I've seen questions about this over the years and in the past days, and some info is buried in old threads like this. I haven't seen a thread that gives the answers in the first post, so here is my attempt to make a concise guide.
- Black Level Control (Setup button → Video)
- Set Input Level to Lighter and Output Level (Composite/SVideo) to Darker.
- Line-In NR (switch to a line/AV input, then press Display button → Video)
- Set to Off.
- Blue Background (Setup button → Display)
- Set to Off if you want to show very weak signals and unrecorded portions as-is.
- Off Timer (Setup button → Setup)
- Set to Off to avoid the unit automatically powering down after 6 hours/2 hours.
- For the first generation of PAL models, SCART output must be used. The other outputs suffer from a brightness variation.  
- AV-In NR (switch to a line/AV input, then press Display button → Picture)
- Set to Off.
- Comb Filter (Setup button → Picture)
- Set to On unless you have a good reason to disable it.
- Should only apply to composite input anyway, not S-Video.
- Grey Background (Setup button → Display)
- Set to Off if you want to show very weak signals and unrecorded portions as-is.
- (PAL models have no Black Level Control.)
Why set NTSC units to Lighter-Darker?
- Every other combination causes banding, and Darker-Darker also crushes darks.
- Lighter-Lighter may look preferable at first glance for "revealing" some dark detail, but it's inaccurate. Compare to the reference image. If this raised black level is desired, it can also be accomplished by manipulating the Lighter-Darker capture in YUV or changing the capture device's Proc Amp setting for Brightness.The images should suffice, but for reference I've also attached a 10-bit lossless x264 encode of the capture that these screenshots were taken from. The workflow I used led to a bit of video noise, but the results are sufficient to demonstrate the point.
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Excellent! This post should be in the "Sticky Threads"
Thanks for the elaborate work here, Brad. Very interesting to see.
Yes, it only applies to Composite input. No effects on S-Video input.
Nice guide. I did took a bunch of samples today as I had the stuff ready from debugging something on a vcr, so I have a few comparisons of some things like comb on/off, brightness etc that I will put up.
Worth noting that the PAL variants have a tendency to clip whites a bit by default, which is possible to work around by lowering the video level in some way before it enters the DVR. (Also present in NTSC mode on the PAL ones.) I've seen one post on yt noting that it was fixed on some later model but idk if it's true, it's at least there on the EH57.
Also, the HDD variants (or at least the EH57 I got) have an annoying "The HDD is going into power saving mode" message that pops up after like 10-15 minutes of being on so you want to wait for that to go away before capturing. Not an issue on the DVD only ones.
PAL models support standard NTSC (not NTSC 4.43 or PAL60) input which can be switched to in the menu. I believe they also support SECAM input (though they will output PAL from SECAM input afaik.) The NTSC models only support NTSC.
The models from before 2006 seem to have some jitter correction capability too, though the design and menus are quite different, I don't know a lot about them (mostly named DMR-Exx (xx being a number). NTSC models from 2008 and on, mostly named DMR-EZxx, in addition to the DMR-ES20 as they changed to digital tuners seems to mostly or all have a completely different chipset made by LSI/Magnum and not work very well at all for jitter correction. That doesn't seem to have happened with the PAL models to the same degree or if at all so somewhat later ones can be used there (though the ES10 and equiv is a tad stronger in very bad cases). Annoyingly panasonic's service manuals don't have info/schematics on the digital pcb that contains the video and system IC so there isn't any easy way to check.
Lastly, many of these are prone to having certain capacitors in the power supply go bad and start bulging and leaking, especially in the PAL ones. They're not terribly hard to replace with a run-of-the-mill soldering iron but it can be a bit an annoyance if one doesn't feel comfortable soldering
Thanks Brad! This is great! I was also working on a post to share what I've learned about these units. Since I'm a newbie, I thought other newbies might appreciate it.
Edit: I originally posted my summary here. But I decided to create a separate thread for it to keep this thread focused on the specific topic.
New thread is here: https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/404434-NTSC-VHS-newbie-summary-2-TBC-Budget-option...-DMR-ES10-ES15
Last edited by brockway; 14th Jan 2022 at 10:42. Reason: Moved this post to its own thread.
Comparison of comb filter setting on a Panasonic DMR-EH57. Would test with my ES10 but it's a bit borked and the S-Video input on it doesn't work properly.
Capture from a JVC HR-S5800EH (in EDIT mode as I forgot to turn that off. ) Commercial tape.
Captured from the HDMI output of the EH57 via my Avermedia HDMI capture card via a HDMI splitter to evade HDCP. (Works fine from S-Video or component outputs too though you do then get 8 pixels left and right blanked with a sharp border.)
