I have a precious video that I do not want to play more than once if I can avoid it. I have just purchased the Diamond VC500 capture device. I have tested it out using less important tapes, and using the EZGrabber software for the capture, and it seems to be capturing fine. I have some questions, and really appreciate any help you can offer:
1. Most important, what settings should the brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, and sharpness be set to? I just want to faithfully capture whatever is on the VHS - I don't want to attempt to improve or correct it. (I also don't know what the sharpness setting does). I am guessing I should set them all to 128 - this looks faithful on my trial capture.
2. I am using "NTSC_M" video format and the "DVD" record format settings. The "DVD" setting seems to be the highest bitrate setting (36Mb for 30 sec), other than the "AVI" setting which took up 1Gb for 30 seconds. If I am trying to make a good archival copy of the VHS tape do you agree with using the "DVD" setting?
3. Is there software that a beginner like me could use to capture video using the VC500 hardware but alternative freeware? Any advantages to this? Interested in archival quality / faithful capture.
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If you want the best it can be, Capture AVI, uncompressed or huffy or lagarith. The brightness controls, and others, are to improve or enhance areas where a particular tape is lacking. There is no "Correct" setting, there is what is best for each particular tape. A middle ground will likely be best most often, but ALSO will likely not be best for some tapes.
Not familiar with that particular hardware.
DVD-MPG is generally not considered best for either capture or archiving.
If you really want the archival quality that you say you do, Nelson37 has the right idea. Don't capture ugly old noisy crappy VHS to lossy encodes such as MPEG. There's nothing really "wrong" with MPEG media itself (it's good enough for cable TV and Hollywood DVD's). The VC500 can be used with VirtualDub capture to get lossless AVI, using huffyuv or Lagarith lossless compression during capture -- which will give you about 30 to 40GB for a little more than an hour of 720x480 lossless AVI. What you do is clean up that AVI to make it as trouble free as you can for the encoder, and you'll get about 90 minutes to 2 hours of good DVD at about 4.3GB on disc, at decent bitrate to avoid motion problems.
Encoders do not like noisy VHS. They really don't.
Brightness, contrast, saturation and gamma filters are all you should be using during VHS capture. They are almost always used to control the luma and chroma range for video standards, and to avoid crushed darks and clipped brights. If you sharpen during capture, you'll get some really pinpoint-sharp digital artifacts for your trouble. They will never go away. Denoisers with the most capture setups, especially with those that you decribe, will do more harm than good and is nearly impossible to undo after capture. The same with hue corrections; they almost never work properly with VHS, because VHS has seriously inconsistent hue output, scene-by-scene. You might get a nice clean-looking color setup for one scene, and the next scene will look like something in a bad dream. None of these capture filters will correct for chroma shift, bleed, DCT ringing, sharpening artifacts, dot crawl, frame ripples and rips, image hopping, rainbows, or any of the many artifacts that are common with VHS. You could just as well stop wasting time and record directly to a DVD recorder -- which will give you exactly the same results, but possibly with a slightly better encoder.
I'd use VirtualDub capture with that card. Capture to lossless AVI at 720x480 interlaced, PCM uncompressed audio, set the colorspace to YUY2, set compression to Lagarith or huffyuv. Then take it from there.Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end. -- Henry David Thoreau
Thank you so much for your advice. Bearing in mind that I am a rank amateur, could I impose on you to give some more step-by-step instructions for doing this? I mean GUI-level instructions like which menu, which dropdown, etc.
I'm just not sure how one captures using VirtualDub, how you would choose huffyyuv/lagarith, whether those are things that need to be downloaded or installed separately from virtualdub. And when you say I should be doing brightness, contrast, saturation and gamma I have no idea where I would find those in virtualdub or what settings you are suggesting I put them on. And as for sharpening, you're saying I shouldn't do it - what setting do I need in order to not do it? (Same for hue - what setting does not change hue).
