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  1. Having, at last, been moved to do something with the boxes of VHS and Video8 tapes in a dark cupboard, I came to this forum for guidance.

    Wow!

    I had no idea the subject could be so convoluted. Over the past week, I have read more than I ever thought I wanted to know about analogue-to-digital video capture (and I was right – I didn’t ever want to know, but it seems unavoidable). Hoping it will give other new arrivals a jump start, this post is a summary. My credentials: I'm a retired career software engineer with a mediocre degree in Electronic Engineering -- I can talk the talk but, on this subject, I don't walk too well.

    There is a whole slew of video capture dongles now on the market. Most of these devices come bundled with some sort of editing software but the capability varies. They range from less than £20 to more than £100, but two of the well-rated mid-price ones are August VGB100 at £33 and Elgato at £90. At time of writing, there’s a special offer on MAGIX Rescue Your Videotapes at £25. I went for this but I’m not sure, yet, whether it was a good choice.

    You can also use any of these dongles with free software such as OBS, which will let you simply record the incoming digitised video as an AVI file. From there, you can use other free software to edit and compress it to something such as MPEG4 (.mp4).

    So, all of these packages will get you as far as rescuing your beloved VHS on your computer and, of course, you can just keep them and watch them there.

    So far, so good, BUT it’s the next step that causes all the grief. If you want to burn to DVD and play them back on your TV it suddenly gets immensely more complicated. The MAGIX package (and, I think, most of the other ones you can buy) claims to write DVDs from your captured video. I tried it and the result was mediocre. Fuzzy edges, poor resolution – just nowhere near as good as watching the old videotapes directly.

    So, I decided to do some research, and that’s when I fell down the online rabbit-hole into Alice’s video wonderland.

    TL;DR – When you’re writing to DVD, the best choice of encoding is not clear-cut, so you’re faced with a dilemma about what workflow to follow and, hence, what software to use. It depends how much you care about the resulting quality. If all you want to do is rescue the material in some form that outlasts magnetic tape, then forget about the rest of this post and just let the bundled software do its thing. If you do care about preserving the full detail and quality of the analogue original – read on.

    [Deep breath; get a cup of coffee. This is going to take a while.]

    I'm indebted to @manono, @jagabo, @DB83 and others, from whom I've learnt most of what I know so far. DISCLAIMER, on their behalf: what follows are my own opinions and misapprehensions, not the views of those luminaries.

    The root of all video evil, it appears, is interlacing. It’s that trick which 20th century TV engineers came up with to get around the limitations (then) of broadcast bandwidth and the demands of the moving image. Basically, they split every frame of a TV picture into two, transmitted the halves separately, and the TV displayed each half so quickly that the previous one hadn’t faded from the old CRT phosphor before the next half was displayed. So, your eye was fooled into seeing whole frames one after another. It wasn’t a crude top-half, bottom-half split – that wouldn’t fool the eye. Instead, they took alternate lines from the whole frame as two sets (lines 0, 2, 4, etc. then lines 1, 3, 5, etc.) and transmitted each set as a field. The two sets of lines knit together like the teeth of a zip fastener; hence, the term interlacing. Clever, because it meant that each field covered the screen from top to bottom, which helps the optical illusion. But it’s now a right royal pain in the arse because it persists on our beloved analogue tapes whereas TVs no longer have phosphor screens, so the illusion doesn’t work anymore.

    To view interlaced material on a modern LCD/LED TV screen it needs to be deinterlaced. That is to say, the full frame needs to be reconstructed from its component fields, because a digital screen wants the whole picture in one pass. Sounds simple, but it’s not, because (depending on the camera or other video creator) the two fields of an interlaced frame may have been shot at different instants in time. With a moving image, that means the subject isn’t in the same place in each field. If you just weave the two fields back together, you get jagged lines where the subject has moved between fields 1 and 2. So deinterlacing needs to perform some sophisticated adjustments to both fields that remove, or at least mitigate, these motion artefacts.

