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  1. Member
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    Hello! Few days ago I came across old family VHS-C tapes and since I had enough equipment, I decided to enter into the world of digitization.

    I spent a lot of time documenting myself on the subject and now I have a proper workflow setup with satisfying results.

    I want to get the best capture quality possible (according to my budget) out of these little precious pieces of memories but according to what I've read on the subject, it turns out that the equipment I'm using is pretty bad...

    Here is my current equipment:
    • VHS-C tapes recorded with a Panasonic NV-S7E camcorder
    • VHS-C adapter
    • Pinnacle Dazzle DVC100 Rev.1.1
    • AKAI VS-G745SEG-N VCR
    • Toshiba V644EF VCR
    I still have the Panasonic camcorder (it has S-Video output), but playback is really unstable, sometimes it is even unwatchable due to flickering and audio output is broken, no sound at all.

    Connections:



    On the software capture side, everything's ok, I'm capturing lossless HuffYUV compressed AVI (PAL 720x576 25fps YUY2 colorspace) using VirtualDub. Here are captures from both VCRs, camcorder S-Video and camcorder RCA: https://gofile.io/?c=tuboFV

    I've seen alot of people saying Dazzle is crap so I decided to buy an ATI All-In-Wonder card, I found the 2006 PCI Express edition (new with all accessories) which I should receive in a few weeks. I know it requires Windows XP, no problem with that. I hope that the capture quality difference with my Dazzle will be noticeable.

    I've also read that a good VCR is required for best capture quality but the prices are very high (I can go up to $100), so I'm wondering if buying a broken one and trying to repair it myself by watching tutorials and asking for help in forums is a good idea? My electronic knowledge is very very basic and I don't know anything about VCR internals but I'm not afraid to dig into it.

    I'm also wondering, isn't it overkill to get a S-VHS VCR for playing non S-VHS tapes?

    Regarding external TBCs, prices are crazy, I'm not considering this option at all.

    Any tips/tricks/advices/[...] to improve capture quality are welcome, thanks!
    Last edited by dagatil; 4th Apr 2020 at 11:09.
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  2. Formerly 'vaporeon800' Brad's Avatar
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    Thank you for trimming the samples so that they all contain the same fragment of video. This is extremely rare for first-time posters.

    All 4 captures have many problems. They are worse than the tape would look played directly to a properly-calibrated TV. Your goal should be to get a capture that looks as good as VCR → TV. Afterwards, you can post-process it to improve upon this baseline, if you care to spend the time on that.

    The Toshiba sample has the fewest clipped brights. I brought it into approx 16-235 range and then attempted to match the others to these levels.

    For some reason the Panasonic cam is blanking the chroma on the right edge of the screen.

    Image
    [Attachment 52591 - Click to enlarge]


    Image
    [Attachment 52592 - Click to enlarge]


    Image
    [Attachment 52593 - Click to enlarge]


    Image
    [Attachment 52594 - Click to enlarge]



    Originally Posted by dagatil View Post
    Regarding external TBCs, prices are crazy, I'm not considering this option at all.
    Buy a used PAL DVD recorder model that people have recommended on these forums in the past. Supposedly the PAL Panasonic DMR-ES10 offers the most powerful correction circuitry of their DVD recorder selection, but others are good enough for tapes with "normal" levels of timebase variation.

    I've also read that a good VCR is required for best capture quality
    Naturally; obtaining great capture quality begins with using a VCR that outputs great quality.

    I'm also wondering, isn't it overkill to get a S-VHS VCR for [playing] non S-VHS tapes?
    (I fixed your question.) The answer is no, it isn't overkill. If I had heeded the advice on these forums back in 2002 instead of believing what the "expert" salesman at the store told me, I'd have bought a shiny new S-VHS machine for playback then instead of having to track down used models years later.

    the prices are very high (I can go up to $100), so I'm wondering if buying a broken one and trying to repair it myself by watching tutorials and asking for help in forums is a good idea? My electronic knowledge is very very basic and I don't know anything about VCR internals but I'm not afraid to dig into it.
    Even people with a lot of electro/mechanical knowledge & VCR-specific experience can encounter mystifying problems, so that really seems like an uphill battle to me. And you mentioned issues with your camcorder, but didn't mention any attempt to fix it...

