This is a comparison of many VCRs playing the same retail SP mode tape. Your opinions are welcomed. Currently screenshots only. I may add select video samples.
Currently eight VCRs:
I did my best to match the levels and colors with global Avisynth tweaks across each entire capture. Meaning, I didn't adjust scene-by-scene. My best didn't turn out to be very good, but it'll have to do I suppose.
- JVC HM-DH5U
- Mitsubishi HS-HD2000U
- Panasonic NV-DHE10
- Panasonic AG-1980
- Panasonic AG-1970
- Panasonic PV-S4670
- Panasonic AG-DS555
- JVC BR-S525U
I'm using Spider-Man because:
I recommend doing this to compare in your browser: open each image in a new tab, zoom using CTRL and + then flick back and forth between them to compare.
- new enough to be digitally-mastered
- concurrent DVD release, with open matte full screen edition for a direct reference
- popular release and not super new = relatively easy to find if someone else wants to buy a copy for their own comparison (there are currently >37 copies on eBay; 3 of the listings are $4 shipped
Paper grid / text / face closeup
Before the rest of the comparison, I want to narrow down the "best" settings for the AG-DS555 as it's a relative unknown for me. This seems to be a good shot for that purpose.
It appears that "Picture" levels 2 and 1 are just softened versions of the pre-emphasized base signal (level 3). Dark and bright halos are both still present even at level 1; they are just more hidden due to smearing and diffusion. EDIT mode disables the Picture control, outputting an image that looks the same as level 3 plus a small levels/hue shift and minus Chroma Aperture Compensation (CAC "eliminates color blurring and expands Chroma bandwidth"). I will be using EDIT for the rest of the DS555 shots, as CAC looks useless.
Apparently the 1980 that I bought is in need of repair. The chroma issue will become more obvious in later screenshots.
- Spatiotemporal luma DNR is always active, even though DNR&TBC is set to "off".
- The undefeatable (spatio)temporal chroma DNR causes an after-image of his hand's position from the previous frame(s). In playback, I can't see this here but during high motion in dark scenes, it is noticeable and distracting.
- Spatial luma & chroma DNR is always active: no option to disable. Causes general blur.
Extreme wide shot with lots of little details and text
The sharpening of the 1970, DS555, and S525U just adds halos and emphasizes noise. None of the text that is unreadable with the DH5U becomes any more readable. The DHE10 also adds sharpening halos, which should become more obvious in the other shots below.
Costume lines, tiny faces in background
Again, the sharpening does nothing for actual detail. Those little faces are just as lacking in features no matter how much edge enhancement is added.
Separate HD2000U image above to show sharpening deformations and halos when Play PerfecTape is set to Sharp.
Separate 1970 image to show why EDIT is the best setting. When not in EDIT mode, a vertical blur or "downward smear" is added, even though the Noise Filter is set to off.
Dark scene / paper grid / text
+ For all the downsides of the chroma DNR, one of its upsides is that it can virtually eliminate rainbowing at times.
The 1980 and DH5U still show a low-level bright haloing around the text. I'm leaning toward this being baked-in or otherwise unavoidable.
Very dark scene
- Undersaturated in dark scenes, generally.
- Ever-present grid/checkerboard artifact is easiest to see in darkness.
DS555 & S525U:
- Sharpened graininess becomes even more obvious in darkness.
1980, 1970 & DS555:
+ Somehow mitigating much of the dot crawl. But...
- There is another artifact along the edge of the bottom-middle light. It's also found along strong color transitions elsewhere in the movie.
The 1970 actually handles this the best of the three.
- The worst of dot crawl, and the other artifact is the most pronounced of all of them!
Bright-ish generated text on dark-ish background
DH5U, HD2000U & S4670:
- Dark "trails" to the right of the text.
White hair on dark-ish background
DH5U & HD2000U:
- The same dark "trails" in a more normal scene. Along the right of his hair, and a small line extending from the right of his cup.
