My father just retired and has decided to digitize all the family VHS tapes. I wanted him to do some kind of capture method, maybe like using VirtualDub and converting to YouTube-friendly format as seen in this HowTo video (maybe not that specific method, but something like that...). However, he has a DVD recorder, and he is planning to convert the VHS tapes to DVD by connecting his VHS player to his DVD recorder. Then, he says, if I want to convert it to another format later*, I can do that from the DVDs.
My intuition is that VHS-to-DVD-to-PC-hard-drive capture is going to result in some loss of quality that can't be regained compared with a straight VHS-to-PC-hard-drive capture. However, I don't know that for sure, and I know basically nothing about video formats and video in general. So, I've got 2 questions:
(1) Can someone Explain to me Like I'm a 5-year-old whether there would be any difference between VHS-PC capture and VHS-DVD-PC capture, and, if yes, what would the difference be?
(2) If my father goes ahead and converts all the VHS tapes to DVD discs, is it likely to damage or degrade the VHS tapes in a way that makes it difficult for me to do a straight VHS-to-PC capture at some point in the future?
( *We live really, really far apart, so me digitizing the VHS tapes for him right now is impossible.)
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1. Yes there would be a difference, and it usually is noticeable to most people.
Note, however, that there are multiple ways to go VHS->PC, some great, some soso, some crappy.
Going VHS->DVD isn't optimal, but is consistent in its averageness.
Ripping said DVD to files is lossless, so gives you same quality as DVD. However, most people don't want to continue messing with dvd files (vob, mpg), so they convert it, as you mentioned. For consumer-playable formats that always generates further loss of quality. Beware newbies who refer to ripping + converting as ripping, their recommendations are missing this IMPORTANT detail.
2. Since vhs is an analog tape format, every time you use the tape - to play, record, etc - it gets a little bit worse. Running one pass to create dvds usually wouldn't make a noticeable difference, though.
Caveat - NOT using the tape, just storing it, will also degrade the tape, but barring extreme conditions this would take much much longer.
What you more likely will have to worry about in the future is WHAT TO PLAY IT ON? Vcrs also do not last forever.
Thank you very much, Scott, for your reply.
I think I understand you, but I would just like to confirm...
VirtualDub to make watchable/uploadable .mp4 or .mov video files, then those video files will be lower quality than video files produced from a well-done direct VHS-to-PC capture, even though copying the DVDs to hard drive doesn't involve any analog output/input and is lossless.
The thing I was thinking about making the DVDs is that the DVD recorder might do a poor job of converting the analog input. For example, the HowTo video I mentioned above talks about having to set a 29.97 frame rate for capture rather than the default 30.00 in order to avoid dropped frames in the capture. I was thinking that DVD recorders might ignore issues like that, and that's how you could lose quality using a DVD as an intermediary. Am I on the right track with that way of thinking, or is the loss in quality you are talking about coming from something else?
Thanks again for your help.
As I stated, the VHS->PC chain can take many personalities.
The below could be considered an ROUGH rule of thumb...
Discarding HD for now, on an SD scale of quality from 1-to-10, where DigiBeta (10bit component) is a 9 or 10, BetacamSP an 8 1/2, VHS is normally AT BEST a 5-6. That is when using rock-solid frames (so no frame drops) by utilizing both line & frame TBCs, and that is capturing via S-Video to uncompressed/lossless 10bit, possibly even using a median of multiple captures. On average, it is a 4, but can be as bad as 1 or 2 (think EZ-crap straight to badly compressed formats from later gen LP/EP tapes).
VHS->DVD is a 3-4.
Recompression from DVD will lose you anywhere from 1/2-to-2 points, depending on options/settings/codec choices.
So if you wanted to do it your reasonable best, you'd capture using a good quality dedicated card that supports S-Video connections, a recognized good quality VHS playback deck with S-Video connections & switchable lineTBC and DNR, a recognized good quality fullframe TBC with S-Video connections, and software that works with the card that allows for 8 or 10bit uncompressed/lossless as your saved capture format. That's what most here would recommend.
That'll likely get you a 5. Then if you want to show it using a standard consumer distribution format (e.g. an h264+aac in mp4 format), you would re-compress using known good methods and lose only 1/2 a point, giving you a 4 1/2.
If you don't have time for that now, you could go with DVD first, get your 3 1/2, and when it comes time to recompress you might lose only 1/2 a point there also (partly due to the fact that the DVD already removed certain kinds of material that is hard to compress). So now you end up with a 3 vs. the 4 1/2.
