iPhone Life magazine

Preserve Your VCR Tape Collection with Elgato Video Capture

So you are looking for an easy way to convert all those home movies you have on VCR tape or camcorder? Want to carry those keepsakes around with you on your iPad? I’ve got just the accessory for you, then. The Elgato Video Capture device. It connects to a Mac (or PC*), and allows you to record from your analog sources quickly and easily. I had a chance to try out the device, but my son actually did this review on his Mac… As I’m still a “PC” I tried it out on my home computer as well.

*Not all features available for the Mac may be supported on PC. The version we reviewed here did not come with software for Windows, but I managed to get it somewhat functional on my Windows 7 laptop using the free, and excellent VLC. The vendor web-site now indicates they are shipping video capture software for Windows as well.

It is pretty simple to set up and use this device. The software walks you through the process of connecting and detecting an incoming signal. The Elgato unit ships with an RCA/composite A/V cable and adapter.

 Once you you plug in the USB video capture on one side, and your VCR on the other side (yellow-to-yellow, white-to-white, red-to-red, etc.), the software uses a wizard step-by-step approach to help you to set up the various aspects of the recording session. As you can see below, my son captured one of his exercise videos, so he can take it with him to the gym on his iPhone.

On the PC side of the house, I tried this with my Gateway Windows 7 laptop connected to the Elgato and my Panasonic D-Snap video camera. I tried using the free Windows Media Encoder  (the older version 9 product) and VLC software as mentioned above (both free video encoding/x-coding/streaming tools) in order to capture and record the analog signal. 

Windows 7 automatically detected and installed drivers for the Elgato, so I figured I could easily do the Mac one better...Why just capture video when you can re-stream it on your network as well? I was somewhat disappointed...

Old WME 9 would not capture the signal at all, but VLC was able to play back the video from my handheld camera (connected through the Elgato), though there was some interference at the bottom of the display. VLC exited when I tried re-streaming the video, however.

I did not spend a great deal of time tweaking/t-shooting it though, and maybe the newer WME product might have been successful. The consumer package should include Cyberlink’s Power Director 8 Capture Edition, which will work much more readily for simply recording video, so the point is probably moot.

The Elgato Video Record device really shines in the area of getting video ready for iTunes and your iPod, iPad, or iPhone. It records using either the H.264 or MPEG-4 codec in 640X480 (4:3 normal aspect ratio) or 630X360 (16:9 wide) formats. Audio is encoded using Apple’s AAC (Advanced Audio Codec) at a CD-quality bit-rate. It is an easy way to share out all those old home movies with nearly any Apple device within a million miles of your VCR, not to mention post them to YouTube. You can directly edit the recorded files in iMovie as well. My son thought that the Elgato record device would somehow suck the data right out of the analog source without playing it, so for those of you not familiar with analog video capture in general, uh yes...you have to play it through to record it using this product. You could conceivably use this to also record live TV (if your cable box has analog outputs), though Elgato has a better product suited for that called the EyeTV..

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Nate Adcock's picture

Nate Adcock is a system and integration engineer with experience managing and administering a variety of computing environments. He has worked extensively with mobile gadgets of all shapes and sizes for many years. He is also a former military weather forecaster. Nate is a regular contributor for the iphonelife.com and smartphonemag.com blogs and helps manage both websites. Read more from Nate at natestera.drupalgardens.com or e-mail him at nate@iphonelife.com.