This year I've finally decided to start capturing all my old home videos. I have about 100 tapes in total, all PAL VHS shot with various camcorders during the 1990s. They are all very precious to me, so I want to do my absolute best capturing them before I throw them away—that's partly why I have been putting it off so long - it has to be done right!
Now I should say, I did look through the Sticky threads, the Digitalfaq guides, and the Videohelp capturing guides. However, I couldn't seem to find an "overall" guide explaining the whole process. Nor could I find a guide which is particularly up-to-date: most of them are over 10 years old and mainly seem to be geared towards making DVDs. (I'm not looking to author DVDs, I want high quality digital files to be kept on hard drive.)
So forgive me for making this thread, but I would appreciate a little advice from anyone who can help. For the record, I am completely new to capturing video, though I have a fairly good understanding of working with video files in general (I use Premiere Pro). I also have a high-spec PC and plenty of RAM, so that shouldn't be a problem.
So here are my 7 questions…
1. What TBC and capture device?
Most of the guides I read recommend good TBCs, but I assume these are NTSC ones. (Also, as I said, the guides seem a little dated.) I wonder if anyone can make an up-to-date suggestion of a good TBC and capture device for PAL video? It doesn't have to be brand new models - I am ideally looking to buy second hand to keep the price down. I am hoping not to spend more than a few hundred pounds in total - though if there are cheap products which gives good enough results, that would do. I am looking for a very high capture quality, but it doesn't have to be "100% perfect".
2. Dual cards?
When I use the capture card, will I have to take out/disable my existing graphics card, or will they run in tandem?
3. What cables?
Something I have not read in any of the guides is what cables will I need? The last thing I want to do is spend a fortune on hardware and then be let down by using the wrong cables! The VCR I intend to use is my old Panasonic S-VHS, bought around the year 2001 (don't have the model number to hand). It obviously has S-video output. Is this the recommended output to use? (Even for normal VHS tapes?)
Last year I digitized all my audio cassettes, so I know all about head cleaning of audio cassette players. I have the isopropyl alcohol and the cotton swabs all ready. However, I wouldn't have a clue about how to clean a VCR. Can anyone advise me, or point me to a recommended guide?
Which (free) software is the best? Or will this depend on which capture card/device I use?
Obviously, I want my files to be 576i. But is there any particular recommendation for horizontal resolution? If it makes no difference, I would really love to use 768x576i, which would give me square pixels. I would love that But is there anything I'm overlooking here?
7. Compression format?
Finally, after I have remastered/edited the videos, I intend to compress the files, and then delete the uncompressed files. Could anyone recommend the best compression format? I am looking to compress them at maximum quality, so they look virtually identical to the uncompressed original (the video equivalent of a maximum-quality JPEG). I know the files will be large but I don't mind that at all, I have plenty of hard drive space. Also, I don't want the file format to be quickly obsolete! I normally compress using H.264, but is that a good idea for captured video? Any suggestions?
Thank you for your time, and I appreciate any advice you can give
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2. No, you can have both a capture card and a graphics card. I'd recommend just getting a little USB capture device rather than a capture card.
3. I only use the S-Video outputs from my PAL VCR. I haven't run into a situation where the picture from composite cables is any better.
4. Well, you sure wouldn't want to use cotton swabs. There's plenty of good advice here and on YouTube about cleaning the heads of a VCR.
5. Depends on what you use to cap. When I use my Canopus box to cap as DV-AVI, I use Win DV. When using my USB thing I cap using VDub and cap lossless using the HuffYUV codec.
6. I always cap as 720x480 or 720x576. So do most others, I believe.
7. I make DVDs for myself and friends and MP4s for upload to YouTube. the H.264 video you mentioned can be very high quality, lossless even, I believe.
In fact the only thing that has changed in the last 10 years is the less availability of internal capture devices.
And even if you got one you might not be able to get drivers for your assumed up-to-date OS.
