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  1. Member
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    Hey all, first post.

    I thought I should take on the role in my family to digitise everything on tape! Fortunately Dad kept all his VHS/Cam devices and I have them here at my disposal. I've just started working my way through some VHS recordings.

    With my PC, Arcsoft capture software, a USB 2.0 capture device fed via S-Video from a Panasonic NV-HS900, I'm trying to capture these tapes. The captures are not too bad given their age, except they are randomly flickering like crazy, sometimes every second, others every 10-20. But it makes it unwatchable.

    I've tried another video and it does the same. I've also gone to Maplins and bought a headcleaner which hasn't done anything. I'm pretty sure it's not a tracking issue either. Any ideas (tiny sample to demonstrate...see at 2 seconds).

    https://youtu.be/QpuosX7cFwY

    https://youtu.be/yCfsrSa25RI

    What else can I do? Is it likely to be the capture device? I could attempt a passthru with my Sony TVR110E HandyCam (not that I know how to do that)!

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. Jon
    Last edited by jonboyuk; 4th Aug 2016 at 18:33.
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  2. Formerly 'vaporeon800' Brad's Avatar
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    Just looks like typical horizontal wiggle and then signal loss caused by lack of TBC & frame sync.

    Here is one of many threads that touches on this. The poster solved the issue by adding a Panasonic DMR-ES15 in passthrough.

    Capturing to DV via the TRV110E instead is one way to avoid this problem, if you are fine with the added compression. Apparently it can introduce a flicker as well, though.
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    Thanks Vaporeon, I've just had a go at passthrough and it mostly solved it. Sometimes louder audio clips a bit (as if it were bad tracking), but I can't really notice the compression and for some reason I have no flicker whatsoever (which makes no sense). Just wish I hadn't spent money on a USB 2.0 capture device now :/ I might capture the audio separately and realign them in my NLE.
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    Clipped audio is caused by too-high levels, not bad tracking. You need a pad or mixer to reduce audio levels on the way into the camcorder, which doesn't appear to have input level control. Clipped audio is as much a mistake as a flickering picture.
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    I'm pretty sure it's not that, only it makes the same sound when it plays to a TV via SCART, and ever when I listen to the VCR directly from the headphone out it makes the odd clippy/trackingy sound :/
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    Originally Posted by jonboyuk View Post
    I've just had a go at passthrough and it mostly solved it.
    I'm just getting into the rhythm of doing VHS -> Digital conversion to do the exact same you are, what do you mean by passthrough? I'm experiencing video/audio sync issues on 3 hour VHS tapes with a Diamon Multimedia VC500 USB converter so I'm looking to try resolve this.
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  7. "Passthru" just means connecting a standalone DVD recorder (or DV camcorder) between the line outputs of your VCR and the line inputs of your capture device. Since you are not actually using the DVD recorder (or camcorder) to record, just repair and stabilize the VCR signal en route to your capture device, the signal is "passing thru" the DVD recorder/camcorder.

    The concept is a bit strange to newcomers (and even some experts). We are used to hearing "oh, you need this specific sort of specialty device or pro hardware to fix this random problem." For whatever reason, VHS runs counter to accepted wisdom in many respects: sometimes the more elaborate the processing, the worse VHS gets. Unlike USB capture devices, most DVD recorders were designed with the assumption they would be used to digitize VHS, so they have a degree of circuit optimization to cope with VHS that is (counterintuitively) unavailable in lots of dedicated ancillary hardware. Passing your VCR output thru a DVD recorder can clear up a lot of otherwise- resistant issues (and in many cases eliminates the need to fool around with additional accessories). A number of DV camcorders offer similar analog signal smoothing, although people seem to report better luck using DVD recorders for this setup.