It may appear that the DH5U is missing collar detail, but a similarly extreme sharpening reveals that nothing has been blurred. I checked with:
The HD2000U is actually missing detail, due to the forced DNR.
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Last edited by vaporeon800; 31st Jul 2016 at 14:54. Reason: Added Panasonic NV-DHE10.
The previous Mitsubishi HS-HD2000U shots were incorrectly labelled as Normal. I discovered today that they were actually Sharp, which explains a lot since I wasn't accustomed to the level of haloing found in those images coming from this machine. Ordinarily, I double-check settings at the start of a capture, but this Mitsu option is tucked away in a series of submenus, and I've only ever altered it a couple times.
I've replaced the incorrect frames, and added the Panasonic AG-1980, AG-1970, and PV-S4670.
Based on this comparison, a properly-functioning AG-1980 would be the champion to beat, as far as I'm concerned.
Added Panasonic NV-DHE10, a Japanese model. Setting aside the unfortunate sharpening, it does nasty things to saturated colors. Artifacts appear in the luma that look like ripples in a pond. I see the AG-1980 shows the "beginnings" of these ripples too, but to nowhere near the same degree.
The same issue can be seen on the Victor VX-200, but for some reason not in this post.
What about Harry Potter 1 & 2 on vhs? Do you know if those have Macrovision? Both of those are super 35 open matte so they look alright in fullscreen. Prisoner of Azkaban was also on vhs but that is a straight up pan & scan from 2.35 so it looks terrible.
Either way, they are also concurrent vhs with identical dvd releases for a good benchmark.
Congrats on being the first person to actually respond to this thread!
I'm pretty sure those don't have Macrovision: I've checked multiple WB movies from 1996, 1998, 1999... No MV. The first movie and its DVD, at least, are definitely MV-free. But from samples I've seen of HP, one of those is a dark and ugly release. Maybe more than one. I've actually never watched any of that series.
Further reading regarding WB ditching MV on DVD:
Fantastic comparison! Thanks for all that effort! Continuing from a somewhat related thread:
I find the 2000 model to perform on par with a similar-vintage JVC 9911 (and earlier JVCs I've owned). Which is to say, when the TBC/DNR is activated and a compatible tape is loaded, the signal gets nicely cleaned and if I want that particular tape to be "cleaned" I'm happy with it. The drawbacks are the same as the JVCs: with TBC/DNR active the superb signal cleaning comes at the sacrifice of lost detail and awful temporal/motion smearing, turned off playback becomes worse than any random ordinary vcr (and EP/SLP is hopeless either way). Both JVC and Mitsu suffer from linked TBC/DNR: very often I need DNR but not TBC, and since I can't turn off the TBC independently I lose both options if the tape rebuffs the TBC effect. So the only reason I prefer the Mitsu is overall operating "feel" and reliability: the 2000 has a very smooth transport and they've never broken down on me thru ten years of very hard use. (Compared DVHS to DVHS, Mitsu has less electronic problems due to overheating, since it lacks the superfluous JVC A/D converters. To be sure, the Mitsu 2000 does get hot enough to fry an egg, but some of the JVCs can roast a chicken. The Mitsu does let you turn off the TBC/DNR, some of the JVC DVHS do not.)
Agree with your findings on the Panasonic AG1980: its TBC/DNR "signature" is more compatible with a much wider variety of my tapes than the Mitsu or JVC system, tracking is more consistent, TBC circuit can be switched off leaving just DNR, temporal/motion smearing is significantly less, and EP/SLP playback is much better. Unfortunately one can no longer obtain a 1980 that works 100% (unless they want to risk their sanity and drain their bank account), so we are left with the Mitsu/JVC duopoly. Its a shame Panasonic did not offer the same variety of TBC/DNR equipped VCRs in North America as they did in PAL countries or Japan: spreading the risk over more than a single breathtakingly-flaky model might have left us more options down the line.
Last edited by orsetto; 6th Oct 2016 at 09:55.
