After a fair amount of research and a brief use of the worthless Roxio easy VHS cables, I recently bought the older style Hauppauge PVR. Basically I want to transfer my 20 year old VHS tapes to video files and eventually make DVDs. I hooked up my basic Panasonic VCR from around 2000 or so and started capturing. (Year old PC, 6 core AMD, 16G memory, beefy computer and ATI Radeon video card.) Almost immediately I ran into issues with skipping, chattering, whatever, where the device could not capture. Fast forwarding or reverse the VCRseemed to sometimes trigger this. When I re-attached the PVR via a USB port off the motherboard rather than the front of the computer, it got better, and I thought the problem was solved, but it soon reappeared. It is an intermittent thing. I contacted Hauppauge, and a tech replied that the device sometimes has trouble getting a decent analogue signal from an older VCR. Alternately, the encoder could be going out. I had asked about the over-heating issue, but he said that should be fixed. Anyway, I captured about 3 hours, then had more problems, so I hooked up a 2cond Panasonic VCR, a newer one that is a combo-unit with a DVD. I tried the composite out, and it worked for a few minutes, then started doing the same thing. I've also tried swapping the USB cable without success.
However, this newer Panasonic unit has component and S-video outputa, so I hooked up to the PVR using the a component video cable, and the skipping has gone away. The picture does also seem to be different. Better, I'm not so sure? It's maybe clearer, but I notice the highlights seem very bright and, in photography turns, blown out. I assume the Panasonic must be doing some type of conversion itself.
Okay, so I have a few questions, the most basic being what type of connection should theoretically give me the best captured video files: component, s-video or composite? Or should the results be roughly equivalent?
A related question is, why doesn't the composite connection work?! I wonder if I should send the unit back, since the encoder just doesn't seem to work reliably with a composite connection. It was just luck that I had a unit that has multiple connection options. Since many people buy the device to transfer videotapes, you would think a composite connection should work!
I guess I'm just asking for some general advice here. This whole effort to transfer videos has turned into an incredible swamp, which I did not expect. I also discovered after buying the unit that the included Arcsoft software will not edit out the annoying lines around the frame, especially the one at the bottom, so that I will need to buy some separate video editing software, but that is a topic for another post. Has anyone else run into these issues with the PVR working erratically when you try to do a basic capture off the composite connection? That is making me wonder if I have a defective unit.
I did try to research these issues before posting, but there are so many entries out there, and I couldn't quite find one that addressed the issue of which connection should work best, or if are they all about the same. Thanks for any help you can give me.
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Just an update here with some results. I tried to answer my own question by capturing from the same videotape in the same VCR using composite, S-video and component. The winner would seem clearly to be simple composite. I'm getting the phenomena I mentioned of really blown highlights with components. It's less bad with S-video, but more noticeable than with composite. This was something of a surprise, but perhaps not, since the quality of VHS tape is so low to begin with (and a fancy connection may just be lipstick on the pig?). Anyway, based on this, I'm thinking maybe I should just return the unit, since I can't consistently seem to capture off a composite link. I'll actually attach some files with snapshots I took from about the same spot. You can clearly, I think, see what I'm referring to.
I thought the file names would come across. Top one is component, middle is composite, and bottom is S-video. You can see how bad component looks. All the color is gone from the tripod, for example. Interestingly enough, the component file also came out bigger than the other 2, 3G versus 2.5G for S-video and composite.
In theory, s-video should be superior to composite. In general, component is superior to s-video. But I don't know how a VHS deck converts the recorded signal to component. I'm pretty sure that what's stored on the tape is closer to s-video.
But the problems you are seeing are separate from the normal composite vs. s-video vs. component issues. For some reason the levels are bad with s-video and, especially, component. Are you able to adjust the capture device's proc amp settings to tame the brights? That would be the easiest fix if it works.
It may be possible to restore some of the blown out brights by using an editor which works in YUV (where there's more headroom), before conversion to RGB. So you might be able to get the s-video capture looking like the composite capture. The component capture is probably too far gone. Can you upload a short sample?
The PVR has Arcsoft capture software which is not well documented. There are a couple windows under 'Device Settings' where things can be tweaked. One group is under "Video Proc Amp" and has Brightness, Contrast, Hue, Saturation and Sharpness highlighted and adjustable. Grayed out are Gamma, White Balance, Backlight Comp, Color Enable. The highlighted values like Brightness have settings which can be adjusted or an auto box which I can't seem to check! Not sure if I could fix things here.
