I volunteer at a Dutch public observatory, mostly concerning myself with digitizing their archive consisting of reel to reel audio tapes, slides, 8/16mm film and news papers.
This month, one of the other volunteers has done an interesting discovery at his basement: A Philips N1700 VCR with a ton of VC cassettes. He recorded these at the time.
[Attachment 55946 - Click to enlarge]
[Attachment 55947 - Click to enlarge]
This collection is interesting because it contains early 80s home recordings of Dutch, Belgium and German broadcasts related to space exploration during this time. Including the Space Shuttle, Soyuz, Voyager probes and other such projects.
Very fitting for the observatory archives and YouTube channels. A project I am really looking forward to digitizing...
Currently I have not yet looked at the items in person, though I hope to soon.
Here are some things I am going to check out and expecting to see:
1. Condition of the tapes, has the binder remained intact, the base flexible. Is there mold, dust or dirt inside?
2. Is the VCR in functioning condition? What is the condition of the video and audio heads?
3. How to go about digitizing the tapes in the best achievable quality?
I do not know in what condition the tapes and VCR were stored. Hopefully in a good, consistent climate...
As for the VCR, in all likelihood, the belts have perished, the tape path needs cleaning, mechanism needs relubrication and deteriorated components need to be replaced. I believe as long as the audio, video heads and motors that drive all the mechanisms are good, repair by component replacement is possible.
That brings us to the digitization process. I do have a little experience with capturing VHS tapes, but not much.
I do not have a capture card with analog RF TV input, which is what the N1700 outputs.
Are there any cards you can recommend? I would prefer something that uses PCI-E, so I can put it in my modern PC.
What are the opinions on the Hauppauge WinTV HVR-5525HD? I already have a Hauppauge USB2 with S-video, so it would work with the WinTV software I already have installed, a plus!
With tapes and equipment this old, is a TBC importand for good quality captures? What are good starter-units?
Any idea what TV signal format this VCR outputs? What should I capture the signal as? Recommended resolutions? and is it interlaced
Eventually these films will be put on my YT channel, and perhaps we can find something for them at the observatory.
Thanks a bunch
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Last edited by Dutchsteammachine; 22nd Nov 2020 at 16:31.
Walk before running.
Inspect the tapes, inspect the deck. Then get back to me.
Capture card and TBC need careful planning here, not random advice. Something like this is too important.
You can add composite out to the unit as demonstrated in this video:
Alternatively, if you are in the UK you can send the tapes to him and he will transfer them for you, He is an old school though still using DV for capturing but you can ask him to use lossless AVI I'm pretty sure he a way to do it.
Will take this step by step and keep the topic updated.
These tapes have the potential to contain material that has not been archived officially. I am going to get a bunch of known good tapes elsewhere that I can use for testing, 'scratch' tapes.
When the recorder works and doesn't damage the scratch tapes, I will try with one of the space tapes (:
The owner brought the VCR and tapes. Together with a reel to reel audio tape and a small flatscreen TV monitor with analog in. Useful, because I don't have a TV with analog RF in. Flatscreen TV seems pretty old, with component and composite in also. Hopefull it works.
VCL tapes all look good. Clean and shiny. No dust, dirt or mold inside any of them.
Two belts have gotten hard, replaced them, one to the video head and one to the capstan. Counter belt seemed to still be OK, it counts so....
Video head looks clean, heads still shiny. Cleaned them carefully with a chamois swab. Left a few streaks on the swab but that was it.
Audio head looks slightly corroded, some green/blue spots on the front. Should be able to polish this off carefully.
A clean machine overall, mechanism and electronics.
First power on, clock works so at least those electronics and the PSU works.
Without a tape it seems to sound OK. No inconsistent whirring or strange noises. Everything appears to work as it should.
Tried one of the tapes I got already for testing purposes. The VCR opens the cassette up at the front and right parts.
Wraps front tape around the drum. Top reels turns a bit to give slack for tape wrap up. So far so good...
