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  1. Member
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    Introduction
    Originally I posted this topic seeking advice on digitizing VHS tapes. Since then, I've continued to review discussions at doom9/AVS/dFAQ/VH and the publications at the bottom of this post. Much of the information found in forums is outdated or contentious, and I decided to leave this topic as a consolidation of the best information I've found as of 2019, for future readers.

    1. VCRs: AG-1980 and what?.
    Specific VCRs are generally not mentioned in academic publications, which simply recommend a playback device that is clean, properly aligned, and regularly maintained. Forum discussions place far greater emphasis on specific model recommendations, and an oft-cited guide can be found here.
    IMPORTANT: Per its author, this guide is outdated. For example, JVC VCRs with dynamic drum systems are no longer recommended, because those systems fail over time and can no longer be repaired or replaced. If you already own one of those models however, this workaround may help.
    One model that does still get top recommendations there, as well as from Tom Grant of TGP (which sells it and many other models) and many users of forums like this one, is the Panasonic AG-1980—not only for its generally professional features, TBC, and transport, but robust build quality. Because this model as well as parts and service for it continue to be offered by TGP, if you buy one you should be able to use it well into the future.

    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.
    Standalone Time Base Correctors are commonly recommended on this and other forums, but all of them are old, each model has issues, performance between units of the same model varies, and most are vastly overpriced on the current used market, while being no more effective than certain DVD recorders used in pass-through mode. Important notes:
    • get a variety of complementary TBCs; there's no single one that's the best for every tape
    • stronger isn't always better; "stronger" TBCs may introduce more artifacts, noise, and image degradation
    • the Philips 3575 and related models is highly recommended¹⁰ for its TBC capabilities as well as other functions
    • certain Panasonic DMR-ES** models are well-documented as providing excellent TBC characteristics. By strength, ES10 > ES15 > ES25. (similarly, ES10 > AVT-8710.)
    • 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?
    Outdated TBC Recommendations
    Commonly recommended on this and other forums, are standalone units like the AVToolbox AVT-8710 and DataVideo TBC-1000. TGrant Photo also recommends Leitch units. Notes:
    • 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).
    • Leitch TBC are not recommended in the dFAQ thread linked above, because they "expect studio sources."

    3. CAPTURE RIG: Win10, Magewell Pro Capture HDMI.
    Many heritage institutions recommend capture workstations utilizing Aja or BlackMagic capture cards. Aja makes professional-grade equipment which is competent for this work, but similar functionality can be had on a lower budget; and many posts in these forums have been encountered with BlackMagic capture equipment.

    The best capture card I've found is the Magewell Pro Capture HDMI. At time of writing, this card is compatible with current operating systems (up to Win10) and hardware, and has a unique combination of features and capabilities: 10-bit capture, built-in TBC capabilities, flexible color space and resize options, up to 32-bit audio, reliable drivers and software, and good support. The second-best card I've identified is the Osprey 260e (also see similar 400- and 800-series models), which has received good feedback on this forum, but lacks 10-bit capture, 24+bit audio, and equivalent TBC capabilities.
    Outdated Capture Recommendations
    Window XP based capture systems are still recommended by some, but XP is no longer updated and thus non-secure; additionally, XP-era hardware is inefficient, underpowered, and increasingly difficult to source the specific components often recommended for legacy capture systems. That said, legacy equipment designed in a more analog-oriented era can be useful, and much 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

    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 create 10-bit 4:4:4 720x480i Ut Codec masters for archival, then produce lossy, progressive restorations for viewing. Would a dedicated proc amp provide SNR or other 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. ACADEMIC PUBLICATIONS.
    This and related forums hold some valuable discussions and information, but are generally biased toward budget/hobby-level budgets and applications, and also contain a lot of misinformation and fluff. For those with more critical applications and standards, extensive literature on this topic is freely (except the AES and ISO standards) available from esteemed institutions:
    1. AES49-2005(s2012): AES standard for audio preservation and restoration - Magnetic tape - Care and handling practices for extended usage (Audio Engineering Society)
    2. Audiovisual Research Collections and their Preservation (Dietrich Schüller)
    3. Basic Inspection Techniques To Sample The Condition of Magnetic Tape (Specs Bros)
    4. Digital Migration Tools and Techniques (Timothy Vitale and Paul Messier)
    5. Digitization of VHS Video Tapes – Technical Bulletin 31 (Canadian Conservation Institute)
    6. Digitizing Video for Long-Term Preservation: An RFP Guide and Template (Barbara Goldsmith Preservation & Conservation Department)
    7. Disaster Recovery of Modern Information Carriers: Compact Discs, Magnetic Tapes, and Magnetic Disks (Canadian Conservation Institute)
    8. The Film Preservation Guide: The Basics for Archives, Libraries, and Museums (National Film Preservation Foundatio)
    9. Guidelines for the Creation of Digital Collections (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois)
    10. ISO 18933:2012 - Imaging materials — Magnetic tape — Care and handling practices for extended usage (Swedish Institute for Standards)
    11. Magnetic Tape Storage and Handling: A Guide for Libraries and Archives (Commission on Preservation and Access; National Media Lab) (alt link)
    12. Mould Prevention and Collection Recovery: Guidelines for Heritage Collections (Canadian Conservation Institute)
    13. The Preservation of Magnetic Tape Collections: A Perspective (National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Preservation and Access)
    14. Preservation of Nonpaper Materials (Gerald D. Gibson, Library of Congress)
    15. Remedies for Deteriorated or Damaged Modern Information Carriers (Canadian Conservation Institute)
    16. Preservation Self-Assessment Program (University of Illinois)
    17. Processing Manual for Archival and Manuscript Collections (University of Massachusetts)
    18. TELEVISION AND VIDEO PRESERVATION: A Report on the Current State of American Televisionand Video Preservation (Library of Congress)
    19. Videotape Identification and Assessment Guide (Texas Commission on the Arts)
    20. Videotape Preservation Handbook (Jim Wheeler)
    21. Washington State Film Preservation Manual (Washington Preservation Initiative; University of Washington Libraries)
    Last edited by Tig_; 26th Aug 2019 at 14:51.
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  2. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    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.
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    Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
    Win10 is a terrible capture OS. Updates break things, and it is constantly phoning home, which equates to dropped frames.
    Largely true, but you can always pull the network plug during critical sessions.

