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  1. I have old home videos (originally recorded on video cassettes) that already been transcribed to DVDs with a DVD capture device. These have been stored into several VOB files per tape. When I probe one of the files with ffprobe, I get the following:

    Code:
    Input #0, mpeg, from 'VIDEO_TS/VTS_01_1.VOB':
      Duration: 00:13:33.61, start: 0.211411, bitrate: 4959 kb/s
        Stream #0:0[0x1bf]: Data: dvd_nav_packet
        Stream #0:1[0x80]: Audio: ac3, 48000 Hz, stereo, fltp, 256 kb/s
        Stream #0:2[0x1e0]: Video: mpeg2video (Main), yuv420p(tv, top first), 720x480 [SAR 8:9 DAR 4:3], Closed Captions, 29.97 fps, 29.97 tbr, 90k tbn, 59.94 tbc
        Side data:
          cpb: bitrate max/min/avg: 8000000/0/0 buffer size: 1835008 vbv_delay: N/A
    Unsupported codec with id 100357 for input stream 0
    I would like to convert these videos to a more common/future proof container & codec that would also be amenable to video editing at some point in the future. From the research I've done, it seems that converting to H.264 and storing in an MP4 containers seems to be the way to go. With this in mind, seeing as these videos were originally recorded on much older devices and have already been compressed once to MPEG2, I'm really trying to minimize any further compression or loss of quality.

    I've decided to go with Handbrake for this purpose, but now, to achieve my goal of retaining the most of the quality that I can, I'm a bit unsure of what settings I should use. I've found this blog that seems reasonable, but I wanted advice from you here on this. Please see the settings I've set so far below:

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    A few questions:
    • Should I set the RF lower, e.g. 12 instead of 18?
    • Should I set Tune to "Film" or "Grain" considering the video cassette origin of the video
    • Framerate: Same as Source or set to 30?
    • What encode level should I use? Is 4.0 suitable?
    • Should I use higher/lower Denoise & Deblock settings considering the video origin?

    Thanks ahead of time!
    Last edited by MatterMost; 1st Oct 2020 at 19:27.
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    If you want to re-edit them later, don't recode them into MP4. VOB is simply a type of MPEG (MPEG for DVD; "Video OBject"), and you'll retain all the quality by smart-rendering them from VOB to MPEG. I would use VideoRedo, but that is payware. There are probably many free programs that will "convert" VOB to MPEG.

    My understanding is that MPEG is very main-stream, and won't be going anywhere, any time soon.
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    An easy way to concatenate the content of a DVD Video Titleset to one continuous file is using PGCDemux to write a "PGC-VOB".

    Not converting video content is the best way to preserve the quality.
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  4. How would recommend then muxing them back together, and into what container?
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  5. A simple way: Use my clever FFmpeg-GUI, load your VOB, select Modify Video Stream, CRF 22, preset very fast, set the desired Aspect Ratio, click convert.
    Click on Multiplex, select your new created mkv video as video source, your original vob as audio source, select the target file, select mp4 as container, click on multiplex. Done
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    http://www.dvdvobtompg.com/

    I just gave it a test run; works well. Will join up VOBs or keep them separate (which would be handy if you have multiple movies on your disk). Did a 4gb DVD in around 8 minutes.
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  7. VOB2MPG hasn't been updated in years but it still works. It will the video and audio from a VOB container into an MPG (Mpeg program stream) container. No loss of quality, slightly smaller size due to lower overhead of the container.
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  8. Just to be a bit more specific, I'm operating under a Linux environment, and many of these programs are Windows only. Would there be any way of achieving this with Handbrake of ffmpeg?

    Also, referring back to the original post, if I was looking to convert to H.264 and MP4 - what settings would you recommend? (In reference to the bullet list of questions)
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  9. Originally Posted by MatterMost View Post
    A few questions:
    • Should I set the RF lower, e.g. 12 instead of 18?
    • Should I set Tune to "Film" or "Grain" considering the video cassette origin of the video
    • Framerate: Same as Source or set to 30?
    • What encode level should I use? Is 4.0 suitable?
    • Should I use higher/lower Denoise & Deblock settings considering the video origin?
    Thanks ahead of time!
    My 2 cents:
    1) for source 720x480 or similar: CRF 20
    2) no tune
    3) Framerate as source
    4) Level 4.0 high is fine
    5) no denoise or deblock.
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  10. Windows ffmpeg command line remux (linux will be similar):

    Code:
    ffmpeg -fflags +genpts -i input.vob -c copy output.mpg
    Command line to reencode to h.264+aac in mp4 container:

