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  1. Member
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    Hi,

    I'm wondering if anyone can recommend a good and easy to use free video capturing software that is ideally suited for capturing video from a VHS recorder/tape, preferably for a laptop?.

    I have used Debut video capture in the past and it seemed to do the job, though the settings seem a little complicated. However, for some reason now Debut won't detect the signal from the capture device I have connected via USB from the VHS recorder (via a scart-composite cable) to the USB port on my laptop. I don't think it's an issue with the drivers because the device still works with the program that came with the USB capture device (which is Arcsoft Showbiz). I have tried other software mentioned on here, such as Captureflux, but that doesn't seem to work either. Wondering why I don't use the Arcsoft program? it's because when I capture tapes (home videos) that are of poor quality and contain alot of jumping, the software incorrectly detects what it thinks is copy protected material and stops recording.

    I have tried Debut capture on a newer laptop with the drivers installed, but Debut keeps displaying the "no valid capture device could be found" message. On launching Debut, it says "This is a demo version of Debut Video Capture software for evaluation use", but I heard that Debut is a freeware program.
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    What is the make and model of the capture device?

    It is necessary to have this information to make a recommendation. There are some capture devices which can only be used with software that has been modified/written to support them. There are also some capture devices which work with most capture software.
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  3. Member godai's Avatar
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    imo we have poor choices in this department.

    but also its important know what brand you have
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  4. Member DB83's Avatar
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    Actually, IMO, any capture program will behave in the manner you describe ie detect false macrovision since that is an issue with the recording or weak signal rather than the device/capture program.

    Also you might well be playing back these tapes not on the unit they were recorded on. Could they also be 'Long Play' tapes ?

    Probably a TBC between the VCR and the capture device would assist.
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    Yes the majority of the VHS tapes I am in the process of digitising were recording on a different VHS recorder than what I'm now using; the original player used I no longer have. But I don't think this would make much difference. The tapes I am converting were all recorded in SP mode, but I don't think being in LP rather than in SP would make any difference.

    Quite alot of the tapes are quite poor quality through ware and tear over the years and will often jitter or jump; some play better than others. Unless you have a really good player that can manually track the picture (enough so that the image is stabilized and not jumping all over the place), then it's very difficult to do anything about it. Some of the tapes start off fine, then gradually start to jump to a point where you can't tell what's on the screen. The player I'm using is a relatively modern VCR, which is a Sony RMT-V406 with an auto tracking system built in. As far as I know there is no way of manually tracking the picture.

    I'm using a Climaxdigital USB capture device.
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    Yes the majority of the VHS tapes I am in the process of digitising were recording on a different VHS recorder than what I'm now using; the original player used I no longer have. But I don't think this would make much difference. The tapes I am converting were all recorded in SP mode, but I don't think being in LP rather than in SP would make any difference.

    Quite alot of the tapes are quite poor quality through ware and tear over the years and will often jitter or jump; some play better than others. Unless you have a really good player that can manually track the picture (enough so that the image is stabilized and not jumping all over the place), then it's very difficult to do anything about it. Some of the tapes start off fine, then gradually start to jump to a point where you can't tell what's on the screen. The player I'm using is a relatively modern VCR, which is a Sony RMT-V406 with an auto tracking system built in. As far as I know there is no way of manually tracking the picture. I used other VCRs in the past that had manual tracking on them (which seemed to do a much better job), but I no longer have them.

    I'm using a Climaxdigital USB capture device. When I used Debut capture, the jumpy tapes made no difference to the recording and Debut never detected any problems regarding copy protection. It's just the program that came with the device (Arcsoft Showbiz) that had issues with copy protection, or rather it being tricked into thinking the tape I was using was copy protected.

    I have decided to try Virtualdub. It seems to work fairly good, but the image and sound seem rather poor compared to when I was using Arcsoft and Debut capture. It also looks as though it doesn't display the full image, even though the settings seem OK. I think the other problem with Virtualdub is that it only captures in avi.
    Last edited by technicality1; 2nd Nov 2016 at 15:59.
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  7. Member DB83's Avatar
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    I suggest also you manually inspect any tape at the point it starts to 'jump'. It might have acquired some 'teeth'.
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    There are people on here that will swear for capturing using vd. The issue is not the fact that it only captures as avi but what codecs you are using. So if you are using a lossy codec such as xvid with low settings you could end up with a poor recording.

