I have several 8 mm tapes with footage recorded from a Sony CCD-TR620E camcorder, so they are in PAL Video8 format. I would like to do a 'raw' digital transfer; no upscaling, DNR or other type of video processing. My thought is that I can use these unmastered transfers to create a finished product any time I want and reap the benefits of future technologies. The only exception is time base correction, since I believe it's only feasible in the analogue domain.
So, assuming my thinking isn't naive, I know what I want, but I'm not sure what tools to use. Is there a capture device that meets my requirements? If not, what decent device comes close? I would say the priority is lossless or uncompressed output. Also, will I need a TBC or does my camcorder already have one internally?
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You want to capture Video8 tapes to a lossless or DV format. There are several methods.
The easiest one is a Digital8 camcorder with the ability to convert analog tapes (not all of them can) and output DV to a firewire 400 port. It is easy but not lossless (good enough for some) and will give you synced DV-AVI files you can store directly.
The main problem with that method is the added noise and for PAL tapes the edge color problem.
Another possibility is to use a cheap mini DV camcorder with the ability to convert analog input to digital. Connect your Video8 camcorder to the analog input of the mini DV and get DV-AVI files from the firewire 400 output. Easy but not lossless, noisy, no audio sync problems.
The lossless method. You will need a capture device compatible with virtualdub (usb cards are fine), a lossless codec such as huffyuv, maybe a line-TBC and some reading.
Recommended capture cards: Hauppauge USB-Live2, ezcap.tv (from their website), StarTech SVID2USB2
You don't have an S-Video output on your camcorder (optional but desirable) and the sound will be mono because it was recorded that way.
If you have a TBC in your camcorder (unlikely) it should appear in the menus. Usually next to a DNR option.
You most likely don't need a full frame-TBC, a Digital8 or miniDV camcorder can have a TBC built in and is an option to check for.
If you go the lossless route you might need to add a line-TBC between your camcorder and the capture card. You can also buy an hi8 camcorder with a built in TBC and S-Video output to play your tapes and connect it directly to the capture card.
If your camcorder is in good shape it might make sense to play the tapes with it to get the best quality, add a line-TBC in the form of a DVD recorder used as a passthrough and connect the capture card using S-Video.
In any case to start and do some lossless capture tests you only need a 40-50$ usb card. Add hardware later if needed. This post should give you enough hints to properly search the archive. I'm not an expert so do your homework first.
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Thanks for such a comprehensive post, ackboo. I did some more research last night and came across those capture cards. Another one I came across was the ATI TV Wonder 600 USB card. I will do a bit more research to see if others have compared them.
I've also considered using a DVD recorder as a pass-through, but I'm not sure because I've read mixed comments. I want minimum or no processing, but these recorders apparently use DNR and other techniques.
I'll check my camcorder for TBC capabilities. I doubt it has full-frame TBC as I've never noticed progressive output.