    You don't have a location listed in your profile, but I assume from your perfect English and presence of SCART connector that you're in the UK. (I'd have said Australia for use of $ but SCART is scarce there.) For what it's worth, I believe the sellers offering the most PAL S-VHS models are in Germany and concentrate on selling through eBay.de.
    Last edited by Brad; 3rd Apr 2020 at 23:42. Reason: Added screenshots & further thoughts on the samples
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  3. Member dellsam34's Avatar
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    Don't the European VCR's with SCART output have Y/C output in the pinout?
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  4. Formerly 'vaporeon800' Brad's Avatar
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    Nope, only Euro S-VHS VCRs have the menu option to change the SCART output to Y/C instead of CVBS. (S-Video luma shares the same pin as composite video.) SCART was first standardized before S-Video was a thing.

    Originally Posted by Wikipedia
    Pin 7
    RGB Blue up
    S-Video C down[a]
    Component PB up[b]

    Pin 15
    RGB Red up
    S-Video C up
    Component PR up[b]

    Pin 19
    Composite video output
    S-Video Y output

    Pin 20
    Composite video input
    S-Video Y input

    There is no switching signal to indicate S-Video. Some TVs can auto-detect the presence of the S-Video signal but more commonly the S-Video input needs to be manually selected.
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    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    All 4 captures have many problems. They are worse than the tape would look played directly to a properly-calibrated TV. Your goal should be to get a capture that looks as good as VCR → TV. Afterwards, you can post-process it to improve upon this baseline, if you care to spend the time on that.
    Thanks for reviewing them, now I want even more to be able to do quality captures!
    Yes I care about post-processing and I know that I have to learn about it, but first I want to be sure that my captures are great.

    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    The Toshiba sample has the fewest clipped brights. I brought it into approx 16-235 range and then attempted to match the others to these levels.
    I don't think it's related but the Toshiba VCR has configurable sharpness which goes from 1 to 16, I kept the default value which is 9. Also the AKAI VCR has a setting called "BSP", I don't what that means (and I don't have the manual) but it was disabled while capturing. Sorry for being newbish but I barely understand the meaning of the pictures you attached.

    The top text after the Dazzle model mention looks like AviSynth function calls. I've learned about the existence of this software few days ago and I know that once I'll have good captures, I'll have to use it with QTGMC to de-interlace them and apply other filters. I'm also comfortable with programming/scripting semantics, which I suppose, will help me during the post-processing part.

    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    For some reason the Panasonic cam is blanking the chroma on the right edge of the screen.
    I also noticed that but I doubt it is fixable? The Panasonic NV-S7E camcorder supports S-VHS-C but all my tapes are VHS-C only, maybe that's the reason?

    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    Even people with a lot of electro/mechanical knowledge & VCR-specific experience can encounter mystifying problems, so that really seems like an uphill battle to me. And you mentioned issues with your camcorder, but didn't mention any attempt to fix it...
    Haha you're right but I thought a good VCR would give better results than the camcorder, am I wrong? Maybe I should post a new thread in the camcorders section. From what I've read, I should start first by cleaning heads (never did it before) but I doubt that it will solve the sound issue.

    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    You don't have a location listed in your profile, but I assume from your perfect English and presence of SCART connector that you're in the UK. (I'd have said Australia for use of $ but SCART is scarce there.) For what it's worth, I believe the sellers offering the most PAL S-VHS models are in Germany and concentrate on selling through eBay.de.
    Thanks for this information, I'll look more frequently on eBay.de, also, thanks for complimenting my English but your guess is wrong! I'm from France, I used "$" because I thought it was more common here.

    So the possible solutions according to my budget are:
    • Repair the camcorder + find a used PAL Panasonic DMR-ES10 or similar
    • Find an used S-VHS VCR (used) from lordsmurf's buying guide and have some luck with the price
    Any thoughts about the ATI All-In-Wonder vs Dazzle capture quality? I hope it will be noticeable (if anyone is interested I could provide capture samples to compare).