While you can capture Uncompressed, you will not want to unless you want to give 2 gig of your HDD for every second (and a single HDD might be able to handle that anyway). Methinks you are actually thinking of lossless lagarith or huffyuv
To clean the heads there is the digitalfaq approved method, 99% isopropanol and DSLR sensor swabs/chamois swabs.
Some discussion on cotton swabs
Thank you all, very helpful info indeed!
I just did a search and the people on this thread would seem to be saying it's more like 100Gb per hour, which is fine:
Ok. So maybe I got my minutes and seconds mixed up
guide I read on TBCs said that line TBCs "are great at removing visual errors, but do almost nothing for signal purity". I was imagining therefore that I would have to buy a full-frame or professional one, depending on price. But if you are saying that a line TBC will yield good results then I will listen to that.
But I am still confused about cables. Could you please tell me which kind of cable is best from the VCR to the TBC (or DVD recorder) and which kind of cable is best from the TBC to the capture device.
And could anyone recommend a capture device?
For the DVD recorders you can read these threads.
You should use S-Video cables when possible.
For the capture device there are many options, the hauppauge usb live2 is easy to find.
I guess I'm the next contestant on "The Seven Questions".
1. Unless you need to remove MV, just use a DVR passthrough. Line-based is good enough. Also the 8710 and 1000 have issues.
2. Meh, I wouldn't bother here. Just use a good USB device, which is all you need for VHS (ex: ATI USB 600 (for older systems), Hauppauge USB-Live2, ezcap.tv (the REAL one from the namesake's site) and StarTech SVID2USB2). All do multiple formats including lossless.
3. Yes, your complete capture chain is only as good as your worst component, and that would include cables. The good news is that it's only VHS here, which will suck at any rate, so even budget cables can do a good job. High-end super-expensive is super-overkill here. However, do yourself a favor and get something in the middle - for reliability, better shielding, and a touch of extra quality, etc. I've been (ab)using Pearstone cables (from B&H) for many years now without issue, which would be my recommendation.
Use S-Video (Y/C) over composite (RCA) if you have a choice, but I personally have no issue with either (again, it's only VHS). Others will argue that 2nd/3rd/Nth Gen recordings may fare better through composite (which would suck anyway).
4. A "cleaning tape" can be a variable. Best two methods are running a brand new VHS tape for 20-60 minutes (this gives a few cleanings, dispose when done), or continue to employ your alcohol and swabs and do it manually - yes, plenty of good tutorials on YouTube.
5. Avoid capture software that comes with devices. Most are garbage IMO, even if the capture device is a good product. I personally use VirtualDub, and capture lossless. But I can only vouch for the devices I mentioned in 2.
6. Like Manono said, I believe the same. Just capture at full D1 resolutions, 720x576 PAL, 720x480 NTSC, anything more is added duplication. Lossless should give you PAR=1:1, and PAR is easily adjusted for other playback formats.
7. I've dropped hints already leading up to this. Capture in lossless (but not RGB uncompressed, use YUV YUY2 4:2:2, which is 25%-50% the file size with virtually no quality loss). I like HuffYUV, but others will mention Lagarith or UT.
DV is good, and so is MPEG-2 if you know what you're doing but lossless is superior. You will get the highest quality, full interlacing (which may be a problem with H.264), good speed (unlike H.264), easy to edit (like DV, and very unlike H.264), also supports many resolutions, fps, etc (unlike DV), and great for archiving (unlike any other). It will also be very flexible in processing (denoising, color, crop, etc) - you can process over and over without loss if you stay in the same color space - the only difference will be the effect of any filter. This is untrue of, particularly, MPEG-2/H.264, which will add generational degradation each pass.
Using lossless as your Master, you can easily encode for deliverable formats: DvD, YouTube, etc., but lossless is the format you will want to keep it in forever as an archive.
And don't worry about any obsolescence. Formats like HuffYUV, etc, may come and go, but lossless is still lossless and will never go away - just do a conversion every 5 years if so, and the quality will still suffer no penalty. I use HuffYUV, which is technically dead, but I have zero worry for the long run. I wouldn't feel this secure with lossy formats.