I actually don't even know how to tell VirtualDub to capture from the VC500. That's how little I know. I know it might be annoying having such newbie questions, I apologize in advance, but hoping you or someone is able put together screenshots or step-by-step instructions. And hopefully that will be useful to others too.
Originally Posted by parisl
Just Google, download and install HuffYUV or Lagarith. It will be an option in your VFW options in VirtualDub. (I prefer HuffYUV. Yes bigger files, but easier to decode/capture/edit for me. You can encode it after capture/edits, later, to something else if you like.)
Originally Posted by parisl
I highly recommend getting a Video Processing Amplifier ("proc amp") such as the one from SignVideo, on eBay (and others mentioned on this great Forum). It's very easy to use and has excellent results and you won't need to do much else with any other software, including VirtualDub. I won't get into gamma curves, etc, but, in short, it will make your blacks more black and your whites more white, and other neat things like brighten/adust colors.
You should also be using a TBC as well, especially with precious content, and there is lots of information on this in this Forum.
Originally Posted by parisl
Starting with File->CaptureAVI
Then you set your file name (F2), find your device (click Device in menu and likely it will be a choice).
Then go to the Video menu:
Video source (enter the input you're using)
Capture filter (this is taste, but if you have a proc amp you can stick with the defaults)
Compression (select HuffYUV)
Set Custom Format (choose 720x480 YUY2 YUV 4:2:2 interleaved, as sanlyn noted and I agree)
Choose your settings in Audio menu (better results are from your sound card IMO)
Choose your preferences in the Capture menu. Can explain more in detail here if you have questions.
That should be a good start to get your feet wet.
Originally Posted by sanlyn
A Classic Debate regarding VHS capture!
I see it as a see-saw.
More sharpness brings more real detail and more VHS noise.
Less sharpness brings less real detail and less VHS noise.
As well, over-sharpenning will bring terrible artifacts, and no more details - there is definitely an optimal "sweet spot" IMO.
Having said that, I bend the see-saw to my advantage. I sharpen to what I believe is the "sweet spot", then eliminate the associated noise that comes with it using Neat Video (fabulous filter). With the right settings you will get a result that retains almost 99% of the details, and removes, maybe, 80% of the noise. That's a good steal, err... deal, in my book.
Yes, it's as slow as evolution itself, but much better with a later model PC. And worth it.
Last edited by PuzZLeR; 5th Dec 2013 at 15:36.Been away for a while and busy with work the last few months so I had no time for forums. My apologies for any emails I couldn't get to in time - missed you all! :-)
I'll be the first to admit that capturing to lossless media is the long way (probably the most time-consuming way), and there is most certainly a learning curve involved. A lot of cleanup can be done quickly with VirtualDub, but some VHS defects can be repaired only with something like Avisynth. From cleaning up lossless media, you can always move faster during subsequent steps using lossless media in an editor for reordering clips, joining segments, making titles, etc., and encoding the results.
In the past I've transferred some tapes directly to a DVD recorder, but those were rather pristine retail issues, and the players and recorders were of very high quality. I have yet to encounter a home-made tape that doesn't look like junk when transferred that way. Some required minimal cleanup, some required a ton of work. It depends on the value you attach to the source. I had some garbage tapes that will always look horrible no matter what you do, and they were of little consequence anyway. But the horrible job that a "pro" did a few years ago on my niece's wedding, well....when you saw her cry after she saw those tapes (and heard her dad raise holy hell over the photog's bill), you would have known that there was work to be done.
I wouldn't sharpen during capture. VHS comes with enough problems, and you have to filter anyway. Why make it worse at the get-go?
There are lots of nay-sayers who say you don't gain anything by capturing dirty old discolored stained noisy crappy VHS to lossless media. I've seen the results. I'll stick with lossless.