    Thanks again for your reply!
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  6. Formerly 'vaporeon800' Brad's Avatar
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    France eh? You mentioned that the Dazzle is set to capture PAL. Hopefully you don't have any SECAM-L tapes. If all of the tapes you want to digitize were recorded on this same camcorder, you need not worry.

    To be honest, I think you will be disappointed by the difference between Dazzle & AIW for VHS capture. If you were capturing a higher-resolution source, you'd be more likely to see differences that pop out at you.*

    I was a fan of the AIW cards in the 2000s era they were being sold. I only captured using ATI products until 2010. But Lordsmurf has sort of curated a cult around certain hardware, in my opinion exaggerating the variation in capture quality for stabilized VHS.* And like most of us in N. America, I believe he has NTSC tunnel vision when it comes to evaluating capture devices. I've seen many PAL ATI samples posted on the forums that show Hanover Bars while the same source fed to another device is clean.

    https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/329016-2001-2010-my-capture-cards-comparison-screenshots (NTSC)
    https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/360704-2013-my-video-capture-device-comparison-screenshots (NTSC)
    https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/376945-Conventional-analog-capture-workflow-vs-alt...ods-comparison (PAL)

    The AIW adds additional complexity and another possible source of A/V desync because you need to use a separate sound card, which will be running on its own clock. Motherboard audio is usually not good enough. The Dazzle simplifies things by combining the two functions. You may be able to capture AIW video + Dazzle audio in VirtualDub instead of using a sound card; I forget if there is a way to do that in one run.


    * My statements only apply when you feed fully TBC'd video via S-Video & "calibrate" the Proc Amp controls of each device to match. Lordsmurf has recently said that one of the reasons he recommends the AIWs is that they generally produce good color and luma levels with their default Proc Amp settings, while other devices he's tried require expert-level tweaking to reach similar performance. That's a fair statement. Meanwhile, a lot of devices diverge when it comes to their ability to handle unstabilized consumer videotape. And they also vary greatly when fed composite, because of the wide range of comb filter algorithms on the market.

    EDIT: For what it's worth, the DVC100 (at least one version of it) uses SAA7115 as the video decoder chip. It samples at 9-bit 27MHz, claims "Automatic VCR detection and optimization", and dates back to at least 2001.
    Last edited by Brad; 4th Apr 2020 at 16:51. Reason: Forgot to note Hanover Bars thing. And added DVC100 chip note.
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  7. Originally Posted by dagatil View Post
    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    The Toshiba sample has the fewest clipped brights. I brought it into approx 16-235 range and then attempted to match the others to these levels.
    I don't think it's related but the Toshiba VCR has configurable sharpness which goes from 1 to 16, I kept the default value which is 9. Also the AKAI VCR has a setting called "BSP", I don't what that means (and I don't have the manual) but it was disabled while capturing. Sorry for being newbish but I barely understand the meaning of the pictures you attached.
    It's not related to those functions, you would want to lower contrast and/or brigtness in the capture settings in virtualdub, the histogram function can be used to help adjustment.

    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    For some reason the Panasonic cam is blanking the chroma on the right edge of the screen.
    I also noticed that but I doubt it is fixable? The Panasonic NV-S7E camcorder supports S-VHS-C but all my tapes are VHS-C only, maybe that's the reason?
    [/QUOTE]

    I don't know, but it seems to be a common thing on PAL camcorders, I've seen this sort of chroma issue on the right edge on many VHS tapes that have been recorded on camcorders. The newer Sony 8mm camcorders do something similar on playback. On a normal CRT TV this would normally be outside the viewable picture so maybe the engineers making these devices didn't spend too much time on solving it.

    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    EDIT: For what it's worth, the DVC100 (at least one version of it) uses SAA7115 as the video decoder chip. It samples at 9-bit 27MHz, claims "Automatic VCR detection and optimization", and dates back to at least 2001.
    If it's an older one (as these chips have been discontinued I think), it's probably a SAA7113 like other similar dongles with the same chipset use. I think they just used the same variable for all of them. The SAA7115 was used in some nvidia VIVO cards I think, but haven't seen them in USB dongles. Some manufacturers have changed the internals of capture cards without renaming though so it could be something different too I guess.

