Hi everyone, this was my first VH post, seeking [NTSC] VHS digitizing advice. I continued researching after posting it, and after trying to sort good info from rhetoric and hyperbole in several dozen doom9/AVS/dFAQ/VH threads, and reviewing the more scholarly literature linked at the bottom of this post, I've begun to update it (2019-08-23) for posterity.
1. VCRs: AG-1980 and what?.
So far unanswered: I'd like the ability to convert two tapes at a time but also maximize compatibility. So far I've bought an AG-1980. Should I get another AG-1980, or a non-Panasonic model for my second VCR?
2. TBCs: ES10?, ES15, and 3575.
- IMPORTANT: Per Lordsmurf, the oft-referenced dFAQ VCR Buying Guide is 15 years old and he no longer recommends some of the highly-recommended units there (e.g. JVC HR-S9*00U models with dynamic drum gears, which cannot be repaired).
Tom Grant via phone says Leitch TBCs are as good as an AVT-8710/DataVideo models. Lordsmurf recommends AVT-8710/DataVideo models and doesn't recommend Leitch. Interests disclosure: at time of posting, Tom Grant was selling Leitch gear and Lordsmurf was selling an AVT-8710. A couple notes:
I've personally concluded that the AVT-8710, DataVideo, and Leitch models are all obsolete and overpriced. The best DVD recorders in pass-through mode are the smarter option.⁷
- The AVT-8710 has been noted for sometimes overheating, levels running hot, dot-crawl, slight image brightening, and questionable (plastic) build quality.¹ ² ³
- The DataVideo TBC-1000/3000 has been noted for better build quality and staying cooler than the AVT-8710 and having four sets of outputs, while being a weaker TBC with sometimes soft, noisy, and/or offset image, and lacking a proc amp (the AVT-8710 has one). ⁴ ⁵ ⁶
- it's best to have a few TBCs; there's no single TBC that's the best for every tape, and "stronger" TBCs may cause more processing noise, softness, artifacts, etc.
- certain Panasonic DMR-ES** models replace a standalone TBC beautifully. By strength, ES10 > ES15 > ES25.⁸ (For perspective, also by strength, ES10 > AVT-8710.⁹)
- the Philips 3575 and related models are highly recommended¹⁰ and likely a great complement to a good ES10/15.
- so far unanswered: I bought one Philips 3576, and one ES15—because it was erroneously listed as an ES10. Should I return it the ES15 for an ES10, or are they different enough that it'd be worth keeping the ES15 and adding an ES10?
3. CAPTURE RIG: Win10, Magewell Pro Capture HDMI, Behringer UMC404HD?.
I bought one Magewell Pro Capture HDMI, and one Osprey 260e; looking back would probably get two Magewells instead (will be adding a lot more info and references here). Both work on modern operatings systems and are more professional-grade and feature-rich than the AIW and VC500 capture cards often recommended in forums—and less expensive than Aja models often recommended by heritage institutions (see links at bottom of this post).
With the help of the literature and various A/B comparisons and discussions posted at d9/AVSf/dFAQ/VH (too many to link for now), I've personally concluded that WinXP capture rigs are obsolete; XP-era systems are inefficient, non-secure (WinXP is EOL), and underpowered for real video work. That said, if you're on a budget and already have old hardware lying around, it could be useful and a lot has been written about it, so I'll try to condense some information here:
- AIW 7200/7500 seems to be a top recommendation; 9000 series interference issues noted. ¹¹ ¹²
- AIW > ATI 600 USB > VC500. Theatre 100/Rage and 200 chips are optimal. AIW has more accurate color, contrast, and audio (though Lordsmurf notes 9800 AIW audio as "wholly inferior, tinny junk."¹³ ¹⁴ ¹⁵
- AGP AIWs are best for compressed capture; PCIe cards require MMC 9.10+ which removed VideoSoap. PCIe cards also lack dropped frames counter.¹⁶ ¹⁷
- so far unanswered: is my Behringer UMC404HD interface a good solution for capturing VHS audio? It can accept a variety of inputs; would the ideal audio signal path be directly from VCR to its inputs?
