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  1. So I have returned to this site again trying to kickstart (no I'm not looking for funding) my VHS to DVD project.

    My first posts here were over 11 years ago. If you want to see a study in absolute procrastination and failure, this might be it. The Duke Nukem development team laughs at me.

    Anyway, I have been reading again and I know VHS to DVD posts come up all the time and I know it's nearly impossible to find the right equipment any longer. Please be gentle with me, unless you're a young hot girl, in which case you can tell me how bad I've been.

    Anyway, if you can just help me fill in answers to some stuff, I'd really, really, really like to just get going on this again. I am happy to spend a few bucks to do this, so if that crosses your mind, I'd go for $2,000 USD.

    Here are the vital details:
    * These are tapes of mostly television shows (horse racing to be exact) recorded at EP on a few different consumer VCRs starting in 1983.
    * My first attempt with this resulted in the purchase of: JVC SVHS HR-S9911, DataVideo TBC-1000, JVC DR-MH30 DVR Recorder, some cables, and enough Taiyo Yuden blank discs play frisbee for a decade.

    Very long story short, I was recording shows to disc on the DVR, breaking up the six hour EP tapes by 30 or 60 minute broadcasts so I could use the highest quality setting. This became tedious, the 9911 started chewing tapes, and I abandoned ship.

    Fast forward (pun intended) to now. Here's what I'd like to do. Take these tapes, dump them onto computer (in the infamous "as close to the original quality as possible"), then worry about editing later.

    * If I have this right (and please correct me if not), my best options would be a capture card (MPEG-2) vs. Canopus (DV) at some kind of lossless setting? Which is the best bet?
    * What should I do with the existing equipment...if I go the PC route and assume the SVHS is fried, can I use anything besides the TBC for this go round?
    * I've saved a bunch of VCRs over the years...should I just use them or is there anything I can buy today that would be as good as the 9911?
    * With all that established, what would be the best configuration for me?
    * Again, I just want to get them on a PC, then worry about editing (or DVDs) later. Frankly, I use USB storage to view things on a WD Live, so I'm not sure I'd ever burn them.
    * When I comes time to edit, would Sony Vegas be the tool? I would just want to break files up to either separate shows, smaller snippets, or remove commercials...no fancy editing.

    I am begging for and thanking you in advance for your thoughts and help. Hopefully this time you will be contributing to a happy ending (in the sense of me completing this project, not...)
    Last edited by quickpick; 30th Aug 2014 at 05:54.
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  2. Member
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    You absolutely MUST tell us the country you live in. Giving you US based answers will do you no good if you live in the UK and vice-versa.

    Unfortunately this subject is filled with very deeply held opinions. Some absolutely hate DV. Other people swear that you cannot get a good quality recording if you record to MPEG-2 and that's completely false in my opinion. Really and truly, just how fussy about quality are you? Do you just want to get this done more than anything else? If so, that's actually a good thing. I used to argue here with one of our former members (he got all pissy and left over an argument some months ago with other members) all the time when he suggested this incredibly complicated method that did work and was good for quality, but it was very time consuming. Honestly, most people just aren't that fussy and some people advocate methods where like to record one hour of tape you are spending 4 hours processing it and filtering it and re-encoding and so on. I've seen some hard core scripts that improved things, but we're often talking about improvements of like 5% at most. Is it really worth spending say 4 times the time to process something over the playback time when you may really only watch it ONCE again in your life? We had a guy come here wanting to just now start recording his precious tapes and he had over 200 he "had" to save. That is just insane. If you've got a couple of hundred tapes you really think you can't live without, well, I'm going to invoke my personal policy that I don't help people with insane requests. Prioritize! Get the number of tapes down to something you really can't live without and save the others for last if your equipment lasts through the "must haves" and you aren't sick and tired of doing it. We had another nutso guy who wanted to save a bunch of tapes and for over a year he kept giving up and starting over because he was never satisfied with the quality. In the end he captured NOTHING. You've have just got to at some point decide that what you've got is good enough and get on with your life and get it done. The continual searching for perfection is nuts too and expecting to get "DVD quality" out of most tapes is not at all a realistic goal. Finally, if you did something like years ago you bought every VHS tape of Star Trek The Next Generation and you're too cheap to throw them out or to just buy the BluRays, you're also insane. You'll never get the kind of quality from VHS tapes that professional BluRays or DVDs have. And if you are "doing this for the kids and/or wife" honestly, most other people don't share the enthusiasm for this kind of thing like you think, and producing 50 DVDs full of old VHS tapes is most likely going to result in a lot of work for something nobody really wants to watch. "But kids - Alf was THE best show of its day!" "Uh, I'm busy with my PS4, Dad. Maybe another time.".