    While the AIW cards may have nicer image quality from a stable source, the dazzle may actually be better at handling a signal directly from a VCR as the SAA71xx chips some of the better ones at not loosing track of the video if it's unstable. I think you would see the biggest improvement with passing the video through one of the suggested DVD-recorder models as mentioned, as they will stabilize horizontal wiggling.
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  8. Formerly 'vaporeon800' Brad's Avatar
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    Yeah, I was thinking that it was probably really SAA7113 and the Linux driver simply used a generic all-encompassing naming; choosing to call it 7115 rather than 711x for some reason. I do see that there's a main Linux SAA7115 driver with description "Philips SAA7111/SAA7113/SAA7114/SAA7115/SAA7118 video decoder driver" -- but my understanding is that the main generic driver can't access these USB devices because the USB bridge (EM28xx) is what actually communicates from PC to video chip.

    What do you mean by "same variable for all"?

    Originally Posted by oln View Post
    While the AIW cards may have nicer image quality from a stable source, the dazzle may actually be better at handling a signal directly from a VCR as the SAA71xx chips some of the better ones at not loosing track of the video if it's unstable. I think you would see the biggest improvement with passing the video through one of the suggested DVD-recorder models as mentioned, as they will stabilize horizontal wiggling.
    Agreed 100%.
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    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    I believe he has NTSC tunnel vision when it comes to evaluating capture devices.
    Nope. My PAL experiences = lots of TBCs, lots of capture cards, many VCRs (hard to import), some DVD recorders (hardest to import).

    I've always been very PAL literate, as my hobby took me into VHS PAL collecting back in the 90s. And not just retail tapes, but homemade recordings from friends. (For example, Smurfs S7-S9 was only shown in Australia, never North America or English-speaking Europe -- and still isn't! So I had somebody record it for me. And it was since replaced by the now-rare/expensive official DVD set. Those tapes are some of my favorite test tapes!)

    A lot of my studio work was also PAL, and I dealt with Europe and Asia quite a bit.

    I've seen many PAL ATI samples posted on the forums that show Hanover Bars while the same source fed to another device is clean.
    Yep. But I see lots of capture issues, period. NTSC or PAL. NTSC AIW has it's own issues to deal with, as do all capture cards.

    The AIW adds additional complexity and another possible source of A/V desync because you need to use a separate sound card, which will be running on its own clock. Motherboard audio is usually not good enough.
    The clock issue hasn't been an issue for probably 15 years. Amusingly, the ATI clock utility is always wrong, as it doesn't understand "modern" (2005-2010!) audio cards. And you shouldn't be getting just any audio card anyway. Pair the AIW with the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz.

    The Dazzle simplifies things by combining the two functions.
    Simple, but not really quality. The issue with most "combo" (audio+video) capture cards is tinny, distortions, and too-loud (and non-adjustable) input levels. There's more bad cards than good, also noting those "combo" cards are usually USB. Even the best Hauppauge PCI cards weren't awesome at audio, just decent. (I actually don't have complaints about the ADVC audio, but the video is craptasticly compressed.)

    Meanwhile, a lot of devices diverge when it comes to their ability to handle unstabilized consumer videotape.
    Diverge? More like get confused, give up, cry.

    EDIT: For what it's worth, the DVC100 (at least one version of it) uses SAA7115 as the video decoder chip. It samples at 9-bit 27MHz, claims "Automatic VCR detection and optimization", and dates back to at least 2001.
    It's not the worst card (not total crap like an EZcap), but equally not recommended. The bigger issue is it had so many variations, both visible (revisions) and mid-production changes. These cards had a long life, at least a decade or more.

    "Automatic VCR detection and optimization" is marketing nonsense.
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  10. Formerly 'vaporeon800' Brad's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
    The AIW adds additional complexity and another possible source of A/V desync because you need to use a separate sound card, which will be running on its own clock. Motherboard audio is usually not good enough.
    The clock issue hasn't been an issue for probably 15 years. Amusingly, the ATI clock utility is always wrong, as it doesn't understand "modern" (2005-2010!) audio cards. And you shouldn't be getting just any audio card anyway. Pair the AIW with the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz.
    That's partly what I meant. Was the TBSC sold worldwide?

