Digitizing Analog Video with your Mac

Connecting the hardware with Mac, external hard drive and vcr for digitizing

A while ago I created a tutorial on how to digitize analog videos using your Mac. Recently I had a client bring some VHS tapes which he wanted to include in a powerpoint presentation.

You would think once you’ve done it you can easily fire everything up, make all the necessary connections easily without a problem. Well, it turned out I couldn’t.

After a bit of fiddling, I got it to work. Always points to poor documentation by the Taiwan manufacturer of the bridge I bought.This piece of hardware DAC-100 is from Data Video.

Once I got it to work, I thought I had better take some pictures and put them online somewhere.

As expected that piece of hardware has been discontinued and is no longer around anymore. When I visited that link, I couldn’t find it anymore. No surprise since it’s been a while.

So here’s what the setup looks like. Needless to say, you’ll need a powerstrip since you’ll be plugging in at least 5 devices. I had to connect:

  • a VCR
  • a tv or monitor
  • a powerbook
  • an external firewire/USB 2.0 hard drive
  • the bridge DAC-100

The VCR can be substituted with your analog video source. When I digitized all my Hi8 tapes, my analog video camera took the place of the VCR in this setup. In this instance since my client brought a VHS cassette tape, I used my old VCR. Good thing I had one laying around.

The tv or monitor is so that when the video source is playing on the VCR, I can cue up when and where I want to import the footage.

My VCR had only 1 RCA out jack and no S-video out, so I had to choose RCA. We all know depending on the age of your VCR, that is not unheard off.

The powerbook is where the software, iMovie will control the whole digitizing.

The external hard drive is where the video is going to be stored once the video is digitized. The stock hard drive on powerbooks are tiny and impractical unless your video source is only a few minutes long.

Besides, once digitized, I will use my MacPro to do the heavy lifting of editing and rendering the finished DVD.Keeping the digitized video on an external hard drive makes transferring to the Mac Pro a snap.

Finally there is the bridge itself the DAC-100. It’s nothing remarkable at all. A basic box with input and output jacks.

That’s why this whole assembly looked like an octopus with lots of wires snaking into one device and out another.

So when you’re done connecting everything, head back to my tutorial in the other section of my website and you should have no problems.

There may be a few differences in your setup. That will most likely be your bridge or digitizing hardware. Or maybe the hardware you use to play you analog video.

If you’re converting your home videos then you must be the kind who trusts no one with those treasures of your kids, family members and other milestones in your life.

It’s tempting to send these old analog tapes out. But doing it yourself is more fun, I’m lying. I know I wasn’t thinking that when I was editing about 10 minutes worth of my infant child just laying there not doing much.

The truth is, I was worried whoever was doing the editing and digitizing would just chop off a part which might be meaningless to them but NOT to me.

If you run into problems with your project, just enter a comment and I’ll respond here in the blog.

6 thoughts on “Digitizing Analog Video with your Mac”

  1. I appreciate your feedback very much. As you know, it’s a lot more fun when sharing information online and there’s feedback.

    I actually like iPhoto 08. “Faces” in the latest version of iPhoto has some interesting possibilities. The algorithm brought up pictures of my father in a young portrait, of my brother and my son when I told it to find pictures of me!

    I’m putting it through its paces to see what it can and can’t do. Like pictures of me with and without glasses.

    Stay tuned for my updates.

  2. The PDFs have already all been safely downloaded, but you are correct to urge others to do the same. Apart from being useful to owners, it will be good information to pass on, should one wish to sell the DAC-100, as the information provided with the machine is extremely limited. I’m sure that potential purchasers will appreciate the additional information and I am equally sure that it will not remain online indefinitely.

    I found your site through a simple Google search for “dac100 datavideo converter”.

    Incidentally, I also enjoyed your brief look at iPhoto 8.

  3. David,
    Thanks for posting back and especially for sharing that URL for datavideo I just downloaded that pdf and saved it to my computer. You never know when hardware manufacturers will move things around on their website especially after they discontinued a product. Later, when you really need reference, it’s gone.

    I would urge you to do the same. At least we now know the cause of your vertical line striations as something on the “original” video. May I ask how you came across my site?

  4. Thank you for your prompt response, Pete.

    Well, you seem to have noticed something on the original video-tape that I missed: wherever the vertical coloration occurs in the digitised version, the analogue tape shows an extremely brief “break” during playback. And by “extremely brief”, I mean perhaps a tenth of a second or less — blink and you really do miss it. I assume this is some error in the original analogue encoding (the video actually holds copies of super-8 film material, shot over thirty-five years ago and placed onto the tape some ten years or so ago.)

    Other than these dropouts (for the want of a better term), the DAC-100 has performed well. Although the product is now deleted, I have been able to find some information for Mac users which supplements the extremely limited documentation that came in the box. Although the European Datavideo site seems to have nothing about the DAC-100, the US site still has setup guides and manuals available in PDF format at http://www.datavideo.us/setup_guides.html

    The guides only go up to iMovie 5, but that’s enough to get the correct iMovie preference settings. Unfortunately, the DIP switch settings for PAL with Mac shown in the FAQs and in one of the setup guides do not match, so that remains trial and error (I’d suggest setting DIP 2 to OFF), but there’s a lot more info than is otherwise available.

  5. I feel your pain David. It’s certainly a problem which I’m uncertain of the cause.

    What happens when you play that section of the tape through your tv?
    If there is not a similar flash with colored vertical stripes, then it might have to do with the converter.

    I wonder if you stop the import just before that flash, meaning break the clip there, and continue the import if you will still get that brief flash.

    If I recall correctly the DAC-100 suggest you set the audio encoding bit rate to 16-Bit. I’m just guessing here but when I tried it, sometimes the infernal DAC-100 wouldn’t stay on 16-Bit.

    You probably thought of this already:
    Try and borrow another “Bridge” like a recent DV camcorder which will allow you to “pass” the analog video through as outlined here.

    Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. Keep me posted. It will be useful for me and other Mac users who are going down this very same road.

  6. Using much the same setup (also not having used the DAC-100 for several years!). Finally found the right connections. Previously used S-Video cable between VCR and DAC and don’t recall any problems. Now using someone else’s VCR and have to use a SCART-RCA cable for video out.

    Generally works fine into both iDVD and iMovie HD (iMovie 6) on a G4 iMac (flatscreen) with Tiger, but have what I presume to be the occasional dropped frame — a brief flash of coloured vertical stripes.

    Any idea what this really is and if there is a solution?

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