Rating: ★★★★☆

While it’s been long enough that some of us have probably¬† sold our VCRs at garage sales or tossed them with all of our tapes in the garbage long ago, there are still a select few (myself included) who have hung on to some of those VHS cassettes for sentimental value or to hold on to personally-recorded memories of events and family gatherings. With the Elgato Video Capture, any computer running Mac OS X or Windows 7 can now convert these antiquated black video monoliths into the sleek, convenient digital age. iPhones and iPods are also supported, allowing you to take any video you may have taken with these devices and convert them into formats that are easier to share and distribute amongst friends.

The device itself is small and lightweight, with a USB connector for the PC, and composite outs as well as S-Video. Also included is an adapter for converting a SCART port (for any European hardware) to the supported standard composite jacks. The wire lengths and size make it just as ideal for carrying around in a laptop bag as it is for home usage. It does heat up a small bit while in use, but not enough to be uncomfortable or dangerous to the touch.

As a Windows user, when I received the Elgato Video Capture I was required to use the packaged version of CyberLink PowerDirector 8 which came with the device. Since then, Elgato has released a Windows-compatible version of their software for PC users (free for download on their website) so I will be covering both options. First, using PowerDirector is great, as it comes with plenty of options and is an otherwise complete program for doing more than just converting and capturing video. Edits can be made, a specific file format and compression rate can be selected, and charts are present to let you know up to the minute just how big your video is going to be. There are a lot of options present, which can be a little difficult to get used to, but the overall experience is rich and customizable.

As for Elgato’s proprietary software, the key here is simplicity. Once the software is started it basically walks you through a wizard, having you test the video and audio first, then recording what you want. At the end of recording, the beginning and end of the file can be cropped down and then saved. There aren’t a whole lot of options here as far as what kind of video you can make or what to do if you wanted to trim something that was in the middle without stopping there and creating two separate videos. Still, using the Elgato software is as easy as it gets. With just a few mouse clicks you’ll have a captured video, and it’s virtually impossible to make any mistakes.

Purchased purely as a video converter from older formats, the Elgato Video Capture is a fantastic device that delivers on its promise and does so quite well. The packaged software is not so flexible when it comes to doing more than that(PowerDirector certainly has many more options, but neither is great for creating streaming content or using as an alternate video source), and so it feels as if it might limit the product. Obviously, it will function perfectly well in conjunction with other programs like Skype or webcasters as a viable audio/video feed, I was just disappointed that the enclosed software didn’t give me those options out of the box. Overall, the Elgato Video Capture will definitely help you bring what’s left of your older media into the new formats, and would be just as easy for your parents or grandparents to put to use.

Pros:

  • Perfect for converting VHS tapes to digital format with absolutely no added artifacting, looks just as good as the tape
  • Small, compact, and effective, the Elgato Video Capture does its job without getting in the way
  • Elgato software is so easy to use, once you’re installed you can convert videos within minutes

Cons:

  • Small amount of available file format options means you’ll either wind up with some big files or bad looking videos
  • Neither packaged software solution is really ideal for using as a live feed, so people looking to stream content or use in a presentation setting may want to look elsewhere
  • As a converter first, the Elgato Video Capture has no inputs for more modern types of cables like component or HDMI

The Elgato Video Capture is available on Amazon for $82.










Michael Radon

 
Born in the Midwest, living in the Southwest, Michael Radon grew up wanting to make video games for a living before finding his calling as a writer. Though he often heads out on spur-of-the-moment adventures with little to no preparation, he's just as sure to remember his toothbrush as he is at least two portable consoles, a laptop and five to ten games on his person at all times just for those lulls in the action where he can squeeze in a few levels of gaming.