I have a Panasonic AG-1980 that connects via S-cable to a datavideo TBC-1000 and captures via an AIW 9600. The video source is camcorder VHS footage from 1989.
I ran test captures last night with different combinations of settings for "Picture = soft, medium, sharp", "Image = Edit", and "TBC = On, Off". I didn't test yet the Image options of Detail and Normal.
I then did a screen shot at the same exact point for each test and compared the output enlarging the photo to 300X. The "best looking" screen shot was Picture=Sharp, Image=Edit, TBC=On.
I have read that you should keep sharpness to a minimum during capture, and the AG-1980 manual says you should keep TBC off unless you need it. When watching the test captures it's hard for me to discern "better" but the Sharp settings during playback did look more pleasing.
For those of you who have done this a lot, how do you analyze your video? Also, in post processing with AviSynth I can sharpen, but how much sharpening is too much? Is it all just a judgement call on how it looks? If too much sharpening adds artifacts, do you try and reach that threshold just before they are introduced. Maybe, for a camcorder VHS source, they are all pretty much the same to the observable eye and I'm just splitting hairs?
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I should also add the "Picture=Sharp, Image=Edit, TBC=On" settings had the least amount of Chroma bleed.
First the easy one: edit should always be on.
Second, the TBC should be "to taste," meaning that if you see an obvious improvement, keep it on. I don't know the details of the TBC in the 1980, but with most TBC circuits, you would expect to see an obvious reduction in flagging (bending along the top of the frame), and "teeth" on vertical objects caused by each scan line not starting at the same interval of time from the start of the previous line.
The sharpness is the tough one, and will require someone with knowledge of the circuitry. Most VCRs that add sharpness do so via a dumb circuit that simply puts halos around dark/light transitions. You don't want that because you can do much better sharpening later on using the much more sophisticated digital tools available today. However, what I don't know is whether the "soft" setting actually softens or blurs the image in order to hide noise. You obviously don't want that because, like stated above, you have really good noise reduction tools available to you today, so you don't need to resort to something as dumb as throwing away detail in order to kill noise.
In absence of any further advice, I'd try to find scenes containing detail, like a close up of someone where you can see strands of hairs; a shirt with patterns or textures, etc. Capture that three times with the sharpening set to the two extremes and then to the center. Neglect the sharpness and simply see if you can actually see more strands of hair, etc. It is a tough thing to do because your mind will react to the apparent sharpness increase and think it is seeing details when it is not. I'd line up those three captures in my NLE and A/B/C between them, both on freeze frames, and also while playing. Make sure your NLE is feeding the full resolution to the screen while doing this (my NLE, Vegas, can degrade the image in order to give you full frame rate, and you don't want that when doing these kinds of tests).
Thanks johnmeyer, very helpful.
I always leave my 1980 in Norm mode for playback, and leave the soft-sharp dial in the middle on the default click. I've always thought the 1980 was much sharper than other decks like my JVC, so didn't want to "over-sharp" things.
Thanks for all the replies.
I ended up doing test captures with different settings for Picture (Soft, Medium, Sharp), Image (Detail, Normal, Edit) and TBC (On, Off). In all, 18 combinations of test captures.
I viewed the results of a still image at the same spot on each test capture. For my Panasonic AG-1980 I observed the following:
- Images with otherwise the same settings looked better with TBC "on" versus "off"
- There was never any image comparisons where Detail looked better than Normal or Edit
- There was never any image comparisons where Normal looked better than Edit. With the Normal setting the image looked washed out, especially compared to Edit which looked much better and more vibrant
- This left the comparison for Image set to Edit and TBC "on". I tested this setting for Soft, Medium and Sharp. The results were surprising. There was little to tell between Soft and Sharp, but Soft looked Slightly better. Medium, looked much different with the image being much lighter and not especially good.
I watched the videos of the captures that interested me and the frame rates looked the same with the only difference being the image quality as observed with the stills. With the Picture set to soft, the video quality looked more natural than with it set to sharp. So for now, I will be capturing with Soft - Edit - TBC "On" settings.
Thanks for the help.
As I said in my post above, the only question was whether "soft" was merely the absence of sharpening or whether it was actually trying to remove noise by softening the image. You want no sharpening, and from your tests, it sounds like soft is indeed no sharpening.
The only other thing I'll mention is that on my Panasonic semi-pro model (which I just got completely refurbished and the man who did it says that the picture quality is now as good as the pro Panasonic models he services) the TBC circuit seems to operate differently when you are playing EP (6-hour) tapes compared to SP (2-hour). I assume you did your tests with 2-hour tapes. If you need to transfer 6-hour tapes, play a few minutes and simply watch as you turn the TBC on and off.