The Best Way to Transfer VHS to DVD on a Mac

By Shawn M. Tomlinson

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While your VHS video tapes won’t look as good on DVD as digitally recorded originals, you can make the transfer so you can watch your home movies when the last VCR has gone into the museum. If you have a lot of VHS tapes to transfer, it will take some time to digitize all of them, but it will save you money over having them done by a company.


Since you can’t hook up your VCR directly to your Apple Macintosh computer, you will need to start this process by getting an analog-to-digital, phono plug-to-USB converter. This will allow you to hook up the three phono plugs—also called RCA cables—for left and right sound and video to your Mac. Except for your time and the price of the blank DVDs, this probably will be your only cost for the transfers. You also can buy software such as Roxio Toast or Roxio Easy VHS to DVD Conversion Mac, but you don’t really need to if your Mac has Apple’s iLife software suite installed. This has been pre-installed on Macs since 2004, or you can buy it separately. You also may need an external hard drive if you don’t have much room on your internal Mac HD.


Once you have your VCR hooked up via the converter to your Mac, you need to open iMovie. This by default is on the Mac’s Dock, that strip of program aliases along either side or the bottom of your screen. Once it starts, go to “File” and then “New Project” and name it. Next, click the button that looks like a movie camera over to the left of the middle of the iMovie window. This will bring a popup. In the lower left, select the “camera” that will be the only other selection beside “Built-in iSite.” Then start the VCR and click the “Capture” button at the lower right corner of the popup window. This will start the process of recording your VHS tape to your Mac hard drive. Click the “Done” button when the VHS tape has concluded.

Editing and Authoring

Once it is recorded, you can edit your now-digitized movie in iMovie. If you don’t want to change it, save the project by going to the “Share” menu and selecting “Export Using QuickTime” for the simplest method. You can get more control over the final version by “Export Movie,” but to save time, use QuickTime. Now open iDVD. In this program, you can author your DVD and make it playable in a standard DVD player. You can select a theme, add still images or a short clip of the film to run when the DVD loads. Or, you can just go to “File” and then “OneStep DVD from Movie.” This allows you to import the movie, and then tell the Mac to burn the DVD quickly.