll need to purchase or borrow a hardware device that converts the analog format to digital. If your tapes are already digital, then all you need are the right cables to connect your camera to your computer. No matter what type of tape format you have, we’ve put together the best steps to help you capture tapes to your computer. (find your tapes in the list below):

Watch Getting Started Video for MiniDV

Digital8 or D8

  • 1-Your tapes
  • 2-A Digital8 camera
  • 3-Capture software (LifeFlix)
  • 4-A computer (this example is for Macs)
  • 5-A firewire cable that connects your camera directly to your computer (See Mac Connection guide for more information, click here)

Hi8 or Video8

  • 1-Your tapes
  • 2-A Hi8 camera or Digital8 camera
  • 3-An Analog to Digital converter. I recommend VIDBOX Video Conversion for Mac.(Buy Here)
  • 4-Capture software (I recommend using the software that comes with the Elga to hardware)
  • 5- A computer (this example is for Macs)
  • 6-USB connector on the computer (the Elgato device connects to the computer’s USB port)

MiniDV (see diagram below)

  • 1-Your tapes
  • 2-A MiniDV camera (See more information on how to get a camera, click here)
  • 3-Capture software (LifeFlix)
  • 4-A computer (this example is for Macs)
  • 5-A firewire cable that connects your camera directly to your computer (See Mac Connection guide for more information, click here)
  • 6- A Firewire (camera connector) to Thunderbolt (computer connector) adapter
    • a-Firewire (IEEE 1394 9 Pin to 4 Pin).Buy on Amazon
    • b-Apple Fire wire to Thunder bolt adapter. Buy Here

HDV & DVCAM

Same as MiniDV process.

  • MiniDV Camera
  • CamCador
  • Computer Connect to Camera (Firewire 9 pin to 4 pin)
  • Connect toThunderbolt 3 (Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3)
  • Connect to Computer (Firewire to thunderbolt)

What is compression?

Here is a very basic overview of compression to help you make a decision of what type of compression to use when capturing and archiving your important video memories. Compression for both still images and video images is an essential technology that allows us to better view, store, and share images. In a very general sense, compression on images is just what the word means, which is to compress or make an image smaller. If we interacted with images in their “RAW” form, our hard drives would fill up and it would be nearly impossible to stream videos to our fancy new TVs, because of the large size of the RAW files. Every day you see JPG and PNG photos, which are both compression formats, and all videos on Netflix and YouTube are compressed. Digital stills and video images are made up of pixels, or individual dots that represent different colors. When they are put together they form the images we see. These pixels make up data bits that make up the file size, or the MB/GB’s. For example standard definition video has 640 pixels horizontally and 480 pixels vertically (640 x 480), whereas HD video has 1920 pixels horizontally and 1080 vertically (1920 x 1080). That is why HD video is much larger and takes up more hard drive space. The goal for the incredible engineers that develop compression techniques is to reduce the size of the video file but not change how the original image looks to the eye. Modern compression algorithms are amazing, making it nearly impossible to see the difference between the RAW image and the compressed image.

What is the best format to save your taped videos long term?

Our recommendation is to use the MP4 or MPEG 4 compression technology on your taped videos. As an example, YouTube uses MP4 and the creators of YouTube are industry experts at providing the highest quality content available to their viewers. Using DV or MiniDV tapes as an example, if you visually compare the original DV files from the tapes, and the same files compressed with MP4, they are indistinguishable, but the file size is 1/10 smaller. I have uploaded a DV file and a MP4 compressed file for you to compare the two. See examples here

Watching and editing your videos

Many of you may want to capture the videos off your tapes because you’re worried about them degrading and losing your memories forever, althrough this is true (tapes last about 10-15 years), the main reason we do this is because we want to watch them whenever we can, right? One of the reasons I recommend LifeFlix for importing your videos is it automatically loads all the individual clips into a visual catalog to easily watch, share, trim, and combine video clips into home movies. If you want a little more power, or more editing and effect features, I recommend using iMovie on the Mac; it is by far the easiest editing tool on the market.

