Video Capture in 2015 - Software, Equipment, and Challenges

A few years ago, I created a 30 minute iMovie for my parents' birthdays. It was a huge hit. But the video quality was terrible. 

It's 2015. I'm sure I can do better. Here are some of the unique tools and challenges that come with video capture today.

While it's only been 3 years, a lot has changed in video capture since 2012. 

For starters, iMovie has been updated. I'm probably going to have to take a refresher course at our local Apple Store, just to get the hang of how to use iMovie again. 

As an aside, I highly recommend taking advantage of the free classes at your Apple Store. 

If you have a Mac, you have iMovie, iPhoto (soon to be Photos), and GarageBand. 

You probably aren't using all of them as well as you could be. 

Getting Better Video Quality

The biggest issue with my  my ONLY video source was VHS. 

Even video that was originally Super8 film had been transferred to VHS. 

At the lowest quality/highest capacity setting. 

Secondly, the VCR that I was using wasn't great - a standard Zenith VHS machine. 

Finally, I was running my video capture using some pretty dodgy software, into a Dell PC that was already ancient - a Pentium 2-based Dimension 8300. 

I knew I could do better, but I was pressed for time. 

Now, I'm working without a deadline - we are going to start with a high-definition transfer of the Super8 film

(We'll be outsourcing that work.)

That gets us from about 1975 through 1987 worth of video. 

From that point through about 2003, my parents were using a VHS camcorder - so we gain audio (yay), but lose a TON of video definition (boo). 

Capturing VHS material is not really an exact science - but we'll be doing this ourselves, and the quality of the VCR matters. 

As I mentioned in a recent post, I just acquired a JVC HR-S9800U S-VHS player, which is one of the best consumer VCRs ever made. 

Now, we need to buy a video capture device (with S-Video input), and Mac-capable video capture software. 

I'm not looking for an internal video capture card - that's not going to work with my iMac. I need a standalone device that will accept video from multiple sources, and output to USB. 

Looking at Newegg, I see a number of "Game Capture" devices, including several from Hauppage that look very good. 
However, this elgato video capture device really seems to fit the bill. 

It's not cheap at $80, but it has Mac-specific software. 

And it has all of the connections that I could conceivably need - including S-Video and composite audio.  

The Amazon reviews are very, very good. Besides, I'm a Prime member now, and I need to buy more stuff on Amazon to justify that expense!

We'll get started on this project in the next month or so - it will be a better-looking, better thought out anthology of our family videos -- and it will be updated through 2015. 

The ultimate "deliverable" will be a professional-looking, printed blu-ray for (at a minimum) my parents and my sister's family - including a plastic case and cover art.

In the meantime, I'll get started on a full digital transfer of our VHS wedding video - that's the only VHS tape I currently have in-hand!

I'll keep everyone updated....


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