It's really not similar to the HD2000, despite external appearances. This is an S-VHS model that predated it; they just reused the shell for the D-VHS. Picture quality is smudged even with all processing options disabled. It seems to be effectively a JVC stuck in Soft mode, with TBC/DNR strapped to it. No Picture Filter type options offered.
I'll add screenshots at some point. I already did the captures weeks back.
...being the first person to actually respond to this thread!
Unfortunately one can no longer obtain a 1980 that works 100%
Its fun to do tests on these things. I mean, testing capture cards and vcr's, oh, and laserdisc players.
If all seems well, "use it or lose it" - get your tapes digitized ASAP. A randomly-purchased "good" AG1980 is always on borrowed time: it may stay "good" for three years, or it might be three weeks. No way of knowing, unless you get one freshly overhauled from a specialized seller.
I thought my first captures with this AG-1980 were free of the chroma issue seen in the screenshots above, but after raising the saturation and looking more closely, the error was definitely there dating back to my first SP captures with it in June. But EP playback was, and is currently, unaffected. No amount of saturation cranking or pixel-peeping shows the artifacts with EP, only SP. Can't be bothered testing LP.
At least one of premiumcapture's AG-1980 units (from TGrant!) also suffers from this issue, though the exact appearance differs somewhat. After some back-and-forth he saw what I was talking about, noting "That only shows up on EDIT AFAIK. I haven't seen it otherwise now that I have been looking, but light Camcorder Color Denoise cleaned up fairly well and I'm sure there are other ways to handle it as well."
Saturation cranked to make the problem obvious:
Meanwhile, the other thing that I didn't mention here is that I found out the Spider-Man tape I'm using here in Canada differs somewhat from the US release. I need to decide what to do about this before committing more time to capturing additional samples.
The whole idea was that someone reading the thread could easily purchase "the same" tape to do a direct comparison with their own VCR(s), but sourcing a Canadian release in the US wouldn't be convenient or cheap. I can easily get the US release online myself, but replacing all of the above captures with it would be... ugh. If I'm lucky, the two releases have comparable PQ throughout most of the movie.
Last edited by vaporeon800; 30th Apr 2017 at 10:52. Reason: Attach images to replace links that could die
I must have got something confused in one of your posts. I thought you were saying that MGM releases on dvd were macrovision-free, and that you used that in your capture samples by recording the dvd using your AG-1980 and then captured that.
I myself have been using commercial tapes, since they are what I want to archive to a media center, eventually. And I've been using the following tapes in my collection:
The Fifth Element - digitally mastered
Star Trek: Insurrection - regular
Jeepers Creepers - digitally mastered
Contact (jody foster) - regular, widescreen, I have the fullscreen as well
Galaxy Quest - digitally recorded
Titanic - waiting on SR-W5U (and remaining vcr's) for testing. stil in shrink-wrap
Anything with "digital" are of highest quality from the studios or hollywood. Also, each tape has some ware in specific spots and cause sync and macrovision induced glitches in those spots. These issues come from when I used to FF and RW to different spots on the tape. FW/RW is a no-no. They stretch the tape and cause these kinds of permanent problems, so I don't do that anymore. So I am making this an official warning: to all who practice this in their vhs endeavors, to stop and desist with this practice!. But I stop, and then RW or FF while using the tape counter, now. But not all capture cards suffer from it. Also, some vcrs will show a glitch or two, when there is none. I attribute that to tracking and tape tension.
I will see about posting a sample later.
Last edited by vhelp; 6th Oct 2016 at 08:43.
Here is an unprocessed image from the AG-1980 -> HVR-950Q usb2 capture card via my dell inspiron laptop.
"The Fifth Element" is one of my guilty pleasures: must have gone back to see it five or six times during its original theatrical run, and it was one of the first DVDs I bought. Is the one you used for this test the standard dvd release, or the oddball "high bit rate premium edition" (or whatever the heck it was called?) I've always meant to pick that up to compare them.
