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  1. Member
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    I have been using a Panasonic AG1970 and an ADVC110 to capture some very elderly VHS tapes (30 years old) and for the most part it has worked very well. But I have a couple tapes that in some sections cause my Canopus ADVC110 to skip frames. While looking for the reason for the skipped frames I discovered that the composite output waveform from the 1970 is pretty messed up as presented to the ADVC110. There is severe coupling between the video and the sync..... in other words, looking at a whole frame, the horizontal sync tips are displaced upwards significantly in areas of bright video. Not sure what this does to the ADVC110 but it can't help. Note that normally I use the S-VHS output and I have not looked at the waveform on that output. But the capture skips occur with either output.

    In case the waveform issue was actually on the tape, I tried a cheap Phillips recorder and the waveform looked WAY better. Unfortunately, while the skips might be better they are by no means gone, so the waveform issue is not what is causing them.

    I'm thinking the 1970 may have some dried out caps considering how old I think it is and while I am capable, I don't relish tearing into it. So I'm wondering if it is simply too old. And that brings up the next question.... what is out there that will equal or better the 1970 and is also new enough that I can expect it to give me another 3-5 years before IT gets old enough to be squirrely. Like one of the JVC units that get recommended here?

    Or would I get a better bang for my buck by keeping the 1970 and purchasing a TBC and letting it clean up the waveform? Note that the TBC in the 1970 actually makes the capture worse. While it squares up the horizontal sync pulses, it makes the frame as captured by the ADVC110 wobble back and forth and it does nothing to reduce the skips during capture.

    Paul
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  2. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by themaster1 View Post
    Got pictures ?
    I don't know why....
    .... but I'm reminded of this: http://www.dontevenreply.com/view.php?post=102
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    No, sorry. It didn't occur to me to take a screen shot of the scope. Imagine the contour of the horizontal sync tips between vertical sync pulses following the general contour of the video envelope and you have it. If I understand the way the ADVC110 works, as long as the issue does not affect the amplitude of the video relative the sync, the video might only be minimally affected?

    As I thought about it this morning I realized that this is most likely a power supply or a power supply decoupling issue. As such it might be a bit easier to track down since I probably have a smaller number of places to look. Since it looks like the decoupling at 15KHz is the problem, that sounds a lot like a dried up lytic. But if there is one there are probably many......

    I still favor replacing the recorder but the JVC that gets the good reviews here seems to go for about $400 and I'm not 100% sure I want to spend that much to fix it. This is really a one shot deal.... when I am done digitizing my VHS tapes I'm done with VHS. But I have about 60 hours worth yet to go.....

    I do have several other VHS machines around but the newest is probably pushing 20 years old.

    EDIT:
    I'm seriously considering a decent looking JVC DRMV150B DVD/VHS combo that is available around here for about $229. The advantages I see are that it can make unattended DVD copies (not as good as my DV-AVI files but good enough for old VHS?) and it is brand new so there won't be age related issues. And when I am done transferring VHS tapes it can double as a stand alone DVD player with upconvert and HDMI output. Quality is important to me BUT these are all very old recordings made with a consumer grade portable recorder and vidicon camera in the 80s. As such, the resolution is lucky to hit 200 lines so I'm not sure I'll lose much by transferring to MPEG2 vs. DV-AVI even when I edit and re-encode. My biggest concern is that many of these video are very dark (never much light in folk music venues) and require subsequent processing. It doesn't seem to be much of an issue from my DV-AVI transfers but I'm not sure if adding an MPEG2 intermediary will hurt the final results measureably.

    Paul
    Last edited by pgoelz; 27th Apr 2011 at 09:26.
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  4. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    The JVC DRMV150B DVD/VHS combo model is a piece of crap.
    You don't want it.

    Odds are it would just eat your tapes, in addition to making low quality DVDs.
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    Ouch! Thanks for the head's up. Compared to the others out there, it is also apparently an expensive piece of crap.

    Are there any combo units out there that are worth considering? Or is the intermediary MPEG2 step too big a hit to PQ? Remeber, the originals are not top quality by any stretch and many need black level shift and white stretch because they were shot in lighting conditions well below the minimum for the camera. I assume these parameters are not adjustable pre-capture on any of the DVD/VHS combos?