    Last bit of advice - the recommendations for specific VCRs are 10+ years old now and most of us don't recommend you buy them. Those "recommended" ones were never intended to be used this long. Most have broken down or if you find one that still works, it probably won't work for long. It's not uncommon for some people with more money than sense to just buy 2 or 3 broken "recommended" VCRs and pay someone multi-hundreds of dollars to cobble together ONE working VCR from the parts. Repairs rarely last. It's not uncommon for these VCRs to break down just a few months after a really expensive repair. The buying 2 or 3 to in effect produce one working VCR lowers the number of "recommended" VCRs every day. At this point, just getting a working one in good shape is probably your best bet.

    For your purposes, VideoReDo (you might need the TV Suite Plus version if your capture device records to H.264) would be a better choice than expensive Vegas unless you've already bought Vegas. I use VideoReDo all the time for exactly what you want to do.
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  3. I appreciated your jokes. Except that last one. How crude!

    Originally Posted by quickpick View Post
    If you want to see a study in absolute procrastination and failure, this might be it.
    It sounds like you have at least some DVD recordings to show for your efforts, unless they've gone bye-bye in the intervening years.

    Originally Posted by quickpick View Post
    * If I have this right (and please correct me if not), my best options would be a capture card (MPEG-2) vs. Canopus (DV) at some kind of lossless setting? Which is the best bet?
    Well, you said you like to watch on WD TV Live. That rules out DV for playback, though you could capture to DV and encode to a format that is playable.

    MPEG-2 isn't lossless. Lossless captures (Huffyuv, Lagarith, Ut Video, MagicYUV...) are created using capture devices that allow "software encoding".

    * What should I do with the existing equipment...if I go the PC route and assume the SVHS is fried, can I use anything besides the TBC for this go round?
    Looking at your list, I just see DVDRs (you said you don't want to use them), cables (sure), and the DVD recorder (maybe as passthrough?).

    * I've saved a bunch of VCRs over the years...should I just use them or is there anything I can buy today that would be as good as the 9911?
    Easy enough to check for yourself whether they meet your quality standards.

    Were you happy with the quality you were producing, and it's the hassle of stopping to burn discs you're looking to bypass?

    Originally Posted by jman98 View Post
    <snip>
    Honest question, no malice: do you ever get tired of finding new ways to phrase this same post? I think it contains good advice. I'm just wondering why you haven't given up and copied-and-pasted every time, at this point.
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  4. Member
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    Probably should. Had a little time to kill, vaporeon800. Good idea. I suppose it's better than the somewhat rude but accurate response "We have a bunch of people who asked exactly the same things and you can search for what we told them" that this thread would get on some sites.
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  5. Thank you both for your thoughtful responses.

    Rather than a bunch of quoting, I'll try to fill in some blanks:

    * I am in the US
    * I am dealing with tapes primarily recorded in six hour speed that are 30 years old, so I'd like quality but I'm realistic
    * Scripts and such will only grind me to a halt again. I want to play a tape, record to computer, and save the file
    * I would abandon what I did previously on disc. I really want to just get these tapes onto hard drives
    * It's a lot of horse race programming, so it's not replaceable. However, a six hour tape might have ten telecasts at 30 minutes each, so I'd want to separate them, or maybe extract a two minute race. Honestly, it's probably equivalent to editing commercials. VideoReDo looks like it would probably do the trick

    Regarding quality:
    * It looks like there is no longer a VCR worth purchasing, so I'll experiment with what I have
    * Quality wasn't the issue my first go-round, it was the horribly time consuming nature of dividing each six hour tape up (so I could use the highest quality) and recording to disc that got to me, with the VHS tape chewing to compound it. On a PC, I could record the entire tape at once.

