I'm in the process of doing my own transfers of some old VHS tapes, using a little Canopus ADVC 100 and a Sony SLV E1000. I'm getting pretty good results. I am using FCPX on a mac for the process. Here's what I am seeking advice about:
1. VHS tape that appears to be dead. The tape itself appears to roll through the machine, I can hear it rewinding / forwarding etc, but the counter does not recognise it. I have removed the tape after forwarding for a while and I can see that the tape is actually moving through the machine.
The image, when I can get it briefly playing, looks like the attached screenshot. In terms of audio. there is a brief burst of glitchy noise and that's it.
It's not an NTSC decoding / long play issue (it's a PAL recording). I have nevertheless tried playing in NTSC mode and of course it makes no difference.
I have tried two x Sony SLV E1000 machines and an old JVC. The same thing happens on all of my machines.
2. With almost all of the VHS tapes I am transferring, there is a low-high frequency of brief black screen dropouts with silence. They are around a fraction of a second to a second in duration. When I have examined these portions of video more closely and slowly jogged through them, I can see there is a lot of image distortion in those sections (ie tape damage) which the machine and / or my convertor automatically black out. Sometimes it is less clear what is going on there. I have tried running these sections of video through all three of my machines and the same thing happens every time. Naturally it's the tape that is damaged, and the VHS player / Canopus decides "NO" and blacks the little section out. When I play back what I've captured in FCPX, what I have is everything except the blackout, so there is effectively a momentary cut where the blackout was. ie if the blackout happened at the word "dog" when the subject is stating "there was a dog there", during transfer I see "there was a [BLACK] there", and post transfer, in playback via FCPX, I see "there was a there".
I'd prefer it if the black was captured so there is at least a pause over the cut moment of the same length. It indicates that my canopus kills the signal at those points, because everytime it happens, a new clip (ie captured video file) is created. So either side of these blackouts I have the beginnings and ends of separate clips in FCPX.
What I'd like most, though, is to know if there is anyway to have the video capturing all the way through so *I* can choose what to black out / edit out, not my Canopus.
Any help would be much appreciated!
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Not sure about problem 1. But for 2, if you play the tape and view it directly on a TV, what do the black sections look like? Any recognizable image?
I'm not familiar with the Canopus device but I'd assume that is what is causing the total blackouts. At least none of my VHS players do that (though I don't work with VHS that much). I capture using an ATI or EzCap device, and both happily capture whatever comes out of the tape player, no matter how garbled the signal may be.
You say that a new file is created because of the blackout. The Canopus may be rejecting the signal but it isn't creating a new file, that's a function of your capture software, in this case FCPX. I don't use it, but splitting on loss of stream sounds like the case.
Now either it can record the blackout but chooses not to, or it can't continue because of it and just creates a new file when it sees the stream again. Check all your capture options, and if that fails, try capturing with something else.
And as the above post, how does the tape look with the VCR hooked up directly to your TV?
#1 looks like a blank tape. Do you get a picture if you watch it on a TV?
#2 looks like false Macrovision detection. Time base errors from the damaged recordings are triggering the ADVC's Macrovision detection circuit. Some of the ADVC devices have an setting that disables Macrovision detection.
Looks like missing or damaged control track on the tape. VCR->TV tends to be a little more tolerant, but your best bet is to place a TBC between the deck and the capture card.
It appears the canopus is dictating what gets converted, and is extremely sensitive to these tape abberations. The problem is not the VCR as I have tried 3 different ones, two different models, and the canopus does the same thing in the same spots every time.
Is there any way to get around this, or do I need a new converter?
I found this, re: macrovision detection disabling:
"From another forum I obtained the following tip on how
to disable Macrovision using the Canopus ADVC-100
hardware video converter device that works for me.
Press and HOLD the Input Select switch. When
colour-bars appear at analogue output, KEEP THE BUTTON
PRESSED. Wait until the colour-bars DISAPPEAR before
releasing the button. Macrovision is now disabled
until the unit is switched off. You do not have to be
playing a Macrovision-protected signal into the box
while doing this."
