I've been lurking around for a few weeks on here for a VHS capture project and I'm totally impressed by the amount of information I've learned just reading old posts (thanks for that!). Until now I've found about every piece of advice I needed concerning resolution, different codecs, dropped frames, etc. I tested 3 different VCRs, a handful of codecs and resolutions, and I finally settled for Huffyuv, 640x480, 16/48 PCM. I plan on archiving the original lossless files away, and maybe doing a little editing/filtering for MP4 or DVD for watching/convenience, but the main thing important to me is that the master files are done right, at the best quality I can achieve with what I already have. Everything seems to go well, but I got a few questions that I first should have asked from the start and I can't seem to find anything on the net, so pardon me if it's been explained before.
I use an USB adapter for my captures. I know it's not the best method for quality, but someone lent this to me and I didn't want to spend much on this for now, so decided to try it. I must say I'm pretty surprised with the results, and I even settled for the cheapest VCR I have in my possession, the last one I thought I'd use, out of the 3 VCRs I tested. I had access to an older Samsung, a Toshiba and my cheapo(?) Sylvania. Most likely all from the late 90s/early 2000s. The Samsung produced an image similar to the Sylvania, and the Toshiba produced a sharper image, as I expected and liked best at first, but quickly noticed it made my captures look too sharp, almost like it was a second gen tape. The colors were also too dull, and the sound had an annoying buzz almost as loud as the audio content itself. The only good thing about this one is that it tracks the tapes better, but my tapes are all fairly clean, recorded circa 2005-2006 off TV. I think the reason my captures look best with the Sylvania is that this is the VCR that the tapes were recorded on. The only drawback: it recorded in mono only in the left channel and I never noticed until now. I know I could just record directly in mono but I'd rather edit the files and make adjustments myself in Audacity. It's just annoying not to have a stereo recording when it was originally broadcast in stereo.
1 - I'm two VHS tapes into my quest, and I'd like to do some A/B comparisons between the original tapes played back on the VCR I'm using for the captures, and the AVIs I'm importing. I have a PS3 gaming console that I'd put the digital file in, and I would plug both the VCR and the console in the same TV, switching between channels to get from the image output by the PS3 and by the VCR. The PS3 accepts quite a few formats, including AVI, MP4, MPEG, etc, but obviously it won't accept my Huffyuv files. I don't want to convert to lossy for the comparison, and so that's why I tried to remux the Huffyuv files into an MP4 container using Avidemux, MP4tools, MeGUI, and countless other tools, but they all produced different errors. All applications will import and recognize the file, but none wants to export it. I figured it might be a color space thing, tried to convert my original 4:2:2 files into 4:2:0 ones (knowing there might be a loss), but to no avail. I'd just like to remux the video and audio streams into a format that the PS3 will recognize, without messing with the colorspace or anything. I'm no expert in the video field so please tell me, is it just not feasible or I'm missing something?
2- I read quite a lot of posts about devices that use hardware MPEG2 compression, and it seems like it's more related to capture cards, but I know a few USB adapters advertise MPEG/DivX/etc. and never found out if MINE did that. It's not written on the box. It says I can export to AVI/DivX/WMV, but it might be using their software after the capture, and I don't use it because it's crap. It doesn't tell if the actual capture is done in MPEG. How can you tell? I mean, the device works perfectly with VirtualDub after installing the drivers, it captures my Huffyuv files perfectly, everything is recognized, when I play the files in VLC it detects the right info about it (Huff YUV Video HFYU, 640x480, 29.97fps, Planar 4:2:2 YUV). But how do I know if I'm losslessly capturing a MPEG2 stream? I don't want that. Not that I see any obvious compression artifacts or anything, but VHS tapes aren't really great to start with, so it's hard to tell, MPEG2 can look smooth at high bitrates. I read in other posts that some users have gone as far as disassembling devices to get to the chip to get around its limitations and to know what was going on inside. Any knowledeable folks on here about this device?
Not that relevant for THIS post, but anyway:
Pentium D 2.8GHz (early gen dual-core), 1GB DDR2 RAM, stripped down Windows XP SP3 running on less than 100MB RAM, USB Capture device (seems to be a clone of EzCap, but not a 10$ clone, more like 60$). It's EXACTLY like this (http://www.globalcoast.ca/store/images/USB2-EZCAP.JPG) but has no name on it, and it's made from a french company called "MicroApp" (http://www.microapp.com/logiciel_sauvez_vos_cassettes_video_10651.html)
Sorry, I know it's a long post, but I wanted to include as many details as possible, maybe some experts will come out and tell me to try something else with my other VCRs, if the Toshiba is better or anything. I can post samples. I'm here to learn and do things right. Thanks!
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2. Your capture device encodes using software not hardware and sends an uncompressed video stream, not an MPEG-2 stream. Otherwise you couldn't use Virtualdub to capture in HuffYUV format. Also, USB capture devices that hardware encode require a larger enclosure. For your device, AVI/DivX/WMV are additional encoding options that can only be provided via software.