    Follow-up questions:
    This is the real "kick in the pants" question I need to answer to get started. I don't mind making the investment, but I don't know in what direction to go. For quality purposes, what would be better...capture card or Canopus, or is it really marginal? I assume both are superior to any USB solution. Also, this is where I get confused...can I do lossless with either option? I don't want to go nuts with quality, but I'd like to take my best shot and getting it as good as possible. Hard drive space doesn't worry me. Also, is either (capture vs. Canopus) a better option for the basic editing I'm looking to do?

    Finally, for how to chain everything...I assume I can go VCR to TBC to computer, but vaporeon800 you mentioned using the DVD recorder as a passthrough. Is the JVC's TBC providing a benefit for quality purposes even if I don't record to it?

    Thanks for the help, it's genuinely appreciated even if it's a replay of thousands before me, one of which was me.
    Last edited by quickpick; 30th Aug 2014 at 05:56.
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  6. Member
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    If you don't mind the huge disk space necessary to capture losslessly, it's really hard to argue against it. You can't get better than lossless. I've always used capture cards that don't record losslessly, which for me is OK. I use high enough bit rates that I am OK with what I get, but again, this gets into religious issues where some people are pretty adamant about stuff that in my opinion is just personal preference, but they get into "You're just wrong and I'm just right" kind of territory. Since I don't do lossless capture I can't recommend anything. Maybe someone else can. I don't do DV at all, but if I remember correctly, DV was really considered more of an "It's easy to work with" kind of thing than a "You can't beat it for quality" kind of thing.

    Can't speak to the TBC question as my Hauppauge Colossus capture card (NOT lossless) has a TBC that comes with it that you can turn on via a registry hack. This has met my TBC needs rather well, but your mileage could vary.

    Your goals ARE reasonable, unlike a lot of people who want to do this. Thanks for the info so it's clear why you can't "just buy the DVD/BD" in this case and why you might want to save those tapes. You're not going to obsess on spending 4+ hours or days per tape to get a 1-5% improvement in quality like some people. So all good in that regard. One of our most experienced members here who has a business where he does this kind of thing is STILL telling people (when he is here, which isn't all that often any more) to buy those old "recommended" VCRs and others of us think that for most people it's probably just a waste of money. A lot of people are like me - I just want it done and I want to get on with my life. Buying a $300+ old VCR that may only last for 15-20 tapes before it breaks is just crazy for me. I've got a good JVC VCR that still works. It's not a "recommended" VCR but - it STILL works. It will do for my needs. As little as I do this (single digits per year) I am really not interested in some expensive solution that will only result in maybe a 5% quality improvement over what I'm set up to do right now.
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  7. Originally Posted by quickpick View Post
    For quality purposes, what would be better...capture card or Canopus, or is it really marginal? I assume both are superior to any USB solution.
    Which is better is a separate question from the degree of difference. Lossless lacks compression artifacts that are objectively present in any DV capture, Canopus or otherwise. The impact of the degradation is a source of endless debate here and elsewhere, with no one ever offering up a direct comparison of the same tape played through the two different paths.

    There's no quality advantage to internal vs good USB devices. My favorite USB one currently sells for $31 and has sold on eBay for as low as $10, so there's little reason not to give it a go first.

    Also, this is where I get confused...can I do lossless with either option? I don't want to go nuts with quality, but I'd like to take my best shot and getting it as good as possible. Hard drive space doesn't worry me. Also, is either (capture vs. Canopus) a better option for the basic editing I'm looking to do?
    The Canopus units only output DV-compressed video, at ~13GB/hr. Lossless is ~30-35GB/hr, so keeping the original captures of a collection of 6-hour tapes isn't feasible (20 tapes per 4TB drive). Neither format can be played natively on your WD TV box.

    Lossless is easiest to edit, followed by DV or any other scheme containing only I-frames (MPEG-2, XviD, H.264 can all be set in this mode), and then the harder formats to edit are the normal modes for all of those codecs because they use Groups of Pictures.