You were right about the first assumptions.
Do not confuse the framerate difference (29.97 vs. 30) with frame drop issues. They are almost always NOT related, unless one is completely screwing things up.
Remember this: true NTSC video is always 29.97, often even when it is advertised as 30. The only things that consistently create true 30p video are some webcams & phones, and computer-generated sequences (edit: and contrarian dickheads). Capture cards that accept "30" are probably accepting 29.97 in actuality - with the exception being cards that support input from computer sources that output 30p. Those cards are conspicuous in that they give you the option of 29.97 vs. 30. (Choose 29.97)
As relates to frame drops, 29.97 is only 1/1001 different from 30, and almost ALL modern devices can track that difference in speed without losing frames, even if set wrong. You may have to modify the speed & metadata afterward to fix it, but you wouldn't have lost anything.
What makes capture systems drop frames is either 1) the inability of the capture/storage subsystem to keep up with the incoming data (rare except with underpowered/overburdened machines or if capping uncompressed data to slow busses), or 2) UNSTABLE incoming signals. Hence the need for TBCs.
DVD recorders have an incoming frame storage buffer which have a few of the properties of a TBC (but never the full extent), so sometimes they can weather signals with straight cap cards cannot. But on the whole, DVD recorders can and do also have issues with unstable signals.
How those tapes were stored and what quality tape brand/formulation they are (I was always partial to the high end Fuji) often determines overall longevity. For some 30 years is a mild deterioration (and you could do a couple of passes now and a couple more in a few years). For others, it would already be too late.
My guess is, it wouldn't HURT to do a DVD recorder pass right now, just so you know you have a backup in the can. But then work toward getting a proper setup so that you can do a golden pass sooner rather than later.
Last edited by Cornucopia; 12th May 2020 at 20:20.
Cornucopia hit the main points on the head. Here are a few additional points.
1. Any advice the video you [linked to] you goes down [the] credibility drain with the description: "This tutorial will teach you how avoid the most common mistake people make when trying to convert VHS/videotape to digital video -- and all it takes is a $20 piece of hardware and free software" and showing an Easy Capture and Dazzle capture device. Two of the worst and problematic capture devices as discussed in multiple threads here. Highly advise forgetting anything you saw there and stay away from the multiple YouTube videos in the similar vein. Stay away from YouTube videos and other tutorials that promise easy video capture. Truth is, "The best possible quality" isn't easy, cheap or quick. More on this below.
2. MP4 and MOV are containers, not formats. Both can contain the MPEG-2 format files you would get from your DVD copy. However, many devices may not properly playback an MPEG-2 in these containers, instead expecting videos in the MPEG-4 Part 14 or H264 codec.
3. Read this recent thread, particularly lordsmurf's comments and the links I gave (written by lordsmurf) for an understanding of what it requires [and costs in money and time] to begin to get "The best possible quality" out of your tapes.
Last edited by lingyi; 13th May 2020 at 21:26. Reason: Additional info
Is the intent to share the videos on YouTube? YouTube uploads can be just about any video format since they reencode ALL uploads (losing quality).
What is the purpose of converting the file to another format? for sharing? Editing? Space savings?
As Cornucopia stated, the video from a DVD recorder can be converted losslessy to an .mpg (just need to remux the .vob to .mpg). Which is, with the exception of some specialized media players (including those in Smart HDTVs) and some game consoles, the most universally playable format.
While not ideal, .mpg somewhat editable as an intermediary format versus formats like H264 and MPEG-2 Part 14 which are primarily intended for viewing only. If you do any type of editing other than just straight cuts, you'll have to reencode, resulting in some quality loss.
While conversion of an .mpg to a modern format can reduce the file size significantly, storage space is at it's lowest cost point ever. A 1 hour, best quality recorded DVD will cost $0.25 for the blank and hard drive storage cost will be less then 1/2 that. Even capturing lossless at ~30GB/hour will cost <$2 of hard drive storage. Less than the cost of the original VHS tape.
Edit: My apologies for coming across as harsh. Not saying this is you, but I fail to understand people saving a few dollars on what may be a one time opportunity to preserve their precious videos. No matter how the videos are captured, be sure to keep the original captures as they are. Use the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy. 3 digital copies, 2 on different media/storage (e.g. Cloud), 1 kept offsite.
Last edited by lingyi; 12th May 2020 at 20:16.