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  1. Member
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    Hello everyone,

    I have been using an Avermedia M150-D card to capture old VHS tapes for a long time. It is not a professional card but provides a pretty nice picture quality as the video is encoded by hardware into MPEG-2. I am running Windows 7 and the programme I currently use to capture my videos is called "AVS Video Recorder", which comes as a part of the "AVS Video Editor".

    However, I noticed that with certain tapes, the audio is automatically muted by the encoder whenever the video signal becomes a little unstable. This happens even if the sound is perfectly fine, which annoys me a lot.

    So I have been searching for some other capture cards with a built-in MPEG-2 encoder that may not have this issue. And that's how I recently got hold of a second-hand Hauppauge WinTV PVR-150 card.

    During my testing, it worked fine with the "AVS Video Recorder". And as I was expecting, it did NOT mute any sounds even if there was a little noise or interference in the video.

    However, I did notice brief, random artifacts in the recorded video. They only show up every now and then, and may even be imperceptible most of the time. But of course they ruin the entire capture, and can be quite noticeable in noisy recordings or when the video tracking becomes unstable. Please see the attachments:

    Image
    [Attachment 60138 - Click to enlarge]

    Image
    [Attachment 60140 - Click to enlarge]




    Asuming it may be a specific issue of my second-hand card, I bought two more cards of the same model, both of them used (they are of course out of production). One turned out not to work at all, while the other one showed EXACTLY THE SAME ISSUE: strange artifacts every few seconds, as if there were something wrong with the encoding.

    I have tried one of the cards on another computer with Windows XP, and the results have been the same.

    By the way, other than "AVS Video Recorder", I have tried the proprietary application that Hauppauge bundled these cards with (WinTV 7), and it shows the same problem. I have also tried both the S-Video and the composite inputs.

    Surprisingly enough, if I open "Media Player Classic" and enter the "Open Device..." function, I can watch the video input with no artifacts at all -- my videotape shows OK! However, with this application I get a lower picture quality (I find it more noisy) and no audio. Moreover, I cannot capture it directly into an MPEG file, it only provides me with the option to compress the video by software and to save it to AVI, MKV, etc. So I assume "Media Player Classic" is not making use of the hardware encoder, and maybe because of that those pixel blocks are gone.

    So... Any clues on what may be happening? Does it definitely look like a hardware problem (maybe the encoder chip or a bad capacitor)? Should I keep buying used units till I find one that works?

    I have found no references in Google to this problem (random pixel blocks) with Hauppauge capture cards, so I will be very pleased if anyone can help.

    Thank you!
    Last edited by mazochungo; 1st Aug 2021 at 13:42.
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  2. Capturing Memories dellsam34's Avatar
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    MPEG-2 is an outdated compression scheme, very inefficient and low quality by today's standards, You can get better quality with h.264 for half the file size. Capture lossless and encode to h.264. Some media players can smooth out the artifacts but they cannot completely eliminate them.
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    Originally Posted by dellsam34 View Post
    MPEG-2 is an outdated compression scheme, very inefficient and low quality by today's standards, You can get better quality with h.264 for half the file size. Capture lossless and encode to h.264. Some media players can smooth out the artifacts but they cannot completely eliminate them.
    Thanks for the advice.

    I know MPEG-2 is inefficient by today's standards, but so far I have not found any modern, non-professional capture cards that can deal with (noisy) analogue video as decently as these old-school MPEG-2 cards do. Most of the newer ones seem to focus on capturing videogames, and the compression results with videotapes were awful in my tests.

    Other than that, I would prefer not to capture lossless as it requires tons of gigabytes as well as the subsequent re-encoding. A decent high-bitrate MPEG-2 capture is perfectly fine for me, especially for old VHS tapes. Of course I can afterwards re-encode it to h.264, but contrary to a lossless capture, it is not mandatory. By the way, I find MPEG-2 files much more versatile than other modern file types as they can be watched while still recording, and won't become corrupt if the capture is terminated unexpectedly.

