When you convert VHS to CD, a video compact disc or VCD is produced. However, this may not be the best option for a VHS digitization, because converting video tape to CD involves significant compression of the video and loss of picture quality. Video compact discs are also sold commercially with movie content already on them.
The VCD format was born in 1993. It was the standard format for placing digital video on a CD. It uses MPEG-1 compression. It never really gained wide acceptance as a video on optical disc format because of the existence of the better quality Laser Video Disk and the appearance of the DVD in 1997.
The DVD movie disc uses the MPEG-2 codec and results in much better video quality. This is possible because DVDs can store seven times more information than a CD and this space is required because good quality video requires a lot of storage capacity. The resolution of a NTSC VCD is 352 by 240 compared to 720 by 480 for a NTSC DVD. The DVD has double the resolution, up to seven times the video bit rate and twice the audio bit rate when compared to the Video CD.
In general, a DVD encoded at the highest bit rate is rated as excellent quality video compared to a Video Compact Disc, which is rated as good at the best quality possible for this format.
As discussed above, if you convert VHS to CD instead of to DVD you will be losing video quality in the final product. A well-produced DVD will look just as good as the VHS original, but converting video tape to CD will likely result in video that is poorer quality than the original VHS tape. The picture quality of the VCD is supposed to be as good as VHS, but the resolution is half and in most cases, the original VHS video is better.
Note that production of DVDs from VHS tapes that do not look as good as the original is possible, especially when the lowest quality setting is selected when making the DVD. The lowest quality setting actually is similar to the VCD maximum quality setting.
The VCD filled a need for a short period. It allowed video to be stored on the compact optical disc format. However, with the emergence of the DVD format, there is no need to produce lower quality video CDs. It is best to avoid converting VHS to CD if you desire a good quality result. Video tape to CD conversion cannot match the quality of conversion to a DVD and therefore, the VCD format should not be considered as an option for digitizing video memories stored on videotape.
If making DVDs from VHS video tapes, always select the best or normal settings and avoid the lower quality settings, which are often used to pack as much video as possible on a single disc. It is better to have more DVDs at excellent quality, than one DVD at substantially poorer video quality.