I've finally decided to convert my homemade VHS tapes to DVD format. Long story short, I've been doing a lot of reading and am quite overwhelmed.
My biggest question is this: Why aren't there any guides for buying a capture card? I'm talking about something a la lordsmurf's VCR buying guide, which makes selecting VCRs a breeze.
It sounds like the ATI TV Wonder HD 600 USB Digital & Analog TV Tuner is the preferred captured card, but I'm quite surprised that so many people are turning to a $30 device to preserve and restore irreplaceable video footage. Is it really the best choice?
sanlyn says here that there are $500+ USB capture cards but doesn't name any. I've never seen one at such a high price. Could a more expensive card produce better results? vaporeon800 posted numerous amazing screenshots comparing various capture cards, which I imagine contain a wealth of data, but I'm too much of a newbie to know how to interpret those images.
All of the other equipment that I need to buy seems pretty straightforward:
VCR: See lordsmurf's guide above. I hope I can find a one of the Panasonic S-VHS professional devices; those look like the best.
External TBC: DataVideo TBC-1000 seems to be the unanimous choice.
Proc Amp: I don't know the first thing about using this, and there don't seem to be as many tutorials for using proc amps as there are for using VCRs/capture cards/capture software, so I think I'll pass on this for now.
Capture software: Virtualdub seems to be the unanimous choice. I'm still reading various tutorials on how to use it.
Capture format: Lossless AVI seems to be the unanimous choice.
So all that's left is the capture card....
Here's some information about me that may or may not be helpful:
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Intel Sandy Bridge i5 processor
16 GB RAM
750 GB SSD
Budget: Around $1000, though I'd be willing to spend a little more if it means better results.
Location: United States
My VHS tapes: Normal NTSC VHS tapes. Mostly homemade recorded at SP speed, but some at SLP/EP. A few commercial tapes (i.e. Macrovision protected). Many of my tapes are probably damaged due to poor storage conditions (overly hot/cold environments).
My goals: Make a 1-to-1 transfer of all my tapes onto DVDs. I don't anticipate doing a lot of editing (cutting/pasting).
Thanks in advance for any comments or advice, and for humoring a newbie like me.
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For standard definition video capture there's no correlation between price and performance. For VHS capture the (S)VHS deck (and a line time base corrector) is far more critical than the capture card.
Generalizations and assumptions are risky things, but we often get newbie gung ho posters like you. Are you REALLY anal enough to spend MONTHS doing painstaking capture, filter and re-encoding work on your tapes? In some cases would it not be better to just buy the DVDs of the ones that have DVDs? And how many times are you going to watch these captures anyway? Does spending tons of money and time really make sense for you?
If you decide to go down that path, the only advice I have is that you do yourself no favors if you get like one guy we had here who posted a roughly similar question to yours and after a full year of replies, most by a very small number of our members, and almost 1000 posts, he admitted he accomplished NOTHING because he kept giving up due to getting upset over minute defects and starting over. If you want to go to Crazy Town then you need to drive yourself and don't take the well meaning (but gullible) members here along for the ride.
We've got some experienced members who may post back with some boilerplate instructions, but they'll be pretty good. I do want to warn you that there are a lot of people like you who are only now deciding to get into the game of transferring VHS to DVD and if you need to buy a VHS deck, good luck. Fewer and fewer are available everyday as everybody who figured out that they wanted to do this before you did already beat you to the best decks and possibly abused them. I can't vouch for how good anything you get on Ebay/Craigslist will be or how long it will last before breaking down. Expect to pay a fortune for the best decks, which may be in questionable shape. I suppose it's better to start this now than in 2015, 2016 or 2020 but you're already very late to this party.
To add to jman98's excellent post you may want to consider using a professional for this.
If you are willing to spend up to a 1000.00 on hardware you may get a lot of good work done by a pro for that money and save you the hassle.
If these "homemade" tapes are video camera stuff shot by you then the pro route might be the best way to go. Look up pros online and determine how many tapes you want transferred. I have never looked but I'm guessing you'll get a discount for doing a bulk job versus a small handful.
If these are stuff off tv like sports and tv shows you have more difficult proposition here. THere are copyrights involved and you can't get pros to do that because of copyrights.