    What I would really need to know is whether these artifacts I am getting are in any way "normal" (maybe a configuration issue?) or rather a clear hardware fault in these two specific cards, maybe due to their age or to the fact that they have been out of use for several years.
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    What bitrate did you set your mpeg-2 capture at?
    Might be useful to post 5 - 10 seconds direct from the capture
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    Originally Posted by davexnet View Post
    What bitrate did you set your mpeg-2 capture at?
    Might be useful to post 5 - 10 seconds direct from the capture
    I tried different bitrates (up to 16,000 Kbit/s, as far as I remember), but it made no difference. I also tried all the pre-set profiles available in WinTV 7, again with no effect.

    Here you have another sample, plus a longer version of the sample I had already uploaded. Both were captured at 6,500 kbit/s:





    In the first sample, as the videotape itself is very worn out, the signal is quite unstable and the artifacts show up very often. The other tape, however, only shows artifacts every now and then (the recording is quite stable).
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  6. You can try to capture with VLC aswell
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  7. Capturing Memories dellsam34's Avatar
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    For that quality you will be better off with a DVD recorder, no computer needed.
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  8. The PVR-150 was always somewhat problematic. The PVR-250 was a much better device. Try one of those if you can.

    Note that the preview window in most capture programs isn't showing you MPEG2 video from the device but rather an uncompressed YUV preview stream. It's possible to capture that stream using a custom capture graph in GraphEdit or GraphStudio.

    I agree that a DVD recorder with a line TBC and frame sync will get you better caps than a PVR-150 or 250. Use the highest quality setting -- ~1 hour per 4GB DVD.
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  9. Member Skiller's Avatar
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    These are not compression artefacts.
    More like file corruption at the hardware encoder level due to tape drop outs.
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    jep this does look more like file corruption and/or harddisk problems too me.
    It looks like the video stream is not correctly written to file, some parts are missing hence the artifacts.

    You can try on a different computer or harddrive (SSD) and see if that makes any difference

    And remember that those cards do NOT correctly work if your computer has more than 4GB ram!
    If you do have more ram you can set in msconfig a memory limit below 4GB
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  11. Member Skiller's Avatar
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    I still reckon it might be caused by tape drop outs because the blocks are suspiciously often in sequence with signal instabilities.

    One way to find out would be: connect something like a dvd player, game console or set top box (anything with Composite or S-Video that does not play analog tapes) to the Hauppauge and see if the blocks still occur.
    Last edited by Skiller; 2nd Aug 2021 at 06:41.
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    I still reckon it might be caused by tape drop outs because the blocks are suspiciously often in sequence with signal instabilities.
    Agree. The wavy top of the video is a dead giveaway for a poor video signal, I reckon.

    See Jagabo post 8.
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    watching a video and capturing a video come from two different parts of a device drivers output

    generally the live feed is called Preview and drops video frame or audio samples when problems occur in order to keep up with the live program, the glitches are quickly forgotten

    generally the MPEG2 compressed feed is called Capture and does not drop video frames or audio samples, instead it attempts to increase or decrease the bit rate of the combined stream in order to keep up with the live program, glitches are recorded but can also disturb the smooth bit rate and produce MPEG "artifacts" which do not appear in the live Preview

    what you can do is slow down or restrict the MPEG2 bit rate to reduce "Artifacting" however high speed motion in a scene can also lead to "Artifacting", ultimately its a balancing act between accommodating a "poor signal" with problems in it and keeping the bit rate fast enough not to start producing artifacts because the bit rate is too slow

    the best way of dealing with the problem is cleaning up the signal before its submitted to the MPEG hardware encoder

    at the mininum you need a frame synchronizer, or buffer which repeats video good frames or drops audio samples to keep the audio video stream smooth and error free, then the MPEG stream can kept fast enough to not produce Artifacts due to errors in the signal

    even better would be a time base corrector that straightens skewed or crooked scan lines to make the picture look more square, and to stop or prevent up and down jitter and top curve or flag waving.. but these are not the problems your currently seeing

    a time base corrector often comes with a frame synchronizing component built into the way it corrects the signal, but not always

    time base corrector for home use are now very rare to find used and cost many hundreds of dollars

    some people have a DVD recorder and try running the output of the VHS player through the inputs and outputs of the DVD recorder to get a similar effect of a time base corrector and frame synchronizer.. some DVD recorders do this only while turned on, some also while turned off.. a DVD recorder used to be a much more expensive device which had to do these things anyway to capture VHS tapes and capture and compress the signal into MPEG2 so that they could then burn the video to a blank DVD