    On the other hand, capture lossless with huffyuv or lagarith and you get a good quality (subject, of course, to your source material) recording. You then re-encode that lossless recording to a format that suits your required end result.
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    Originally Posted by technicality1 View Post
    Quite alot of the tapes are quite poor quality through ware and tear over the years and will often jitter or jump; some play better than others. Unless you have a really good player that can manually track the picture (enough so that the image is stabilized and not jumping all over the place), then it's very difficult to do anything about it. Some of the tapes start off fine, then gradually start to jump to a point where you can't tell what's on the screen. The player I'm using is a relatively modern VCR, which is a Sony RMT-V406 with an auto tracking system built in. As far as I know there is no way of manually tracking the picture.
    According to the manual, press PROGRAM + or - on the VCR to enter manual tracking mode. The instability you describe will likely need external timebase correction. Search this forum and you will find boatloads of advice on the topic.
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    Originally Posted by technicality1 View Post
    I'm using a Climaxdigital USB capture device.
    You are in luck. Your USB capture device sends uncompressed video to the computer it is connected to, which is then encoded by the computer using software. Normally there are at least a few free or paid capture programs able to work with such devices. If you had a capture device that encoded using a chip built into the device itself, and sent an already encoded video stream to the computer, you might be stuck using the software supplied with it. Many such devices only work with capture software written/modified to support them.

    The free capture software most often recommended here for devices like yours, Virtualdub and AmarecTV, capture to AVI files using third-party VFW encoders installed on your computer. Choices for VFW lossless encoders were already discussed. Lossless encoding produces very large files, about 25GB to 30GB per hour for 576i video, so you will need plenty of space on your HDD.

    If you want to capture directly to DVD-compatible MPEG-2, it is better to find paid software for that. Suitable good, free VFW MPEG-2 encoders that can work with Virtuladub or AmarecTV aren't available, and AVI was not designed to be used for MPEG-2 video. Most paid programs have free trials, so you can find out if they work before paying for the software.

    [Edit] Even if the capture software doesn't detect Macrovision, real or false Macrovision can affect the capture device itself by confusing its automatic gain control, causing the captured video to flash light and dark. If that is the case, then you may still need a Macrovision remover or a full-frame TBC.
    Last edited by usually_quiet; 2nd Nov 2016 at 23:44.
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  11. Originally Posted by usually_quiet View Post
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    Well who'd have guess unusually_childish would be the type to claim to be ignoring someone, then refer to them with every post? Anyone a little obsessed?
    How do you ignore someone while constantly referring to them? Comedy gold!
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    Thanks for the advice
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    I have done a capture test using Virtualdub. Tried the uncompressed file option (default setting), but was quite surprised after about 20 minutes of recording that the file size was huge, much more than I had expected, and I am aware that avi files take alot of file space. Luckily there were other options which allowed the file size to be much lower.

    The problem I had at the end of the recording was that the audio was out of sync - quite considerably and noticeably. Anyone know what could be causing this?. I then tried Arcsoft using the same VHS tape and the recorded audio was perfectly in sync.
    Last edited by technicality1; 4th Nov 2016 at 07:12.
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  14. Member DB83's Avatar
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    Methinks you might have confused Uncompressed (no one would suggest you do that without some form of raid array) and lossless.

    I thought there was a capture setting in vdub to atleast assist in audio sync. I read you are using a laptop so inevitably capturing at high bitrates to the same drive as the OS which will also be accessing the drive at the same time. That could be dropped frames and loss of audio sync without that setting.

    BTW what format does Arcsoft capture in ? Something lossy like mpeg2 or mp4(avc)
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    Originally Posted by DB83 View Post
    Methinks you might have confused Uncompressed (no one would suggest you do that without some form of raid array) and lossless.

    I thought there was a capture setting in vdub to atleast assist in audio sync. I read you are using a laptop so inevitably capturing at high bitrates to the same drive as the OS which will also be accessing the drive at the same time. That could be dropped frames and loss of audio sync without that setting.