Another advantage: lossless archives are accurate-to-source archives. From there you can encode to as many formats as you want, with no loss through re-encoding to different formats from a lossy original. Don't get the idea that you can capture to MPEG, DivX, Utube formats, or whatever, and then re-encode if you want a different final format, without loss. Re-encoding is a lossy proposition. There's no way around it. Video encoding is not lossless like ZIP or RAR. They are very different methods of compression.
Last edited by sanlyn; 5th Dec 2013 at 14:45.Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end. -- Henry David Thoreau
Agreed, you can't work miracles with VHS (although we've had posts from newbies who were screaming and bleeding over bad transfers and said after seeing the cleanup, I quote, "That's a miracle!!!"). You're right: some projects aren't worth it. However, the first words in post #1 are "I have a precious video". By not wanting to play it more than once, I assume the O.P. meant that he doesn't want damage inflicted by multiple attempts at capture, which is understandable.
If this is a a case of not wanting to keep it around, watch it over and over, etc., then why use a capture setup with a so-so encoder? A decent DVD recorder can make a better transfer at high bitrates, which can then be copied to a PC and edited in an NLE.
And you're right again: you can't make VHS look like a Hollywood DVD, even with the gear they use at Industrial Light & Magic. You can clean the VHS garbage and make it look infinitly easier and less annoying to watch.
Because we don't really know what this "precious tape" looks like, that's the best advice we can offer. If it's truly s horror and played on a $50 deck, I would definitely temper the O.P.'s expectations. For one tape, contacting lordsmurf at digitalfaq.com would be a better idea.Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end. -- Henry David Thoreau
Oh yeah, we should preface all of this by saying that if you're comfortable sending your tape in the mail, just return the equipment, send the tape to Smurf, and live happily ever after.
Unfortunately there's no single answer for faithful/transparent/neutral/accurate settings for the other adjustments. It varies by equipment, tape, and scene. 128 is a good starting point for each control but you may find that you need to lower them to avoid clipping, or raise saturation to bring some life to the colors.
Last edited by vaporeon800; 5th Dec 2013 at 16:04.
Thank you for the detail - that was what I was looking for. I don't have the cash to spend $500 on the signvideo proc amp that you listed. I was hoping that with just my VC500 hardware, my desktop, and either the bundled EZGrabber software or some other freeware I could do this capture. My plan is to follow the instructions you gave above for using the VC500 plus VirtualDub with Huff YUV. But can you or someone else on this forum fill me in with what settings I need to choose for brightness/contrast/hue/saturation/sharpness? I'm just looking for the actual settings I would use in VirtualDub.
(And if I use EZGrabber, would I set everything to 128? And save in the "DVD" format?)
I don't know what a TBC is, BTW.
When everyone here is saying that one route to go is just to use a DVD recorder, what is an affordable model? And are you saying you'd just plug component cables from the VHS player to a DVD recorder unit?
Finally - once I have my lossless, high-quality, large file format capture file, if I want to create a smaller compressed file, what freeware program is the best for conversion?
Thanks everyone for the hand-holding!
VirtualDub, you don't need EZGrabber and VDub too.
A lossless capture with huffyuv or Lagarith would be about 30 to 40GB per hour. 90 to 110 minutes of that at a decent bitrate would give you quality DVD in about 4.3 GB on disc. You can get "smaller" in three ways: reduce the frame size, or reduce the bitrate, or both. Either way, you lower quality.
From this post it appears that you have a learning task ahead. You might give more consideration to having this job worked by a competent shop. digitalfaq operates such a shop, and some of its techs are members here. We don't recommend them because they're members, but because we're familiar with their work.
You might want to take a look at their site for lots of info about video and capturing. Try these brief pages from their guides:
Introduction to Video Sources
Introduction to Restoring Video
Some of this stuff has charts and numbers. Don't worry about the numbers. They vary anyway, it's just the general concepts that matter.
There's also a VirtualDub capture guide. Note that this is dated in some areas and is just one way of doing it. At least it shows you what the interface looks like, if nothing else. http://www.digitalfaq.com/guides/video/capture-avi-virtualdub.htm
ED: Oops. Overlooked this one.