    Code:
    ffmpeg -i input.vob -c:v libx264 -preset slow -crf 12 -c:a aac output.mp4
    Last edited by jagabo; 2nd Oct 2020 at 11:08.
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    Just to be a bit more specific, I'm operating under a Linux environment
    Now you tell us!
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  12. VHS>DVD analog>digital transfers that are further converted to MP4 look like garbage, and the very last thing you want to do is edit that rotten MP4 re-conversion. So skip the Handbrake idea: you will never get anywhere close to an "un-degraded" transfer to MP4 with it. Handbrake etc VOB>H264 conversion works reasonably well if the source is pristine "clean" content like a Hollywood pressed dvd, or something you recorded from an off-air broadcast with a dvd recorder, but VHS > VOB > MP4 almost always looks disgusting.

    There comes a point in every Mac and Linux enthusiast's life when the reality of Windows dominance smacks the stuffing out of them, and it usually involves a video task like this. Converting DVD VOB files into standard, integrated, lossless MPG files is a trivial, easy-peasy task for several Windows utilities, but either impossible or a PITA with other platforms. Get yourself a cheap supplementary Windows computer, dedicate it to this conversion project, then dump it. It doesn't need to be powerful or recent at all: any laptop or compact desktop you can find for $100 second hand will do fine. I run VOB2MPG every day on circa 2010 Samsung and Gateway laptops running Win7.

    After repackaging from VOB container to the more flexible, conventional MPG, you can directly edit the original-quality MPG files with tools like MPEG Streamclip etc. The edited files will be lossless if you follow the prompts to edit only on key frames (with +- half-second accuracy). If you want frame accurate editing, use an editor that preserves original quality, limiting recodes to just the area around the edit points. After editing the original MPGs, you could try making H264 MP4 conversions to get smaller files easier to manage on portable devices- but you'll notice the quality hit for sure on any screen larger than a 2008 iPhone.

    A quick-n-dirty alternative that a lot of people here use is the MakeMKV utility. This works just like VOB2MPG, except instead of a plain MPG it repackages the VOB as MPG-within-MKV. This can be nifty for devices that seem to prefer MKV, but I've never found it as useful as many others here. For one, the MKV file is just as enormous as a plain MPG from VOB2MPG, but MKV isn't as easily edited, and perversely some devices and software players consider MPG in an MKV container to be an unholy abomination, so vomit all over themselves when dealing with it. Plain VOB > MPG file is never a problem.
    Last edited by orsetto; 2nd Oct 2020 at 11:29.
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  13. Originally Posted by ProWo View Post
    My 2 cents:
    1) for source 720x480 or similar: CRF 20
    2) no tune
    3) Framerate as source
    4) Level 4.0 high is fine
    5) no denoise or deblock.

    Thanks ProWo Is this because these feature will mostly have no effect? Or is it because they may ruin/degrade the clips?
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  14. Originally Posted by jagabo View Post
    Windows ffmpeg command line remux (linux will be similar):

    Code:
    ffmpeg -fflags +genpts -i input.vob -c copy output.mpg
    Command line to reencode to h.264+aac in mp4 container:

    Code:
    ffmpeg -i input.vob -c:v libx264 -preset slow -crf 12 -c:a aac output.mp4

    Thanks Jagabo - so the first command will simply repackage into MPG and therefore have the same affect as the VOB2MPG as recommended by orsetto?

    Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    I run VOB2MPG every day on circa 2010 Samsung and Gateway laptops running Win7.
    And for orsetto, so essentially the advice would be just convert to MPG for now and then eventually, when I choose to edit the clips, perhaps H264 + MP4 for longer term storage (or even H265 if that does indeed become omnipresent). I'm actually quite surprised that the MPEG2 to H264 conversion for these types of tapes is that terrible! Thanks for the heads up. I compared a sample such re-encode on my 13" laptop and didn't notice too much of a difference, but I will definitely be watching these on a large 4K TV in the future, so that's good to know to avoid that kind of mistake. I was hoping an RF (CF) factor of 15 would be sufficient to retain the quality, but good to know it would still significantly degrade the quality and is to be avoided at all costs.
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  15. Originally Posted by MatterMost View Post
    I would like to convert these videos to a more common/future proof container & codec that would also be amenable to video editing at some point in the future. From the research I've done, it seems that converting to H.264 and storing in an MP4 containers seems to be the way to go.
    This seems like a massive waste of time.

    Why?