    I do have a Pinnacle Dazzle that I can try. It makes an MPEG2 output file so I can compare with a DV-AVI from the AG1970. I just hate using it because I have to boot back into XP and I absolutely hate the software. Does Pinnacle do ANYTHING that actually works decently??

    Paul
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  6. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    Does Pinnacle do ANYTHING that actually works decently??
    Not much, no.
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    Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
    Does Pinnacle do ANYTHING that actually works decently??
    Not much, no.
    I have to say that the Dazzle itself (ie., the hardware) seems to work well and reliably. And the capture part of Studio has never let me down. But Studio itself (ie., the editor) is one of the worst video editors I have EVER used. Worse even than Adobe Premiere Elements, and that is saying something. I actually gave up for a year or two after trying to get it to work. Ditto with Adobe. Vegas has restored my faith that it is possible to produce a realiable stable and easy to sue video editing suite.

    OK, I think my next project is to try a test capture with Dazzle and see how it compares after post processing to what I get from the ADVC110. I'll be interested to see if it handles the places where the 110 skips frames.

    Paul
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    OK, tested the Dazzle against the ADVC110. Mixed results. While the Dazzle captured the troublesome video with no skips at all, the video didn't look very good. The original has large areas that are very dark and the Dazzle MPEG2 compression produced splotchy patches in the dark areas. Oh well... kind of what I was expecting.

    However, totally by accident I discovered that at least one of the troublesome recordings seems to be second generation and I discovered I also have the original..... which captured OK.

    But I still have to ask... are there capture devices out there that are more tolerant of less than perfect video than the ADVC110?

    Paul
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    My bad. Not sure what I was thinking.... I'm using an ADVC55, not the 110. Is it perhaps more sensitive to sync issues than the 110? Is it possible that this is a simple playback timing issue that is triggering the Macrovision detection in the ADVC55? If so, I guess the only cure is an external pre-capture TBC, right?

    Paul
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    OK, solved it totally. Bought a Prime Image Freeze2 on Ebay for $69 shipped. Works great and all my skipped frame issues are gone. And since it has a built in proc amp (with switchable AGC) it is great for capturing my dark vids. Best $69 I have spent so far (although that is about what I paid for my super clean AG-1970).

    Interestingly, there is slight flagging at the top of my captures if I leave the AG1970 TBC off. It vanishes if I turn the TBC on but then there is some artifacting where the flagging was. All in all, it looks better with the AG1970 TBC off and mild flagging. Since I have not addressed the sync level issue I reported originally, I am thinking it might be causing the flagging.

    Paul
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  11. You seem to have solved your problem, or at least masked it to a degree that satisfies you, so I'll just add the following for future reference:

    The AG1970 is a glorious old workhorse VCR but its TBC is prehistoric: one of the first ever fitted to an "affordable" vcr as a built-in feature. It can be oddly helpful in cleaning up some types of blown out (overexposed) footage, especially second generation, but overall the TBC doesn't do much and can add artifacts. The later AG1980 has a much more effective TBC coupled with very effective luma and chroma noise filters. Ditto the even more recent JVC and Mitsubishi DVHS models (I'd avoid most JVC SVHS, too old and twitchy, except for the latest SR-V10 and SR-V101). The "TBC" built into these VCRs is technically not really a true TBC, it operates more like a filter to repair some issues like flagging at the top of the screen. External TBCs (like your Prime Image) mostly they repair "under the hood" signals like your waveform issue, dropped frames and lipsync drift, or MacroVision problems in the source tape. The built-in and external TBCs are sometimes compatible, sometimes not: you might need to turn one or the other off for best results, or use both together. Depends.

    Computer capture is horror show, the most difficult and trouble-prone route to digitizing VHS unless you're born with the gift of making this type of hardware/software sing. LordSmurf is an absolute master, but he has many years experience and does this kind of work frequently. He can take most goofball unpredictable glitches in stride and correct them on the fly with his extensive collection of hardware and software. The average person would not have such long experience and range of gear. At a bare minimum, you would almost certainly need an external TBC like your Prime Image for PC capture to work with any reliability: fortunately you discovered that on your own and got one at a decent price.