    Is the JVC's TBC providing a benefit for quality purposes even if I don't record to it?
    The DVD recorder might -- I haven't read anything saying it does, but I also haven't read anything saying it doesn't. Lucky you, you get to test it for us and report back.
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  8. Member 2Bdecided's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    Lossless is easiest to edit, followed by DV or any other scheme containing only I-frames (MPEG-2, XviD, H.264 can all be set in this mode), and then the harder formats to edit are the normal modes for all of those codecs because they use Groups of Pictures.
    That's a technical argument though, and it only has any possible relevance in practice when you're doing fades/wipes, overlaying titles, doing colour correction etc.

    For pure cut and paste editing, all the formats you mention have easy to use software available. Once the edit points are chosen, it becomes a file copy operation, so if anything the lossy formats are quicker and easier because the files are smaller. Sure, VideoReDo will be unpicking the Groups of Pictures (half a seconds worth of video) either side of the edit and re-encoding it, but this happens so quickly that you won't notice.

    So for cut and paste editing, it's not true that lossless is easiest to edit. Lossless, DV, MPEG-2 and AVC are all trivially easy to edit, but the lossless files are bigger.

    If it was me in this situation, I'd be looking for decent quality real time MPEG-2 "max DVD-quality" encoding straight from capture device to PC file. The files would be ready to watch on anything instantly, and could be edited using VideoReDo. Using DV or lossless simply means an extra encoding step afterwards. It means potentially better quality too, but I don't think the OP is going to take advantage of this (because it would slow them down), so I doubt there's any point.

    Cheers,
    David.
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  9. I once again thank everyone for the thoughtful replies.

    I'm glad I stockpiled some old VCRs, and I'll do the best I can to decide which one(s) to use. Yes vaporeon800, I will test the DVD Recorder in the chain and see what happens!

    I haven't gotten the magic answer to the capture card vs. Canopus question, and I think that I'm going to just have to pick one. There's a very recent thread similar in nature to this one, and that tilted toward the Canopus.

    If I can ask for clarification...vaporeon800, what was the $31 USB device you had success with? I tried not to be creepy, but I searched your past posts and couldn't figure it out.

    Originally Posted by 2Bdecided View Post
    If it was me in this situation, I'd be looking for decent quality real time MPEG-2 "max DVD-quality" encoding straight from capture device to PC file. The files would be ready to watch on anything instantly, and could be edited using VideoReDo. Using DV or lossless simply means an extra encoding step afterwards. It means potentially better quality too, but I don't think the OP is going to take advantage of this (because it would slow them down), so I doubt there's any point.
    2BDecided...let's say I could stomach the storage costs and the extra time for lossless. What setup would you recommend? If it isn't obvious by now, I'm hoping someone makes a decision for me.
    Last edited by quickpick; 30th Aug 2014 at 05:55.
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  10. Member Deter's Avatar
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    Quality or whatever the biggest single issue is getting a stable picture. What you are going to get with old VHS tapes recorded in SLP mode is a lot of picture tearing, random cuts or lines in the video. You are going to have damage after damage in the frames. Some of the tapes may play ok in part but nothing will play with out errors. Now to the Audio depending on the damage the HI-FI may not even work or it will have tons of cracks in it. Most of the stuff from the early 80ties to 90ties was single channel mono anyway. Than you run in to more problems with oxide drop outs and wipes of sections of the tape.

    Getting the highest quality picture? Can write you a book on that, you need a few good VCR's to start.

    Since VHS is a dead format and nobody seems to care or even have clue on how to fix damaged tapes, well this is something that has been on my mind a lot. I still think it is possible to clean up and fix some of the damage on playback. If it is baking the tapes or cleaning the tapes; something on those lines. The goal is to lower or fix many of the problems on playback. So the restoration process is easier. Full restoration of VHS is a nightmare and sometimes the tape is so bad that you can't really do much with it.
    Last edited by Deter; 30th Aug 2014 at 20:10.
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    Originally Posted by quickpick View Post
    2BDecided...let's say I could stomach the storage costs and the extra time for lossless. What setup would you recommend? If it isn't obvious by now, I'm hoping someone makes a decision for me.
    We've got members who know, but the problem may be that your thread title seems to be indicating "This is what I learned from trying to do this" when in fact you need help. Some of our members who can advise you on lossless capture may not even look at the thread because they think it's not something that needs help.