Also in reality unless these are REALLY REALLY obscure shows or local sporting events they are probably already on dvd (though may be out of print and you'd have to hunt on ebay and other places to buy them at an inflated price).
So you need to decide if you want to get stuck with equipment you'll probably never ever use again and waste hours and hours of your life or get a pro to do it for you.
But again if they are copyrighted material you would have to do them yourself. But like I mentioned they are probably on disc by now.
I used a hauppauge wintv pvr 250 pci card for my capturing when I was doing it somewhat regularly. Got good results and its a hardware capture device that can record straight to mpeg2 for direct dvd creation.
However if you want to do filtering and effects processing and color correction you'll want a card that can capture losslesly. I can't recommend one of those as I never did that so I don't know of any specific models to recommend.
Time to do a little soul searching on this endeavor of yours.
Good luck.Donatello - The Shredder? Michelangelo - Maybe all that hardware is for making coleslaw?
Last edited by sanlyn; 19th Mar 2014 at 06:25.
I came in wondering about capture cards and discovered that that should be the least of my worries. Very eye opening.
Great comments from all, especially the parts about whether or not I really want to jump into this. Yes, I know I'm late to the game. My tapes aren't getting any younger, and neither am I. Neither is all of the good equipment for sale out there. But if I don't start doing this now, I might never do it. I have to at least try, otherwise I'll regret it forever. For me, I am okay with spending some money just to try. If I fail, I'm strong enough to admit it and will just sell off all of my equipment when I'm done.
I just did a search on eBay for various VCRs in lordsmurf's guide they seem to be relatively plentiful. Of course, who knows what condition they are in. I've also found a few local shops that sell VCRs and do repair work. I guess I could always pay them a visit if I end up with problematic equipment.
I don't plan on spending months capturing, filtering, and re-encoding work. I don't yet know what filtering and re-encoding even entail. If some of my tapes are so bad that they require days and days of work, I will probably not bother fixing the errors. I will just do my best with what I have, even if that results in only an average outcome. But since I have the budget, I figured that I might as well get the best possible equipment to give myself the best possible start, right?
If I discover that I like working with VHS tapes, then I might spend time to learn more about the conversion and restoration process. But that's something to think about in the future, not now.
Believe me, if the stuff was already released on DVD, I would have bought it. But I am certain that all of my stuff is not. I also see value in a lot of things that other people might not care about, like old commercials and bumpers for TV shows and networks.
But aside from that, I'll admit that I'm a little bit uncomfortable handing off my precious tapes to a stranger, not because I think they will destroy them, but because I'm a somewhat private person.
I've started reading the lengthy thread "Who uses a DVD recorder as a line TBC, and what do you use?" and it's now obvious that devices like the TBC-1000 and various Panasonic/Toshiba DVD recorders serve different purposes, depending on the quality of the output that I am getting. This kind of sucks because I don't know what I'll get out of my tapes. I guess the first step is to buy a VCR and capture card and see what I end up with, then make further decisions after that. Darn, I really wanted to buy everything first, hook it all up, and just "go." But clearly that's not wise.
There's so much I don't know about VCRs. JVC won't play SLP/EP tapes? Who knew! JVC invented the VCR so I thought they played everything. Blah. Here I was thinking that buying one of the "better" VCRs in lordsmurf's guide was all I needed, but even then quality isn't assured.
When I started, I was sure that I should pick up one of the Panasonic S-VHS professional decks. But now, since I'm basically rolling a die, I feel like I should just pick something from the list that hasn't been abused by the seller, which means I'll need to spend more time talking with sellers and being very careful.
As for the capture card, I guess it'll be the ATI HD 600 USB after all.
Oh well, time to hit up Craigslist. I'll be back. I won't give up! I have to try! (Famous last words?)
I'm in the "find a good VCR and a good DVD Recorder" camp most of the time. I have two capture devices and one DVD recorder(with built-in HDD).....I usually use the DVD recorder unless the audio on the VHS tapes is spectacular quality(the recorder only does AC3 audio).
Luckily I have a Medion MD81335(LG Clone) DVD recorder that I can record to....then remove the HDD from the Medion and transfer the recordings to my computer(with specialized, free software).