Pressing play pushes the pinch roller on the right against the capstan with the tape in-between, and the tape starts spooling on the top reel consistently. No weird noises, tape seems to run through the mechanism and around the head with ease. Audio head also gets pushed against the tape.
Connected the RF out to the flatscreen TV and set the TV to search through the entire Mhz range.
Alas... nothing. Just keeps on searching in a cycle. No signal.
I tried connecting RF out of the Philips VCR to my S-VHS VCR and then S-Video out to my PC capture card. Nothing, either.
What is the best course of action? I do have a Tektronix 2225 2-channel 50Mhz scope, I should be able to use this to measure the RF signal right? Don't know what settings to use.
Does the N1700 have a set output channel, or was this user adjustable?
Shoot an e-mail to video99.co.uk he works on this stuff and he should be able to at least give you a hint on where to start, Alternatively since you have an oscilloscope try probing the RF point inside the PCB to see if there is signal, here is the service manual attached:
It has been a while. I have been talking on other forums on repairing some problems with the machine, and to build an AV amp circuit to circumvent the broken RF modulator. Installing AV is something commonly done with Philips VCR N units.
Some weeks and component shopping later, sound, video, colour!
Excuse the mess:
And some quick captures, the first:
Yes, they suck. I really need to get a TBC, a proper capture card and capture software.
What are your recommendations for analog video tape capture equipment?
did you try playing the tapes in your svhs machine directly to your capture card using the svid out?--
"a lot of people are better dead" - prisoner KSC2-303
I probably didn't make this clear enough.
Philips first released the VC system, then VLC, then Video 2000, and after that went with VHS like everybody else.
See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_Cassette_Recording
Oh wow, you had the mod done quicker than I thought, At least now you get a working machine. For composite capture there are some pro capture devices designed for low quality signals such as Video2000, VCR, Betamax and VHS but finding them for a reasonable price may take some time since you want to get it done now. Aja, Ensemble Designs and Black Magic made great devices back in the 2000's, they do require an SDI PCI card since they have SDI digital out only. Otherwise a consumer capture card or device should work fine but in most cases they require an additional external TBC and those are not cheap, like $1500. If you go that route just don't buy non brand Chinese stuff.
a Panasonic DVD-recorder from the series DMR-EH50 to EH60
(they have a great built-in TBC) - but the recorder should be used for loop-through; capturing can be done with a card (more about that later)
one of the best capture cards are still the older ones with either a BT8x8 or CX2388x chipset.
buy one of those and use the Panasonic only as a TBC.
every Windows PC will work with a PCI(!) slot for the capture card. I reccomend Windows 7 or XP.
One tends to forget the 'fun' one had in tuning in a CRT tv to the RF output of a vcr (which changes in whatever country you are in). Twas only when European vcrs had a euro-scart output that things got a way bit easier.
And here we see a classic situation of a home tape standard totally ignored by anyone other than Phillips - including their last foray ie v2000
Now I might simplify things here but I would have thought there is hardware that converts a pure RF signal to a composite one that is receivable by standard video capture hardware/software. That being so, back in the day I would visit computer exhibitions that promoted the 'latest' hardware and if my memory serves there were cards that one could install in your PC (certainly pre-WinXP) to see and ,possibly, record a direct RF stream. These cards would NEVER work in current systems and one would effectively have to turn the clock back and create a compatable system pre 2000. Windows 3x anyone
I'm obviously no expert, I don't know if RF capturing would be so much easier as to warrant repairing of the RF module? I think the problem is mostly a broken transistor.
I haven't posted here for a while. The unit started unthreading by itself again, some time after I cleaned switches and relays with contactspray a week prior. I'll try it again and hopefully it won't be a temporarily fix this time. Maybe it needs some extra cleaning. Its a pity no professional recorder was made for these.
Still have not gotten an other capture card. Thinking of an Avermedia CE310B. But I may also be able to get an Matrox RT.X2 LE.
Have two more old videos to get an idea of the material. Lots of series and broadcasts of spaceflight. Mostly dutch but also some german.
Before I made the AV circuit, so still messed up:
From AV circuit:
Cards like the Hauppauge ImpactVCBe 1381 and Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1290 seem to have the CX2388x chipset. A good start?