    You can do a search on Canopus and look for some threads in the past few months that mention it. I don't remember who, but one of our members posted not too long ago about exactly what using it meant and the pros and cons of doing so. But since you won't be able to play DV files through typical media streamers (see vaporeon800's previous mention of this earlier in the thread) maybe Canopus isn't your best choice.
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  12. Originally Posted by 2Bdecided View Post
    So for cut and paste editing, it's not true that lossless is easiest to edit. Lossless, DV, MPEG-2 and AVC are all trivially easy to edit, but the lossless files are bigger.
    I concede.

    AVC with GOPs is the most limited in terms of software selection, though. I personally hate VideoReDo's interface (and it isn't free). Luckily I've only cut MPEG-2 lately so I've only had to use Womble's less-annoying layout.

    If it was me in this situation, I'd be looking for decent quality real time MPEG-2 "max DVD-quality" encoding straight from capture device to PC file.
    Why stop at DVD settings when he is anti-burning?

    Originally Posted by quickpick View Post
    I haven't gotten the magic answer to the capture card vs. Canopus question
    Canopus is your worst option because your goal is to view on hardware like the WD TV, without doing cleanup of the capture. You will need to convert these DV-compressed files to another compressed format for playback. Other users who want to capture tapes to hard drives for viewing straight on PCs have been steered toward Canopus for simplicity.

    If you're not going to capture straight to your delivery format, you may as well capture in lossless to avoid the double-compression -- the Canopus could be more forgiving of VCR output issues than a given lossless capture device, but you have the frame TBC taken care of. Which leads us to...

    what was the $31 USB device you had success with?
    Diamond VC500. What you need to know is that it absolutely requires line correction somewhere in your chain. See here for the bent, wiggly images that result without it. The included software lets you capture "DVD" but I've never tried that; just lossless. You can also use x264vfw to capture straight to AVC files instead.
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  13. Did you decide it's not worth the hassle after all?
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  14. Member 2Bdecided's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by quickpick View Post
    2BDecided...let's say I could stomach the storage costs and the extra time for lossless. What setup would you recommend? If it isn't obvious by now, I'm hoping someone makes a decision for me.
    Sorry, I have no idea, but there are a few recent threads on lossless capturing.

    Cheers,
    David.
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  15. Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    Did you decide it's not worth the hassle after all?
    Honestly, I was hoping someone would make the decision for me (Canopus vs. capture card). I was glad to get guidance on the VCRs and using the DVD Recorder in the chain.

    I think my final decision is going to be Canopus. There's a similar recent thread and that was the direction that headed. The product has been around a long time and seems highly regarded. The DV format may present a challenge for quick playback, but I really just want to get the ball rolling with getting everything off VHS and the quality seems to not be an issue with Canopus.

    Thanks to everyone who participated. Next stop is to figure out what to do for a PC, and I want something with horsepower (and of course a firewire card), but at least I feel like I have some direction and am less overwhelmed.
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    You want a PC? I have some quite serious advice for you.

    Don't buy a laptop.
    DON'T buy a laptop!
    DON'T BUY A LAPTOP!!!

    Also don't buy a Mac because it will seriously limit your options. But as long as you buy some kind of tower desktop with the ability to actually put cards into it, you're on the right path.
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  17. Originally Posted by jman98 View Post
    You want a PC? I have some quite serious advice for you.

    Don't buy a laptop.
    DON'T buy a laptop!
    DON'T BUY A LAPTOP!!!

    Also don't buy a Mac because it will seriously limit your options. But as long as you buy some kind of tower desktop with the ability to actually put cards into it, you're on the right path.
    Thanks for the good advice. That's my intention, if nothing else so I have some flexibility with the right firewire card and multiple hard drives too.
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