I started off with an old Philips DVD recorder(DVDR985), switched to capturing after the Philips died(sort of), then found the LG/Medion recorders that record in XP high quality mode.
Last edited by sanlyn; 19th Mar 2014 at 06:25.
Originally Posted by vorp
For commercials and bumbers that is.
For full shows and sporting events you are likely on your own as you mentioned. I did also state obscure stuff likely won't ever see a mass release. Especially failed pilots of shows or short lived shows that might not even have lasted a whole season.
Too bad studios couldn't come up with a cost effective way to make a "lost cause" release set of failed tv shows. A collectors set of the stuff that didn't make it.
So I would suggest for commercials and stuff dig around youtube for a few hours and you might be surprised what you find.
But good luck on the rest of it.Donatello - The Shredder? Michelangelo - Maybe all that hardware is for making coleslaw?
However, if someone finds the thought of living in video capture Crazy Town for as long as it takes appealing, sanlyn is the mayor there. He has a year-long thread here detailing his second attempt to capture and restore one movie from a VHS tape. Said movie was already available from wbshop.com on DVD during the course of the thread. I guess it did not meet his quality standards for some reason.
Last edited by usually_quiet; 19th Jan 2014 at 10:44.
I'm thinking that maybe having both a VCR and a DVD recorder wouldn't be that bad. I could have two different devices to choose from when capturing, and the DVD recorder can also double as a TBC when I'm using the VCR so it wouldn't be a waste.
I've noticed that old commercials and bumpers on YouTube often aren't labeled very well. I hope I'll be able to contribute and provide better descriptions and keywords of my videos to help others find and identify them.
Previous posters have given you a good overview and reliable advice, all I would add is a couple of thoughts based on my own ongoing VHS dubbing project (which began in 2007 as a planned two-year task, but now seems will never actually end and I will eventually be taking the tapes, blank discs and hardware into the casket with me).
Your biggest issue now will be finding good VCRs that don't cost an arm and two legs to repair. Re the Panasonic AG1980, my current recommendation to all newcomers is to avoid it like the plague. Seriously. Once upon a time it was one of the top two or three VCR options for those with large tape collections they needed to digitize. Today, practically every "surviving" AG1980 is a twelve pound hunk of useless stamped aluminum. I put "surviving" in quotes because today, any AG1980 you see "survives" at about the same level as one of the semi-animated corpses from "The Walking Dead." They exist, but barely work, and their only remaining function is to torture you: eating up time, money and resources. There are no reliable repair services left that can service an AG1980, and they ALL need to be ripped apart and rebuilt at a minimal cost of $300 (usually much more). The repairs cannot be guaranteed to last long: many repaired units began to drift and crap out again within months of an expensive rebuild.
The AG1980 was a nice alternative to have, complimenting similar JVC or Mitsubishi decks. But that was years ago before they all started dying of bad caps and power supplies and video boards and g*d only knows what other tricky issues. Here and elsewhere, a handful of private AG1980 techs have been besieged with pleas from newbie owners begging them to come out of retirement (or hiding). A few came forward recently, initially giving some hope, but those hopes proved false when promises of "solid, durable repairs" quickly became a jumble of confusing, contradictory retractions (essentially boiling down to what I wrote above: the units are a nightmare to rebuild, it will cost at least $300, and there are no guarantees it won't up and die on you six weeks after the rebuild). So, um, ixnay on the AG1980: pretend you never heard of it. That goes triple for the ludicrously overpriced Southern Advantage units. Even a "new old stock" AG1980 in a sealed box is pretty well dead now from age, and needs a rebuild.
If you must have a VCR with decent DNR and line TBC, opt for a Mitsubishi HR-HS2000U DVHS, or one of the JVC DVHS. You might also look at a late-model JVC SVHS like SR-V10 or SR-V101. These will give you color noise filtering of about the same performance as the Panasonic AG1980, without the nightmare electronics. The two advantages of the AG1980 were better playback tracking of SLP/EP tapes, and ability to turn off the TBC but keep the color noise filtering. While these features have proven useful to me, I must admit in the course of dubbing hundreds and hundreds of tapes made over a 30 year period, I have only *truly* needed them perhaps a dozen times, and of those times I honestly could have made do substituting another VCR and accepting a slightly different "look" (perhaps more color noise). Given the horrendous unreliability and expense of an AG1980 today, the bloom is off the rose: once it was considered an essential VCR, but now you can live without it. In fact, if you try to live with it, it will likely kill you with aggravation.