    BTW what format does Arcsoft capture in ? Something lossy like mpeg2 or mp4(avc)
    I think I meant lossless. I was capturing to an external HDD, which currently has 818GB of free HD space. Yes Arcsoft captures in MPEG2 format. It sounds like it could be dropped frames as you say. There is a considerable amount of jerkiness and jumping from the VHS tape, so it's likely the audio has become out of sync from the video as it has been recording. But I don't think I ever experienced this issues when using Debut video, and there were alot of tapes that played the same.

    As I've mentioned previously, nothing really can be done to stabilize the video due to the tape (or parts of the tape) becoming jerky and jumpy.
    Last edited by technicality1; 4th Nov 2016 at 07:54.
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    Originally Posted by technicality1 View Post
    I have done a capture test using Virtualdub. Tried the uncompressed file option (default setting), but was quite surprised after about 20 minutes of recording that the file size was huge, much more than I had expected, and I am aware that avi files take alot of file space. Luckily there were other options which allowed the file size to be much lower.
    AVI is just a container. ...and yes you are correct that the type of encoding used for the video inside greatly affects the file size.

    Yes lossless encoders, like the ones recommended to you for use with Virtualdub, produce very large files. That is because no picture information is discarded when the video is compressed. (When losslessly encoded videos are decompressed, all the picture information from the uncompressed source is still there.) When used during capture, a lossless encoders helps to avoid dropped frames. Because less processing is needed for encoding it is easier for the CPU to keep up with the amount video information being fed to it. The large files produced by lossless encoding can be re-encoded to a smaller size using a lossy encoder after capture when the CPU has all the time it needs to process them.

    Lossy encoders like Xvid discard some picture information, which allows them to produce much smaller files as output, although the information lost during compression can never be restored. Lossy encoders require a faster CPU than lossless encoders, if used to capture video. Otherwise some frames are dropped when the CPU can't keep up.

    H.264/AVC can be lossy or lossless, but files which were losslessly encoded using H.264 produce files which are comparable in size to those produced using encoders that are strictly lossless.

    This advice about using Virtualdub (from jagabo, one of our most knowledgeable members) may help with frame drops and audio sync issues:

    Do not let VirtualDub play the audio while capturing: turn Audio -> Enable Audio Playback off.

    Do not compress the audio while capturing.

    Go to Capture -> Timing and turn off resync mode (set it to Do not resync...). Also try the other options there.
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    Thanks for advice there. There seems to be a cropping problem which cuts off sme of the top and bottom part of the image. I just noticed after I stopped capturing, the screen area wasn't cropped, yet before I started capturing some of the bottom and top of the image was cut off.
    Last edited by technicality1; 4th Nov 2016 at 14:00.
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    Could someone please tell me why is Virtualdub cropping the top and bottom half of the image when displaying a standard full-screen 4x3 image capture from my VHS recorder?. This happens both with the display window on preview and whilst recording. As far as I know nothing in the cropping or image format settings has been changed, everything is as it should. I did notice on one recording test a few days ago that the display screen was adjusted correctly (without even changing anything) for no apparent reason.

    Also, I have just done a 2 and a half hr capturing of a home video tape using the MPEG-4 video codec in the compressions setting, in order to reduce the file size. Despite it being 7GB in size, I still experienced the audio being out of sync. I am aware that using compression may cause some syncing issues due to either the bad tape or processing (to be honest I don't think my processor is an issue here, but I could be wrong). However, I do recall some time ago using the very same tape and capturing it using Debut capture. I'm sure I used MPEG4 on that occasion, but the audio doesn't appear to be out of sync.

    Would be greatful for any solution/advice.
    Last edited by technicality1; 10th Nov 2016 at 11:25.
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    Virtualdub is actually an editor and has many features, so it is a fairly complicated piece of software. Since I have little experience with Virtualdub, it would be better if someone else helped you. ...but I don't think you are going to get much help from someone else either unless you provide some information about the settings you are using, such as the resolution you have chosen and video system (PAL vs NTSC) for starters.

    It sounds like you would prefer to use Debut. Possibly Virtualdub isn't straightforward enough for you to use. Maybe you should try uninstalling and re-installing the drivers for your capture device to see if Debut can recognize your device afterwards. https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc725782(v=ws.11).aspx
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    OK, first of all, once I connected the Climaxdigital USB device from the VHS recorder to the laptop (scart to composite cables) and switched on the VCR, I then opened up Virtualdub. Once opened I then clicked on Capture AVI under File, which then brought up the preview display window. I then selected Video then Video source and made sure Composite was selected. Under Video "Overlay" was selected.

