Digitizing My Videotapes, Records and Cassettes



Like most people, I have a ton of analog media like VHS videotapes, vinyl records and cassettes.So I decided to digitize them.



Videotapes were easy.I have a dual VCR-DVD recorder so I just used that to duplicate my VHS tapes.I only copied my personal tapes, not the commercially-recorded ones, partly because itís illegal and partly because so many of them have copy-protect mechanisms in them.For my commercially-recorded ones, I guess Iíll just have to watch them with the VCR side of my machine.When it finally breaks, I may just have to break down and buy DVDís to replace the tapes.


For RECORDS and CASSETTES, you first should download and install the free Audacity program (www.audacity.com).It seems to be the industry standard for recording music on computers.Itís incredibly sophisticated but also pretty easy to use, with plenty of tutorials, context-sensitive help, etc.Best of all, itís free!



To copy records, you can use your existing turntable.Mine was in bad shape but I was able to cobble it together enough to use it for this project.You plug your left- and right-channel plugs Ė that you would normally plug into your stereo Ė into a device that plugs into a USB port on your computer.The device I used was a Behringer U-PHONO UFO202 (Amazon, $29.99).Most turntables produce a very weak signal that is amplified by your stereo and/or a pre-amp but this device has a pre-amp built into it so thatís all you need.You just hit the Record button on Audacity, then play your record on the turntable.The only problem is that you sorta have to babysit it, in case your record skips (only happened once or twice to me); you canít just start it and go have coffee for twenty minutes!At the end of each side, youíll want to go back and trim off the first several seconds, etc.One could write a whole book on finessing the recordings.



Recording your cassettes is very similar.You can use a regular cassette player (the better quality, the better result, obviously).For this process, youíll plug into the headphone jack of the cassette player, and plug that into your conversion device.I didnít use the Behringer for this, though.I used a different device, a Xitel Inport (Amazon; $17.18) because the Behringer didnít have a standard 1/8Ē input jack on it.As with your records, you hit the Record button on Audacity and play your cassette like you normally would.For this process, it doesnít require nearly as much babysitting; you really can go have a twenty-minute coffee break, although you may want to occasionally peek at the recording levels, etc.Again, one could write a whole book on that aspect!



After you capture your record or cassette, you still need to create the final output format.At this point, the recording is in .aud format, Audacityís proprietary format.To get it into a useful format, you need to Export it to, most commonly, .wav or .mp3 format.If you want to burn the recording to a CD, export it to .wav format; thatís the format most CD burners use.If you want to make an MP3 file, so that you can listen to it with your iPod or MP3 player, export it as an .mp3 file.††



This was pretty brief, I know.If anyone has any questions, send me an email (jayblake@prodigy.net).If I canít answer in an email or two, we can discuss by phone.