    "Future proofing" implies that you won't be able to play VOB MPEG-2 files in the future. However, given that DVD was one of the five most successful consumer products of the last forty years, the massive amount of DVD material in everyone's homes means that you will be able to play the files on them until after your grandkids are dead. Yes, DVD players might become scarce in 20-30 years, but most ancient formats can easily still be played. As one example, I just transferred a large lot of 78 rpm records as part of a job I did for a Hollywood family. Also, I regularly transfer 16mm film dating back to the late 1920s.

    Here's an even more important reason not to do this work: the result will look worse than the original, not better. Converting to MP4 will degrade the video.

    So you might want to copy the DVDs to a hard drive (don't use SSD or flash), but that's as far as I'd go.

    So, you are doing this work based on flawed reasoning, and you are permanently degrading you video.

    My advice: find something else to do.
    Last edited by johnmeyer; 2nd Oct 2020 at 15:41.
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  16. Originally Posted by MatterMost View Post
    Originally Posted by jagabo View Post
    Windows ffmpeg command line remux (linux will be similar):

    Code:
    ffmpeg -fflags +genpts -i input.vob -c copy output.mpg
    Command line to reencode to h.264+aac in mp4 container:

    Code:
    ffmpeg -i input.vob -c:v libx264 -preset slow -crf 12 -c:a aac output.mp4
    Thanks Jagabo - so the first command will simply repackage into MPG and therefore have the same affect as the VOB2MPG as recommended by orsetto?
    Yes. Except in some cases where the IFO file is needed to properly parse the VOB. VOB2MPG will work properly with those, ffmpeg not. That probably won't be an issue with home made DVDs.
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  17. As johnmeyer said, unless you specifically need a much smaller sized file conversion to fit the limited local capacity of a portable device, there is no reason to "downconvert" your VHS>DVD archive to MP4. "Futureproofing" can be done by a simple, lossless repackaging of the videos from the chopped up, convoluted VOB structure (required by the Hollywood dvd standard) into the generic MPG format (where one movie or TV episode or wedding/event tape on the DVD = one MPG file instead of a bunch of discontinuous VOBs). While its true the physical optical DVD and BluRay formats are dying out, and drives/players for them will probably disappear in the next decade, the MPG file format is universal. As long as you have a copy of the DVD stored as a disc image or repackaged as MPG files on a hard drive or your cloud account, any future computer or media playback device should be able to play them, and the videos will outlive you.

    Originally Posted by MatterMost View Post
    And for orsetto, so essentially the advice would be just convert to MPG for now and then eventually, when I choose to edit the clips, perhaps H264 + MP4 for longer term storage (or even H265 if that does indeed become omnipresent).
    Not sure if I am reading this sentence correctly: it seems you might have got the wrong inference from my post above. Just to be certain we understand each other, I'll repeat it with different wording: you definitely do not want to edit these videos after conversion from VOB to H264 or H265. The best workflow for preservation of quality is to repackage the DVD VOBs as lossless (unchanged) MPG files. Once removed from their VOB containers and saved as conventional MPGs, there are many free tools you can use to edit those MPGs in their original untouched quality. When done editing, don't discard or erase the edited MPGs: save these as your backup "original masters". These edited MPGs are what you would use as the source files for any further H264 or H265 conversions you feel you need.

    IOW, convert VOBs to MPGs first (no loss from the original DVD quality), then edit the MPGs, and only after editing the MPGs would you do the lossy conversion to H264 or H265. Don't perform the lossy conversion to H264 first and then edit the MP4s: thats backwards (although of course possible).

    I'm actually quite surprised that the MPEG2 to H264 conversion for these types of tapes is that terrible! Thanks for the heads up. I compared a sample such re-encode on my 13" laptop and didn't notice too much of a difference, but I will definitely be watching these on a large 4K TV in the future, so that's good to know to avoid that kind of mistake.
    Perhaps I was a bit too emphatic about "terrible": as with all home video projects, "YMMV". If you happened to use an extremely high quality workflow to capture your VHS to DVD (top grade VCR with TBC/DNR, good external TBC, really good capture device, etc) and if your tapes are quite good to begin with, then sure: its possible converting the VOBs directly to H264 or H265 may result in satisfactory-looking MP4 files.

    In my experience, however, any attempt to convert the VHS VOB to any format other than a simple repackaging to MPG results in hideous quality loss. The issue seems to be the inherent yuck signal quality of even the best VHS tapes captured with the best hardware chain: the digital realm just doesn't take kindly to VHS as a source captured to VOB/DVD as the first step. The initial dvd (or MPG file conversion from its VOBs) can just about pass and look decent even on a fairly large HDTV. But the minute you try and re-code it to a smaller, more efficient, more versatile file like H264/MP4, the apparent quality drops like a stone. VOB/MPEG2 is kind of a funky format in itself, that does some funky things with VHS input. So a VHS based VOB/MPG has mediocre quality given the fairly large file size (often 4 GB for a two hour VHS).