The hardware you have is nothing special. It is almost certainly one of the several inexpensive devices sold as an EzCap or Easycap for $10. The only difference is that it is bundled with drivers for Windows 7/8, and different software, plus a composite cable and SCART adapter and sold for $60. The driver shown in Device Manager may contain information that will allow you to find out about the chipset.
Thanks for your input about my device, I didn't know it wouldn't work correctly in VirtualDub if that was the case. I'm happy now, but I have an other concern. I don't know if I should start a new thread but I'll take a chance:
I'd like to capture at 720x480, but when I do, the resulting file looks stretched horizontally when played back in VLC. 640 is the only way the resolution looks natural to me, but I know I'll need to resize if I ever want to make DVDs. I'd rather skip this lossy step and cap directly at 720 if it wasn't for this, but it's really annoying because it suggests something's wrong. If I change the aspect-ratio (still in VLC) to 4:3, the file shrinks back to a "correct" aspect. Now I played a commercial NTSC 4:3 DVD, the image was 720x480 and didn't shrink when changing the AR to 4:3. This looks correct to me. What's wrong with my captures? Is my device locked to a certain aspect-ratio no matter what resolution I choose? I looked everywhere in VirtualDub for aspect-ratio settings but didn't find any. I can post screenshots of the settings I have if necessary.
I'll post 2 samples shortly, of a 640x480 and 720x480 capture to show what I'm talking about.
Anyway, thanks to both of you for taking the time to help me! Really appreciated.
VLC so I don't understand why there's a problem. If encoding for x264 you can set a flag in the video so it plays back correctly (although not all playback devices will support that flag).
I agree that you should definitely cap at 720x480. HuffYUV isn't the final format anyway, and you can set an AR or resize for whatever will be the final format later on.
Last edited by manono; 25th Sep 2013 at 17:28.
VirtualDub to capture in. As a result, I captured at 640 because it looked better on my screen and I had read that it was more true to the approx. original resolution of VHS tapes. So if I understand correctly, it's normal because AVI files don't have such flags, but I can set this flag later on when/if converting to another format? Interesting. Although the original HuffyUV files will be archived, these are probably the ones I would play on my computer, so I wanted them to be correct first, as they are more important than whatever conversion I do later on. These are the files I'll be left with for years after I get rid of those tapes. DVDs or MP4 files really are secondary, as it's mostly because they're more practical to play on devices other than computers, and I wanted to experiment with video conversion/editing in general. The A/B comparison I wanted to do will take place on an SD TV, and I thought my 640x480 files (played back on my PS3) would be stretched to 720 to accomodate the SD display. My computer screen displays square pixels, so 640 looked fine, but SD TV pixels are rectangular, so I didn't want the stretching to affect how I judge the quality of the transfer vs the tapes. I got an SD TV now but when I make the switch, I'd like my master files to be future proof also. DVDs are not really important to me. If you tell me that 720 is only standard for DVD and that the PS3 won't stretch my 640 files to accomodate the SD display, I might just continue to capture at 640 and convert to H264 MP4 for TV playback because well, I didn't know 720 would take twice the size compared to 640 captures. And I don't think capturing at 720 would get me more detail in the end. So the only advantage I see in 720 is if I absolutely wanted to make DVDs. Yeah, I'm a little confused! I'm more of an audio guy, and this video/pixel/ratio jargon is pretty new to me.
Anyway, if you would like to take a look just to be sure my capture device isn't doing weird things under the hood (apart from what looks to be dot crawl artifacts), here are my 2 samples. They're still in HuffyUV and only about 4 seconds long because I didn't know the size limit for uploading. You might want to hit the repeat button:
Edit: I messed up the 720 sample. It's twice the size because it's not in HuffyUV, it's totally uncompressed. I forgot to tick "Direct Stream Copy" when saving the file after trimming it.
Last edited by Gauth; 25th Sep 2013 at 20:03. Reason: Cause I'm a n00b.
... but SD TV pixels are rectangular, so I didn't want the stretching to affect how I judge the quality of the transfer vs the tapes.
HuffyUV files. Remove the dot crawl (if possible), maybe a little color correction, try to fix the bad frames that were inserted with junk from the top of the frame, at the bottom. THEN, I'll archive them. I'm sorry if I'm saying a lot of things at the same time, it might get confusing.
Thanks a lot for your time and knowledge. In the end I won't change anything about my method, but at least I know what I was doing was right (for me anyway) and I'm not blindly capturing a lossy stream. Respect sir!
Last edited by usually_quiet; 25th Sep 2013 at 22:26. Reason: clarity
PS: What do you guys think about the capture? Is it the worst you've seen, is it not bad for a cheap USB device? I know I'm gonna have to clean and filter that a bit (I didn't show the nasty frames I was mentioning earlier), but it's not like it was historical importance footage or anything, just some good memories on tape.
Last edited by Gauth; 25th Sep 2013 at 23:39.