Re your sample still: that looks about average to me for a functional AG1980 that has not been overhauled. The skin tones from an aging 1980 are rather distinctive, and thats what I immediately noted here (of course its a still web image, so only an approximation of what you're seeing). Of the nine AG1980s and 5710s I have sitting in my house, only one still works, at approx the level your still indicates. I find it a very useful alternative to my JVC and Mitsus for certain tapes, esp deteriorated Hollywood tapes with oversaturated colors that bleed all over the place. It is somewhat less useful with everyday "excellent" tapes, which look a little more natural (albeit more smeared) played on a DigiPure deck. Second or third generation dubs usually go to my older AG1970, which does nothing other than track really well: my personal taste with such tapes is to capture them exactly as they appear on a plain VCR (I find any attempt to "restore" or "improve" them just makes them look like cartoons).
The AG1980/AG5710 are tricky tricky VCRs to use at this late date. Going back 7-10 years, when it was easier to find one closer to optimum condition, they were more general purpose / directly comparable to what you'd see with a JVC DigiPure. Today, even the few remaining good ones inevitably show signs of aging, chiefly in their color signature. Its a little odd: not bad really, but not accurate either. Perfectionists like LordSmurf would gag on such results, but for me it still has value. The "aging 1980" color palette can be immensely useful in taming unruly tapes with badly bleeding or noisy color: while the skin tones may be somewhat disappointing when playing a "pure" source, that same tonal skew can do wonders for skin tones on a poor tape (personal taste is a huge factor here). This distinctively-aging color palette is one of the key "gotchas" that make an AG1980 overhaul so difficult: if one limits the repairs to a handful of failed caps, the majority of the unit is still populated by old caps and other old bits, so one tampers with the aged color skew but doesn't necessarily get back the original "new 1980" color performance. OTOH, restoring the entire video subsystem and re-calibrating it to get "new" performance is a daunting task few techs are willing or capable of undertaking.
Last edited by orsetto; 6th Oct 2016 at 10:29.
I ended up watching the whole movie last night, was up until 3am to get a sample image and video but my eys were too heavy and I didn't have the patience to color correct for an A/B image post. Its one of my favorite movies. Saw a demo of it playing at wal-mart back in 98 (the scene was where you saw all those flying cars in the manhatan) and I ended up getting the dvd that day. A couple of years later, I found the Super-Bit version, and picked that up. That's the term you were looking for. The bitrate was higher and the quality was definately better. I use the scene in the "This is the police" (in the police car where it was dark, in order to review the black level) to compare. Also picked up the sbit of Panic Room, but I never did remove the shrink-wrap on that, yet. I have the vhs version of that. It is also a "Digital Master" release. When I learned about that aspect of commercial movie vhs I started keeping an eye out on all vhs that I would purchase. I purposely looked for that "digital master" (DM) stamp on the box because I knew I would get the best quality capture/archive of those from vhs. I have most if not all of the Star Trek movies in widescreen, THX or DM releases. So, basically I became a vhs collector back then. Was around 98 through 2008 I think.
my personal taste with such tapes is to capture them exactly as they appear on a plain VCR (I find any attempt to "restore" or "improve" them just makes them look like cartoons).
The AG1980/AG5710 are tricky tricky VCRs to use at this late date.
I read about the AG-1980 exhibiting the familiar "temporal artifact" as found in other vcr brand/models, and also in various types of software DNR filters. I believe the complexity of the artifact, the amount of it, is dependent on the content (motion speed in certain scene change and/or scene motion). For instance, in a sample clip from that image you see (I was too tired to upload last night) it showed very minute levels of that artifact. I will have to post that clip today, later. Perhaps untouched also. Color correcting vhs is difficult because different movies were mastered with poor color levels to begin with. I was actually considering the idea of mapping the sample clip to my dvd, but there is no filter (virtualdub or avisynth) that can do that. At least not yet. The idea (at least in my head) is to duplicate the dvd's "color level" (brightness, gain, gama, etc) and apply it to the vhs version but not specifically touching the pixel. I don't think this idea was ever thought of here until today, I am sharing that idea with you now. But again, I feel that vhs should be left alone, to keep the aesthetics intact, including the wrong color level if necessary.