4. EXTRAS: Proc amp worth it?.
So far unanswered: can a SignVideo Proc Amp (or similar recommendation), do anything I can't do in post production, in terms of color correction and clean capture? I plan to capture 720x480i Ut Codec digital masters (8 or 10-bit TBD) and have NeatVideo and a variety of video editing software. That said, I'm not sure if a dedicated proc amp might provide some SNR benefits?
I'll be buying BJC S-Video cables. Why? Because for less than the cost of one capture card, I'll be able to trust that all of my connections are solid. Details matter, and getting them right from the get-go saves time in the long run (no pun intended).
5. SOME LITERATURE.
Forums can be a unique source of up-to-date ideas, information, and innovations, espsecially for folks on a budget. However, there's also a wonderful variety of scholarly literature on this topic, freely (except the AES and ISO standards, which must be purchased) available from highly esteemed institutions who in many cases are dealing with content that is far more critical than that being handled by most of us. Here are a few resources I've found to be gold mines of information and expertise:
- AES49-2005(s2012): AES standard for audio preservation and restoration - Magnetic tape - Care and handling practices for extended usage (Audio Engineering Society)
- Basic Inspection Techniques To Sample The Condition of Magnetic Tape (Specs Bros)
- Digitization of VHS Video Tapes – Technical Bulletin 31 (Canadian Conservation Institute)
- Digitizing Thoreau (Worcester Polytechnic Institute)
- The Film Preservation Guide: The Basics for Archives, Libraries, and Museums (National Film Preservation Foundatio)
- Magnetic Tape Storage and Handling: A Guide for Libraries and Archives (Commission on Preservation and Access; National Media Lab) (alt link)
- Outliers: A Basic Guide to the Preservation of Analog Moving Image Collections in Non-Moving Image Archive (New York University)
- ISO 18933:2012 - Imaging materials — Magnetic tape — Care and handling practices for extended usage (Swedish Institute for Standards)
- The Preservation of Magnetic Tape Collections: A Perspective (National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Preservation and Access)
- Preservation of Nonpaper Materials (Gerald D. Gibson, Library of Congress)
- Processing Manual for Archival and Manuscript Collections (University of Massachusetts)
- TELEVISION AND VIDEO PRESERVATION: A Report on the Current State of American Televisionand Video Preservation (Library of Congress)
- Videotape Identification and Assessment Guide (Texas Commission on the Arts)
- Videotape Preservation Handbook (Jim Wheeler)
- Washington State Film Preservation Manual (Washington Preservation Initiative; University of Washington Libraries)
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Last edited by Tig_; 23rd Aug 2019 at 19:37.
Low-end JVC S-VHS 3600/3800/4600/4800 for budget deck, about $125.
TBC has nothing to do with recording mode, you misunderstood Orsetto (our friendly VH curmudgeon). But there are other TBCs from DataVideo/Cypress. That Leitch is craptastic, all broadcast rack-mount are with VHS sources. I've been saying this for many years, over a decade, before I ever started to sell a few TBCs (past 2-3 years).
Studio1/SignVideo is a nice proc amp. Just be sure it works smoothly without signal breakup when cranking knobs. Far too many abused units out there.
VC500 is hit-or-miss, weird reports of AGC issues (with samples), and I find it consistently dark with levels. Proceed carefully.
Win10 is a terrible capture OS. Updates break things, and it is constantly phoning home, which equates to dropped frames.
If I were you, Tig, I would also want a Panasonic DVD recorder for its analog grooming capabilities. (Search this forum for more information than you ever want to read.) Matsushita knows (knew?) from analog video and built some very strong circuitry to handle typical VHS irregularities. You really need to have a kit of about three different TBC-ish devices (including what may be built into the VCR) to handle all the weirdness you may encounter.
Analog procamp is useful only if you have uncalibrated equipment and need to adjust levels before you get to the A/D converter. Otherwise, you can use the procamp built into the converter if it's decent.
Some color errors can only be fixed in the analog domain, not post-capture.
More typical is analog pre-process of color via proc amp, and final grading in an NLE or specialty color tool.
@ls, thanks for the clarification. Happy to hear the TBC-1000/3000 would be fine regardless of mode, if I can find one.
Regardless of OS and hardware, the capture rig will not be on any network. Thanks for the heads-up!