Regarding outboard TBCs, these have unfortunately now tumbled down the path of the AG1980. The two most venerated TBCs for VHS use were the DataVideo TBC-1000 and the AVT-8710. Both are now of such dismal factory quality control it does not pay to buy them new, and finding a good used example is needle in a haystack. While I have not personally been thrilled with the results of using vintage Toshiba or Panasonic DVD recorders as TBC pass-thrus, they certainly are a better bet than the DataVideo or AVT.
Lastly, I agree +1000 with jman98's suggestion that you simply buy the cheap studio DVDs of any commercial, copy-protected VHS in your collection. The quality of the commercial DVDs is so staggeringly better than anything you can pull from VHS that they're well worth the $6 apiece cost. The Amazon, eBay and Best Buy pre-rec DVD blowouts during Christmas season can be a treasure trove.
Last edited by orsetto; 21st Jan 2014 at 00:51.
apparently they actually introduced it to get back at Panasonic for bastardizing the VHS format with LP mode. Originally JVC had pronounced that VHS was to be kept at the higher tape speed 2-hour mode for a standard level of quality.
Thanks, everyone, for the additional replies. I am reading everything (even if I don't quote you to reply) and am eagerly absorbing as much as I can.
New question: Is there a difference between the TVW600USB and the TVW600USBV? Both are labeled as the ATI 600 USB, but aside from the bar code number, I can't tell if there's any difference between the two. It looks like the TVW600USB has some driver updates that the TVW600USBV does not.
I'm asking because if something goes wrong for me along the way, I can only rely on a local repair shop for help. But if a good repair job is impossible (because replacement parts don't exist) or improbable, I feel like it would be better just to cut my losses and try a new device rather than get suckered into paying for a bad repair.
Thanks for all of the great advice about VCRs and TBCs for the 2014 market. I hadn't previously read about how crappy the TBC-1000 and AVT-8710 have become, so that's good to know. On the advice of sanlyn, I'm slowly reading a lot of your older posts, too. Good stuff. Super informative!
It was originally sold directly by ATI, and I think another one of their graphics card partners as well.
If you can find some kind of decent VCR to use for the task, the Hauppauge Colossus capture card has a hidden TBC you can turn on with a registry hack (you can find the instructions via an internet search) so that could possibly eliminate the external TBC requirement. I've used the Colossus TBC and it worked like a champ on my tapes, but I very rarely do this, perhaps only a handful of tapes a year. I'm also not all that picky - I just want it captured and not to puke at the results. I do NOT do lossless capturing as the Colossus can only capture in H.264, which is a lossy codec. I do simplistic AviSynth filtering and I can live with what I get as output, so it doesn't take me a month per tape (or worse) like some people. The more you fall into the "I just want it done as quickly and efficiently as possible" camp than the "I want quality as close to DVD as possible" camp, the quicker and easier you can achieve your goals.
Today, many years later, new replacement boards are long since unavailable and the only way left to repair an AG1980 is by tedious removal and replacement of many individual bits on several boards and modules that were never intended to be serviced that way: they were designed to be replaced in toto with a board swap. Replacing many individual bits is extremely labor intensive, and results in a half-assed, half-old, half-new system that is never really perfectly calibrated. The inherent tendency of the AG1980 to burn itself out and drift remains, so the repairs usually need to be repeated several times over the life of the vcr. Meaning the entire value proposition of the AG1980 goes out the window: its potential performance is not worth the hassle, unpredictability, and insane repair cost. In some respects it is indeed better than a comparable JVC or Mitsubishi, but not better enough to put up with all its quirks and aggravation, and its "better performance" is transitory at best given the tendency to drift.