Sure lossless is bigger in file size, which IMO is the only disadvantage as a capture/acquisition/archive format. However, with today's HDDs this is a small concern - you can still put dozens/hundreds of tapes' content on one HDD with today's drives - you still win big with physical storage. And, as you say, this is precious content. You wouldn't want to use any other format than lossless for such. (At least it's much smaller than raw uncompressed RGB.)
Did I win, did I win? How many did I get right?
BTW- I like the nick "Gameshow Host". This is also big in my sense of humor in Real Life, and have done some voice gigs as well.
Last edited by PuzZLeR; 28th Mar 2016 at 12:10. Reason: Darn - didn't close a bracket. Compilers would've killed me!I hate VHS. I always did.
Thank you to everyone who has helped. You have all been truly helpful and I am sincerely thankful
Oh and folks, we have a winner!…
Yes, I picked up on your very subtle hint that you think lossless is best. The idea of using lossless is very appealing to me: not only does it provide maximum quality, it also means I'd be able to create remastered copies, while still keeping a copy of the original master files (I already do that with things like old photographs and audio recordings, always keeping the original scan/recording). And as you say, lossless also means you don't have to worry about future-proof issues, since lossless files can be re-encoded without loss of quality.
But to be honest the idea of keeping lossless files had never even occurred to me because of the huge file size. (And now we're getting to the Bonus Question)… How large are lossless files for SD video? I looked on Wikipedia and from what I can understand they are approximately one third the original file size. Now I don't think I have more than about 250 hours of home videos in total, but if uncompressed video is about 100 gig per hour, then uncompressed would be 25 terabytes in total, and a third of that would be 8 terabytes.
Even if I'm really conservative and there doesn't turn out to be as much footage as I imagined, and we call it 5 terabytes, that would still be too large for me. (For a start, everything has to be backed up, so it's effectively 10 terabytes when you include backup storage.)
By the way, my nickname "Gameshow Host" was one I used to use a lot back in the 90s when I first started using the web (I joined this forum back in 2002). It derives from the fact that whenever my friends and I used to mess around with camcorders, we invariably found ourselves doing these strange fake gameshows, and for some reason I was always the host. So, it's kind of ironic that I am now back here, using this old nickname Gameshow Host, in order to restore old videos of me playing a Gameshow Host among other things!
So buy four WD Blue 3TB drives for less than $400 and a USB 3 dock for $40 and you are set to back up nearly 6 TB.
5TB costs you around $100 in BD-R DL media.
I agree with everything that PuzZLer recommends, except that you might like to check out capturing to an intermediate codec like Grass Valley HQX or Cineform?
Both those codecs are free (I prefer HQX myself) and once installed, can be selceted from within Virtualdub. You can make huge savings on file size, compared to uncompressed, without any loss of visual quality.
As intermediates are intraframe, and are designed for editing they can take many editing generational losses - if necessary - before you'll notice any loss of quality.
I use an Ezcap 116, and capture using Virtualdub,with Grass Valley HQX as the codec.
In my own set up, I experience far fewer dropped frames (usually none!) than when trying to capture uncompressed. Files sizes - using the HQX 'standard' setting - are about 6GB per hour. Roughly half the size of DV.
I save the edited versions as H.264 using the x.264vfw codec from Virtualdub, but keep the HQX files as the 'masters', should i need to redo anything at a later date.
As I say, that codec is freeware, so maybe try it out and see if you agree about the quality loss (or lack of!) ?
I am so glad that I asked these questions, and truly grateful for all the excellent advice every one of you has given me, thank you It is very interesting to know
So for the moment, here is my plan (this also serves as a shopping list for me)…
1. For cleaning, follow the guides given + watch YouTube videos + will run a brand new VHS tape for 20-60 minutes
2. Two S-Video (Y/C) cables, ideally mid-budget (eg. Pearstone cables from B&H)
3. For capture device, I will use either hauppauge usb live2, or ezcap.tv (the REAL one from the namesake's site), or StarTech SVID2USB2.