There is also a Video Decoder window which says Signal Detected was 1, Lines detected was 525. Video is set to NTSC_M and other types are listed in a pulldown. There is a VCR input box checked, and an Output Enable box checked.
I looked at the VCR/DVD manual, and the S-video and Component outputs are optimized for DVDs. I don't think it's ideal for Videotapes.
Try bringing the Contrast down by say, 20, and post the result.
What's the model number of your Panasonic VHS/DVD unit?
You may want to consider getting them transferred by a service if you're not looking for a new hobby.
The Panasonic is a DVD recorder model DMR-EZ475V from June 2007.
I'm wondering if I shouldn't be doing something simple like tweaking the video setting which is NTSC_M on the Video Decoder window. Of course I have no ideas what that is?! Also, I don't understand why there is that auto box on the brightness, etc, values, but you cannot select it. You can move the sliders, but not choose auto settings. I've done a quick google, but I didn't get any obvious hits on tweaking any of these capture settings in Total Media anywhere. I'll try to lower the contrast when I get a chance and record again. Still wondering if I should trade the unit, or if the flakiness with the composite connection is par for the course. I did try switching and using a gold cable for the yellow video connection.
When the unit does work off the composite cable, I am getting what I consider acceptable results.
Just out of curiosity, what do you mean by "timing errors" in the source? I do notice that these problems seem to happen in video transition points, spots in the original video where I switched the camera off between recording scenes, and there is a brief time on the tape where you get static. When I tried copying videotapes to DVD just using the Panasonic unit, I'd also run into problems with these transition points. The Panasonic unit was obviously unhappy with the break in the signal, and I suspect the PVR may also not like it either.
Did run into a skipping problem this morning even with the S-video connection, which seems more reliable, but when I powered the unit off and back on, it went away. The thing seems so temperamental.
Any time you stop and restart recording on a tape recording device there is a discontinuity in the timing.
Stretched or damaged tape can also lead to timing error and discontinuities.
Jagabo, I suspect you are dead-on with your diagnosis about "timing issues." I do seem to be able to work around this by starting and stopping the unit, re-starting the capture, etc. I end up with 2 or 3 files from a 2 hour tape rather than 1, but I can always recombine them. As for the S-video versus composite feed, I'm not sure that is worth pursuing. Again, I think the Panasonic unit has the S-video and component outputs for the DVD player, and I don't think feeding the videotape signal through them really buys you anything. It may end up distorting the signal. I would think in theory you can't get much better than composite off videotape, anyway. I vaguely remember (I'm showing my age!) some enhanced VCR technology which did slightly better (super VHS?), but ultimately didn't catch on, and maybe S-video would have worked better with that.
Couple last questions:
1. Anyone think it is worth trying to tweak the brightness, contrast, etc, or should I just go with the defaults for VCR that the Hauppauge and TME come with. They seem to be basically okay, as you can probably see from the composite snapshot above.
2. And in the sour grapes, buyers remorse category, is there any unit stunningly better the Hauppauge PVR for this type of transfer from old videotapes? As noted, I tried the Roxio EAsy VHS to DVD Plus cables, and they, and the software, were not very good. I've seen good reviews for the Elgato cables, but the PVR is supposed to put out larger and higher quality video files. There was one well reviewed device with a fire wire connection, but it had one-size truly gigantic files and no included software. In the end, the PVR seemed one of the better devices. I think I'll probably just stick with it. I've copied over about 4 tapes now with decent results, although it does take more baby sitting than I had wanted. The tape above was almost 25 years old, so I can't complain much about quality!
You remember S-VHS correctly. It was the debut of the S-VHS connector (later renamed S-Video because it was used on other devices). An investment in an S-VHS deck would let you get a little more quality out of your VHS tapes.
I'd still like to see a sample of an S-Video capture with the contrast brought down using the Proc Amp tab.
You might try this registry hack to get limited line-TBC functionality but I think it only works for the Colossus. Check to see whether the hcwD1capture key exists first.
As for other devices, it depends on what you're looking for. If you think the devices with Firewire connections have gigantic files you would not like my suggestions for capture devices.
jagabo, check this out from the manual for the DVD recorder:
Heavy implication that the S-Video and component outputs are just an A-D-A process of the signal.
