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  1. Member
    Join Date: Jul 2008
    Location: Canada
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    I want to convert my odd VHS family movies to either DVD or the hard drive. I might edit them later on.
    So what is the best format to transfer to with the lowest losses?
    I was told to use a caputure card.
    Another person told me just buy a DVD home stereo recorder and record directly to dvd and then edit afterwards.

    Anyone have any suggestions?
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  2. Member
    Join Date: Feb 2008
    Location: United States
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    If you don't have experience with a capture card I would suggest getting a standalone DVD recorder. Record at the lowest speed (SP or XP) for highest quality. Stay away from "no name" brands. There can be a learning curve with a capture card to get a quality encode.

    You can always edit the DVD later without having to reencode using a program like VideoReDo.

    Only use quality blank DVD media such as Verbatim or Taiyo Yuden.
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  3. Member
    Join Date: Jul 2007
    Location: United States
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    Originally Posted by jakeconnor
    I want to convert my odd VHS family movies to either DVD or the hard drive. I might edit them later on.
    So what is the best format to transfer to with the lowest losses?
    I was told to use a caputure card.
    Another person told me just buy a DVD home stereo recorder and record directly to dvd and then edit afterwards.

    Anyone have any suggestions?
    Just for reference -- I opted to purchase a combination VCR/DVD Recorder for the same purpose; you put the tape in one side and a blank disc in the other side and dub the video to the DVD. It can be that simple. In my case, I had not owned a VCR for many years, so I needed that part of the purchase anyway. I often copy the DVD files onto my hard drive for further editing. One other point -- if you get into manipulating the video on your computer, you will wind up with many very large video files, so make sure you have plenty of hard drive space; also, I wound up buying a large external hard drive for backup purposes.
    John Hanley
    Sugar Land, TX
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  4. Member PuzZLeR's Avatar
    Join Date: Oct 2006
    Location: Toronto Canada
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    Here's a tradeoff you may want to consider, and something I've understood from forums like this. You have to make a choice.

    a) Use a VCR connected to a brand name DVR - very easy, quick, reliable, almost foolproof for very good quality. You can then easily transfer them to your PC via RW discs for final production to edit and author (with apps like VideoRedo mentioned, even Womble or TMPGEnc MPEG Editor and Author).

    b) Use a card connected to your PC - complicated, difficult learning curve, missed frames or sync issues at times, lots of headaches for a beginner but when it works the quality can be excellent and better than a DVR. Yes you can finish the production on your PC, but you'll have to work with lossless codecs or uncompressed AVI to truly get the max benefit and gigabytes of hard drive space and more re-encoding/processing hogging your PC on top of the capturing as well initially. But the quality, if done right, should be better in the end.

    In other words:

    a) Easy, simple and guaranteed for good stuff.

    b) Painful, complicated and more time-consuming for excellent stuff.

    I personally chose a) because I had at one point over 300 tapes and decided to simplify my life. My results are still very good today. But this is me. You may be more ambitious.
    I hate VHS. I always did.
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  5. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
    Join Date: Jun 2003
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    "Name brand" does not determine quality. Carefully select the equipment. Avoid Panasonic (worst machines ever for quqlaity), look at other options. If these are VHS transfers, some machines can make the DVD look better than the tape ever did, some make it look the same, some make it look worse.
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  6. Member
    Join Date: Oct 2001
    Location: United Kingdom
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    I would go along with those who suggest the simplest route: get a combo VCR/DVD machine or simply hook up your VCR to a DVD recorder - and record! Simple as that. If your DVD recorder is actually an HDD/DVD recorder then you can trim the video a bit before writing to DVD, otherwise just take the DVD and use DVD Decrypter and/or IFOEdit to extract the files for editing or reauthoring on a PC.

    I have gone (and advocated) the capture card route in the past. It's an endless nightmare of huge grainy AVI clips, dropped frames, out of sync audio, poor color balance etc. Let the experts at Sony etc work out how best to fix all this - you stick with what's simple!
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  7. Member themaster1's Avatar
    Join Date: Nov 2006
    Location: France
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    A dvd-vhs combo is a good choice if your vhs are in good shape (no noise) because otherwise i'm affraid the mpeg compression will not help you in any way to improve the rendering (or not worsen it at least).