Last edited by vhelp; 6th Oct 2016 at 12:53.
Originally Posted by vhelp;2461844I
You might be on the right track in trying a fan and perhaps ventilating the 1980 top cover a bit. The tougher, more durable AG1970 power supply partly poked out of the back panel a couple inches, surrounded by a ventilation cage. It doesn't get nearly as warm.
I did not feel anything hot around the AG-5710. The AG-1980 was sitting on top it, too, -> R1000 -> RX-34 -> D-R4. That's how I found out about the heat on the 1980 thouh not the 5710. I will have to double-check that. I have a 2nd 1980 unit but it is borked, suffering from the tape-eject syndrome like my JVC HR-S3910U. I need some racks or something to pile these on top so I can manipulate more efficiently.
I have an app that I was developing that aides in a few things like color levels during capturing. I need to incorporate the capture+levels function together in one app so that I can better tune the levels during capturing. I successfully do this but as separate apps. But for some reason I can't get the HVR-950Q's pro amp working under windows 7, they are completely greyed out. It only works in XP. I let the card install the driver through the M$ auto-driver install feature when I first connected the device for the first time. Maybe I should try the Hauppauge drivers instead. The 950Q does not work properly under XP. The hardware filter and frame sync fail and the image becomes distorted. The pic in post # 12 shows the frame sync in action. Not exactly a TBC but functions just like it on some vcrs that I tested it with. But this card seems to remove chroma noise better than any of my other cards. Another glitch on the 950Q is the delay length at startup and initial capture. Its a bit long, and audio becomes out of sync. Maybe it has something to do with the drivers.
I myself have been using commercial tapes, since they are what I want to archive to a media center, eventually.
I see TFE is super cheap on both VHS and FS/WS flipper-DVD so I'll import the US releases of that, if you can confirm that the VHS is MV-free.
Please do post a video sample from the AG-1980 when you get a chance. Preferably an EDIT sample.
Your comments on the HVR-950Q are intriguing. How does it handle more challenging material like EP mode TV recordings?
I must have some other discussion confused with this on that mgm piece.
As for the sample, I just did an encode of one and will see about uploading it tomorrow since I can't figure out how to add the sound at the moment.
The HVR-950Q is picky about the vcr and the tape. For instance, in using the TFE on my RCA VR-618HF, it was non-problematic. But when used in the ag-1980 (with tbc off) it had problems. Another example, my Jeeper Creepers tape is probably the worse macrovision tape ever, with that nasty flagging at the top, yet it didn't have the flagging with the 950Q. Note, I 'm not saying it is a macrovision-free card. I believe that the tracking on vcrs is probably part of the cause. But I will double-check these tomorrow, its very late here, past 1:30am
Sorry for the delay with your request. I had trouble with a tape that got stuck in the AG-1980 and finally managed to get it out. I had to open the unit to get it out.
Apparently, I forgot that I unplugged the unit, and when I went to insert a tape, it would not go in. Thinking I had to push hard, after several attempts it went in but that was all. And when I saw the plug on the floor, I realized why it wouldn't go in. Dahh! Anyway. That's when the real trouble began today, until about now when I got the tape out finally, but now when I insert any tapes it keeps ejecting it. Now I have to figure out what I did to the machine. I'll have a look at it some more, tomorrow.
Well, I have the cover off and am investigating the cause of the tape ejecting. The tape inserts, gets pulled up to the drum head and several seconds later it ejects the tape. I don't see anything broken or loose, so far.
But I did have a chance to look at my other AG-1980 that suffers the same symptom. And I can finally see where the problem is with that unit and the cause. The white plastic piece that connects to the pinch roller (right side of tape area) there is a very tiny piece, a clip-on or hook, that interlocks on the needle guide is broken. I compared it to the other 1980 and that is the cause of it ejecting, because there is no tension and the system senses this and ejects the tape. Now, I wonder if I can find that one piece, I could restore that unit and use it until I figure out what causing the eject on this latest unit.