Resources

Equipment
    • Analog to digital converter (for Analog cameras and VCR players);
    • VIDBOX Video Conversion for Mac. Buy Here
    • Firewire cable (9 pin to 4 pin). Buy Here
    • Firewire to Thunderbolt adapter Buy Here
    • Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adaptor. Buy Here
    • Don’t have a MiniDV camera? Buy a used one here
Equipment
  • Getting started importing MiniDV tapes. Watch Now
  • Importing MiniDV tapes directly to a hard drive.Watch Now

Importing, Exporting, and Compression Options

LifeFlix is designed to easily import your MiniDV tapes from your camera to your computer. There are a couple of choices you can make while importing, and when exporting or storing your files. The default options are what we consider the best, for those who may not understand the technical aspects of formats and compression.

Four choices to make during your import:

  • Rewind or don't rewind the tape before importing.
  • Compress or don't compress the videos.
  • Save your imports to your computer or to an external hard drive.
  • Convert to HD

Three choices to make after your import:

  • Keep all videos as individual clips (or scenes), or combine them into one video/file.
  • Keep videos on your computer hard drive, or move them to an external hard drive.
  • Share video clips to iMessage, AirDrop or email.

Import Options

LifeFlix supports NTSC and PAL formats. In the Import window that appears during your import, you can choose from two checkboxes

Rewind Tape Before Import. Leave this checked if you're importing a new tape to ensure that the tape is rewound before Import. If you want to import a section from the middle of the tape, or want to re-import a part of a video, then uncheck this box before import.

Compress Video On Import.We recommend leaving this box checked because the quality is great. It also creates a smaller file and uses MP4 compression, which is modern and has a high quality. If you uncheck the box, it will Import without adding additional compression and will leave the video in its original DV format. Convert To HD. You can choose to Convert To HD on import. Doing so will increase the SD size from (640 x 480) to (1920 x 1080) while maintaining the (640 x 480) aspect ratio. To prevent the SD video from being distorted, you will notice that this will place black letterbox margins on the left and right of the video

More on Compression....

  • Compressed (leaving the box checked). We use a .mov QuickTime wrapper and apply the Quicktime h.264 or MP4 codec for compression. The data rate for compressed is 3.3 mbps, frame rate is 29.97 (same as original), and resolution is 640x480 (same as original). This option also deinterlaces the video (most people won't see any difference between compressed and uncompressed). MP4 videos upload to YouTube the fastest because it is the format they use on their platform.
  • Uncompressed (unchecking the box). We merely perform a transcode of the original DV file. It does not compress the original video, it only adds a .mov QuickTime wrapper to it. Choosing uncompressed also retains the original resolution, frame rate, etc. Also, there is no deinterlacing done. 60 minutes of uncompressed video is going to take about 13 GB of storage space. Uploading DV files to YouTube takes a lot longer because YouTube needs to transcode the format to MP4.
  • See a visual comparison of video with each compression method here. Want more information? Learn more here: MP4 compression and DV compression.

Export or Saving Options

The imported video files can either be saved to your computer (our default) or on an external drive, either as separate individual video clips/files, or combined into a single video clip/file

Saving to your computer. Just click Import and files will be stored locally in the User/Movies/LifeFlix/Tapes/Scenes folder.

Saving to an external drive.Before Importing, select the "Choose Video Folder" option under the LifeFlix DV Importer menu. Select your drive, then continue with Importing.

Save as separate video clips or "Scenes."This is the default - just import your tapes!

Combine all video clips and save as a single file. Follow these steps after importing:

  • 1-Connect your camera and click the blue Import button. The Import Options window will appear. Name your tape and optionally give it a description.
  • 2- Click Import and come back to it in about an hour. For each tape's import you'll see multiple scenes.
  • 3-To combine all scenes or create a single file, click on a Tape, then click the Create Single File button, just above the Scenes. This process can take several minutes depending on the amount of scenes in your video. Doing this will combine all scenes inside of LifeFlix and leaves a single file on your computer (or hard drive). Note: this overwrites the existing files. You can Undo this process by selecting Undo under the Edit menu.

You may also select any combination of individual scenes and use the Combine button to merge them together as one file.