Using EasyCAP to Grab VHS and Consoles on the Mac

The EasyCAP video-grabbing gizmo is cheap to buy, almost everywhere and adds a really useful functionality to your computer. Better yet, it works perfectly on Yosemite to allow you to capture game consoles, VHS video, DV tapes, etc., directly into your Mac using MP4.

The EasyCAP DC60 is a cheap old school video capturing device which is perfect for capturing old school video sources. If you have a ton of old video tapes or have some old video game consoles you want to grab walkthrough videos from, this is one of the very best cost-effective ways to do that.

In this article we show you how to get set up and a few tips on how to configure the sound and video for the best performance. For this test we will be using an old Ms Pac Man video game we found in the drawer.

easycap-mac-mspacman-console

The EasyCAP is a USB device with video and audio input sockets to capture and store video on your computer. First, you need to go get the driver for Mac OS X, and that can be obtained here.

Installing the hardware is easy; just plug it into an available USB slot. This needs to be a powered slot, so no dumb USB 1.0 hubs will do. Install and run the driver from the downloaded file, and if you haven’t plugged your EasyCAP into the computer, you will be advised to do so.

Now all you have to do is plug the yellow composite Video Out of your device to the yellow video plug on the EasyCAP.

easycap-mac-leads

If it were that simple, then you could get started right away, but there are a couple of extra steps before you can play and record. First, you have to set the video standard. This test was conducted in a PAL country, the UK, but your mileage may vary.

easycap-mac-settings-video

If you get a weird picture which seems black and white, fuzzy and weirdly offset on the screen, then it’s likely your video standard is not right. You will spot the right one, even if you don’t know what your local standard is; just select one after the other and the screen will pop into colour when you have the right one.

easycap-mac-ntsc

The next thing to set is the deinterlace. Old time video signals were interlaced, which doubled the amount of lines available by interlacing two frames and flicking rapidly between them. The downside to this was that it made the screen flicker. These days we use progressive scan. You can combine the two images for smooth (ish) progressive images using the deinterlace setting. This is just trial and error on a case-by-case basis. Just try each one to see which is the best fit.

easycap-mac-settings-deinterlace

Finally, on the video side, you have to choose the source. This is effectively a choice between composite and SVHS or S-video. S-video is a small 4 pin DIN connector, and you will only find these on certain video cards and S-VHS recorders, so for the most part you will be using the yellow composite video in.

easycap-mac-settings-source

Sound is a separate issue. You can plug the sound into the white lead for mono or the white and red leads for stereo, but this didn’t work too well with the little Ms Pac Man for some reason, so in the end we added a small USB sound card like this one and a phono to a 3.5 inch jack converter like this one, and it worked perfectly. The cheap audio on the Ms Pac Man was really high, so we had to adjust the audio input which is available in the “Settings -> Sound” section of the Mac Settings app.

Once you have a decent level on the sound, and you have the picture coming into the EasyCAP clearly and with the correct TV standard, you can record your video.

Select “File -> Start Recording” (Command + S), and you will be asked where you want to store the recording and what format to record in. MP4 is better for the Mac, so that was our choice. To stop the recording select “File -> Stop Recording.”

easycap-mac-recording

There are other display options on the menu such as Fullscreen and aspect ratios. If you really want to squash the image and play it on full screen on 16:9, feel free to do so, but bear in mind what we said in our recent piece on aspect ratios.

easycap-mac-fullscreen

This is the cheapest and quickest way to grab Standard Definition video into a Mac. To grab HD video from a game console requires a lot more hardware, but perhaps we’ll go into that some other time.

If you have any tips involving the capture of SD video, then please feel free to share them in the comments below.

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