How to Record Digital Audio From VHS Tape for Transcription

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What you need

  • A VHS player
  • A PC/laptop
  • A twin phono to 3.5mm (1/8 inch) Stereo Jack Lead (available from (for example) Maplin – UK, RadioShack -USA)
  • A SCART phono out adaptor (available as above)
  • Sound editing software such as Goldwave (Shareware) or Audacity

Setting up

Put the VHS cassette into the player and check that it’s the correct tape! With the VHS machine turned off, put the SCART adaptor into the SCART socket. If you’re planning to record video as well as audio, now or in the future, you’re better off purchasing the slightly more expensive SCART to phono/S-vido input-output adaptor, which does exactly what it says on the tin – allows you to both input and output sound and video. To output video to your PC though, you would also need an S-video card.

In order to transfer audio only, plug the twin phono sockets (red and white) at one end of your lead into the matching colours on the SCART adaptor.

Plug the other end of the lead into the microphone socket of your PC.

Using Goldwave

In the control box set preferences as follows:

  • Record tab: record mode: unbounded
  • Volume tab: Device: your sound card (e.g. NVIDIA sound card in my case)
  • Device tab: Playback device: Primary sound driver
  • Device tab: Record device: Primary sound capture driver

You can chose the time in advance e.g. if you know the video is 1 hour long

you can set to record for one hour. Or you can leave it to just record. If

you record a lot of blank at the end you can ‘save selection’ (from the file menu) and select the relevant bits.

The settings I use are ‘mono’ at a sample rate of 44100 if it asks, but I have to confess that I don’t really understand sample rates fully and would welcome advice from an audio wiz!

In Audacity I believe you have to set the file as x amount of silence and then record over it, but I’m not sure about that as I’ve only used Goldwave.

Recording

Press record in your sound editing software.

Press play on your VHS machine.

The VHS is recorded into digital audio.

Finishing

When the VHS has finished press stop on your VHS machine and stop in your sound editing software.

Now you MUST save your file – this is a bit slow for a large file, but if

you don’t do it you lose it!

I believe Goldwave automatically defaults to WAV files (see my article on digital file types if you’re not sure what file type to use) but if WAV is too large for you e.g. if you need to send the file to your transcriptionist, you can convert. Probably due to my settings and through no fault of the software itself, I get very poor results converting to wma (a really compressed file) but I get excellent results converting to mp3 (fairly compressed). To do this simply ‘save as’ and choose mp3 from the bottom box in the dialogue box.

You should now have a fully functioning audio file which can be sent to your transcriptionist or loaded into your transcription software.

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