    This is naturally frustrating today, when a mere 495mb H264 file of streamed movie can look pretty darned good at 1/10th the size of a dvd. Obviously it would be great if we could reformat our decade-old 4.37GB dvd captures of VHS to a 495mb MP4 to use on phones, tablets, personal cloud streaming, etc. But DVD captured from VHS has brick wall limitations that tend to prevent this: reducing the VOB size by 90% or even 50% to make a convenient MP4 just blows what little quality there was into the weeds. Usually, for me, and several people I know: it might be perfectly acceptable for you (maybe your tapes were just better, or whatever). No harm in trying some different Handbrake or ffmpeg settings to find out. But do try to avoid editing post-conversion from VOB to MP4 or MKV: do it in the MPG format, and save those original MPGs if you have enough storage space.

    The quality snafu that bites when converting VHS-based DVDs to MP4/MKV is one of the compelling reasons many here no longer use dvd recorders as their primary VHS digitizing device. Instead, they capture directly from VHS to their PC, in an enormous file size that lends itself much better to editing, adding effects, then reducing to a more reasonable MP4 or MKV file size. If you avoid the limitations of the DVD/VOB format at the start, you have much more freedom to make smaller files later. The counterargument being: a good dvd recorder is more user-friendly for the less geek-oriented among us, and if you're OK with "settling" for the DVD or MPG format with its size and quality specs, it can be the quickest easiest route to digitizing VHS (and just as archival or future-proofed as h264/x264/h265).
    Last edited by orsetto; 2nd Oct 2020 at 17:25.
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  18. Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    While its true the physical optical DVD and BluRay formats are dying out, and drives/players for them will probably disappear in the next decade ...
    I really do doubt that. The audio CD was introduced in 1982 and I purchased my first CD player (which is still running fine) in 1984. That is 36 years ago, or 1/3 of a century. There is no problem playing CDs because both DVD and most BD players can play them, and there is no problem finding CD (or CD/DVD) players, both standalone and ones that go into your computer.

    Some people may be influenced by the speed with which VHS players are disappearing. However, while that format was equally as ubiquitous as DVD, the players are the most complicated piece of technology ever introduced into the home, and are almost impossible to keep playing. By contrast, except for rubber belts in some DVD players, there really isn't anything to wear out. This especially true of DVD players that fit into computers because they do not contain power supplies. As an EE who repairs stuff, 95% of all failures in modern electronics is the power supply, because even good electrolytic capacitors get beat up in a switch mode power supply.
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  19. The timeline depends on what tea leaves you read, but physical media as a "thing" is dead. The wake may last another ten or twelve years, but doesn't really change matters. I don't particularly like this trend, because I prefer local actual media in my house to some ephemeral cloud or streaming source, but there's no fighting the tide. Last year several mfrs announced they were phasing out of the internal and external optical drive/burner business, and the feature is headed to the oblivion of floppy drives in new computers. There's still a number of universal standalone dvd/bd/cd players on the market, but not the wide choice of premium versions available previously: I don't expect much beyond some crap Funai WalMart special in six or seven years.

    IOW, disc hardware will be around, but not as a mainstream thing: you'll have to make an effort to acquire or replace it. Both TY and Verbatim have exited the quality blank media business: no telling the archival durability of the stuff thats left, or how long it will remain available. And of course Hollywood can't wait to dance on the grave of physical media: its been their dream ever since they got dragged against their will into VHS. They're giddy over streaming and their return to total control over content (for now , anyway: we'll see how happy they are when the inevitable shakeout hits them, and they realize consumers are not going to sign up for fourteen individual streaming services forever).

    So its not surprising people are thinking they need to "do something soon" about their disc material. Mfrs go where the youth market is: corporate storage has long since moved to the cloud and nobody cares what niche enthusiasts want. I love the reactions from millennials when they ask me for a video and I give it to them on a dvd-r instead of a memory stick: befuddlement by a remarkable percentage who literally don't know what the hell to do with a disc, or sneering contempt from those who do know, but feel its a PITA anachronism. I'm afraid CD, DVD and BD will never achieve the startling resurrection and chic that vinyl turntables did: vinyl is perceived as cool and vintage, optical disc is simply passe.