    Meanwhile, a lot of devices diverge when it comes to their ability to handle unstabilized consumer videotape.
    Diverge? More like get confused, give up, cry.
    I searched the Smilie List to respond with, and this one caught my eye:

    They aren't common, but a few capture cards are in the same league as external TBCs.

    The bigger issue is it had so many variations, both visible (revisions) and mid-production changes. These cards had a long life, at least a decade or more.
    Thought so.

    "Automatic VCR detection and optimization" is marketing nonsense.
    Mostly, but not entirely. The document also mentions that the auto-detection switches between TV & VCR modes. It should be similar to this manual adjustment of SAA7133 HSync Modes with special WinXP applications: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVWTt873h_U

    The longer (slower) "TV Mode" HSync timing allowed for better sync handling from noisy analog tuner input, while the shorter (faster) modes are required to display VHS at all. It's still not anywhere near the level of stability offered by line TBC, though.
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    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    France eh? You mentioned that the Dazzle is set to capture PAL. Hopefully you don't have any SECAM-L tapes. If all of the tapes you want to digitize were recorded on this same camcorder, you need not worry.
    They were, worries avoided! Anyway both of my VCRs and Dazzle has SECAM support (in case your weren't talking about playing them on the camcorder).

    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    To be honest, I think you will be disappointed by the difference between Dazzle & AIW for VHS capture. If you were capturing a higher-resolution source, you'd be more likely to see differences that pop out at you.*
    Oh... I hope to see some improvements even if they're not very obvious.

    Originally Posted by vaporeon800 View Post
    The AIW adds additional complexity and another possible source of A/V desync because you need to use a separate sound card, which will be running on its own clock. Motherboard audio is usually not good enough. The Dazzle simplifies things by combining the two functions. You may be able to capture AIW video + Dazzle audio in VirtualDub instead of using a sound card; I forget if there is a way to do that in one run.
    I'm almost sure there is since we can choose audio and video sources separately in VirtualDub.

    Originally Posted by oln View Post
    It's not related to those functions, you would want to lower contrast and/or brigtness in the capture settings in virtualdub, the histogram function can be used to help adjustment.
    Yes I know the settings window you're talking about but I thought it was better to keep default settings for providing captures, however, I never used the histogram function, I'll have to learn how (if you have a recommended tutorial on this subject I'm interested!), thanks. Is there something else I should be aware of before capturing?

    Originally Posted by oln View Post
    I don't know, but it seems to be a common thing on PAL camcorders, I've seen this sort of chroma issue on the right edge on many VHS tapes that have been recorded on camcorders. The newer Sony 8mm camcorders do something similar on playback. On a normal CRT TV this would normally be outside the viewable picture so maybe the engineers making these devices didn't spend too much time on solving it.
    That's why I might not consider the repairing camcorder option at all, when I play VHS-C tapes with the VCR the colors are still there, I feel like it's loosing its integrity.

    Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
    The clock issue hasn't been an issue for probably 15 years. Amusingly, the ATI clock utility is always wrong, as it doesn't understand "modern" (2005-2010!) audio cards. And you shouldn't be getting just any audio card anyway. Pair the AIW with the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz.
    Thanks for this advice, just bought one here for a few bucks!

    Now I need to make a choice:
    • Try to repair my camcorder + buy DMR-ES10
    • Buy and try to repair a recommended quality VCR with included TBC
    • Use my current VCRs + buy DMR-ES10
    Also, I might have found a JVC VCR from the holy list (a bold one!), dysfunctional of course, it goes off when a VHS tape is inserted and ejects it, is this a common and easily fixable issue? Thanks!
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  12. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by dagatil View Post
    Also, I might have found a JVC VCR from the holy list (a bold one!), dysfunctional of course, it goes off when a VHS tape is inserted and ejects it, is this a common and easily fixable issue? Thanks!
    It depends on exact model, and exact symptoms. With one model, what you describe could be a DD that needs a nudge. With another, the unit is fubar and needs major repairs.

    That same link is on a site with a video hardware repair subforum. Post about it.
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