Completely forgot I was going to ask about having an ES10/ES15 on hand. After reading this thread, where lordsmurf said they damage the video and a JVC D-VHS deck can provide the same benefits without that drawback. Since every electronic device in a signal chain causes some loss (which is why I plan to bypass any equipment not needed for a given tape), I took that to mean the ES1* is especially problematic in this regard. Am I interpreting that correctly?
You must disable Windows Update.
Even when offline, it still runs, eat s up massive amounts of RAM and CPU.
The D-VHS is also much weaker. So ... eh.
I use an ES10 and ES15 for a reason.
Orsetto isn't always accurate, though well meaning.
He refers to the TBC "cleaning up the image", which is the function the line TBC in the VCR, not the external frame. The external cleans the signal. And you need both.
(FYI: He also made some references to the TBC-100 being "cheap" and having "software controls". That's not at all accurate. The PCI TBC was not really cheaper at the time, and there are is no software. The PCI interface is inert, merely a holder for the card.)
BTW, my comments at the time, referring to AVT-8710, back in 2008, was partially a byproduct of my power grid. I've since migrated back to DataVideo, now using both. Both DataVideo and Cypress were well liked, but the AVT-8710 was slightly cheaper, and still more available (NOS green).
For what it's worth, I don't see anywhere in that post where orsetto suggested frame TBCs clean up the image (he specifically mentioned sync as a primary function); I think he just meant the TBC-100 was typically cheaper than the TBC-1000; and he doesn't appear to have been saying the TBC-100 specifically has software controls, just that some internal TBCs might.
I've now picked up an ES10 (locally—can return if bad caps), a 3576, and am wondering if something like a DR-M10 (or is there a better LSI chipset option?) would complement them. I'll forego the Leitch for now and add either a TBC-1000 or AVT-8710.
Also decided to forego the VC500 for now, and have bought an Osprey 260E. Might add a Magewell Pro Capture or a Kona LHe Plus to have some options.
Other than that, I still plan to get a 1980 and dual proc amp from TGP. Maybe a JVC 3600 as recommended by ls. I'm also really tempted by the HD2000U, but Tom Grant doesn't work on them, and this late in the game I'd rather have that safety net.
Going back to Windows 10, I thought about leaving this alone but…
Because a non-updated system is by definition not secure. That's fine if it's completely isolated from networks, external drives, etc., but I'll be transferring converted videos to other systems, and an unsecured system is vulnerable to ransomware etc. every time you do that. It might never happen to you, but that's luck, not good practice. If I was just burning DVDs from the capture rig it'd be different, but I'll be moving files via external drives.
So I'll keep Windows Update off while capturing, but still run manual updates. In case of problems, I'll make a turnkey system image to reinstall OS and apps to a known-good config from USB. That takes ~10min on the rig in question—quite a lot less hassle than typical malware recovery.
And hey, maybe this will be a complete disaster. Maybe I'm a complete idiot for thinking quality VHS capture can be performed outside of XP. Maybe all the Win10-hating rhetoric is completely accurate. Either way, I'll report back about my experiences and if the Win10 setup proves to be garbage, I'll set up a couple XP capture rigs. Actually, I'm considering doing that anyway, to have more options and a backup workflow, but also to provide a fair comparison of XP+AIW vs Win10+Aja/Magewell/Osprey capabilities.
Thank you JVRaines and lordsmurf!
LSI for recording tapes
3575 for recording off-air.
ES10/15 for anti-tearing, or half of TBC(ish)
Osprey is interested, respected card, one of the few items I've not toyed with.
I've seen Win8/10 hit 90% trying to connect online when offline, and just "doing stuff" in the background. Not just MS, but Intel drivers, etc. The OS has ADHD, won't settle itself down long enough to do a task. It goes insane if not connected to the 'net at all times, like anybody under 30 these days.
Do you think there's a better LSI-based option for me than the M10? I've been reviewing your much-appreciated list but that's a lot of models to search and compare haha—also not sure if there have been any particular developments (models that don't age well, etc.) since that was posted in 2009.
Just realized also that I missed something until now: you mentioned LSI "no longer appear to make video compression chipsets" (my emphasis). Do the useful characteristics of those recorders still apply in pass-through applications like my lossless, and PC-based capture process?
