Digitizing Analog VHS tapes - to AVI or to DVD
Among "digitizers".. people who want to transfer or convert their VHS tapes to PC files or DVD media there are two camps.
First are the professionals who know every detail about quality and quantity and do it as a business.
Second are the casual users of VHS tapes, who have not used them in years or infrequently and now find they want to perform this quickly and as a means to finally get rid of the tapes.
Among the first category are websites and forums that are mostly going quiet these days, occasionally helping one another to care for the equipment they are using to make these conversions, and answering few questions from "newbies" to the profession or hobbyist who happen to just be starting.
First its important to understand the last VCR was made in 2016 and the tapes are also no longer being made. Every year the tapes get older and degrade and these forgotten memories move closer to oblivion.
Of the remaining VCRs most are not well maintained or cared for and decay from misuse.. or become damaged from being plugged into fluxuating power lines and lightening strikes. If they don't end up being recycled or tossed in the dump.. they are given away.. and a very few end up on eBay or Amazon or Craigslist as "used".
Among the second category users generally start out with a combo VHS to DVD or some USB dongle to perform the "captures" and are sorely disappointed with their results.. they turn to the web and find the "prosumer or professional forums" and discover a new world of choice and information that tends to overwhelm.
There is also almost a "stages of grief" that sets in from the gradual understanding that what they were attempting has many levels of quality and generally the professionals tell them they've been doing everything the wrong way.. so they get their standards wound up and upgraded to "pure" and "archival quality".. seeking legenday and near mythical "unobtainium" in the role of VCRs with digitial noise filters and line and frame "Time Base Correctors"..
Eventually if they don't quit.. or run out of money and hope.. they discover the easier "MPEG2" path.. a lower bit rate and quality that for some is "good enough" and subscribes to a lower spec than "absolute perfection".
In or around 2003 to 2008 there was a fleeting moment in time when $500 to $1500 DVD recorders were "Staged" to replace the VCR as a means of copying broadcast television to DVD discs.
These could also be used to "capture" the VHS tapes being played back to DVD discs.
Unfortunately with success also comes the realization that the DVD could not hold as much per disc.. so people sought to edit out "commercials" or beginning and end credits for seasons of shows. Doing this by DVD recorder alone with no intermediary was "impossibly difficult".. enter the combo.. Hard Disk (HDD) and (DVD) recorder.. which could "Capture" even the longest tapes to its internal hard drive and let the user selectively edit and rearrange material and burn "title lists" to a single disc or break up the list and burn groupings of "title lists" to sequences of DVDs one after the other.
Great in theory and practice with a little experience.
But then all of the major makers of DVD recorders and HDD/DVD recorders disappeared one day.. and the remaining recorders aged and the DVD burners begain to wear out.
So people then looked towards settling for capturing DVD quality to PC files.. but the capture equipment usually (with a few exceptions) would not allow copying the large MPEG2 files used to create DVD discs to a PC.
Which then brings us to the Home Theater PC.. a complicated mix of presentation and workstation editing capability. Generally these are not designed with editing and archiving in mind and support is near non-existent. The standards unlike DVD or MPEG2 for DVD, rove all over the file type landscape and confuse to no end.. mastering or "authoring" a DVD from files captured to a HTPC is a soul crushing exercise.
A single maker of an HDD/DVD recorder lasted until 2017 "magnavox" and then mysteriously did not deliver a set of three new recorders in the last half of that year.. stranding many archivist with no way to finish their conversions.. or soldier on.