4. For TBC I will use AVT-8710 or TBC-1000. (Apparently, these have issues, but right now I don't have any other recommendations so they will do.)
5. Capture with VirtualDub
6. I'm still undecided about which resolution to capture and will give it further thought. Part of me wants to capture at standard resolution (720x576i ) as it would be nice to have the option to put the videos directly onto Blu-ray without scaling them. However, another part of me wants to capture at 768x576i as I really do love the idea of having square pixels, which would mean I can take perfect still grabs from the video which will not need to be scaled. I'm undecided still.
7. I will capture lossless using HuffYUV or Lagarith (not DV or MPEG-2 - and definitely not H.264), as recommended by Puzzler. Lossless will be far smaller than uncompressed, but I just cannot capture lossy knowing fully well I'm going to edit and re-save it, it goes against all my instincts!
8. Next I will do my basic retouching: editing, cropping, noise reduction, sharpen, color correction (all used sparingly, when needed, of course)
9. When I've done my basic retouching, I don't really need it to be lossless any more, so I will then compress using an intermediate codec (probably Grass Valley HQX, as suggested by Pippas). To me, this seems like the perfect long-term compression solution: virtually identical to the original quality, with relatively small files. Just what I wanted. (I'm the kind of person who stores all his music in high quality lossy form - I like the idea of saving the disc space yet the music sounds identical.)
10. I will then use BD-R discs to backup (as suggested by Dellsam34) - I had no idea BD-R storage was so cheap and you get 50gig per disc! This is a great idea as I like the idea of backing up onto solid media - hard drives have always made me feel slightly nervous, like it's never totally safe on a hard drive.
3 more quick questions based on things Puzzler said…
Although you have now decided (with the realisation that you didn't need uncompressed as I inferred way back in the topic) I would not totally discount DV as the capture format.
Firstly, we are now talking about 13 gig per hour rather than 30-60 gig(depends on colorspace) for lossless. Yes, DV is a lossy format but for VHS you really should not get carried away.
I do champion the Canopus ADVC 300 which does have a rudimentary line TBC built-in (the lower models do not). Read the forum and there are guys who hate these and some, like me, who do not have the issues that they describe.
I've used a Canopus (Grass Valley) ADVC50 DV converter for some 10 years - in conjunction with an old Panasonic DVD recorder as a TBC - and have always been very pleased with the results.... I know some folk on here aren't!
Recently I tried out an EZcap 116 ( the real one) and was surprised at how good the results could be - very comparable with DV results.
1) I tried the supplied software, and captured as mpg2. ... Not good.
2) I captured as uncompressed through Virtualdub... Not good (too many dropped frames... massive file sizes).
3) I captured through Virtualdub, using Grass Valley HQX as the codec... Much better results. No dropped frames - 6GB per hour file sizes - Intraframe capture format.
Downside? -- the need to re-sync audio -- something you never need to do with the Canopus (Grass Valley) ADVC devices.
So I would say capturing as DV - using an ADVC converter, or capturing as an intraframe intermediate format (using Lagarith - Cineform or HQX) in conjunction with an EZcap USB capture device can both give pretty good results with VHS capture...
The uncompressed capture option is almost certainly 'overkill' with VHS sources - especially if trying to encode that much information - in real time - causes dropped frames
Thank you everyone. Just to say I probably won't have internet access over the next 10 days (or longer) so apologies if I go quiet. I will return here when I can. Thanks again.
Last edited by Gameshow Host; 30th Mar 2016 at 06:42.
HuffYUV compression, Uncompressed is just waste of resources, NTSC should be little less than that. You can use only BD-R 25GB for segments less than an hour.
Originally Posted by Gameshow Host
Originally Posted by Gameshow Host
Originally Posted by Gameshow Host
Using lossless video is similar to images, and even audio, looking at the Acquisition/Archive -> Delivery/Playback concept.