    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.
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    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.
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    @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?
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    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.
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    Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
    TBC has nothing to do with recording mode, you misunderstood Orsetto
    Revisiting this, what did orsetto mean?

    Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    The external DataVideo TBC-1000 doesn't do all that much for EP tapes
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    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).
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    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…

    Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
    You must disable Windows Update.
    No prob! However…

    Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
    Even when offline, it still runs, eats up massive amounts of RAM and CPU.
    Depending on how you define "massive," this is not a normal condition, nor is it endemic to Windows 10. Faulty drivers or an improperly configured system can cause memory leaks etc. in XP and 10 alike; but a competent user can maintain a known-good configuration in either OS—just disable updates and don't change anything. And why not—if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

    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!
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  10. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    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.
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    Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
    It goes insane if not connected to the 'net at all times, like anybody under 30 these days.
    Heh, don't get me started.

    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.
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    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.
    Last edited by lordsmurf; 17th Aug 2019 at 14:55. Reason: verb tense
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  13. 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.

    Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
    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.
    Do the LSI and Philips/Magnavox units you have used literally pass the signal unaltered?

    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.
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    Originally Posted by oln View Post
    Do the LSI and Philips/Magnavox units you have used literally pass the signal unaltered?
    Curious about this as well. But my guess is yes, because I'm daft enough to have assumed I could use all of those for pass-through and of course I screwed up haha. My intent all along was to capture solely to lossless digital masters on the Win10 rig; then provide those masters, along with more playable 264 transcodes and/or DVDs, to the folks for whom I'm doing this. I suppose I could split outputs (if this can be done via active splitters without degradation?), one to 3575 for a direct DVD burn, other to capture card—as opposed to creating the DVD from the master. Assuming I prioritize quality of the digital master, which can of course be used at any time to create a DVD, the direct DVD burn saves me time and ostensibly is of adequate quality for most people.

    @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…
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    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:
    Image Attached Files
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    Originally Posted by dellsam34 View Post
    Consider a VCR with line TBC
    The AG-1980 has TBC/DNR, no? Are you suggesting I should consider a different model?
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    Originally Posted by Tig_ View Post
    Originally Posted by dellsam34 View Post
    Consider a VCR with line TBC
    The AG-1980 has TBC/DNR, no? Are you suggesting I should consider a different model?
    No, If it does that's what you want, I was just trying to make sure you have that option. Also use S-Video cable whenever you can.
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  18. Originally Posted by Tig_ View Post
    @oln, what particular issues do you run into if you don't disable whatever background processes you reasonably can?
    It's more a precautionary thing really, main thing is to avoid other programs writing to the same HDD as one is capturing so 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
    vc500 raw.mp4
    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.
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    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:
    1. 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. 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. 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. 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?
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    Originally Posted by Tig_ View Post
    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?
    Some color issues can only be handled in the analog domain.
    Or, as is more often the case, pre-processed for later software correction.
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  21. Originally Posted by Tig_ View Post
    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.
    Yes, that is the correct interpretation. LordSmurf and I are usually angling toward similar thoughts, but he expresses them more succinctly and clearly. Which one might expect, as he's been doing VHS digital restoration work (professionally!) longer than anybody else I've met on forums.

    Re this current thread: more than ever, we're back in the wild wild west of "whatever works". If you can get fully operational examples of the top products recommended during the "Golden Age", and use those optimal workflows, great. If not, each of us has to make the best of whatever system we can pull together. The hardware availability is so scattershot now, any recommendations come with potentially significant reservations (esp for those on restricted budgets: i.e., TGP is not for the faint of heart or light of wallet). At this point, even the once no-brainer Panasonic ES-10 can have decayed cap problems that impact performance.
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    Congratulations ! Tig, with your exellent and comprehensive study of VHS/video capture ! this is indeed the correct story about it, only other critique will be in small details, and will be various, because no system is the same. (or could be in the VHS recording in the first place...)
    I am very happy with the (VHS/DVD recorder combo) DMR-ES35V and Intensity Shuttle (thunderbolt2) and a MacBook Pro (early2015) my captures over component RCA YUV 625p have no dropped frames, using SSD storage, i'm happy with it.
    Last edited by Eric-jan; 1st Sep 2019 at 06:51.
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