    I personally think the average hobbyist should skip computer capture and head straight to a DVD recorder, preferably one with built-in HDD like the Magnavox MDR513 (currently available as a like-new refurb from J&R Electronics for a ridiculously cheap $159). Such a machine functions like a standalone, dedicated computer workstation optimized for video tasks. They resist freaking out over every serious or trivial VHS signal fault the way PC capture cards do, and accessories like your Prime Image box are usually less crucial (which means the Prime Image will likely have more range and flexibility when feeding a standalone recorder). The drawback to using a recorder instead of PC capture is it limits you to MPEG2 DVD format, at the fixed XP or SP speeds, and while the built-in HDD allows simple editing it isn't nearly as flexible as what you can do on the PC. Many people adopt a hybrid approach: if they know their ultimate goal is DVD, they use a DVD/HDD recorder to minimize capture problems, burn the "first draft" DVD, then rip it into their PC for full-range lossless editing/authoring. Of course if your goal is AVI archives that can be massaged in future to any imaginable format, you'll want to stick with direct PC capture and skip the standalone recorder completely.
    Last edited by orsetto; 4th May 2011 at 00:42.
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    Yes, I have in fact "masked" the problem. Far as I can tell, the ADVC55 is reacting to either the change in sync level during the first 8-10 lines (the video --> sync coupling I reported earlier) or timing instability during playback. Since it drops entire frames, I'm thinking something is triggering its MV detection. The AG1970 TBC does not correct it. The Prime Image does, totally.

    I have considered using a DVD recorder but you are correct... I would prefer to have DV-AVI archives for future editing. And since about 75% of these recordings were made in low light (I'm lucky if highlights reach 100IRE), they need enough massaging that a straight VHS --> MPEG2 transfer doesn't look very good after post processing. At least not using my Dazzle, which does an otherwise decent job on decent video. The processed AVIs look good. Very good, considering the age and capabilities of the camera and recorder. I've been de-noising the really noisy ones with NeatVideo and they look terrific except for the low resolution due to the early 1980s vintage camera and recorder.

    For whatever reason, the Prime Image has also corrected the dark and hue shifted captures the ADVC55 was producing. It was easily corrected in post processing but I like correcting it in the analog domain.

    I suspect the flagging is a sync issue, possibly due to old caps in the AG1970. But the machine is a bit too complex to tear into it blindly and I have not yet found a schematic for it. I can look for a decent AG1980, but it will be of the same vintage and likely have similar issues with caps? I really like the 1970... I got it for about $70 and it is really clean inside. Not sure what use it got before me, but there are no visible signs of wear anywhere including the pinch roller and tape path and not a single speck of dust inside. The display is nice and bright, and I even have the edit controller for it.

    I'm trying to do as good a job as I can without spending a fortune. But when this project is done, I really don't have any further use for the equipment. I am not looking to make a business out of this, so I don't want to invest a lot of money into equipment I will use for about a year and then never use again.... provided I can get decent results.

    Paul
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  13. The "dried out caps" boogeyman with consumer electronics can get rather overhyped: it isn't nearly as bad as its made out to be. True, the AG1970 is getting on in years, but its still on the cusp where most of its 400 caps are still operating at bare minimum spec. In any case, the capture problems you're describing are inherent in the tapes, not the VCR: the AG1970 was overpriced for what it was back in the day, its an ordinary (if tough) Panasonic VHS with mediocre playback performance tarted up slightly by a weak TBC. Its better than a lot of other VCRs you could buy used for $70 today, but it isn't a miracle worker and it has no ability to repair issues like second-generation waveform distortion or top-frame flagging. Given your budget constraints and desire not to get stuck with a pile of gear at the end of your project, its hard to advise you regarding possible upgrades. The most important item you needed was the external TBC, you are indeed fortunate your $69 Prime Image actually still works well enough to be useful (in my experience the vast majority of "cheap" older pro TBCs are totally shot: talk about caps going bad).

    The AG1980 is in another league from the AG1970: in a sense there's no comparison. The 1970 can output more apparent detail and sharpness, but it has atrocious color and luma noise compared to the 1980. The 1970 is basically a consumer deck tarted up with a barely functional TBC circuit, the 1980 has the most powerful TBC ever built into a VCR plus automatic digital luma and chroma noise filters that eliminate the majority of video issues right off the VCR heads (it aces most flagging issues all by itself). Other recent VCRs like the JVC and Mitsubishi DVHS models offer similar results, although the the Panasonic has its own specific look that may or may not be preferable. The drawback with all of these later more advanced VCRs is that their enhancement features are non-adjustable: they're all or nothing, all activated or all turned off.