Last edited by Brad; 14th May 2013 at 06:03.
forget about the capture equip for a moment..
how does the picture look when you view this on your vcr->tv ?
can you discern any difference in the two outputs (vcr->tv vs. vcr->capture card->pc screen) ?
now, i ask, can you honestly say they both look about the same ?
i suspect that they do look about the same, give or take a few brightness tweaks.
i would suspect that the problem originate from how the footage was transfered to the tape, way back when it was transfered. that is, the equipment used was poor to begin with. it transfered poorly. but how would you (or the person who did this) know this ? you wouldn't. no-one had the "eye" of wisdome back then, let alone, the proper equipment. this was your tipicle every day transfer job.
i was playing around with my hdpvr and came to realize that its output resembles that of my sony trv22 dv cam's. similar color levels. almost like they are using japan specs, since the levels look similar to washout. not saying the colors are washed out, but that they give that appearance. the experience was, transparent to using my trv22 in the same way, vcr->trv22-pc. but, on the dv side, there is the proper codec to correct this, the Cedocida dv codec that corrects the output more true'er looking in an rgb editor/window. i don't know what the equivalent correction for this (codec or avisynth script) is for the hdpvr output since i only just started testing it late last night and i was only able to see the results in the finished .ts files i made from the hdpvr. i will see if i can post some pics later so that others can test theirs against. maybe there is something else that needs to be looked at, like the right tool to view during display (once i get that working) or during the after capture, edit/view.
Per the last post, the video tapes I am transferring came directly from several VHS cameras many years ago. The tapes have never been transferred or messed with. Also, I haven't tried looking at these files on a regular TV because I haven't burned any DVDs yet.
Vaporeon800, since you've been so helpful, I thought the least I could do was give the Svideo a try with the brightness down. I'll post the results below, Svideo reset from 64 to 59 first and composite at the default 64 second. I tried lowering the brightenss to 54 and 49 as well for S-video, but it was just too dim at those settings, noticeabley so. At 59, it more or less matches the brightness of the composite at 64. The composite still seems to clear winner for me. For some reason, it is noticeably sharper than the Svideo shot. Based on what I've seen, sticking with the composite output seems the way to go. The S-video and component on my combo unit is really setup for DVD, and VHS output on those connections simply isn't ideal.
Whoops, in my post above, where I said "brightness" I actually meant "contrast." It was the contrast which is set at 64 which I tried tweaking, per vaporeon800's suggestion.
Comparing to the S-Video capture above, your lowered contrast seems to have almost completely solved the blown-out whites. Certainly on her face. The other areas may just be gone forever thanks to the camera.
Try lowering the contrast on composite as well. Something is happening with the S-Video that is smearing detail all over the place, and I agree that the culprit is the DVD unit. Are there any menu settings referencing Noise Reduction?
If you would be willing to install AviSynth and the ffmpegsource plugin, I'd like to see the results of a script to view Y/U/V separately. There's something weird with the colors on the composite image. Please try to match the exact frame.
Also, I haven't tried looking at these files on a regular TV because I haven't burned any DVDs yet.
when adjusting the color levels using the cards pro amp, you adjust both brightness and contrast together. they work together, not singularly. this is how you adjust your black and what levels with the pro amp control of the capture software.
however, posting a short sample of your actual captured avi file will probably provide better help since how you bring in your avi in an video editor time line could influence the results you are seeing and that we are seeing when you post them. the sample should always be untouched, lossless code, such as huffy, lagarith or UT.
In fact I can't think of any other way besides A-D-A that the S-Video output would have added black borders compared to the composite.
vhelp: The HD PVR doesn't do anything besides H.264 and it doesn't do AVI containers.
http://www.amazon.com/review/R2LPYXV6E1KN2K/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0029U2YSA...re=electronics) which really helped clarify things for me. The reviewer mentioned that he got better results at home than when he used a very high-end specialty transfer service he had found on the Internet. I'm somewhat of a perfectionist, fairly technical, and worked in IT for many years, but I think I'm ready to say that what I'm getting is good enough and call it quits in my quest. I've done about 5 transfers, more than half of the old family videotapes, and I'm getting used to the quirks of the PVR. Again, I thank you all for your comments and help. This certainly is a complicated business, and it has turned out much more challenging than it initially appeared.