Composite, Comb filter ON:
[Attachment 61655 - Click to enlarge]
Composite, Comb filter OFF:
[Attachment 61656 - Click to enlarge]
S-Video (Comb filter ON but don't think it affects S-Video):
White clipping issue on EH57:
Captured from composite out of Sony SLV-SE800 (OPC on, EDIT off, Reality regenerator off) Off-air recording
With video level lowered using a potentiometer from a cassette deck (sending composite signal through it):
Same from the component output of a Pioneer DVR-440H for comparison (capture card clips component at Y=16, not DVR):
Note that I'm 95% sure the histogram gap is the Avermedia capture card and not the EH57, it disappears if contrast is moved to 126 from the default 128 but forgot that on the HDMI captures. Don't remember ever seeing this when using a blackmagic intensity USB3 for HDMI capture.
For the sake of testing Levels(16,1,255, 16,235, false) is sufficient.
Therefore I'm not yet convinced there is major clipping going on.
The comb filter doesn't really do much with VHS because the horizontal resolution is too low, but the difference becomes evident with high res sources.
Last edited by Skiller; 5th Nov 2021 at 13:50.
How were those screenshots converted to RGB?
(Also I'm not the only person that has noted clipping on some tapes the PAL models.
Last edited by oln; 5th Nov 2021 at 15:06.
I have a (PAL) DMR-EH 575 but haven't had issues with clipping, although my raw capture histograms often do look alike.
Last edited by Skiller; 5th Nov 2021 at 19:11.
Another setting that makes a big difference in the output quality is the recording mode. I found that by setting mine to XP, or 1 hour, mode that I eliminated posterization / banding. To change the recording mode, you need to have a writable disc in the drive, and then press "REC MODE" on your remote control. It's been so long, but I can't remember for certain if I had to format the disc I use to change this setting, but I think I did.
Why does the recording mode matter? Because, as has been written in other threads, these DVD recorders are not really "passing-thru" the analog signal. Instead the signal is going thru a MPEG2 encoder chip and what you get from the analog outputs is the result of that MPEG2 encoding. And the recording mode controls the quality of the MPEG2 encoding.
Last edited by nomolu; 12th Nov 2021 at 20:16.
If you do not see a very blurrly picture then, this is simply not happening. I've read this before and afaik it was simply a misassumption someone made.
Same for me.
I compared a capture done with the recording mode set to XP (1 hour) and the same tape captured with the recording mode set to EP (6 hour) and I see differences. While the differences aren't "staggering," the picture is definitely softer / smoother and lacking some details.
I think the DVD recorder is only lowering the maximum bit rate of the MPEG2 encoding when lower quality recording modes (SP, LP, EP) are selected and it is NOT changing the resolution to 352x240/288.
Anyways, the next time you see banding in a video captured thru one of these DVD recorders, try setting the recording mode to XP and see if it helps. It has for me.
I've never seem a dvd-recorder send the video passed through it via an mpeg encoding process (other than possibly on one when actually recording to it), though there is a service thing on the panasonics that let you do it for testing the encoder. It's of course still possible that for whatever reason the mode on certain ones alters some other video settings but I have yet to see an example of it. Also as noted there are some differences between the PAL and NTSC variants so maybe someone else in NTSC land can check if it has any impact on theirs.
Nomolu, which Panasonic model are using exactly?
I'm not saying you are wrong, but it does not apply to most models and has never been proven yet.
This past week, I've done lots of internet searches to find the information that I based my initial explanation upon, and I conducted some tests.
Orsetto, who's always seemed knowledgeable to me, says here that
The ES15 and ES20 had pass-thru correction capability, but weaker, not as good as ES10. Note "pass-thru" is not transparent: the signal is converted from analog to digital by the recorder, the output as re-decoded analog.And on this web page, CitiBear says something that backs up my original statement about MPEG2 encoding:
The ES10 does not provide an uncolored, corrective-only pass-through signal like a traditional TBC box: the signal it "passes through" to its outputs is actually its own completely MPEG2-encoded signal, same as it would record to a DVD.I think the only ones who can say for certain what's coming out of the analog jacks on these DVD recorders is someone who has access to the schematics, or helped design the units, i.e., a Panasonic engineer. Fat chance on one of them chiming in here!
For those who say that changing the recording mode isn't making any difference for them, maybe this statement by Orsetto applies:
Like with every other damned VHS>Digital question posted in the history of this forum, it depends on the VCRs and tapes involved, and sample variation among ES10s.I was asked what type of DVD recorder I have. Currently a DMR-ES15 is hooked up in my equipment rack. I also have a DMR-ES10 sitting in a closet, and I recall that setting the recording mode to XP on it improved the picture quality of the video tapes that I digitized through it.