Images: TFF/PNG -> JPG
Audio: WAV/FLAC -> AAC/MP3
Video: Lossless 4:2:2 -> DvD, BD, DivX/Xvid, H.264, etc.
For ~250 hours of content, you're looking at ~15TB - with a backup included, with lossless. In DV, a very good secondary solution, you're looking at 6.5TB for the same storage.
But, I do remind you - this is precious content, and you can at least rest assured that you did everything in your power to rescue this content at best digital quality possible with lossless.
But, if you do wish to leverage both, and keep the TBs down, can I suggest the Pareto principle and the 80/20 rule (which is, in many ways, a cosmic law)? You will find that 20% of your content is 80% of the worth. If you sort it out this way, lossless for the 20%, and DV for the balance, you're looking at just over 8TB (with backup).
Originally Posted by Gameshow Host
I have had the privilege of having this friend in my life who was blind. It was amazing how she could "see" things that nobody else would see, and it was she that told me that I had this secret desire to be an announcer, game show host, infomercial narrator, joker, etc, etc. Just by being around her it was amazing how much I learned about myself that I never knew.I hate VHS. I always did.
Originally Posted by Gameshow HostOriginally Posted by Gameshow Host
VCR -> DVR -> Capture Device
There are several DVRs that offer correction to the signal, like flagging, chroma errors, etc. Some well known ones are the Panasonic ES10/ES15 and others if you do a search. Who cares what they do for DvD burning, or TV recording - most of us here get these for their onboard TBC, and filter video through S-video or composite.
There are way too many issues with the full-framed ones mentioned: bad quality control, overheating, morphing, pattern artifacts unless you run a power cycle, softening, etc. A better one would cost much, much more. The only real advantage they offer over line-based is removing MV - I'd add a Grex in the chain for that, and it would still be cheaper overall.
Originally Posted by Gameshow Host
Width / Height = DAR / PAR
Originally Posted by Gameshow HostI hate VHS. I always did.
All of these though, I can confirm, are fully supported with VirtualDub, do lossless at 4:2:2, full D1, and each even do DV, MPEG-2 and H.264 (such as with x264 VFW).
Also, each can do NTSC/PAL, except -maybe, but I have to re-test - for the ATI 600 USB, which may be only NTSC.I hate VHS. I always did.
Yes, "visually lossless" is quite true, at least for several generations, however, I have never seen their performance on capturing. Then again, you can still capture to lossless, and use them for the final steps of your workflow, if indeed space savings is desired at a most minimal compromise in quality.
Also, I don't diss DV at all - this too is a fine format, and the Canopus is a very reliable unit. I will stick with lossless myself, but wouldn't snub those using DV for VHS.
Originally Posted by pipas
Again, uncompressed is totally unnecessary in this context anyway.I hate VHS. I always did.
Lagarith i got some. I tried HQX as I have used it for AVCHD for some time (I don't like trying to edit long GOP clips!) and was quite pleased with the results. Certainly on a par visually with the DV captures from my Canopus converter.
I do need to re-sync the audio of course, but then that is one thing you don't need to worry about with the DV converter.
As it is now a free codec, I suggested HQX as one option to try with a USB converter like the EZcap 116. It only take a couple of minutes to download and install, and if it doesn't give the expected results, there's only a few minutes (and no cash!) lost...
Given what you said, I will definitely use 4:2:2 since 4:4:4 would clearly just be overkill—just like having too high a horizontal resolution would be overkill.
Thank you for your recommendation of DVD recorders such as Panasonic ES10/ES15. Though I am still unsure about this.
I did a little searching about Panasonic DVD recorders and read some bad things about Panasonic DVD Recorders like the ES10. Apparently, they have built-in DNR and it is quite aggressive, which causes softening of images and ghosting. I also read that they even posterize the image (ie reduce the color palette)! This all sounds pretty scary to me, and sounds just as bad as the problems you listed for "full frame" TBCs.