However, absolutely nothing happens when I follow these instructions. No colour bars, nothing.
Sounds like you might need a TBC. Also sounds like your control track on the tape(s) is/are very corrupted - BAD. Possibly so bad nothing can be done about it.
The canopus box is doing what many normal digital boxes would do when given an unstable signal: giving you a Blue/Black alternative. The problem is not that it is doing it, but that it is doing it at a threshold that you find objectionable. The only way to lower/raise that threshold is by making the signal more stable (hence, the TBC).
That whole business about defeating Macrovision is both bad & incomplete information and a red herring. Bad & incomplete because your tapes are unstable and that is the problem, not MV. MV does apply an instability to the signal, and the presence of that instability is usually what triggers the device to NOT pass a signal through. And since your tapes are unstable, this could be confusing the box into thinking it's MV. BUT...
(assuming these are home movies)
There is not MV on those tapes and the kind of instability generated by corrupted control track is not the same kind of instability as MV anyway.
Plus, with the small exception of certain early models of ADVC-100, it is IMPOSSIBLE to defeat MV recognition. Unless you happened to luck out in your choice of purchase, your model would NOT support that workaround hack. And to be honest, even for those that can be defeated, I've never heard of this particular hack, so it could all be made up.
What to do? Don't try to get another model or different brand of capture device. Just get a TBC. It has the feature you need: locking into and cleaning up the signal to give you nice, evenly spaced lines in the frame and frames in the sequence. With the added benefit that it also happens "throw the MV baby out with the timing signal bathwater".
BTW, if these aren't home movies, it would be so much easier just to get a DVD/BD.
Last edited by tj7; 1st Apr 2014 at 07:32.
TBC= Timebase Corrector, yes.
There are a number of models with built-in Line TBC. My guess is that for the kind of tapes you have, you'll need more than just a Line TBC could provide. There are Line TBCs that operate on the lines within a frame and a full frame TBC that operate on successive frames. Most better quality standalone boxes are the latter. In your case, you might need BOTH.
I don't keep track of individual models except when I'm spec'ing out for a client or needing a new one myself (both of which have been a while), so I wouldn't be the best resource. But there are a number of folks on this site (orsetto & lordsmurf come to mind right away) that have detailed knowledge of many of them. You can get similar info here about good VCRs (with or without line TBCs), by doing a thread search.
Regarding full-frame TBCs these days, it's a sorry state of affairs. The only two consumer models with wide acceptance are AVT-8710 (and its clones) and Datavideo TBC-1000. The AVT has long been plagued with bad units, and the Datavideo is discontinued and fetching high prices 2nd hand. These devices cost hundreds and it is not worth it unless absolutely necessary - and if it is, I'll give the opposite advice to what I usually do and say try the AVT since it's the cheaper option that you can still get new.
I also would not go hunting for any Line TBC equipped VCRs. They're too much of a gamble, too prone to failure that too few techs know how to fix. Especially when you consider that coveted line correction can be done by other devices with either the same results or better. The consensus here is that special DVD recorders (in passthrough), particularly the Panasonic models ES10 / ES15 etc. are the best option for that. I can personally back it up.
The ES10 and its brothers not only provide a super Line TBC, but also frame sync which is a function of a full-frame TBC. It will not blank the anti-copy however. For anti-copy or false detection of it, again the AVT would be the cheapest option to try but chances are it will be defective. Other than that, I suppose the Grex units could work but I've never tried one.
I too say you need another pass through in your chain. I don't have much info on the Panasonic DVR but will further comment on the TBCs mentioned.
The AVT-8710 (and any clone of it) is indeed quite good at calming a harsh VHS signal, MV and "false positives", at least it will avoid many dropped frames. As for the quality control, it is indeed flaky, and the unit does look and feel like a cheap flimsy toy for its high price (don't drop it), but I find most issues with it, whether it's the famous "checkerboard pattern", or other weird artifacts, are all easily corrected with a power cycle, or maybe just letting it cool off - it shouldn't be used for more than (I'd say) 4 hours at a time.
