New camcorders are made to be compatible with home video editing systems using USB cables, firewire connections or memory cards. However, older video cameras and VCRs do not have these options. Older camcorders have composite A/V ports that can hook up to a VCR or television. Video capture cards and other peripherals allow you to connect these older models to a modern computer so you can edit and save movies digitally.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Composite RCA cables
- RCA-to-USB adaptor
Purchase an RCA-to-USB converter, which converts the composite video and audio RCA plugs into a signal that's compatible with a USB port. If the converter comes with software, install that software on your computer first, following the manufacturer's instructions.
Connect the USB plug into an open USB port on your computer. Depending on the converter, it might be necessary to connect a 1/8-inch cable from the converter into the open microphone port of the computer, which is usually located right next to the headphones port.
Connect the red, white and yellow RCA cables to the same-colour "video out" ports on your camcorder or VCR. The yellow cable carries the composite video signal. The red cable carries the right channel of stereo audio. The white cable carries the left channel of stereo audio, also called the mono signal.
Open the video capture program on your computer. Current versions of Microsoft Windows and the Mac OS come bundled with such a program, which automatically detects your connection. Alternately, use the proprietary capture program that came with your RCA-to-USB converter.
Play the videotape on your camcorder or VCR. Verify the signal is coming into your computer. Most software comes with a live preview in which you can watch the video signal through the computer.
Press the "Capture" or "Record" button on your software. Let the video play for the desired length you wish to capture. Then press "Stop" and save the file. Most capture programs automatically save the file.
Tips and warnings
- Alternatives to an RCA-to-USB converter include purchasing an analogue capture card or a firewire capture card, which can be installed into an open PCMCIA slot.
- When capturing video, some devices offer S-video, which splits the video signal into separate signals of colour and brightness for better video quality.
- Many modern devices, like flip cameras, come with a memory card that records the video directly to a digital file. That card can then be pulled from the camera and inserted into a computer for fast file transfer.
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