    I made sure no audio compression was used, as well as ensuring "Do not resync between audio and video streams" (as recommended) under the Capture-Timing tab was selected, then clicking OK. Next, I went to Video then Compression, and in the "Select video compression" window I chose "Microsoft MPEG-4 video codec V1" from the list, then clicked OK. Next I clicked File then Set capture file and naming the file stored on an external HDD. Once that was done, I then pressed Play on the VCR and selected Capture video. The resolution chosen (output size) is 320x240 using the PAL system.

    I have since launched Virtualdub, but this time the capture display window (which I previously mentioned seemed to crop off the top and bottom of the screen area) now displays video input fully. Why that is, even though nothing has been changed, I have no idea.

    Hope that is of any help. Thanks
    Last edited by technicality1; 10th Nov 2016 at 15:17.
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    Originally Posted by technicality1 View Post
    Also, I have just done a 2 and a half hr capturing of a home video tape using the MPEG-4 video codec in the compressions setting, in order to reduce the file size. Despite it being 7GB in size, I still experienced the audio being out of sync. I am aware that using compression may cause some syncing issues due to either the bad tape or processing (to be honest I don't think my processor is an issue here, but I could be wrong). However, I do recall some time ago using the very same tape and capturing it using Debut capture. I'm sure I used MPEG4 on that occasion, but the audio doesn't appear to be out of sync. Would be greatful for any solution/advice.
    I use VirtualDub for editing and audio sync adjustment, but for capture, I use AmaRecTV. I got tired of beating up the inscrutable, undocumented settings of VirtualDub and now my audio sync is perfect every time.
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    Originally Posted by technicality1 View Post
    The resolution chosen (output size) is 320x240 using the PAL system.
    Resolution should be 720x576 (for DVD) or 768x576 (for computer).
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    Why would I need to set the resolution to 720x576 when all I am doing is simply trying to capture an analogue video signal from a VHS player at 320?, unless I want the output resolution to be higher (which I don't), then I don't understand what you mean.

    Regarding Debut capture again. When I start up the programme, I immediately get a message that says "Debut Video Capture Software Demo", stating I have been using the demo version. Underneath it says, "use demo version free of charge: features will be restricted". Why does it state I am using a demo version, with restricted features, when Debut is supposed to be free?. If the Climaxdigital capture device drivers are the cause of Debut not being able to detect the signal from the VCR, then why doesn't Virtualdub have the same problem with same device if the drivers aren't working correctly or that the drivers need updating/re-installing?.

    I decided to try and use Virtualdub on my newer laptop (which is a Toshiba Satellite with an AMD A8 processor, 1TB of HD space, 8GB RAM, and a external HDD with around 800GB of free space. OS is Windows 7 64-bit. I installed the Arcsoft CD into the drive and installed the drivers. Then I connected the composite cable (scart to composite) with the capture device connected and turned on the VCR, I then installed Virtualdub and launched the software. However, when I go to the Capture AVI tab and go to Video then Video source, nothing is detected. Maybe the software isn't recommended for Windows 7.
    Last edited by technicality1; 11th Nov 2016 at 05:42.
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    I tried Amertec TV, but when I go to capture the video it says I need a codec, and directs me to a site.
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    But why should you wish to capture at such a small resolution ? Consider the final output or where it will be played. The smaller the frame = the worse possible picture.

    (you are probably thinking in terms of the number of broadcast lines of a VHS signal. I know there is a mpeg2 capture guide that states you capture at 320*240 but I do also believe that is for NTSC. PAL would require adjustment to 384*288)

    u_q is quoting the full broadcast PAL standard - 768*576 if you want to retain a 4:3 AR since 720*576 will give you 5:4 using vd unless there is a capture setting to set the AR at 4:3

    There are topics about Amarec on here. IIRC it does use a bespoke codec but can also capture using standard lagarith. Of course you would need that codec installed in order to use it.

    As for capturing with vd I am sure there are detailed guides about. Maybe some on this site. Have not done that for some time and do not have an appropriate capture device to try it out right now.
    Last edited by DB83; 11th Nov 2016 at 05:53.
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    Do you have an answer as to why Debut capture is displaying a demo version message on start-up?. I downloaded it through this site and it says it's free software. No mention of trial version or additional cost.
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    I can not speak about this site or any software downloads.

