UPDATE: Capturing Video from Tape for Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro

Recently, I’ve gotten a lot of email from people trying to capture video from video tape. This used to be easy… but with changes to Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Final Cut Pro, it has become more challenging.

CAUTION: During a recent webinar I recommended LifeFlix, an application specifically designed to capture from tape. However, since then I’ve gotten reliable reports that it does not always work. PLEASE download the free trial and make sure it works for you before purchasing – especially if you are working with semi-pro or professional video decks.


This workflow was written by Michael Powles, a UK-based videographer.


(Image courtesy of Michael Powles.)

You can either capture the entire tape or sections of it. However, sections are determined manually during playback, you can’t set an In or Out.

During capture, the left timer displays the increasing duration of material captured. The right timer displays the size of the captured media file.


DV tapes can be either NTSC or PAL using 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios. This means that there are four different possible frame sizes. Plus two more frame sizes for broadcast NTSC SD formats – because … sigh… life was not simple.

NOTE: Making this more complex is that almost all DV video is interlaced and uses non-square pixels. Worse, the pixel shapes change between a 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratio. These numbers assume you are capturing non-square pixels.

Here’s a table that explains them.

Video Format Capture Size
DV-NTSC 4:3 720×480
DV-NTSC 16:9 Anamorphic 853×480
DV-PAL 4:3 720×576
DV-PAL 16:9 Anamorphic 1024×576
601-NTSC 4:3 720×486
601-NTSC 16:9 Anamorphic 853×486

(Image courtesy of Michael Powles.)

When capturing is complete (either when the selected part of a tape is captured and stopped manually or the end of the tape reached), the capture window will show the file as ‘Untitled.’ The duration display on the playback timeline shows the in and out time code, which matches the timecode on the camera tape.


It is important to note that the codec the file is saved into depends upon how the file is saved.

Option 1 – Create H.264 (Compressed format)

Option 2 – Create ProRes (Uncompressed format)

In my test, the duration of the captured file is one minute eight seconds. The file sizes are:

I hope this is of interest to you and your readers.

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22 Responses to UPDATE: Capturing Video from Tape for Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro

  1. John says:

    Very useful and helpful information. Does this capture procedure work on the latest Mac OS computers?

    • Larry Jordan says:


      It should, yes.


    • Jim Edds says:

      I tried it with my M2 MacStudio Ultra running Sonoma 14.2.1. It captured NTSC DV miniDV tape as 702×480. It should be 720×480 so watch out for that. I’m trying to find a fix.

      • woz says:

        No fix required other than scaling or cropping depending on what you’re eventually doing with the clip.
        The reasons for 702 (or sometimes 704) x 480 (or 576 for PAL)is the presence of analogue blanking on both sides (it is not necessarily even width on both sides and can be “raggy” due to timebase errors.)
        The worst case scenario is you might lose a very small amount of picture info at the left and right hand sides depending on how the blanking is on the original material.
        You may even see blanking at 702 which you would likely want to clean up by a small zoom/reposition.
        The main thing to watch out for is when you view the final edit that circles are circular and the frame isn’t stretched or squashed as both NTSC and PAL have non-square pixels which aren’t always correctly handled. (I don’t know how FCP handles the non-square pixels, perhaps someone can tell us if the aspect ratio is correct, but it’s a relatively small error so may not be obvious )

  2. Jim Edds says:

    Thanks for the tutorial on capturing from NTSC DV tape. Before I used Edius on a Win 7 laptop because it would capture an entire tape in one pass but in proprietary Edius codec. So I’d have to flip it to Mov, another step. FCPx does not capture to one file, it breaks it in many files based on scene detection and did a terrible job of that.

    I’ll check out the QuickTime utility today. Thanks! After capturing I use Topaz to upres to HD and de-interlace. The results are very good.

  3. Tom Knoff says:

    Very helpful, thanks.

