Does My VHS Tape Fit on a Single DVD?

When thinking about transferring VHS tapes to DVDs, one of the most common questions people wonder is whether their VHS tape will fit on a standard DVD. It depends. After you read the detailed answer below, you’ll be able to figure out the right answer for yourself.

A standard DVD can hold up to 2 hours of video. A VHS tape also holds up to 2 hours, as you can tell by the big 120 (minutes) number on the box. So the short answer is Yes, most of the time, your VHS tapes will fit on a standard DVD.


Although a VHS tape says 120 (minutes) on the box, if you record in long-play, you can fit twice the amount of video on it, that’s 4 hours of video. If you record in super-long-play, you can fit three times the amount of video on your tape, that’s 6 hours. Recording in long-play (LP) or extended-long-play (EP) gives you lower quality video, why would people do that? Because tapes used to be expensive, and families save money when they can squeeze more home movies into a single tape.

Here’s another reason why a VHS tape will not fit on a DVD.

Most of the time, people don’t fill the entire tape with video. Most tapes out there only have a few minutes of video. However,if you start recording from the very beginning of the video tape to the very end of the tape, even on a VHS/VCR tape that says 120 on the box, you can record an additional 3-4 minutes of video on the tape. Now, this tape will have 123 or 124 minutes of video and will no longer fit on a single standard DVD.

So in summary, most VHS tapes will fit on a standard DVD unless 1) it was recorded in long-play or 2) it has more than 2 hours of video on it.

How can you determine if your home video tape were recorded in long-play or has over 2 hours of home movies on it? The only way to find out is by popping it into a VCR player, forwarding it to the end (unless you want to watch your home movie in real time), and finding out for yourself.

Many of us don’t even own a VCR player anymore, what to do? If you are getting your video tapes – whether they are VHS tapes, Hi8, 8mm or miniDV tapes – transferred to DVDs at a professional video transfer lab, the lab report should tell you how long they are, so there’s no need to find out for yourself. If you are transferring your home movies on your own, you’ll have to get hold of a VCR player and painstakingly rewind and forward each one to the end to find out. Then again, if you are technologically-savvy and have chosen to transfer your tapes to DVD on your own, you will need to get a VCR-DVD recorder to do the transfer anyway.

Word of advice when transferring video to DVD on your own: Be gentle, you’re dealing with fragile, decades old tapes, rewind and forward on the slow setting so the tape doesn’t snap.

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