Now for my testing results: for the first time since having these DVD recorders, I recorded some videos to them. Normally the recorders say they won't record protected/copyrighted material, but the tape I'm currently digitizing didn't trigger that response. I found that XP, SP, and LP recording modes create full D1 videos (720 x 480 since I'm in NTSC land), and the bit rate drops dramatically as you switch to the modes that allow you to record more hours on the disc. EP mode does indeed create a half D1 (352 x 240) MPEG2 video. When EP mode video is played back and outputted thru the analog jacks, it's apparently being expanded to full D1 resolution which explains its softness.
For those who don't see any difference by changing the recording mode, the question is: which DVD recorder and what VCR are you using? the ES10, which supposedly does stronger corrections, or the ES15, which is supposedly weaker? And what VCR are you using? I could see that the results from using a JVC VCR with it's noise reduction features enabled would produce such a smooth picture that it'd be hard to see differences made by changing the recording mode in the DVD recorder. FWIW, I'm using a Panasonic AG-1970 VCR.
It's easy to disprove that the passthrough output has gone through an MPEG-2 encoding stage. For example, hit Rewind on your VCR. The one-line color artifacts can't be encoded in 4:2:0, so they get blurred and desaturated on the DVD recording while they are clear in a 4:2:2 capture.
Set to XP mode (1hr)
[Attachment 61759 - Click to enlarge]
[Attachment 61760 - Click to enlarge]
Set to EP mode (8hr, specifically). MPEG-2 screenshot resized from 352x240.
[Attachment 61761 - Click to enlarge]
[Attachment 61762 - Click to enlarge]
This tape starts with an unrecorded portion (grey static). This chews up a lot of bitrate, causing heavy blocking in the first second of playback. And this is XP mode! The passthrough capture is free of artifacts.
[Attachment 61766 - Click to enlarge]
[Attachment 61767 - Click to enlarge]
Workflow: AG-1970 <YC> DMR-ES25 <HDMI> splitter to remove HDCP <HDMI> AVerMedia C027 [and reinterlaced from 480p to 480i in Avisynth]
My Black Level Control settings.
[Attachment 61765 - Click to enlarge]
I also have a DMR-ES15 and DMR-E20 (from 2001, not ES20 from 2005) and previously owned a second DMR-ES15, but all had broken DVD drives when I bought them.
On another note: the MPEG-2's histogram looks better than the HDMI capture's... But maybe a lossy encoding of the HDMI capture would smooth this out in the same way?
[Attachment 61763 - Click to enlarge]
[Attachment 61764 - Click to enlarge]
Thanks Brad, it's clear to me now that people have misunderstood what I meant when I used the phrase "MPEG2 encoding." People think I was saying that the FINAL RESULT of the MPEG2 encoding which would be burned to the disc in a DVD recorder is what's being sent to the analog output. That's not the case.
The general "pass through" process in DVD recorders is: analog inputs -> analog to digital -> processing -> digital to analog -> analog outputs
I was referring to the processing step as "MPEG2 encoding" because that's the end game of the processing step in DVD recorders. I think that somewhere in the processing step that the recording mode is checked and used to set the strength of a filter. Fortunately for us people converting video tapes, Panasonic allowed the straightened up picture from the processing stage to go out the analog ports. The only people who know at what processing stage the video is allowed to "escape" and go out the analog ports are the engineers who designed these machines.
One last thing: it varies from tape to tape how much of a difference the recording mode makes on the pass through.
What CitiBear wrote sounded like what I was thinking. And, no, I don't have any samples. Since I set my DVD recorder's recording mode to "XP," I stopped seeing posterization like I used to. I don't remember what tapes I saw the problem on, so I can't go back and generate samples now.
I'd still like to know what model of Panasonic DVD-recoder you are using, nomolu.
Meant to comment on this little thing earlier:
Remotes that came with NTSC models:
- N2QAKB000055 (DMR-ES10, DMR-ES20)
- EUR7659Y10 (DMR-ES15, DMR-ES16)
- EUR7659Y20 (DMR-ES25)
- EUR7659Y70 (DMR-ES35V)
- ES10 strongest, but ES15 still good
- ES20 worthless, not the same
the signal it "passes through" to its outputs is actually its own completely MPEG2-encoded signal, same as it would record to a DVD.
half D1 (352 x 240)
352x240 is fully deinterlaced CIF, garbage quality.
There's this false notion, usually based on basic DVD-Video experience, of what's going on. For example, you can digitize an error, output it analog, and it can still be corrected later (ie, chaining line+frame TBC). But the inverse is also true, it gets baked in. For that matter, A>A can bake in. Or not. When you realize that video signals are math, it's a bit easier to see. Or rather, not see, since not visual. Usually. Fun, huh?