[Techtalk] connect VCR to computer?

Meredith L. Patterson mlp at thesmartpolitenerd.com
Tue Oct 19 21:26:16 EST 2004

ed orphan wrote:
> Is it possible to connect a VCR to a generic PC?

Depends on what you mean by "connect". Video capture (i.e., converting 
the analog stream from the VCR's RCA or S-Video output jacks into a 
digital stream) has been around for quite a while, though in my 
experience it's poorly supported in Linux. There exist drivers for a 
number of capture cards (one list is at http://www.exploits.org/v4l/), 
but many of these, e.g. the Iomega Buz, are quite old.

> If by some work of magic I managed to do this,
> would it be possible to play VCR tapes via
> Linux to the computer monitor?

The flippant answer is "you could, but why would you want to?" More 
seriously, though, while many video capture applications allow you to 
watch the stream while it's being played, the quality is generally not 
as good as you'd see on your TV if you were playing directly from your 
VCR. Unless you've got a fast processor and a lot of RAM, you'll get 
frame dropouts and artifacting.

I don't know of any apps which *just* let you watch the stream directly 
-- in fact, the stream has to be digitised in order to watch it via PC 
at all, so there's going to be processing overhead involved no matter what.

> I've got a Radeon 7500 video card ( 64 Meg DDR )
> with a couple of strange connectors besides
> the one used by the monitor.

If it's an All-in-Wonder 7500, you may be in luck; see 
http://gatos.sourceforge.net/supported_cards.php for more information. 
(I haven't used GATOS yet, so I can't provide more than that, though I 
have an All-in-Wonder Rage128 that I might try with it.)

Those strange connectors are probably output jacks, not input jacks. 
Check your hardware docs; if you see things like "S-Video Out" and 
"Composite Out", then you have the ability to watch your monitor's 
output on your TV (can be nice for gaming, especially FPS), but not vice 
versa. A connector marked "DVI" with an 8x3 array of square pin 
receptacles (I'm sure there's a technical term for that other than 
"female connector", but I'm blanking right now) is for a flat-panel monitor.

> I've got xine set up to watch .AVI files from the cdrom.

This is straightforward, because an .avi is already digital video; no 
conversion is necessary.

If you're looking for more information on the difference between analog 
and digital video, an excellent resource is ErMaC and AbsoluteDestiny's 
Guide to All Things Audio and Video, at 
http://www.animemusicvideos.org/guides/avtech/. Particularly relevant is 
the first section, "Video Basics" 

Meredith L. Patterson
occasional video nerd

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