    I don't put much stock in the durability of optical players over VCRs. There are millions of sturdy mass-produced Panasonic VHS decks made in the mid to late 90s that still function perfectly (and will continue for another 20 years with careful use or simple repairs). DVD and CD players, not so much: the drives are just as complex and intricate a creation as a VHS transport, but completely disposable and non-repairable. Anyone who's suffered the sudden death of their irreplaceable DVD/HDD recorder will understand, as well as anyone who's doted on one of the really excellent premium CD players that became doorstops when Sony or Phillips ceased making replacement laser modules in 2010. Most of today's bd players are as filmsy as a dandelion in October: if it isn't the disc drive itself, other electronics go pffft (and nobody wants to repair surface mount, lead-free electronics anymore).
    Last edited by orsetto; 2nd Oct 2020 at 21:19.
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  20. Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    So its not surprising people are thinking they need to "do something soon" about their disc material.
    Yes, but the thing to do is simply copy it to a hard drive which, for the time being, offers the greatest liklihood of still being playable in the future. Solid state storage longevity tests do not bode well for having your stuff viewable in a few decades.

    Originally Posted by orsetto View Post
    I don't put much stock in the durability of optical players over VCRs. There are millions of sturdy mass-produced Panasonic VHS decks made in the mid to late 90s that still function perfectly (and will continue for another 20 years with careful use or simple repairs). DVD and CD players, not so much: the drives are just as complex and intricate a creation as a VHS transport, but completely disposable and non-repairable.
    Having repaired both, I can't agree with this. There are dozens of adjustments in a VHS transport. There are dozens of small rubber components and belts that degrade. The alignment is impossible to correct without specialized equipment. I've never failed to fix a DVD or CD player, but I've put lots of VHS decks into the recycling bin.
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  21. Originally Posted by johnmeyer View Post
    Having repaired both, I can't agree with this. There are dozens of adjustments in a VHS transport. There are dozens of small rubber components and belts that degrade. The alignment is impossible to correct without specialized equipment. I've never failed to fix a DVD or CD player, but I've put lots of VHS decks into the recycling bin.
    It depends on the particular example in either case: sure, some VHS issues are too difficult to be justify repair, but some optical player components are unavailable, period, full stop (some of the finest optical players ever made, which could have remained viable almost indefinitely, are now crippled because their replacement laser stocks are depleted).

    But those are the worst-case end of the spectrum. Best case, you're perfectly happy with whatever new disposable player/drive you can lay hands on today, and don't mind jumping to whatever random version replaces it until optical finally disappears from the market. VHS has more of a binary repair situation: the mechanism is either bulletproof and lasts forever with no or minimal servicing (a huge percentage of consumer models as long as they weren't abused) or a snakepit of a time-sink requiring specialized tools and skill to maintain (the top ten enthusiast models like Panasonic AG1980 or anything with a JVC nameplate).

    Just as there were CD players and CD players, there were VHS and VHS. The further up you go on the performance ladder, the higher your odds of it spending agonizing time and money in the shop and requiring some crazy-scarce part to reach peak performance. Many a mass-produced older CD player still works fine, while some of the awesome premium Denon, Nakamichi, and Sony ES are nail-biters just itching to die on you (if they haven't already, more than once). Probably half the non-descript Panasonic VCRs out there can be bounced down a flight of concrete stairs and still function perfectly, while the bi-polar, sadistic witches brew AG1980 will drive you to the poorhouse (assuming you can even find a competent tech within 500 miles of your city willing to work on it).

    Nobody is gonna waste time and money repairing something of average-good performance that is plentiful in good condition. It would be pointless to spend $$$ repairing a Panasonic 2560 or Mitsubishi 748 when nice clean examples or equivalents are fairly easy to find. Ditto your average CD or DVD player. But if you're the type who insists on "the best", you're gonna become well-acquainted with a couple specialist repair techs. This point seems to finally be sinking in with second-hand buyers: I've noticed a steady uptick lately in prices for "midrange" but reliable A/V gear, while the vastly more trouble-prone premium models have begun to plateau after years of rampant price escalation.
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    Originally Posted by johnmeyer View Post
    Having repaired both, I can't agree with this. There are dozens of adjustments in a VHS transport. There are dozens of small rubber components and belts that degrade. The alignment is impossible to correct without specialized equipment. I've never failed to fix a DVD or CD player, but I've put lots of VHS decks into the recycling bin.
    I've been known to adjust the height on the guides that hold the tape against the spinning head, on my JVC unit. Mostly for reading tapes that were either recorded on a misaligned machine or something else. All without a scope.
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