    If bad/old tapes > capture card+lossless capture or DV+s-vhs/d-vhs vcr or original vcr.
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  8. Member
    Join Date: Oct 2001
    Location: United Kingdom
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    Originally Posted by themaster1
    A dvd-vhs combo is a good choice if your vhs are in good shape (no noise) ...
    That was the argument I used to use when advocating the capture card route. There are only two problems with it:-

    1. A good quality DVD recorder will include filters which make the video look its best, these filters will have been designed and applied by people who know what they are doing! (ie. not amateurs like most of us).

    2. When I've tried to filter videos on a PC in the past I have never been entirely happy with the result. True the noise is reduced, but this doesn't necessarily equal an increase in quality... it tends to look overprocessed and there may have been other artefacts introduced. In general I felt that the reward was not worth the work involved - especially after you've seen that the "no work" option produces surprisingly good results!

    I would certainly recommend trying the easy method first.
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  9. Member orsetto's Avatar
    Join Date: Oct 2007
    Location: NYC
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    Suggestion #1: don't transfer your family tapes with the thought you can then ditch the tapes themselves and save on storage space: NEVER discard the original tapes or the camcorder used to make them, technology keeps changing and there is always the possibility you'll want to redo the project years later. Also, like it or not, tape itself has proven to be a surprisingly good "archive" format: assuming it was a good quality tape to start with, a VHS can last at least 27 years with little to no degradation (I have tapes dating from 1981 that still play perfectly after sitting in casual basement storage all that time). Hold on to those originals!

    Suggestion #2: assess your personality and computer skills. Computer capture allows archiving at a higher uncompressed quality level for later editing and DVD production, but is not nearly as easy and foolproof as using an integrated DVD recorder. If you are uncomfortable with complex PC software or resistant to learning new programs, don't even consider using a computer for this task. Also bear in mind you will need a good, large external hard drive to archive the huge uncompressed files, and you will be doing the bulk of your work on a computer monitor which gives no indication what the material will look like converted to DVD standard and played on a television. A computer is the only choice for uncompressed "top-quality" digitizing, but in my opinion if you want the ultimate future-proof archive solution, just take care of the damn originals! By the time you would ever want to go back to the uncompressed files and redo them in a future consumer format, you might well want to redo the whole thing from scratch anyway with a better future encoding technology for the originals. I'm not knocking the computer method, it is very flexible and in the right hands can allow amazing improvements. But there is a long learning curve and not everyone can be a digital-video Da Vinci- its harder than it looks. There's a reason the pros make six-figure incomes doing this.

    Suggestion #3: try a DVD recorder first: it allows you to see what you're doing on your much larger TV screen, and adjust things as you go based on how it looks on TV. If you still have the camcorder used to make the family tapes, connect it to a DVD recorder and experiment with that method first. If you don't have the camcorder, and the tapes are VHS, get a decent VHS deck if you don't already have one. Panasonics and Sharps circa 1994-97 are easily bought in mint condition used for under $30 and are a good place to start: they track most tapes very well and are reliable. If your family tapes have been damaged or have playback issues like jitter and tearing, you may need a pricey high-end VCR to fix them: search other threads here using the term "VHS transfer" for a ton of hardware opinions. I don't recommend the combo VHS/DVD recorders: older models were actually quite good if you learned how to use them, but the new ones in stores now are not nearly as flexible and they are way overpriced for what they offer. If you care at all about this project, get a good separate VCR and DVD recorder.