    The Panasonic AG1980 or JVC SR-V101 or MGA 2000 can work magic, but once you get over the initial shock of totally clean color and no grain you begin to notice the video looks a tad "fake" or overprocessed. There can be moments of temporal distortion which you subliminally or consciously notice (like facial features not quite moving in sync as an actor turns their head quickly). These possible flaws must be weighed against expediency: the newer VCR circuits dramatically clean up your tapes on the fly during playback, which results in less post-capture drudgery. Again it depends on budget, time management, skills and result priorities.

    The Panasonic AG1980 was made for nearly 20 years, there's no way of knowing the precise age of any particular unit. I have never heard of one having a dried-up-caps issue, mostly you hear of worn out loading mechanics (which can be repaired fairly easily) or burned out PSU. There is a little-known sister model to the AG1980 called the AG5710: this was much newer, being first offered around 1995. The AG5710 is an AG1980 minus the tuner and IR remote but with a computer serial port interface added. It occasionally shows up on eBay and would be the one to get if age really worries you. The JVC and Mitsubishi DVHS models would be the newest possible options, the Mitsu was discontinued in 2004 or so and the JVCs were all made between 2000 and today (model numbers with three digits tend to be between newest).

    Any of these will run you about $150-300 in perfect operating condition, you should be able to resell for $150 easily if you finish your project within a year. Whether the added capability is worth a $100 depreciation hit is something you have to decide for yourself, I can only tell you there is a smoking hot second hand market for these machines which has only died down in the last couple years as most "VideoHelp" types have finished their projects and released their VCRs back into the eBay/Craigs List pool. When I first went looking for an AG1980 in 2006, they were fetching $400 for junkers and $600 for worn-but-still working, to give just one example (AG1970s were trading at $300!) Today's used prices for the much newer DVHS units are a relative bargain.
    Last edited by orsetto; 4th May 2011 at 14:45.
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    First of all, thank you Orsetto for that detailed post. I really appreciate it, especially your comments about the AG-1980. I did not realize it was that much of a step up from my 1970. That said, it sounds like I may actually be better off staying with the 1970. I edit and process in Vegas Pro and (when needed) de-noise with NeatVideo. That gives me much more flexibility than the all-or-nothing processing in the 1980. But you are right.... de-noising in post takes FOREVER. I have a dual core 3GHz machine and rendering to MP4 with NeatVideo running takes about 10X the running time. When I am really paying attention, I like to carefully dial back the de-noising so there is just a smidge of noise left. It tends to dither the otherwise over-processed look. It also gives me total control over the sharpening. The temporal distortion you describe would drive me nuts. I see it from time to time on our HDTV and while I understand where it comes form, I don't like it. The only advantage I see from the 1980 is possibly playing back without the flagging. And I can deal with that with a mild crop.

    I did scan Ebay for a 1980 and while I found quite a few they all seemed to be "questionable". Not sure how you would get one with a decent pedigree. I took a pot shot with my 1970 and got lucky. OK, not totally.... it arrived poorly packed, with a tape in it and the load mechanism was knocked out of alignment. It took me a couple days of intense head scratching to figure out how to realign it because I didn't have the manual. When I finally got the service manual for the mechanism, I discovered I had actually done it right It works great. Some day, someone who has only seen a solid state recorder is going to look at one of these video machines and say "they actually got that to WORK?"

    Paul
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    And the (almost) final chapter.... I captured a "troublesome" recording last night. Without the TBC, it had a lot of skips... far too many to edit around. With the TBC, it captured OK but there were one or two visible artifacts.... I saw one noticable dropout and one or two vertical jumps. I'm guessing that those, and others at lower levels, were what was giving the ADVC55 fits. But for the most part, the TBC removed all the flaws and I got a good capture.

    I do have an only slightly related question though.... if DV is limited to 8 bits (luma), why do my captures of dark videos look as good as they do when I have to increase the level from maybe 20IRE to 100 post capture? Yes, they get noisy. I would expect that. But I have never seen any trace of banding or any other artifact that I would attribute to stretching 20 steps into 100. I'm guessing that the noise inherent with VHS captures is just dithering it so I don't notice it? Plus, most of those get de-noised in NeatVideo, which probably also masks the lack of bit depth? But even before NeatVideo, they don't look stairstepped.

    Paul
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