    Nearly any DVD recorder that still powers on will serve this purpose, even if the dvd drive is long dead (since you aren't burning DVDs with it). Some models have a stronger reputation than others: most recommended are the Panasonic ES-10 and ES-15, followed by nearly any other Panasonic. Other brands like Toshiba will be nearly as good, but performance varies. The only ones I've used that absolutely do NOT help with VHS passthru are the early pre-2005 JVCs and Pioneers. Later JVCs are decent at passthru and Pioneers made after 2004 are very good (check the date printed on the back panel). Look for DVD-only models: combo units with VHS or HDD built in tend to cost much more and aren't worth it if all you need is the passthru function. When evaluating camcorders for passthru, first thing to look for are analog line inputs/outputs: if the camcorder doesn't have that as a minimum, it won't be useful. Many video cameras use adapter cables that connect composite video and stereo audio thru a single 3.5mm phone jack. If in doubt, download the manual or look for model recommendations in related threads here.
    Last edited by orsetto; 6th Aug 2016 at 21:28.
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  8. Formerly 'vaporeon800' Brad's Avatar
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    The "passthrough" the OP did was actually analog -> DV via camcorder. Sony's term.
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    Thanks for the awesome info orsetto, apologies to OP for derailing his thread. I'll pick one of these up, searching so far in Kijiji and no luck but I'll see what I can find (unless you know anybody in Calgary, AB region with one of these )

    Edit: Would it make any difference if the source VHS player is PAL format but the pass-thru device is NTSC?
    Last edited by jcpro; 6th Aug 2016 at 18:39.
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  10. Formerly 'vaporeon800' Brad's Avatar
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    If the source is PAL, you need a passthrough device made in a PAL region.
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  11. Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    The "passthrough" the OP did was actually analog -> DV via camcorder. Sony's term.
    Oops. Kind of forgot which thread the post I was replying to was on: several others this week involved DVD recorder passthru. I'll revise my post accordingly.
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    So back to my question...(I jest, there's been some very useful information above to me too). What can I do about the audio which makes the sound make that tracking noise when it peaks? As I said, it's not clipping as it sounds this way on the TV via scart. I've tried cleaning the heads, but that's about it... The picture is stable by the way which is why I'm not sure if it's a tracking issue.
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  13. If the audio "clipping/tracking" distortion is present even when playing the tape directly from VCR to TV via SCART, there is pretty much nothing you can do to fix it: it is what it is, your original and only HiFi soundtrack. You could try switching the audio output of the VCR to Linear/Mono: this usually (but not always) gets rid of those distortions but at the price of lost stereo, constricted frequency response, and added hiss. If the clipping/tracking component disappears when you switch to linear audio track, your problem is that the HiFi tracks were indeed overloaded into clipping during the original recording. OTOH, if you hear the same distortions on the linear track, then the original source material had defective audio and both VCR audio systems are reproducing it faithfully.

    Let us know if switching to the linear track does or does not present the same clipping-tracking distortion. If it does not, there is a SMALL chance that trying a different brand/model of VCR might reduce the HiFi distortion (by tracking the HiFi audio from a slightly different pitch with a slightly different range of available tracking adjustment than your Panasonic). In my experience, 90% of tapes with really bad clipping-tracking distortion in the HiFi audio simply have poorly-recorded HiFi tracks that can't be salvaged: switching to a different VCR with known-excellent HiFi tracking can help a little, but the distortion is near impossible to eradicate. A couple of very rare JVC vcrs had a new audio system that could magically fix many HiFi audio distortions via dramatically-improved HiFi tracking and filtering circuits. These were the Japanese WVHS analog high-definition units, a few of which were imported by DiSH satellite service and "Americanized" (they are NTSC only, no PAL version was mfrd as they were never intended to leave Japan). A recent thread here discussing the professional JVC BR-S822DXU svhs deck revealed that it too had this uncommon ability to significantly reduce HiFi distortions. No idea if a PAL version exists.

    Note again, if BOTH the HiFi and linear audio tracks manifest the distortion, it is inherent in the source material, so trying other VCRs will not help at all, whatsoever. Only try other VCRs if the linear audio shows no sign of the clipping-tracking distortion. Another point of confusion is many people don't realize the video tracking and HiFi audio tracking are only loosely tied together: the tracking setting that shows the clearest. most perfect video is often the worst setting for the HiFi audio, and vice versa. VHS HiFi was a hot mess hackjob from the start: tape interchange compatibility among various VCRs is dismal, and a huge number of VCRs recorded their HiFi tracks so far off nominal spec as to be laughable. This is one area where the Betamax version of a feature was far more reliable and simple. JVC in its typical fussy fashion crafted a hideously overcomplicated solution in VHS HiFi- its never really worked the way it should have.
    Last edited by orsetto; 8th Aug 2016 at 21:34.
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