Most of the 8710's problems arise from changes in its process (such as changing a tape while it still thinks it's filtering something) but especially from VCR menus onscreen. Such "distractions", especially the latter signal, will sometimes throw it off, thinking this is a typical harsh VHS signal and will filter out a wrong result in response. It's not very intelligent sometimes.
At any rate, just take care to avoid doing this when the 8710 is on. But, like I said, it's easily corrected by resetting the power, or cooling it off if needed. As well, once it captures the signal correctly initially (which you can verify in preview) it will continue to work properly for hours if you don't do anything to trigger it (such as, for example, change the tape or turn on a VCR menu).
As for the DataVideo - hated it. Yes, it would correct many bad signals, and would be built more solid physically, but it didn't justify being way more overpriced than the 8710 already was, but it would, in many cases such as from my JVC S-VHS's output, soften the video. I gave up on it.I hate VHS. I always did.
It is infuriating that my VCR and TV happily show me everything on these old tapes but as soon as I try converting, my equipment says "NO" throughout the process. The tape damage isn't even that bad, most of the time it's just a few lines across the screen. It's very frustrating.
Well, TBC's appear rare as hens teeth and if they are as unreliable as everyone is saying, it's pointless buying one.
I'll have to find those two site members and ask them about which VCR's to look for on ebay...
There's ONE ES15 on ebay locally for me (I'm in Australia) :
So this has a built in TBC and as such I should pass through this unit between my VCR and my Canopus?
Last edited by jagabo; 1st Apr 2014 at 20:22.
Right, now I need to find some way of finding out if the Australian model has any significant differences... would you suggest I start a thread asking for anyone who knows...? It's not even listed at the panasonic website anymore...
Is it easy to disable the internal noise filter?
The "legendary" Panasonic tape input correction pass-thru feature everyone's been yammering about for the past decade was best represented in the DMR-ES10 model. That one has "swat a fly using an anvil" capabilities. These abilities were watered down somewhat in the ES15, although the ES15 is a close runner-up. The ES20 model was the weakest, followed by every other Panasonic ever made. If you can pick up the ES15 for less than $70 it would be a good deal and probably more helpful to you than a "true" standalone TBC. As jagabo suggested, you'll probably want to disable the noise filters (which are turned on by default). You would need the remote control to do this: go into the setup menus, click on the Video tab, set Picture to Normal, DNR to Off, and Line In NR to Off. This is discussed on page 27 of the ES15 user manual, which you can download directly from Panasonic at this link.
All DVD recorders include some form of "input TBC," but the exact nature of these circuits is elusive. They aren't "TBCs" in the traditional sense, because they don't necessarily solve the same problems in the same way, and each recorder model (even within the same brand lineup) performs differently when faced with the same tape errors. Over the years, based on numerous reports from advanced users here and elsewhere, the Panasonic ES10 has steadily held the top spot for correcting really awful tapes. Other DVD recorders have varying degrees of passthrough corrective ability, but the ES10 is in a league of its own. The ES15 is similar but not quite as powerful, the ES20 weaker yet but still has advantages over other random recorders.
There are many more ES10 and ES15 models for sale in Europe. I got my ES15 for 9 euros on ebay.de, listed as "untested", but I'd imagine it's almost always the recording functionality which is broken, if anything. Of course shipping to Australia will be more expensive, but it might still be worth considering importing from elsewhere if the price on that local auction goes too high.
Thanks a lot for those informative responses! I am seeking out an ES10 or ES15, they are averaging about $90 on craigslist but I'd prefer to buy local (will probably get the one I am watching, the ES15) as postage from the US is about $100 for a box of that size. I'm just happy that I have a reasonably affordable direction to head in, now.
