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  1. Member
    Join Date: May 2006
    Location: Canada
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    Hello All,

    I have been collecting a lot of VHS and 3/4" umatic tape for a few years and I am finally running out of space. I have been meaning to convert the tapes however I am somewhat afraid to do so. Every so often I come on here and find a different way to archive and I get confused as to which way is the best way for me. My main goal at the moment is to convert to DVD and have a hard drive backup as well so I can store DVDs away and throw away the VHS tapes. Most of them were given to me by other people and most were recorded in EP mode so quality is OK at best, while others are in SP and some S-VHS.

    I have purchased a few products recommended by this forum over the years. I do not know how well they are regarded now since it has been a few years since I purchased them. If there are better products out there for my needs I have no problem buying others instead.

    Canopus ADVC-300
    DPS Personal TBC III (would a stand alone tbc be better in this case?)
    JVC-S9911U S-VHS.

    I also have a Sony/Pioneer DVD/HDD set top Recorder.

    Basically I am looking for a help into which direction to go. Some days I get so frustrated that I almost want to get a dvd/vhs combo and do the quick and dirty, but I know that would not yield the best results.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Last edited by mark23; 3rd Feb 2014 at 08:56.
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  2. Member
    Join Date: Nov 2004
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    mark23: The first thing is you are going to get some great advice on this project here at Videohelp. I am envious of the equipment you have for this task. That s-VHS and TBC will stabilize the video and when it comes to EP recorded video that is a real advantage. The only advice I can give you is that you record the VHS at high quality settings with your capture card. I am assuming it is going to record to mpeg2 video. Since your first ambition is to make DVDs, the first thing is to get the capture card set to DVD compliant specs.

    My thoughts on this subject are since you have money to buy additional items, stock up on good quality 2 TB Hard Drives. What I am thinking is beyond archiving to DVD you might want to convert some of these encodes to h.264 mkv files to place on a portable hard drive. You could have hundreds of mkv files on a 2 TB hard drive and a lot of today's Blu Ray players will allow you to watch these on your TV because they have a USB input and they can play quite a few different formats. Of course you want to back all your files up both your original mpeg2 encodes and your .mkv files on to other hard drives. 2 TB hard drives even though there are larger hard drives out there are priced quite reasonably and I believe they are more stable than the larger capacity hard drives.

    I think others will come forward with the great advice you need and the specifics of how to achieve it. I just had a feeling maybe my advice might help at least in a small fashion.
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  3. Member
    Join Date: May 2006
    Location: Canada
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    Thanks. I have posted in the past and have received a lot of good help, however so many different suggestions that I couldn't decide how to archive.

    There's another question now. Record to DVD set top box or with capture card? Also, since video production is a hobby of mine, I have some blackmagic products as well. One of them is a H264 Pro Recorder, so I could do real time encoding in h264 and just scrap the whole DVD idea, and just buy a few hard drives as backups instead of DVDs. I don't really want to use DVDs anyway but the more backups the better.

    Most of the tapes I have are from an old cable access station that through away their tapes so a lot of the footage doesn't exist anymore. Making good quality multiple backups is a must for me since I don't have the physical space to store the tapes anymore, nor the equipment to play them.

    Thanks again
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  4. Banned
    Join Date: Oct 2004
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    Originally Posted by Tom Saurus View Post
    That s-VHS and TBC will stabilize the video and when it comes to EP recorded video that is a real advantage.
    JVC-S9911U + VHS tape at EP =

    VHS recorded directly to lossy MPEG = same thing. There are too many other hundreds of posts on this same subject in the forum. But suit yourself.
    Last edited by sanlyn; 19th Mar 2014 at 07:25.
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  5. Member
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    I have some other VHS players as well if that model is not recommended.

    Sony, Sharp, Panasonic consumer models from late 1990s-early 2000s.
    Professional Panasonic S-VHS recorder (AG-7350)
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  6. Banned
    Join Date: Oct 2004
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    Any of the Panasonics pre-2000 will work better with EP tapes, even if they oversharpen some noise. Noise can always be fixed later, but not if you record directly to MPEG. Try the "AG" model and see what you can get.