  4. I can also endorse QuickTime Player for NTSC DV tape capture. I use it on my MacBook Pro M1 Pro using dongles to convert FireWire 800 to Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3. I also have found that Topaz software will make very good de-interlaced 4×3 HD footage. The footage was shot with a Sony DVX-1000 video camera and it looks good with a lot more detail than standard definition.

    Also I have HDV footage as well which I do a direct transfer.

  5. Gregg Kubera says:

    What about HDV tapes??

    • Larry Jordan says:


      That is a GREAT question – and I don’t know. However, my GUESS is that this should work equally well, given that HDV is well-understood in terms of file format and aspect ratio.


  6. Converting HDV tapes works in QuickTime as well.
    From experience, I’ve learned that using the fast forward or reverse scan is a bad idea. MiniDV and HDV tapes are often unstable after sitting on the shelf for the past decade +. It can clog the heads. Probably need to clean heads often because the oxide tends to flake.

    • Larry Jordan says:


      This is a REALLY good point. The more you run the tape over the heads, the more likely you are to damage the oxide coating on the tape. Just play the tape from the beginning, capture everything, then sort out the digital files later.

      It is MUCH easier to create excerpts from the digital file than trying to find the exact spot on a video tape.


      • woz says:

        Not strictly the case Larry.
        Of course you should attempt a capture at first pass, you have nothing to lose especially if the tape is sticky or degraded as there’s always the possibility of it breaking or getting mangled in the mech, then you may not get a full second chance.
        However the running of the tape over the spinning drum can polish the tape surface and a second pass can sometimes have fewer problems than the first. So if it’s prone to dropouts theres no harm in a first pass, as continuous as possible- beginning to end (don’t stop the tape mid way if you can help it), rewind the tape in one go (gives a more even rewind) and try a second pass.
        Of course this is all set against how important the material and your time is.
        Also you should not store the tape stopped mid stream, always store it fully wound.

        • Larry Jordan says:


          You are not wrong, but… Many of the VHS tapes I’m capturing are 40-50 years old. The only reason the oxide is still sticking to the tape is laziness and inertia. I agree that there maybe an improvement in capturing a second pass, but with really old video tape (30-years plus) the chances of a head clog or oxide shedding are far greater than decreasing dropouts by polishing the tape.

          However, for much newer tape, your idea makes a lot of sense. And, truthfully, for newer tape, recording two passes allows you to pick the best sections from each for the final edit.


  7. rtermini@mac.com says:

    I have taken a different, all be it lower quality, aproach to getting the video digitized. I use a Panasonic VHS to DVD deck. Tape in one side DVD on the other. 1 button push….. 2hours later finalize and ingest with a inexpensive portable DVD drive. Quality is just as good as original. You can up-res from there. I have done a couple of thousand tapes, yes thousands.

  8. Peter Snowdon says:

    I’m probably coming at this from a much lower level than you guys but I use the Elgato capture device (about £70 GBP). I tried others with poor results that led me to make dvd copies and then rip off (tedious). A friend recommended Elgato. It works well.
    You can trim the in and out points afterwards so it’s OK to just let it run. I agree with just get it transferred and then deal with it afterwards.

    My feeling is that if you are converting from VHS or Beta (and maybe even a copy at that) whether it ends up in SD or HD is a bit irrelevant – am I wrong? Having said that I am surprised by how good betamax was all those years ago compared to VHS.
    Clogged heads can be a problem. I ended up using the old chamois leather and alcohol trick to clean the Betamax heads (very gently) – something you had to do regularly 40 years ago – so that took me back a bit – and yes, it still worked when all else fails!


  9. What about using Time Base Correctors (even basic ones) when transferring any analogue tapes like VHS?

    • Larry Jordan says:


      I’m totally in favor of TBCs (time-base correctors) ESPECIALLY for VHS and other analog tapes. They make a world of difference. The trick is finding one.

      If you can afford it, look into the Teranex Mini from Blackmagic Design. Otherwise, I don’t have a recommendation. Perhaps another reader does?



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