Originally Posted by tj7
I'm just saying the 8710 is flaky and needs to be supervised once in a while. It works very well otherwise as one of your options. I'm pretty sure many of the claims of its unreliability - talking to the Forum here not just you - have much to do with what I discussed in my last post, which are all correctable with some modifications in the workflow - it's a small inconvenience to buy something which is much more affordable for most people when broadcast level TBCs can cost many thousands.
Unless someone claimed to have bought a recent 8710 from the last couple of years (when he/she had another one from a previous time and can compare) and is certain that the quality control has diminished - that's different.
As well an internal line or field TBC is a very different animal from an external passthrough full frame TBC.
Originally Posted by tj7
I have no inside info of this, but I've heard many a tale that such units kill quality. They actually compress, and re-compress in passthrough with MPEG, and blockiness becomes apparent in parts of the video. Yes, they may correct tape flaws, but add a level of degradation in compromise - can I get someone to confirm this as true or not?
I'm just a messenger on this - such claims have been posted in Forums such as this one if one does a search around.Originally Posted by tj7
I hate VHS. I always did.
Last edited by PuzZLeR; 2nd Apr 2014 at 13:31.I hate VHS. I always did.
Specifically, I'm not speaking of interference patterns or other artifacts - which it can and does have - but actual TBC performance. It certainly does not help with dropped frames, because in fact it drops them itself. Frozen frames and ghosting, among other errors, are all recurring problems with this device. There is also is no way to bypass the proc amp as there's meant to be, which leaves me with automatic colour and levels adjustments that are way off.
Therefore, I always recommended the Datavideo instead, which I do own and am satisfied with. Yes, apparently some units soften the image, but really, it's a small price to pay for rock solid performance. The price itself was/is costly - but a workhorse TBC like that is also hard to come by. Unfortunately even harder now that it's discontinued.
I personally only use a full frame when absolutely necessary. Pretty much unless you're dealing with MV detection, there's no need to add the extra step of A/D. Frame sync provided by other devices is just fine as a standalone TBC alternative.
And as sidenote, I do believe the whole line-up from ES10 to ES25 all have the same correctional ability. I think that's been at least partly proven here by a reputable member. There are similar recorders by Toshiba as well, not as powerful but also pretty good according to reports.
Recent production runs of the AVT-8710 have been reported to have poor quality control here on VH as well other North American and European AV forums. The symptoms and workarounds PuZLeR describes apply to older versions of the 8710, which merely had heat-related issues from the small case. But Cypress Electronics, the OEM, is getting very sloppy of late- cutting corners with assembly, soldering, testing, etc.- resulting in out-of-the-box defects like banding, false colors and failure to function as a TBC at all. This also plagues various other brandings of their TBCs and protection filters. Cypress has become the Funai of video accessories, for better and worse. As demand for new analog video specialty accessories like TBCs declines, so does the quality and availability.
DVD recorders used as passthru processors for VHS entail compromises, like everything else. The Panasonic DMR-ES10 in particular is highly controversial: being the most effective, it is also the most widely debated. Some swear it is utterly transparent, while others (most notably LordSmurf) are equally adamant that it repairs severe errors at the expense of turning the repaired signal to blocky discolored mud. Throw in wildcards like hidden settings, sample variation, associated hardware (VCR, capture card) user workflows: you'll realize consensus is difficult. Even recently, someone here posted screencaps of the ES10 in action with VHS, singing its praises despite their samples clearly showing marked changes when the ES10 is used as passthru. The only point anyone agrees on is that the Panasonic ES10 can transform some nasty tapes that defy all digitization attempts into something watchable and stable. Whether truly transparent, or any perceived tradeoff is worth it, is a personal call.
Having a sensible discussion about DVRs as passthru processors is complicated by the simple fact nobody really seems to know what the hell these DVRs actually do to the signal. Are they using a variant of TBC? DNR? Pre-encoding? Voodoo? Or what? The actual circuits are a mystery, and each recorder model or brand pursues these qualities in a different manner. All you can do is experiment with whatever gear you can lay hands on.