    A recorder with built-in hard drive makes editing and compilations easier, but they are in very short supply now. In the USA the only new model in stores is the Phillips 3576, it isn't the ultimate but its very good, especially if you nail it on sale for $249 or get last years identical model 3575 direct from Phillips website for $199. There is no better or more versatile unit at that price point. If you don't mind importing from Canada, a current Pioneer DVD/HDD unit runs between $300-600 delivered to the USA depending on the model. These have slicker editing features than the Phillips and include DVD-RAM burning capability. DVD-RAM is arguably more archival than DVD-R and can be edited more easily since it doesn't require finalization. Nothing to go out of your way for, but adds another format option if you like the machine. At the other end of the scale, you can start very cheaply with a $50 Funai recorder from Wal*Mart: no great shakes, crude, but a surprisingly good unit for the small outlay. Everything else "brand-name" in US stores is in the $149-$300 range, most are DVD/VHS combo decks, and at those prices I think almost anyone would be better off with the Phillips because of its hard drive feature. Given the current US economy, the Phillips is the bargain of the century: comparably equipped machines from other brands cost double its price when they were last available in 2006. Something to consider.

    Canadian residents have it easier: walk into any Future Shop and you'll find a good selection of DVD recorders with hard drives from several mfrs. The best value in Canada right now is last years Pioneer 650, currently on closeout at many stores for $299: unbeatable at that price. If you cant find that, the new Pioneer 460 is pretty much identical and sells for about the same price at CostCo warehouse stores.
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  10. Member
    Join Date: Jul 2008
    Location: Canada
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    orsetto, I am in Canada so I will look into the Dvd recorders at Costco.

    Thanks everyone for your help.
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  11. Member PuzZLeR's Avatar
    Join Date: Oct 2006
    Location: Toronto Canada
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    I guess I take if for granted here in Canada that we have these nice models. Didn't know. I do believe FutureShop has a mail order division, and there are some Canadian eBaY members with some good deals willing to ship internationally. I guess a little S&H wouldn't hurt if it's a good deal (we pay it in local purchase taxes anyway. )

    Currently I'm investigating PC capture methods since I'm down to rare family tapes, but DVR has worked excellent, and reliably, for me for over 200 tapes. Keep in mind, another advantage in using a stand-alone DVR unit to do this is because you free your PC from being hogged by CPU/RAM intensive procedures like capturing and encoding as well as all that hard drive space if working with uncompressed formats. Yes, if you know what you're doing the quality will be better on average. It's up to you to decide if it's worth the trouble.
    Hold on to those originals!
    By the time you would ever want to go back to the uncompressed files and redo them in a future consumer format, you might well want to redo the whole thing from scratch anyway with a better future encoding technology for the originals.
    I agree that nothing's better than the source. But I disagree in capturing in the first place then if there's a need to keep any originals (especially a dying format like VHS). Wouldn't that defeat the purpose?

    Maybe it's me, but my whole point in going through the effort to digitize them is to have them in what I believe is a better format (for many reasons) instead of VHS and to finally rid myself of that cruddy old tape.

    And when you do it once, I would think it would be undesirable to redo them.

    Personally I don't think any tech will get much better for the VHS format. I wouldn't wait for anything revolutionary any time soon. I would just do it now and chuck them out forever.

    But that's me.
    I hate VHS. I always did.
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  12. Member
    Join Date: Jul 2007
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    Originally Posted by themaster1
    A dvd-vhs combo is a good choice if your vhs are in good shape (no noise) because otherwise i'm affraid the mpeg compression will not help you in any way to improve the rendering (or not worsen it at least).

    If bad/old tapes > capture card+lossless capture or DV+s-vhs/d-vhs vcr or original vcr.
    Just as a point of reference: the VCR/DVD Recorder I bought was fairly inexpensive: Magnavox MWR20V6 (made by Funai) purchased at Wal-Mart about a year ago. It has now dubbed over many tapes. Most of the tapes I am converting were family events, some of which date to the early 1980's and have sat in a box through these years. The video quality is what one got with a retail video camera of the period; I think mine had a GE brand, made by Matsushita.

    One thing you can do with the combo player is, after dubbing, play both the original tape and the dubbed DVD at the same time outputting to the same TV; you can flip back and forth between the sources from the remote control and get a good appreciation of any quality differences. In all cases so far, the dubbed DVD quality is as good if not better than the original VHS tape; the DVD generally looks a little 'softer' and a little 'darker', but it is a quibbling difference. I have pretty much concluded that the dubbed video quality is more a function of the VHS tape than anything else. Just my experience....
    John Hanley
    Sugar Land, TX
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