Further, I did some reading about "full-frame" TBCs (like the AVT-8710 and TBC-1000) and found that the overheating problem only affects the AVT-8710 (which has a flimsy plastic case and overheats after a few hours). While the TBC-1000 is very robust and doesn't overheat. I also read that the TBC-1000 does soften the image but this is due to the amp, and can be prevented by disabling the amp (not sure how that is done but I will try to find out!). I also read plenty of happy customers with the full-frame TBCs - the problems would seem to be the exception not the norm and are often caused by problems with the original tape/VCR.
Here is one of the threads I read, to give an example:
So at the minute I have to say, I am still leaning towards getting a TBC-1000.
^^ But Puzzler already mentioned that for 'home video' you do not need a full-frame TBC such as the TBC-1000 or AVT-8710.
These units only come in to play when you have commercial tapes that have macrovision (MV) copy-protection.
The whole point of using a dvd-recorder (only some models) as a pass-through device is that it provides the line TBC which is all that is needed to correct sync issues with the tapes when transferring to the digital realm. In fact (not sure tho) I do not think that a full-frame TBC will correct line sync issues. People on here then use a line TBC for the sync AND a full-frame device for the MV. Home video tapes do not have MV issues.
What you can do tho is capture some tapes without a TBC. Not always needed. And if you get no issues then no money wasted.
On one hand, there seem to be people agreeing with you that a full-frame TBC is really all about MacroVision, and is useless for my purposes. Like this guy says:
Frame tbc's often have little or no effect on tearing, and even less effect on line sync errors such as wiggly lines and crooked/bent border edges. The main use for frame tbc's is to bypass most flavors of Macrovision and to ensure constant frame output rates for audio/video sync.
But on the other hand, there seem to be other people who recommend full-frame, like JVRaines earlier in this thread.
And here are some other quotes which made me wary about using a DVD recorder/line TBC…
"line” TBCs are great at removing visual errors, but do almost nothing for signal purity … and can sometimes make a signal look worse."
DVD recorder "TBCs" tend to only be good at one thing: removing tearing. They will do next to nothing (or outright nothing) in terms of visual cleaning or signal cleaning in a positive way. This is where we start to enter the land of "it's a TBC because we wrote it on the box". In many cases, the "TBC" is nothing more than a basic frame sychronizer, or circuitry that provides a similar function.
Some of the DVD recorders do have digital noise reduction (NR), but it can be overly strong. The ES10, for example, over-processes the video with or without the NR feature engaged, causing temporal blurring/ghosting and posterizing/banding the video (compressed color palette). Turning on the NR feature makes it stronger. For this reason, the ES10 is not suggested for use as a TBC replacement, but simply as a box used to address this specific tearing error. Remember that the goal of restoring video is to make it better, not make it perfect -- compared to tearing, overdone NR is the lesser of evils.
…the effects of the Panasonic ES10 DVD recorder's aggressive DNR -- softening and obscuring of fine detail, motion smearing, posterization effects, banding, sometimes ghost trails. There's no way to tone down panny's dnr or make it target certain types of noise. It scrubs everything, without mercy.
So my (confused) conclusion is that full-frame TBCs are only useful if you want to circumvent macrovision, and line TBCs are only useful if you want to prevent tearing - and they damage the image. So I am really nonethewiser!
I once read someone say that you cannot even think about capturing video without a TBC, and a TBC was a necessity and will make a huge difference to the quality. But I'm starting to wonder if that is the case. Maybe I don't need one?
Last edited by Gameshow Host; 9th Apr 2016 at 16:48.
Line TBC fixes scanning lines, Full frame TBC fixes frames, Either or both may have some other filters such as chroma filter to get rid of chroma noise, If your magnetic tapes are in good shape, no wear, no edge feathering, no frame jump on the TV screen, you may not need a full frame TBC, But a line TBC is a must, It straighten up scanning lines, No matter how good a VCR is there is always mechanical errors in the scanning drum. You can always turn the TBC off if you want to.