    many DVD recorders no longer work, or their DVD drive no longer works or cannot read discs.. but their inputs and outputs still work.. a broken, used DVD recorder that will still work well enough to clean up an input signal and produce a good enough signal for video capture on its outputs can still be found used at a local goodwill, or used/broken resale place online.. just don't spend a lot of money for them.. they don't all work

    you can also try a different VHS player, some develop problems after many years with the components on their circuit boards, their power supplies.. or their heads become dirty.. tape path becomes problematic. its not really practical for most people today to service a VHS player and cleaning the heads usually doesn't end well.. they are fragile and easy to tear off the drum if wiped the wrong way
    Last edited by jwillis84; 5th Aug 2021 at 02:20.
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  14. AVS Video Recorder
    i used to use that rubbish before i started using pinacles dvd recorder. try selecting dvix5 or mpeg1
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    choosing dvix5 or mpeg1 is indeed a way of trying to manipulate the MPEG bit rate, if the capture program has no explicit way of setting the bit rate
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  16. Member Skiller's Avatar
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    Have you tried if capturing off a stable signal source gets rid of the blocks? We still need to know this for further troubleshooting.

    Edit: Oh well, OP has not responded in the last 5 days.
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  17. The PVR150 is a hardware MPEG2 encoder. The video is encoded on the device before the computer even sees it. Converting that MPEG2 video to something else does not reduce the data transfer rate.

    Skiller was correct in post #9, these are not MPEG artifacts but rather encoding or decoding errors. Whether the PVR150 receives a clean analog signal or not, it shouldn't be corrupting the MPEG2 stream like that. The OP should upload an MPG sample directly from the device.
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    August 5 is a regional Holiday in Spain, the OP maybe spending time with family and friends
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    Sorry for not having replied earlier. I have been travelling for a few days.

    Even when the signal is (aparently) stable, I can see some blocks there from time to time. However, they are definitely much more obvious and frequent when the tape is a little damaged or the video signal is noisy or unstable.

    I have uploaded a couple of samples directly as they come out (as .MPG files), with no re-encoding at all:

    https://www.mediafire.com/file/q3f2mkhj3h676oe/muestra3.mpg/file
    https://www.mediafire.com/file/n6ae5z7vonpi9qk/muestra2.mpg/file

    I would assume there is a hardware problem, but I find it strange that two different cards (bought from two different sellers) are showing the exact same issue, which by the way doesn't seem to have been reported yet by anyone else...

    By the way, I also tried to use VLC to capture my recordings. I was expecting to get no audio in my capture, but finally I could not get any video either. I simply didn't get VLC to work with this card...
    Last edited by mazochungo; 6th Aug 2021 at 03:45.
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    I forgot to mention something:

    * I have tried the PVR-150 on two machines, neither of which has more than 4GB of RAM. One runs Windows 7 and the other one runs Windows XP, and I have had no issues with their HDDs so far.

    * If these blocks are due to a bad signal/recording, then I suppose they should have been noticed by other people... I mean, old video tapes contain anything but perfect recordings. Shouldn't other users have noticed this? If this card needs a perfectly stable, noise-free recording to be able to produce a decent encoding, then I find it useless for capturing old recordings. Not to mention that my (equally old) AverMedia M150-D has no issues at all to capture such recordings. Its only "problem" is that is mutes the audio when the picture is not stable, so in the capture there are some words missing despite the fact that the audio recording on the tape is perfectly usable. And that's why I wanted to try other cards with MPEG-2 encoding.

    * @jwillis84 - Thanks for the long reply! I own a few VHS, Betamax and Video2000 videotape players. I have tried this card with at least three of them and I get the same effect, so I don't think it has to do with the VCR itself. Moreover, some of the samples I have uploaded have in fact been captured from a "modern" JVC player with a built-in TBC. I don't really know whether such TBC is as effective as a professional (standalone) TBC machine, but anyway this VCR is said to provide a "good" output signal... By the way, thanks for the idea of the DVD recorder. I do own one of those (although I don't have it with me right now), so I will try to "pass" the signal through it prior to the capture.
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  21. Member Skiller's Avatar
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    Do not assume test it!
    Connect something other than a VCR to the card, record and see if the blocks are still there.
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  22. Once again, the PVR-150 was always crap. Those errors all happened before the computer got the video. That is, they are internal to the device.

