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  1. Greetings -

    I have some old videotapes from the 80s that I need to begin digitizing in about a week, I thought I would ask some questions ahead of time since I've never done this before.

    -The computer I'll use to do the work is a laptop dual core 1.9 cpu with 4 gigs ram, will this machine be sufficiently powerful for the capture work?

    -What's a good/user friendly software to do the video capturing?

    -What codec and resolution would I want to use for capturing? I will use no effects or filters for capturing, I just want to make digital files, not dvds.

    I bought one of those little converters for the job, it has a usb port on one end, and on the other end has the video and audio in ports.

    Any thoughts or advice is appreciated, I want to do this right, as the videotapes are of family etc.
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  2. Mod Neophyte Super Moderator redwudz's Avatar
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    Sep 2002
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    What is your VHS deck name and model?

    What is your VHS capture (Converter) device?

    I'm guessing you are using composite output from the VCR?

    For software, it depends on the software. I would use VirtualDub for capture if your device supports it.
    Otherwise, use the devices software.

    The better way is to use a Svideo output from your VCR and a TBC )Time Base Corrector) to help stabilize the video.
    But try it with what you have. You could also consider a commercial company to do the capturing/conversion.

    The capture codec may depend on your capture device, or your software. Many options. What do you want your
    final output format to be?

    I would rather capture in in lossless format, but with a laptop, probably not enough hard drive space.

    But other members may give better advice.

    And welcome to our forums.
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  3. Red - thanks for the reply and the welcome.

    -The VCR is just some sanyo 4-head, it should do the job fine I think. It doesn't have an s-video output.

    -I'll use this as the converter hardware:

    -I'll be using an external hard-drive for storage, so space isn't an issue. I'll capture uncompressed if possible?

    -Final output format doesn't matter, it's just going to be stored on the hard-disk in digital format.

    Thanks again
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  4. If you are under time and budget constraints, be aware these generic USB video dongles are notoriously buggy and difficult to troubleshoot. This TOTMC version is getting pretty dismal 50/50 average reviews on Amazon (50% say it don't work, 50% like it). Not odds I'd want to play if I were in a hurry. Note even some good reviews mention the thing drops frames or blacks out frequently: this can only be cured by connecting a dvd recorder or TBC between your VCR and the video dongle. Since either unit will run you at least 5x what the TOTMC cost, any perceived "bargain" goes out the window (you may as well just use a dvd recorder instead).

    We are in the waning days of anyone still wanting to digitize their old VHS tapes: almost everyone interested in doing this ran to do it twelve years ago as soon as PC video accessories and DVD recorders became affordable. As customer demand flatlined the last couple years, the choice of good hardware has evaporated, leaving almost nothing but these cheap no-name USB devices. Some work really well, most don't, and it can be almost impossible to find a good one. Getting decent capture software to even recognize them can be an ordeal, especially the audio input.

    The only USB capture dongles left on the market with a solid rep are the genuine EZcap (difficult to find or overpriced) and the Hauppauge USB Live 2 (also pricey, and a somewhat love/hate device). The I-o DATA GV-USB2 is another option, but again at least $40 and picky about software. With any of these, or your TOTMC, it may or may not be possible to hit the ground running and plunge right into reliable VHS capture. Luck and your tolerance for grungy results will dictate how things pan out. I know people who have never gotten a USB video device to work at all, others who are very happy with captures I would consider unwatchable sub-youTube garbage (and I'm not that picky), and a couple who did all right. If you have less than a dozen tapes, you may want to consider just dropping them off at CostCo and having them do it for you: the results won't be top-notch, but they'll beat many of the dysfunctional USB devices available on Amazon.

    Of course if you aren't in a great rush, and don't mind a learning curve (or the strong possibility you'll need to add a second-hand dvd recorder or TBC to get usable captures), trying a couple USB dongles could be worth the effort.
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  5. orsetto thanks for the reply, it's about 30 tapes, I'd thought to do it over the course of a couple months, so no big rush.

    is my dual-core 1.9 cpu and 4 gigs ram sufficient to the task? also, what software do you recommend for the job?

    I had planned to capture uncompressed, I don't know what resolution and codec to use.

    Thanks guys for the help, glad i'm working this out ahead of time
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  6. I'm still at the exploration stage with these USB dongles myself, chilly_willy1, so cannot help regarding codecs and software. Most of my hundreds of VHS captures have been done directly to DVD/HDD recorders or older-type video boards that were housed inside PCs, with their proprietary software. "Uncompressed" VHS capture has advantages and disadvantages, depending on the quality of the tapes, whether you intend to post-process them, and how you expect to deploy the video files in future. If you have any intention of sharing these files with other people, you will likely need to convert the uncompressed captures to a smaller, more portable file format like mp4 or mkv (unless those people don't mind filling up their hard drives with the huge uncompressed, unedited files).

    Very little of my 3000+ VHS collection is what I would call "priceless" enough to justify uncompressed capture, storage, restoration, and conversion. The few family 'videos' I have are transfers from 8mm film: so marginal to begin with, there's no point whatever in uncompressed capture or trying to make them look better. This is where the two schools of thought on VHS capture diverge utterly. Some of us feel the innate quality limitations of our VHS when viewed on modern LCD screens doesn't merit tying ourselves into knots pursuing some fantasy of great quality: VHS is what it is, and what it is usually looks mediocre on anything but an old-school Trinitron TV screen. Others fiercely promote the "garbage in, garbage out" philosophy: they staunchly insist on uncompressed capture, restoration attempts, and learning arcane software that would drive Average Joe or Jane into an Oxycontin addiction.

    Back when I started, I quickly came to the realization that standing on my head spending 12 hours fiddling per hour of PC-captured video would net me results not appreciably better (often worse) than I got with a good DVD/HDD recorder. Most of my VHS collection was taped from analog cable TV between 1981 and 1999: VHS from analog cable is so plagued by signal defects that PC capture was an endless struggle. Ten years ago, standalone high-end DVD/HDD recorders were much more compatible with such tapes than PC solutions: it was an order of magnitude easier and quicker to capture and edit with them. So that's the primary route I took (despite the compromises of DVD format vs independent files). Today, the landscape has shifted again: standalone premium recorders with HDD are no longer available (and second-hand units are typically on their last legs). A few of the recent PC capture options adopted the more VHS-amenable circuitry of the better dvd recorders, making PC capture less onerous. The trick is finding the right combination of hardware and software: run a forum search for "VHS Capture" and study the recent ones that specifically mention a USB input device.

    Ironically, a dvd recorder is still often required as a "signal conditioner" connected between VCR and PC input (the dvd recorder doesn't need to be fully functional as a recorder, it just needs to power on). Good as the brand-name USB dongles may have become, they still lack some of the VHS signal correction circuits that were common in dvd recorders. Some tapes require those circuits to achieve decent results.
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