    Analog tape is crappy noisy ugly stuff with dropouts, rainbows, spots, comets, chroma bleed, chroma shift, and line sync errors. If you record directly to lossy MPEG, that's what your archive will contain. But no one is fooling themselves: doing it properly requires learning, skill, patience, and a ton of time. This forum has at least several hundred threads that discuss those issues. The TBC in your JVC will be a great help. With EP tapes on players that don't have a TBC, you can use a few DVD recorder models as a pass-thru line TBC, or record to MPEG using their built-in circuitry. Doesn't your Canopus card have TBC capability? Some do, I think.
    Last edited by sanlyn; 19th Mar 2014 at 07:25.
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  7. Member orsetto's Avatar
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    What works for a nice clean Umatic first-gen tape from the cable station will not work for the crappy EP tapes, what works for the crappy EP tapes is not optimal for your better-quality SP tapes. Etc. As samlyn mentioned, the JVC 9911 can do wonders with good-quality SP tapes, but is not that great with EP tapes and even worse with EP tapes that are second-gen dubs from other tapes. You will probably need to experiment playing each and every tape, each and every recording, on all of your VHS vcrs to determine which gives you the best compromise of PQ vs jitter vs video tracking vs audio tracking. I can tell you from personal experience that process is tedious beyond words: very time consuming and frustrating. In many cases I'll archive multiple dubs from multiple vcrs because I can't make up my mind which I prefer.

    You have some nice hardware to work with, which helps a lot, but you need to pin down what your highest priority is for immediate "use format." By that I mean, do you expect you'll want to very quickly amass digitized versions of these tapes on DVDs that you can play anywhere? Or can you wait (perhaps quite awhile longer) until you have made the best possible digital storage files from these tapes, then transcode them to DVD format as necessary? Because its kind of impossible to accommodate both end goals with one workflow: wringing the best quality encode from the best tapes in your collection requires bypassing the lossy mpeg system used by conventional DVD recorders in favor of whatever "lossless" PC method you prefer. You would then need to do a secondary conversion to create the DVD files for however many standard DVDs you want.

    It might help if you work out a percentage for how many of your tapes are truly great picture quality and how many are just average or mediocre. If you find most of them are really very good, then capturing uncompressed directly to a PC will give you the best archive quality, plus ability to easily convert to various file formats to suit different playback devices (or make conventional DVDs). If, however, most of your tapes are are mediocre (anything EP or not first-generation is guaranteed mediocre), then you could consider going directly from VCRs into your Sony/Pioneer DVD/HDD recorder. These units had solid input circuitry that can cope with any conceivable signal flaw: nothing ruffles them. External processors like the filters in the JVC 9911 can improve the appearance of some tapes, but otherwise the Sony/Pioneers are completely neutral: they neither improve nor detract from the original source material (beyond the inherent compromise of their MPEG2 encoding to meet DVD standards). You could in theory get a somewhat better encode of even lame EP tapes by encoding lossless thru the Canopus to a PC instead of using your Sony/Pioneer, but it might take a lot more work and involve curing several issues that bother PCs but not the Sony/Pioneer.

    Either workflow is highly subject to the quality of the tapes: "garbage in = garbage out" no matter how you encode it. The Canopus will give you more range to fully capture top quality material, but in most cases won't do any better than the Sony/Pioneer for typical EP (or mediocre SP) tapes. The advantage of running everything thru the Canopus is you end up with generic video files that can be played easily by any media player or TV. The disadvantage of the Canopus is these files can be enormous: not a problem if you can afford tons of HDD space, but inefficient for long-term archiving of videos whose inherent PQ doesn't really merit so much uncompressed storage. Plus, if you also want ordinary DVDs as backup, thats another conversion step taking more time to do. Its a tough call. Recording to the Sony/Pioneer hard drive, doing quick editing, and burning to standard DVD is a much quicker simpler path to standard DVDs. But this leaves you with the reverse of the Canopus dilemma: if you also want to make a generic HDD archive, you'll need to spend time ripping all the DVDs to hard drives.