However, since I have your attention and you certainly seem to know this topic, let me ask you one last question. I need something next to do some video editing, prepping and preparing the files for DVDs. This won't require major editing, mostly just some minor trimming and inserting chapter breaks, etc. One thing I need that the included Arcsoft TME software doesn't provide is the ability to trim the margins slightly, especially the one at the bottom where you get a blurry line. Based on some brief research, much of it on VideoHelp, I'm tempted to just get VideoRedo's TV Suite h.264 which is supposed to work okay with the h.264 type files from the PVR. I've been capturing .TS files. I'd trial the software before buying it. Anyway, wondered if that seems an okay product, or if you'd recommend something else.
I just took a look at the manual and there are two options for Noise Reduction, including Line-In NR. I'd still like to see the result of turning those off.
I should mention that if you add a full-frame TBC to your setup you should alleviate most of your headaches with the PVR suddenly stopping. The premise of this device is that it provides a stable sync signal by any means necessary, whereas the VCR drops off whenever it feels like it and leaves the display (or HD PVR in this case) to deal with the consequences. There are stickies in this forum that discuss the options. It's an added $100-200 usually, but that's probably less than sending them to a service.
You DO NOT want to trim those areas off. The garbage you see is in what is called the "overscan area". You only see it because computers don't account for this. If you play it on your TV they should be cropped off. If not, change the zoom/aspect-ratio options on the TV. Any LCD or plasma should provide the option of a slight zoom to remove this image data. (Usually the only problem is going the other way and getting 1:1 pixel mapping for 1080p.)
VideoRedo is a fantastic piece of software, especially if you just want to do cuts. It can edit your files without altering the quality.
Last edited by Brad; 14th May 2013 at 15:16.
I have never owned one of those myself. Ideally for a frame-sync TBC you want something that alters the image quality as little as possible. LordSmurf has said in the past that the adjustments are limited to only about 15 steps.
VLC or Windows media players, and that's a little annoying. I do know that neither my Sharp or Vizio flat screens have the ability to do limited zooms. You can only do big zooms where you loose a big chunk of the picture. Just wondered if there is some non-obvious downside to eliminating the overscan areas with something like VideoReDo.
The DVD frame size must be 720x480. So you can't simply crop away the junk at the edges. You have to restore the frame size after cropping. Resizing interlaced video doesn't work very well. Image quality will suffer. So it's best to just add flat black borders to restore the frame size. Or use an application that simply overlays back borders.
^ And doing that incurs a total re-encode of the image, though if you're going from the HD PVR's capture to an actual DVD-Video formatted disc that will happen anyway.
If you send your flat screen a 480i signal, it will probably do the slight overscan cropping without you even knowing it. So you just need to disable upscaling on your DVD player in most cases.
Just thought I'd do a slight update here. Based on some of the comments and my readings on this site, I bought a used S-VHS JVC recorder, the 3800 from about 1998, off Amazon. It seemed like the S-video connection might give me a bit of an enhanced signal during the capture process. The unit does not have a TBC. If you can find any of the recommended VCRs with built-in TBCs, they tend to be very expensive. Thus I'm still considering an external TBC, probably the AVT-8710 from BH at about $230. (And yes I've read and know that a line TBC and full frame TBC do different things.) Despite all my reading, I still can't get much real sense if this will really result in significantly better captured video files. My home videotapes are from 25 to 18 or so year old, but they were premium tapes stored in a cool place and not played much. Color and clarity seem diminished, but still decent. Would a TBC actual help image quality much? I'm tempted to just order the thing, try it, and send it back if it doesn't do much.
One issue I have noticed is that veritcal lines of things like window frames or curtains are sometimes slightly wavy. However, I think I read that a line-based TBC does more to correct this problem than the full-frame types.
It's been a while since I posted, but I did buy the well reviewed TBC the AVT-8710. When I added it into the mix, the Hauppauge unit did become much more reliable. I re-recorded several of the videos I had had problems with, and it did not flake out on me like it did before. As was suggested, the TBC did cure the timing problems. Kind of spendy fix at over $200, but what the heck! I think I can also see a slight improvement in video quality, but I need to take a more sustained and systematic look.
This forum has been tremendously helpful for somewhat like me just starting out with this kind of work. I've learned a great deal and made progress getting my videos transferred over.
Next step is to start producing some DVDs from the video files!