JVC is not without quirks, either: the older classic SVHS models that everyone breathlessly raves over looked like tanks but were as reliable as the weather. Old JVCs don't burn themselves out electronically, but mechanically they can be a trainwreck, with the mechanism being as difficult to restore as the electronics in the AG1980 (which is ironically pretty reliable mechanically). With skilled, experienced VCR techs being in extremely short supply, you really don't want to stick yourself with a VCR that tends to need more than a simple fuse or power capacitor replaced (which any idiot repair shop can do cheaply). So you should probably avoid most of the older JVCs, too: the newer DVHS models were better designed and less popular, so tend to be in better operating condition. The sturdiest, newest, least-problematic VCR with TBC and DNR features was the Mitsubishi HS-HD2000U DVHS: these just don't seem to break. However, they can be expensive to acquire: leftover new ones in sealed box run $500, mint used anywhere from $200-$400. Some debate remains whether the TBC/DNR is quite as good as that in the JVC SVHS models: I see absolutely no difference in practical use, but others here have measured with test instruments to "prove" the Mitsubishi is worse. Whatever floats your boat: I use my eyes.
The key advantage of built-in TBC/DNR is it tames color noise, esp in reds, also it can smooth grainy video and fix some minor geometric distortions. These things need to be done in the VCR itself and cannot be easily replicated in software. However, these VCRs were a compromise even when new: the JVCs and Mitsubishi cannot uncouple the TBC circuit from the DNR, which frequently causes problems because the TBC overcompensates resulting in jitter. So you end up turning the system off, which makes your $400 vcr perform like a $20 vcr from Craigs List. The huge advantage of the AG1980 was its ability to turn off the TBC but leave the DNR on, which cleaned up color noise without causing jitter. Unfortunately the AG1980 was the ONLY vcr sold in North America that could do that, and it happened to be a piss-poor design in terms of reliability fifteen years later. Also, the AG1980 DNR wasn't as effective as JVC with some tapes, and could not be deactivated, which causes issues with tapes that don't lend themselves well to noise reduction.
The most important thing to consider as a newcomer to VHS digitizing is this: unfortunately, you are too late. You missed the boat, the days of fully-functional, top-quality VHS vcrs are gone. Its kind of like the college kids just now catching on to the different beauty of film photography vs digital: you can no longer shoot Kodachrome in a Hasselblad, because Kodachrome is unavailable, and you can't replicate the poetic dreamy look of Polaroid's own SX70 film with the knockoff film paks. With some technologies, their moment passes, and it has passed for high-end VCRs. A vast amount of forum advice on this topic hinges on the use of a perfectly functional JVC SVHS *and* a perfectly functional AG1980: they complemented each others strengths and weaknesses. But getting one of these in perfect condition in 2014, and keeping it that way, is almost impossible. It may be more practical to lower your expectations and use more ordinary, reliable, affordable VCRs.
Also bear in mind, modern flat screen televisions are plain horrendous at displaying digitized VHS, no matter how much effort you put into sprucing it up. I recently made a compilation DVD of old VHS comedy bits for a New Years Eve party. The disc seemed the usual "meh" on all my 32 and 40 inch flat TVs, but the hostess had a crummy old 27" RCA tube TV in her living room that made the digitized VHS look *fantastic.* The disc looked like pristine first-generation broadcasts, with an almost 3-D quality: everyone was floored. It is extremely disappointing that our LCD and plasma displays are such one-trick (HDTV) ponys: standard-def low-res VHS looks really bad on them.
Last edited by orsetto; 22nd Jan 2014 at 13:28.
ArcSoft ShowBiz you are running. I'm still using an older version because I was quite horrified to find out over a year ago that when I upgraded it, the upgraded version does NOT allow you to set the bit rate at all. You have to use whatever pre-selected bit rates ShowBiz wants to use. The upgrade does allow you to set other recording variables the older version does not allow you to set or change at all, but not being able to set the bit rate is a deal killer for me.
I believe the max bitrate on all capture sources with my version of ShowBiz is 15 Mbps.
Now that I think about it, I think jagabo reported that the Colossus can go as high as 18 Mbps, but I've never personally tried to do that.
If I remember correctly, with the original Hauppauge HD PVR you need to capture CBR if you wanted high bitrates. VBR mode with SD material would give much lower bitrates than the setting you used.
I can do an HD PVR CBR max rate capture with my test VHS tape tomorrow if that'd be of any interest.
The biggest problem with the HD PVR is it would lock up when you FF/RW the VHS tape.