What software for capturing? I would like to have control of capture levels, see a histogram, if there are any dropped frames. And also be able to capture in 4:2:2 or 4:4:2, high quality.
I added some more captures I did with the live2usb. In some I think the bottom is missing?
test1 even has a green bar on the bottom. I tried different softwares, each with different problems...
Last edited by Dutchsteammachine; 7th Mar 2021 at 16:29.
Yeah you need some sort of line TBC, You have a lot of HBI errors, and a good capture card that doesn't drop frames so you don't get audio out of sync problems, A DVD recorder in the workflow is one way, Another way is a professional line TBC (not the external frame TBC), They are mainly made for u-matic.
I seem to have no luck with virtualdub... the bottom seems to be cut off, sometimes there is a big green bar. See uploads to gdrive.
test1 was taken with virtualdub. Composite_(PAL_N) was taken with WinTV8.5. I think the netherlands used PAL_B but I don't see that option in the program. Only ntsc, secam and a few PAL options but not B.
Only software that seems to be working well for me is Dscaler, I think its the entire picture. But it seems to save it very stretched... even though I set aspect ratio to 4:3/1.33.
291mb file of Dscaler capture.
A Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1700 is coming my way. A better capture card should iimprove things somewhat. Maybe some problems will be over with...
Then I will look at TBC options.
An other video of the contents you can expect. Really valuable stuff for the observatory, and will also be great to share on my YT channel:
I doubt PAL-N would be correct, as it's the system used in some South American countries and is different to a normal PAL signal. You want whichever of B/G/D/K/I that are available, they are all the same over composite, the difference between those just lies in how they were broadcast over the air (so only relevant if you were to capture from an RF output).
Green bar or cut off can sometimes be caused by the capture resolution (should be 720x576 at 25fps for PAL/SECAM) not being set correctly, you want to make sure both the resolution and system is set properly. The resolution isn't always switched automatically after switching system.
Ohh this all sounds VERY exciting!
Good news! WinTV-HVR 1700 arrived, and it gets rid of all the capture problems with the USB video grabber.
In virtualdub2 the capture is very stable throughout the tapes I have tried. It reports 0 dropped frames, and only inserts frames when it plays a bad spot on the tape and the video signal glitches out completely, which it does even on my TV.
So at least I am able to capture now without any problems. I read on this forum that it is best to capture in high quality without ANY filters at all. I capture with virtualdub2 to AVI in h265, 8-bit YUV 422 and CRF/Quality set to 10, fast profile. Captured directly to my video-editing SSD and got about 20-30% CPU usage. Captured as PAL-B, which was used in the nertherlands I think.
Unfortunately the picture is very shaky horizontally all around, as if the two interlace fields are on offset of each other? Not sure if this is normal. When de-interlacing the picture is very shaky.
Lines are also not aligned well... and move horizontally.
Here is an h265 capture, unedited. Excuse the large file, 1.8gb. https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/16t0nDgYxrKMKwLXGxVigrBZvGQL35vEL?usp=sharing
Will most of the shaky video capture be remedied with a DVR TBC passthrough? Or is it caused by something else.
Unfortunately I do have to use a composite RCA to S-video converter plug, because the card supports only the latter as video in. Hopefully that isn't the cause of any problems. Would it be worth getting an capture card with native composite in?
The audio capture on the card is clipped on virtualdub2, so I capture audio with a soundblaster USB DAC. This causes a desychonization between the audio and video. Can audio sync be adjusted in virtualdub2 so its captured in sync with the video?
Thanks for being very helpful.
Yeah being shaky horizontally is pretty normal with those capture cards, the conexant chips they use are not very good at stabilizing things horizontally. A Panasonic DVR should help fix that (though if using a panasonic one you want to mod the cable or dvr to reduce the video input level a bit as e.g described here). Alternatively, if you can't get hold of one of the panasonic ones there are some other models that can help to varying degrees.
On a curious side note, one tape has a French dub of 2001 A space Odyssey at the end, probably complete.
