From VHS to MPEG

by Jason Ong

At Cambridge Community Television, we have a collection of archived programs on 3/4 tapes, VHS tapes, MiniDV tapes, and DVDs. This year, we encoded the programs that were on VHS tapes, over 1000 of them, into MPEG files.

First, we took all the VHS tapes out of our archive closet, stored them in a separate area, and labeled each one with an identifying number. Then, we had a group of volunteers, of which I was one, survey each tape to find the start time and end time of the program on that tape.

We used this information to program our Tiltrac VHS Robot, which was a stack of VHS decks coupled with a robotic arm that could select a tape from a shelf, load it into a deck, and play it. While the Robot was playing back a tape, our encoding hardware created an MPEG of the program.

Once the Robot was programmed, the whole encoding process was automatic. All we had to do was load it with VHS tapes. This was important because CCTV was moving to a new facility at the time, and we were all busy packing up the old building and getting the new one ready.

We were not planning to bring the Robot to the new facility. So we had to complete the survey and encode processes before our final moving date, which we did, with time to spare.

The result: the programs that were on over 1000 VHS tapes, which are shelved along one wall of a closet, have been encoded into over 1000 MPEGs, which are stored on two hard drives that can sit on a desk.

[caption id="attachment523" align="alignleft" width="260" caption="Over 1000 archived programs (on VHS)"]<a href="">[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_524" align="alignright" width="260" caption="The same programs in MPEG (VHS for scale)"][/caption]