It also pays to periodically reconsider the true payoff of whatever workflow you have chosen. All of these passthru processors and external TBCs are only necessary when capturing VHS to a PC: for whatever reason, PC encoding hardware inevitably reacts to VHS like a kid with peanut allergies reacts to a Planters candy bar. PC just cannot cope with VHS unless it is massaged half to death by pre-processing. OTOH, if you connect a random garden-variety VCR directly to any halfway-decent DVD/HDD recorder, you will get a steady, uninterrupted, stable digital copy of the VHS. Is the result from the DVD recorder "as good as" the PC? In my opinion, the difference is not as much as some obsessive geeks would have you believe.
Yes, DVD is a "lossy" format, and once your VHS is encoded to that format there isn't much further you can do with it that won't cause further, very noticeable degradation. BUT, and its a big BUT, I don't see any particular advantage to the PC "lossless" dubs if they aren't pure, direct VCR>PC. The minute you start adding an ES10, an external TBC, and a high-end VCR with built-in signal processing, you've screwed with the original VHS so much that any perceived advantage of "lossless" capture is, well, lost. This is an extremely subjective and touchy topic, but anyone just now embarking on a VHS digitization project needs to consider both sides and perhaps experiment with both workflows to see what works best for them.
The conventional wisdom, parroted endlessly on every A/V-related forum worldwide, is that an ordinary VCR connected to an ordinary DVD recorder results in a "terrible" digital copy of the VHS, because the DVD recorder is "too lossy" and it "wastes precious bitrate and bandwidth in a futile attempt to faithfully capture all the unfiltered noise in the VHS." This is one of those "absolutes" that feels true, because it sounds logical and appeals to our tech instincts. But technical theory and practical reality often collide in unexpected ways: depending on your own personal workflow and visual preferences, you might choose to go against the "optimum path." The problem with the ideal of "lossless" encoding by a PC is that it depends on "fixing" the VHS with a ton of pre-processing. Filtering the noise and stabilizing the signal to appease ridiculously finicky PC hardware can backfire as easily as it can give improvements: the ES10, VCR filters, and external TBCs all mess with the VHS in one way or another. Filtering noise means removing detail, stabilizing the time base means softening the image or altering the color/contrast balance: more often than not, your "lossless" capture looks like a cartoon version of reality.
Some people totally LOVE that cartoon-y result, they feel it is optimized for our modern LCD HDTVs (which are also ridiculously finicky at displaying VHS). Others like myself see little practical difference between PC and recorder capture of VHS: HDTVs make VHS-sourced material look like garbage. "Lossless" PC captures look like smooth shiny garbage, DVD recorder captures look like less-refined garbage. Both are still garbage: VHS will never ever look as good on a digital 32" or 42" or 55" LCD as it did on an analog 19" Trinitron CRT.
Last edited by orsetto; 2nd Apr 2014 at 14:09.
I agree the Panasonic ESxx recorders in passthrough mode aren't 100 percent transparent. But the issue is the nature of the changes, whether they matter to VHS, and to what extent they are fixable. If you were starting with perfect studio quality analog video these changes might be unacceptable -- but then you would have no reason to be using a DVD recorder in passthrough mode.
These recorders do not add MPEG compression artifacts (8x8 blocks, DCT ringing) in passthrough mode. They do cause minor levels changes and not always exactly the same changes. So you can't just set a levels filter once and forget it. But home VHS has levels all over the place so a little more error in levels isn't a problem -- as long as brights and darks don't get blown out. The situation is the same with saturation and hue. As long as the changes introduced by the DVD recorder aren't too far out they can be fixed. And again, VHS typically has tremendous hue and saturation errors. If you're serious you're going to be fixing them anyway. There is a little noise reduction, even with the NR filter turned off. With high quality sources this might cause a little posterization. But with VHS there is so much noise that removing 5 percent of it is of no consequence. There is no ghosting as this minor noise reduction isn't a temporal filter (unlike the intentional noise reduction filter that you can disable). There may be very minor horizontal sharpness changes, I didn't specifically test for that. But once more, VHS is so unsharp that minor sharpness changes are of no consequence.
