Set Helical Scan to Stun: Transferring Videos in Real Time

When copying DVD files on to DVD or digital formats, you can just transfer them to the format without too much hassle. Just because you’ve created a four-hour epic of Sheila and Pete’s wedding day, the transfer won’t actually take four hours to complete. The files are all digital anyway, right? So while the transfer may take a while, it won’t be real-time.

But let’s say you’ve got that awesome home movie recorded on VHS – then we’re dealing with the real-time factor. And suddenly going through that four-hour marathon of romance and memories can become a serious chore.


There’s a reason that converting VHS to DVD happens in real-time, and it’s all down to the helical scan – which sort of sounds like a gadget aboard to Starship Enterprise. The helical scan is the method with which images are recorded onto the magnetic film inside a video-tape. Fun fact of the day, pub quiz fans, VHS originally stood for Vertical Helical Scan before being changed to Video Home System.

So what happens? Well, when you pop your video inside the player, the tape’s taken from the cassette and wound past the read/write head. That’s where the magic happens, and the images on screen are recorded to the tape. The head produces a magnetic field which correspond to the signal being recorded, and as the tape passes along it, that magnetic signal is printed to the tape.


And although there have been digital applications used in the helical scan process, these formats need a far higher bandwidth – which means the tape would have to run super-fast to even capture anything, and that’d require a ton of tape. But it works perfectly for analogue tech like video-tapes.

Another fun fact, helical means spiral. Y’know, like a helix. And that’s the clue to how it all works inside.  The tape is drawn from one reel, rotated around a tilted drum head at a speed of almost 6m/s, and deposited on to the other reel, completed with shiny new images.

This doesn’t just happen when recording, but also playing the footage back. The magnetic tape needs to be spun around the scanner in order to show the picture on the strip. And that’s why converting VHS to DVD happens in real-time.

So if you fancy getting your videos transferred on to DVD, and don’t want to hassle of sitting through those awesome epics you’ve recorded, why not let the professionals do it for you. Here at Video 2 DVD Transfers we’ve had years of experience creating the perfect transfer system. For more information about what we do, how we do it, and how we can help you preserve your memories, simply contact us on 0800 592 433 and our experienced team will be delighted to help.