June 30, 2020

Sony Digital 8

One of the things that I liked to do with my PowerMac G4 series desktop computers was to digitalize VHS tapes. In the early 2000s, it wasn't easy to connect a VHS player to a Macintosh computer.

Fortunately for me, I just happen to own a Sony DCR-TRV720 Digital Video Camera Recorder. This camera has an RCA input and a Firewire (iLink) output. This means that I could use the camera as a bridge to get video into my Macintosh from a VHS player.

This diagram shows how I was able to get video into the computer.

TRV720 Mac Layout

I still have the Sony DCR-TRV720 Digital Video Camera and still use it every once in a while to get video into the computer. It won't work with the newest iMac Computers - as they don't have a Firewire port. Sure I could get a USB-C to Firewire adapter but I don't think it's worth spending $29 for the few times that I would use it. In addition, I think using a dongle Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter could impact the video quality.

I am better off just firing up the old G4 computer and doing the converting and transferring it to my desktop to do any Final Cut Pro editing.

Five Things I Learned

  1. The Sony DCR-TRV720 Digital Video Camera is a good video camera but only captures video in 720 dpi - not useful when most videos today are in 1080p format.
  2. The digital bridge works when I have the camera set up as VTR mode and have a tape in the digital camera. Not exactly sure why this is the case, but it's the only way I got it to work.
  3. To play the VHS tapes, I used a JVC Stereo Video Cassette Recorder HR-VP673U. Which was a pretty good system at the time. I have never had an issue with VHS tapes breaking or playing back in poor quality. I still have this on my home desk today! (Hidden but still on my desk!) You can find it on ebay for about $65.
  4. I found that BTV was the best application to view and capture video. The application instantly found the video from the Firewire port. Ben Software has discontinued the application. They have an alternative solution called SwiftCapture which provides many of the same features. Since I am using an old computer - I can still use the BTV.
  5. The camera still comes in handy today. I still use it every once in a while to get VHS recordings to DVDs or YouTube. Some friends have asked to convert old home movies so they could watch them again.

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