    And adjust those levels with the proc amp controls before capturing. Turn off all the auto controls like auto brightness/contrast.
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  23. If you record the same bit of video several times, do you get the same artefacts appearing in the same places each time? If you do then it's probably an encoding issue - good luck! If you don't then it might be interference, failing RAM or HDD, overheating, dirty heads, failing power supply, etc. etc. etc. It would mean, however, that you could edit out the corrupted frames and replace them with "good" frames from one of the other captures.
    "Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle."
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    The PVR-150 is a very old PCI card with quite a few Surface Mount Electrolytic Capacitors.

    When Electrolytic Capacitors go bad on the Inputs the result is usually a Low Contrast Image.. which looks prevalent in your samples.

    The Chip used in this card is the Conexant CX23416 and it does not support hardware decode, so all playback on your system will be software dependent.

    I like collecting legacy, classic hardware.. but this card really has a lot stacked against it.

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    The PVR-150 is a massively flawed card.
    Do not use.
    The audio is horrible, redlined.
    The video has really hot IRE and luma, unusable.

    The 250/350 were good, the 150 was junk.
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    Originally Posted by TimA-C View Post
    If you record the same bit of video several times, do you get the same artefacts appearing in the same places each time? If you do then it's probably an encoding issue - good luck! If you don't then it might be interference, failing RAM or HDD, overheating, dirty heads, failing power supply, etc. etc. etc. It would mean, however, that you could edit out the corrupted frames and replace them with "good" frames from one of the other captures.
    No, the artifacts do not necessarily occur in the same frames. As I said, this behaviour is a little bit random. Even though I do have identified some particular scenes and frames where they tend to show up, they not necessarily do it every single time I play those scenes. Anyway, replacing bad frames with good frames would be a massive work... I would prefer to find other solutions.
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    Originally Posted by Skiller View Post
    Do not assume test it!
    Connect something other than a VCR to the card, record and see if the blocks are still there.
    I have noticed some artifacts even if I capture the blue screen that my VCRs produce when they are not playing a tape, which should be a perfectly stable signal. They are somehow random and only show up from time to time, but there they are:

    https://www.mediafire.com/file/zbx28s9xezj6w0o/artifacts.mpg/file

    (You may want to play it full screen as they are a little bit subtle).

    I think this can't be normal. There may be some issues with these cards.
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    Originally Posted by jwillis84 View Post
    The PVR-150 is a very old PCI card with quite a few Surface Mount Electrolytic Capacitors.

    When Electrolytic Capacitors go bad on the Inputs the result is usually a Low Contrast Image.. which looks prevalent in your samples.

    The Chip used in this card is the Conexant CX23416 and it does not support hardware decode, so all playback on your system will be software dependent.

    I like collecting legacy, classic hardware.. but this card really has a lot stacked against it.

    My sample videos may not show a very good contrast, but because I didn't bother to set the proper value. The contrast is definitely fine with these cards.

    This model does have a hardware encoder, so it does not depend on the software or CPU to produce the MPEG-2 capture. Playback is another thing, and it mainly depends on my graphic card, which by the way does provide hardware acceleration as well.

    Anyway, I agree that there may be some faulty components or connections on the card that may be causing such interference and artifacts.
    Last edited by mazochungo; 11th Aug 2021 at 06:03.
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    what happens if you play your samples with different players? If the artifacts are still there in all players then it is definitely in the mpg file.
    If this is the case then the fault lies in the hardware encoder or the way the file is written to disk, ram or other pc hardware faillure.

    In your first post you said that if you open the video source in media player classic it works perfectly well, so it is not in your source or vhs player imho

    You can experiment with different driver versions, it may help or not

    And for the record i do own such capture card and although the quality is not that great it works very well even under Linux and the output mpg is imho usable in quality. And i don't have any artifacts at all.
    Last edited by jan5678; 11th Aug 2021 at 07:38. Reason: typo
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    Your washed-out captures look terrible. I don't know why you're wasting your time on this card, and butchering quality in the process. Even a craptastic Easycap card doesn't monkey with quality as badly as this specific Hauppauge card.
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