I have been given some VHS tapes to convert to dvd, however the tracking is way off on the tapes. I do not know the shape they are in either. The closest I can get to playing them is with my tracking turned all the way to one side and even then I will still get slight jittering and jumping picture.
Are there any techniques that can help get the best playing out of the tapes? I have tried multiple consumer players as well as a professional player, and the player that can get the best picture is my pro (Panasonic AG-7350).
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Get a cheap older vcr, chances are it will play it.
the now famous multiple captures script made by jmac will help i suppose
According to jmac (reading my notes) it work great for noise generated by poor playback (ie bad / not adequate vcr) especially blacks lines but not limited to .
The AG-7350 is from the medical line IIRC. Even if it were in good condition, which I doubt, my understanding is that MD and pro-line models are unsuited for consumer tapes and purposes to begin with. So if this unit is giving you the best results, I'm inclined to think the consumer decks you've tried aren't good quality either.
I'd give the common advice to try a prosumer editing deck, which are the most recommended for your purpose, but I don't know if you're willing to make an investment. Even then, it may not help in your case. If you're interested, you can read a detailed buying guide here: http://www.digitalfaq.com/forum/video-restore/1567-vcr-buying-guide.html
Basically, the key ingredients to improving playback is using a deck with a good transport, line-TBC ability, and other optimization features. Additionally, separate hardware such as a TBC unit or other type of frame-sync device is also recommended.
Some tapes, however, are really just that bad that the only way to optimize playback is to misalign a VCR. I've never done that personally so I can't elaborate on that method.