    However when you go to the official site >> http://www.nchsoftware.com/capture/ there are two links for the software. The filename is slightly different. The free one is appearently at the top of the page.
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    Thanks for that, but I don't think downloading it from Debut's site will make any difference. I can't understand (using my Toshiba laptop) why the drivers for the Arcsoft capture device doesn't seem to detect the device plugged into the USB ports. I have re-installed the software from the CD and the drivers appear to have been installed (they appear in device manager), but whatever programme you use (be it Virtualdub, VLC or Debut) in order to capture composite video from the connected VCR, nothing is detected. I don't think it could be a problem with the USB device because on my other (older laptop using Windows Vista) the device is detected and works fine. Unless I need to install the full CD not just the drivers, including the Arcsoft Showbiz programme (which in my situation is pointless as it will stop recording if it think's you are using a copy-protected tape), then I don't know why it doesn't work. Maybe on my newer, Windows 7 laptop the USB ports aren't functioning as they should.

    Note: In VD, I have set the format to 720x576 and a message appeared saying, "the capture device does not support to selected video format". It's just one problem after another. I think the Climaxdigital device is useless. I have tried updating the VCap301 drivers and it says they are up-to-date. Why isn't it working on a Windows 7 laptop?.
    Last edited by technicality1; 11th Nov 2016 at 08:40.
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    Well you are having one bad day after another

    As for installing a USB item, experience has taught me that you MUST follow the instructions to the letter. Many make the mistake of plugging the item in and then installing the drivers whereas the instructions dictate that drivers are installed BEFORE the device is plugged in. The device then looks for the drivers to load them accordingly. I am not suggesting that this is the case here but it has happened in the past. And a Win7 installation is invariably a little different to a XP one.
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    Originally Posted by technicality1 View Post
    Why would I need to set the resolution to 720x576 when all I am doing is simply trying to capture an analogue video signal from a VHS player at 320?, unless I want the output resolution to be higher (which I don't), then I don't understand what you mean.
    Using 320x240 as your resolution means you are capturing at 1/4 size standard definition resolution for NTSC. You have told us that you are capturing a PAL VHS tape. The equivalent PAL resolution is 384x288. The difference in resolution might account for the cropping seen in your captures.

    There is enough picture information in a VHS signal to support capturing at the resolutions I suggested. PAL VHS has 576 lines of useful picture information and NTSC VHS has 480 lines of useful picture information. While the equivalent digital resolution for PAL VHS is 335576 and 333480 for NTSC VHS, luckily it is possible to sample at any number in the horizontal dimension when digitizing analog video. (It is fortunate because compliance with common digital video standards requires using numbers for the horizontal dimension that don't match the equivalent digital resolution for VHS.)

    720x576 and 768x576 are the full-sized standard definition resolutions typically used for capturing PAL VHS tapes in 4:3 aspect ratio. (There is another as well, 704x576, but it isn't used as often.) 768x576 uses square pixels, while 704x576 and 720x576 do not. (The equivalent numbers for 4:3 NTSC are 704x480, 720x480, and 640x480, with 640x480 being used for square pixels.)

    It is also possible to capture every other line, and sample horizontally at half of one of the the full-sized picture widths to produce a picture that is 4:3 aspect ratio and 1/4 of the size of the maximum allowed for standard definition video. However, I don't understand why you would want such a low resolution picture when it is possible to do better. As already stated, 384x288 will look worse when displayed on a modern TV screen or computer monitor.

    Originally Posted by technicality1 View Post
    Note: In VD, I have set the format to 720x576 and a message appeared saying, "the capture device does not support to selected video format".
    I don't know what resolutions are available with your device, since I don't have one. Some capture devices don't support every capture resolution that a user would want, but if it can capture PAL video at all, 720x576 should be available, assuming that you are capturing PAL video.

    Sometimes the resolution options are limited by the video system (PAL/NTSC) selected in the settings. Various PAL or NTSC variants are usually listed. I know that the UK used PAL-I for broadcast TV, so use that if it is available.
    Last edited by usually_quiet; 11th Nov 2016 at 12:16.
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