One other tape has a peculiar... type of film that leaves -ahem- nothing to the imagination. Perhaps useful to make test recordings with if I ever wanted to try that. Only RF in though...
Lots of Dutch and German coverage of space shuttle, ESA and soviet union missions.
Large part of the dutch Teleac series "25 Year of Spacetravel" that covers everything from Sputnik to the space shuttle. See google drive links for some of that!
It doesn't look like that series ever aired after the initial run, very little about it online, and no footage anywhere. Nor was a DVD collection of it ever released. The producer, Teleac, merged in 2010 to the dutch public broadcaster NTR. Maybe I can Email them and ask if they mind if I put it on YT.
I did order an Panasonic DMR-ES10, it should arrive next week. Hopefully that will improve PCIE card capture.
An example of a finalized video on YouTube. Recorded with sony AV to DVD recorder. VOB files from DVD then imported with filmora9. Video put together and exported to h264.
Then cut together with my own film shots and audio edited in davinci resolve 17.
"This Teleac course from 1982-84 extensively covers all phases of space travel and exploration. Everything from the first satellite to the first step on the Moon and finally the space plane the Space Shuttle. With Chriet Titulaer as lead reporter,
With beautiful and unique material from the Russians, American and Europeans everything is clearly shown."
Be aware that ES10 has side effects that degrade quality some. Only use it when the net effect is improvement, not as an always-on item.
When you're a home user, few personal tapes, that can be fine used as always-on, an attempt at being a poor man's TBC. (Can be, not will be.) But when you're archiving for others, unacceptable. (Referring to "always on" use, not net-positive uses.)
Internally, my backup strategy is as follows:
Naturally 1x DVD if I end up going the SONY DVD-recorder route in case it continues to produce better results than my PC recording/pseudo-TBC setup.
1x "VOB/Raw video files" on primary HDD for video editing.
1x " " On secondary internal HDD for backup.
1x " " On external HDD, offsite.
1x " " On normal Blu-ray.
1x " " On M-DISC Blu-ray, different brand, offsite.
Together with processed video files.
Been thinking of getting a NAS for mass offsite storage, though perhaps that money is better spend on cloud storage at a continentally separated location. I have been meaning to ask the observatory for mass off-site storage, their manager is CEO of a media company and has build his own cloud platform.
Regardless, the unit arrived some days ago and I finally had the time to set things up to have a go.
My initial results looked great, much better than the Sony DVR. The image and lines are much more stable. There are less compression artefacts and blocking because I capture in raw with VirtualDub2. Maybe also less clipping in blacks and highlights? Especially things like text are much more stable and do not appear to jump around.
Unfortunately, this unit seems to come with its own problem. There are what appear to be gray horizontal bars all over the image, especially visible in blue and evenly lit scenes. These jump round horizontally over the image.
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These are not visible in the Sony DVR capture. Nor are they visible when the VCR is connected directly to my TV or capture card.
I tried using different inputs and outputs, composite and s-video, different settings (NR off/on, comp off/on)
Interestingly enough, when I play the DVD with the sony capture with it, there are no bars on the same scene. So it must be somewhere in the analog chain?
I tried looking though the service manual, but it is a bit above my head. And it doesn't give possible causes for picture defects...
Any thoughts what may be causing the issue? pretty much the only component I can replace are caps. There are no potentiometers to adjust.
I don't know about the ES15 specifically, but I know secondary side power supply capacitors going bad are a common issue on the Panasonic DVD-recorders. Often they start bulging and leaking crusty crap from the top. Haven't seen this artifact in particular, but there was some other user here that had noise issues on a ES10 caused by bad PS caps, or they can cause it to fail to turn on at all. Worth also checking with some different input source to verify though.
The PAL ones doesn't have the artifacts reported on the NTSC models, however they do have a tendency to easily clip bright spots at least on VHS (if the video level is not lowered in some way before entering the DVR).
I actually have to increase my virtualdub video levels brightness and contrast quite a bit, otherwise the picture from the DVR is very dark. I have my histogram on so I can be sure there is no clipping during the capture while trying to use a fair bit of the histogram space.