The thread I referenced earlier has lots of samples. Some real world video, some test patterns for looking at specific issues.
The facts as far as my little operation goes are:
I'm digitizing footage from VHS tapes that are up to 20 years old. Much of the footage is 2nd + 3rd gen. Some of it is footage from commercially produced tapes from the early 90's that were never subsequently released on DVD. So generally speaking my source footage ranges from merely passable to being about as good as a 20 year old VHS tape could be.
I am trying to do all of this with as little loss as possible, but given the age and quality of footage I am working with, the kind of losses we are talking about would appear to be negligible. This is presuming that y'all are right about no MPEG compression artifacts being introduced etc. As far as saturation, noise go, most of the footage is pretty darned noisy and gritty to say the least. I'm not about to spend $600 on a new piece of equipment, so far it seems getting hold of an ES10 or ES15 is the most cost effective measure I can take to ensure that I'm getting continuous signal through to my hardrive as opposed to constant dropouts thanks to an overzealous ADVC100 unit.
Öand I just found an ES10 for $50 at a local Cash Converters (pawn shop chain) which Iíll pick up on Sat. if it work, that was a bargain. If it doesnít, Iíve only lost $50 and can likely resell.
Given a large percentage of your tapes are 2nd or 3rd generation cult rarities, you will definitely benefit more from a Panasonic ES10 or ES15 passthru than a traditional external TBC. External TBCs like the AVT-8710 actually do very little to help messy 3rd gen VHS tapes (and can sometimes make things worse). The stabilizing circuits in the Panasonic ES units are designed specifically to correct problems found in your kind of tape sources, and you might even find careful use of the noise reduction features beneficial.
I have done some direct comparison of footage from the same tape transferred with and without the ES10 in the pathway and there may be some very, very slight softening of the image but it's really hard to tell with the quality of footage I am dealing with, so essentially I am relieved.
However, unlike the ES15, there does not appear to be any access to noise reduction settings with passthrough. Looking at the ES10 manual at the panasonic website, noise filtering appears to only be activated when recording to DVD. Orsetto, if you can confirm this, that would be great, but I am 99% sure that the default unit configuration for passthrough is unalterable. However, it appears to be doing a good job.
Best $50 I have spent for a long time.
Revisiting this thread since I've recently purchased, and am currently testing, an ES15.
The settings I've used (gathered from around the 'Net, and even from Orsetto in this thread):
Setup -> Video -> Black Level Control:
-Input Level: Darker
-Output Level (Composite/SVideo): Lighter
-Output Level (Component): Normal
Display -> Video:
-Line-In NR: Off
Please fill us in if there are better, or even other necessary, settings for capture VHS in pass-through.
NOTE: Insert a blank DvD in the tray to have some of these features visible.
Although I just got the unit, I have yet to see any real improvements in line correction, or that jitter reduced. Yes, it's done well with tapes that would have that tearing effect otherwise, but would like to see the line-TBC under the hood show the magic that I hear plenty about.
Is it that my VCRs are so amazing to begin with? At any rate, let me know if I'm missing something, or if anybody has experiences to share, or testing suggestions.
Also, I have not seen any blockiness or posterization. (This is something I have seen with other DVRs I've attempted with passthrough - NOT with the ES15).I hate VHS. I always did.
been following this thread and just wanted to add that the older panasonic deck the DMR-hs2 (this was the recorder deck with a hdd) also has some sort of tbc on pass through and possibly similar to what is in the ES15. The price tag of this unti (then) was not cheap and most avoided it because the panny was a horrible recorder and this deck was a little over $1000.00
at any rate I have had a few times (mostly old betamax tapes) where I had to daisy chain through the panny into the data video 1000 TBC and into a dvd recorder deck (jvc) because of line tear (more of a smear) towards the top of the tape that the TBC alone would not fix. Doing the daisy chain mentioned fixes that issue and it does not add any extra filtering to the image (the dmr has filters for playback only)
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