Last edited by sanlyn; 6th Dec 2013 at 05:31.
I'm almost there . . . can you explain how, in virtualdub, I view the histogram, and how I make adjustments in response, and where I make those adjustments?
And, if I do the capture instead in EZGrabber, does using 128 for all settings represent the right starting point?
Sanlyn did well in your questions, but I'll take another angle at it.
Originally Posted by parisl
I can't help you with the histogram since it's been ages since I've played with one. I've become heavily dependent on my proc amp.
However, I understand if buying one isn't an option for you. In case the histogram route is too complicated, you can simply just use the proc amp in VirtualDub. (Video->Capture filter). These are not VirtualDub settings. They are pulled from your capture device (selected in Device menu). So what will be offered will be what your device offers.
No, not as robust as a physical proc amp, or using a histogram, but you can still get good results. But I don't have a VC500, so it would have to be by taste, or follow what others may offer.
As for the EZGrabber, if it's anything like the authentic ezcap.tv, it will have a good set of options in VirtualDub.
Originally Posted by parisl
This highly depends on the condition of your tape.
Originally Posted by parisl
You are less likely to need a TBC, and some have internal modest proc amps. They are headache free for most people. You will also not need to agonize yourself with the intricacies of VirtualDub capturing.
Many are good: Toshiba, Pioneer, Sony, LG.
However they will not be the best solutions for quality if you're a picky person like me, or others in this Forum.
I too will say regardless - AVOID the combo VHS/DvD units. Yes, the "easy factor" is high, but it is just as counter-productive in quality.
Originally Posted by parisl
I'm assuming you want DvD. You can get dozens of fine recommendations here. You will need an MPEG-2 encoder and a DvD authoring program (and a DvD burner of course).
If you're new to this, you may want to download Daemon Tools and ImgBurn to create "virtual DvDs", such as the ISO format, so you can test your final production on your hard drive before you commit to a disc.
Last edited by PuzZLeR; 6th Dec 2013 at 01:03.Been away for a while and busy with work the last few months so I had no time for forums. My apologies for any emails I couldn't get to in time - missed you all! :-)
Here's a link to a post in another thread about setting VirtualDub for use with the VC500. The images show the input source for an ATI capture card, but you would just substitute the VC500 for that card (the ATI will not show up on your machine in these dialogs. The VC500 will show instead). These are settings for characteristics for frame size, video compression, audio compression, and so forth, that will work with almost all capture devices. http://forum.videohelp.com/threads/360511-Vhs-DVD-clarity-question?p=2285945&viewfull=1#post2285945
This link has an image of the histogram in VirtualDub capture. Overlaid on the image are two smaller windows from another filtering application (ignore those. Your filters won't look like those shown). The idea of the histogram is to set brightness and contrast so that data doesn't "bleed out" into the left and right limits of the histogram. Signals that crash against the left-side borders indicate dark and shadow detail destroyed by crushing. Signals that crash against the right-hand side indicate signals whose bright details are being destroyed by clipping. "Brightness" controls the left-hand dark colors, "Contrast" controls the brights. Someone who is familiar with the VC500 can tell you how to access the adapter's filter panel. You can view the histogram by clicking the top "Video" menu and clicking on "histogram" in the drop-down menu. http://forum.videohelp.com/threads/343001-Using-VirtualDub-s-capture-filter-proc-amp?p...=1#post2136979
Anyone who works with color and bright/contrast filters should know what a histogram looks like. When you buy almost any video editor, you're paying for one. But somehow, most people do overlook similar features.
Last edited by sanlyn; 6th Dec 2013 at 05:27.
If you use VirtualDub's built-in Histogram, I recommend temporarily enabling its Cropping filter and removing the "black" edges of the incoming video so they don't interfere with the readings. But be sure to disable the Crop again before actually capturing.