    Note the Sony/Pioneer units burn a slightly off-spec VIDEO_TS folder to their DVDs. This does not cause a problem for any hardware DVD/BD player, but many software players will stall and not play ISO rips from these Sony/Pioneer DVDs unless you first run the ripped VIDEO_TS folder thru a utility to add a "first play pgc" (meaning you must archive the DVDs as VIDEO_TS folders instead of disc ISOs, unless you want to bother re-ripping the modified VIDEO_TS folder back into a DVD ISO file for final HDD storage). This might also be necessary with DVDs made by a combo DVD/VHS recorder: depends on how the specific unit burns discs.

    Digitizing tapes seems like a great idea until you actually start doing it: then you quickly wish you'd never laid eyes on a VCR all those years ago.
    Last edited by orsetto; 3rd Feb 2014 at 12:43.
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  8. Member
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    Sadly the VHS tapes recorded in EP mode was the access station's way of archiving back in the day. They saved only a couple of shows per series on the master 3/4" tapes and reused the rest of them, archiving the majority of the programs on VHS. It's better than nothing I guess. I agree with your last statement, somedays I wish I never laid eyes on a VCR or the tapes at all. I just couldn't watch all the un-archived footage go to the dump.

    Right now I just want to get the best quality reproduction, with in reason, on a more standard media for today and for the future. I know it will be very hard to get excellent video out of EP records, however if I can enhance them a little bit, or even keep them at the quality they are, then that should be good enough. If there is any other equipment that is recommended such as a detailer or a different TBC or proc amp, I'm all game for buying it. New or used. Since buying the ADVC-300 I have heard very mixed reviews on it. I don't know how good a purchase it was, but hard to know I guess.

    Even though this is a hobby, I don't want to spend too much time at it to lose interest. Right now I just want to start the project and get it over with before I lose the chance (either equipment failures or tape failures).

    Thanks for everyone's help with this so far.
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  9. Member
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    I am sure someone will point out what will be better to archive to other than lossy mpeg.
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  10. Banned
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    Originally Posted by mark23 View Post
    Right now I just want to get the best quality reproduction, with in reason, on a more standard media for today and for the future. I know it will be very hard to get excellent video out of EP records, however if I can enhance them a little bit, or even keep them at the quality they are, then that should be good enough.
    If raising quality and some cleanup are scheduled, lossless is the best way to go. There is no such thing as an EP VHS tape that doesn't need work. MPEG isn't the highest quality for archival use. Lossless would be the "best". However, once that capture gets cleaned up and encoded, you would want backups of the DVD's themselves. Optical discs won't last forever.

    Originally Posted by mark23 View Post
    If there is any other equipment that is recommended such as a detailer or a different TBC or proc amp, I'm all game for buying it. New or used. Since buying the ADVC-300 I have heard very mixed reviews on it. I don't know how good a purchase it was, but hard to know I guess.
    Don't use detailers with VHS tape. The only thing that gets detailed are VHS defects. You don't need a proc amp. We have many posts here that used the ADVC-300 for lossless capture, and results were satisfactory. Regardless of the capture device, VHS has to be tweaked anyway. Most of the old classics like the ATI All In Wonders that were ideal for VHS capture are really difficult to find, and you likely won't find a motherboard that will accept an AGP capture card. For your non-TBC players, you might consider a TBC pass-thru device such as an older Panasonic or Toshiba DVD recorder between the player and the capture device. Don't go out and get an external frame-level tbc; they won't address most of the problems with VHS.

    Originally Posted by mark23 View Post
    Even though this is a hobby, I don't want to spend too much time at it to lose interest. Right now I just want to start the project and get it over with before I lose the chance (either equipment failures or tape failures).
    You could possibly lose interest, but more likely you would lose patience. You don't have to be the obsessive/compulsive perfectionist that some of us are (I stand accused and very very guilty). With even a nominal effort, the worst you could do would be to create an improved archive. The alternative is to do what many do, which is to slap everything together as-is and -- as many of those users have reported here -- to regret it later, and discarded the original tapes to boot.
    Last edited by sanlyn; 19th Mar 2014 at 07:26.
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