Edit to add that I've been reviewing the Best DVD Recorders | 2002-2014 in Review guide as well—just am not sure if the praise for the M10 outweighs the capacitor issues etc.
Last edited by Tig_; 16th Aug 2019 at 21:24.
LSI units do not have passthrough.
And BTW, nor does the Philips/Magnavox.
That is an ES10/15 specific function. Not a general feature on all recorders.
I want to update some of my guides.
LSI caps issues appears to have passed some. Those are not Panasonic VCRs, which seem to implode daily.
M10/100 are best of the LSIs.
I use win10 myself to capture, it certainly works, but I've had some issues with it. Try to disable as much background stuff as possible, many modern apps like to run stuff like auto-update and monitoring in the background taking up CPU and more importantly disk bandwidth. I've found think Win7 or XP to be better suited if you don't need network etc. I've found that increasing the process priority of Virtualdub can be helpful, put it at high or realtime when capturing.
I believe budget and S-VHS JVCs and panasonics from the same year usually shared most of the mechanism so for a cheaper alternative for a budget VCR that's an option. I don't know the model numberings for those for the NTSC models though.
Replacing the bad power supply caps in ES10/ES15 models is not too difficult with some soldering practice, though it seems there's some correlation between caps being bad and the input switching IC going bad resulting in some inputs/outputs not working.
At least on the PAL ones, both on LSI based recorders and the one Philips I have tested video does go through A/D D/A process, the output signal is re-created with new sync info, though often with macrovision and all the limitations of DVD-recorders. They don't have much line-correcting capability like the ES10s of course, but they don't do nothing either, and some of the Philips chips often used in them seem to be quite capable of handling unstable video.
@oln, what particular issues do you run into if you don't disable whatever background processes you reasonably can? I ask because I don't doubt for a second that it's necessary to get optimal results but would like to better understand where the bottlenecks may lie and the severity of their impact. You wonderful people are helping me anticipate numerous obstacles I otherwise wouldn't be able to troubleshoot until I was fully invested and I appreciate it.
I can handle some soldering. I'm going to go ahead, embrace Murphy, and assume I'm in for a lot of repairs…
Consider a VCR with line TBC (inside the VCR) it helps in most tapes, Here is two samples one with TBC/DNR on and one without, notice the chroma noise and edge wiggle is lower when it's on, Samples are raw converted to mp4 for demonstration purposes:
virtualdub can't write data fast enough and starts dropping frames.
As for pass-through on LSI DVRs, made some test captures, the LG one certainly seems to do something if you look at the videos. Doesn't have the same line-TBC as the panasonic though.
VCR -> (composite) -> VC500
VCR -> (Scart composite) -> LG (Philips/NXP SAA7137 A/D chip, LSI Chipset) -> (S-Video) -> VC500
LG RH188H and VC500.mp4
VCR -> (Scart composite) -> Panasonic (Panasonic A/D + chipset) -> (S-Video) -> VC500
Panasonic EH57 and VC500.mp4
VCR is a Hitachi VT-MX905EVPS, 90s simple 2-Head VCR
My JVC DR-M100 (TI TVP5150AM A/D chip + LSI chipset) also sends the video through the A/D -> D/A when passing video through it, though the TI chip isn't quite as capable as the Philips/NXP ones and not really any line tbc on that one either.
Thanks for the replies so far everyone. I've begun to update my original post to provide more info to future viewers. Meanwhile, there are a few questions I could still use some help answering (in blue in the original post). Namely:
- I'd like the ability to convert two tapes at a time but also maximize compatibility. So far I've bought an AG-1980. Should I get another AG-1980, or a non-Panasonic model for my second VCR?
- I bought one Philips 3576, and one ES15—because it was erroneously listed as an ES10. Should I return it the ES15 for an ES10, or are they different enough that it'd be worth keeping the ES15 and adding an ES10?
- Is my Behringer UMC404HD interface a good solution for capturing VHS audio? It can accept a variety of inputs; would the ideal audio signal path be directly from VCR to its inputs?
- Can a SignVideo Proc Amp (or similar recommendation), do anything I can't do in post production, in terms of color correction and clean capture? Not sure if a dedicated proc amp might provide some SNR benefits?