With simple to use software and capture hardware this bundle is a straightforward way to preserve old video recordings.
Every time we think that videotape is finally dead, we get another email from a reader asking how best to preserve their old VHS or Video8 tapes on their PC. Capturing analogue video to a digital format has numerous benefits. Not only will your old recordings inevitably degrade in quality over time, but once on your PC you can give them a new lease of life by re-editing the footage, and then distributing the results to friends and family via DVDs or YouTube.
We reviewed Magix’s original Rescue Your Videotapes last year and were impressed by its simplicity and decent results at default settings. This new version improves on that with even more streamlined software, Magix’s Video Easy.
The bright red USB capture device has a breakout cable with composite, S-video and stereo phono inputs. Composite video isn’t terribly impressive, and if you have a camcorder with an S-video output you’ll see much crisper results. A handy adaptor is also provided in the box, so you can hook up a VCR with a SCART output.
Launch the software and pick the option to capture video and you’re taken to a simple wizard. Here you can record the incoming video manually, and if you want to record large sections you can ask the software to automatically recognise scenes and divide up your video clips appropriately. This worked well, but only if you want a new clip every time you cut on the original.
You can delve into an options screen to fine tune video capture. There’s manual control over noise reduction, which reduces the appearance of coloured speckles but can also remove actual detail if used aggressively. You can also tweak resolutions, frame rates, bit-rates and even encoder quality (though you’ll need a PC faster than the basic specifications for this).
While the range of options is good, there’s little explanation of how to use them, so it’ll take some trial and error before you find the best combination. We upped the noise reduction a little, but stuck with the default 9.8Mbit/s MPEG2 format – as this is the maximum bit-rate for DVD-compatible video.
The next step lets you make basic editing decisions, you can cut clips up and reorganise them, insert basic titles, add still images or other video content from your PC, and put the whole thing to music. The editing tool is rudimentary, but it was stable, and it covers all the basic options you’ll want without the usual endless menus. We would like to have seen a few more audio options though, as you can’t fade music in and out over time.
Once you’ve finished your masterpiece, the software will burn it to DVD, save it to your PC, or upload it directly to YouTube. DVD burning gives you a range of basic DVD menu templates, just pick one and click burn. You can only save files to your PC in WMV or MPEG2 formats, rather than the more efficient MPEG4. Uploading to YouTube brings up a screen to fill in your video’s name and content information, before uploading it directly to your account.
Rescue Your Videotapes does exactly what it claims, and anyone should be able to follow its simple step-by-step software. However, we feel that more complex options for capturing, editing and output could have been included without sacrificing its ease of use. Media suites, like Roxio Creator 2010 Pro, have software to handle these tasks – all you then need is a USB video capture device (which you can pick up online for around £15). However, if you need both software and hardware, this is very easy to get to grips with.