    Why does any of this matter when you’re writing DVDs? Because DVD was invented when CRT televisions were still the majority appliance and colour broadcasts still suffered from bandwidth starvation. So, the DVD standard embraced interlacing, and the majority of material on DVD is still written as interlaced fields, even today, whether it should be or not. Because of that, either the DVD player or the digital TV must do the deinterlacing before it reaches the screen. How good a job they make of this depends on the manufacturer and the budget level of the equipment. Some do it well, some don’t.

    But you don’t have to write interlaced material to the DVD. You could use software to deinterlace your captured video and then write it to the DVD as whole frames (known as progressive scan); the DVD standard allows that and the playback equipment then doesn’t have to do the job. But then, how well does the software do the job?

    So, there’s the dilemma: should you use a capture package that deinterlaces and writes progressive frames to the DVD, or do you write your unprocessed, interlaced material to the DVD and rely on the equipment manufacturers to render it well? Do you even know which of those things your bundled software is doing, or how well?

    I still haven’t decided which way to go. In fact, I’m still mildly concussed by the whole thing.

    [Your coffee’s cold.]
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  2. If I were converting specifically to DVD, I would capture with a decent quality software directly into MPEG-2 with high enough rate, like 8 Mbit/s. Purist would argue that it is better to capture into uncompressed first, then clean up and compress, but I am not a purist.

    OBS had not been originally intended to capture interlaced video, and though apparently they made some provisions for it in later versions, it is still not the best tool for this job.

    Deinterlacing is required if you are going to upload to YouTube, as YouTube does not care to deinterlace interlaced video, so you'll see combing in moving scenes. Deinterlacing was once desired for watching on a PC, but modern software players have built-in deinterlacers of acceptable quality.

    DVD-Video does not support native progressive-scan video for full-frame MPEG-2, it supports 25p/30p for low-res MPEG-1 mode. Neither DVD supports 50p/60p. You DO NOT deinterlace for DVD, instead you want your capture hardware/software to keep interlacing intact.
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  3. Member Skiller's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Bwaak View Post
    DVD-Video does not support native progressive-scan video for full-frame MPEG-2, it supports 25p/30p for low-res MPEG-1 mode.
    Not correct, MPEG2 DVD-compliant stream may be 25p or 29.97p at any of the allowed resolutions (up to 720x576/480). Done it many times.

    But, given we are talking about VHS home videos, deinterlacing them to 25p or 29.97p is not a good idea; for DVD you really should leave the video interlaced as to keep all of the motion there is to begin with. Half rate deinterlacing literally throws away half the video!
    Last edited by Skiller; 5th Dec 2022 at 17:47.
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  4. Member DB83's Avatar
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    +1

    And I also thought that modern tv's do a good job of de-interlacing on the fly.
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  5. The first, most important and most challenging step is to produce a flawless interlaced capture of the interlaced home VHS/Hi8 tapes. So start from there.
    Authoring to DVD or whatever distribution format comes next only. It is usually almost trivial compared to the tape capturing process.
    Last edited by Sharc; 5th Dec 2022 at 18:24.
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  6. Originally Posted by Skiller View Post
    MPEG2 DVD-compliant stream may be 25p or 29.97p at any of the allowed resolutions (up to 720x576/480). Done it many times.
    I am not going to argue... too much. Perhaps my info is old and/or incorrect, but unless you have the original DVD-Video spec in your hands (which has been available for $5,000 + NDA), we cannot know for sure. If your authoring software allowed you to author true progressive onto a DVD, and your DVD player had no problems with it, it does not mean that it is permissible by the spec.

    All I can refer to besides the wikipedia entry (Wikipedia is just an aggregator, not a news source), is a 20-year old info from hometheaterhifi.com, namely Part 5 of their progressive scan DVD benchmark and the review of "A Beautiful Mind" DVD (bold is mine):

    Originally Posted by hometheaterhifi.com
    It’s important to understand at the outset that DVDs are designed for interlaced displays. ... DVDs are based on MPEG-2 encoding, which allows for either progressive or interlaced sequences. ... While the sequences (i.e., the films and videos) are seldom stored progressive, there’s nothing wrong with using individual progressive frames in an interlaced sequence. This may sound like a semantic distinction, but it’s not. If the sequence is progressive, then all sorts of rules kick into place which ensure that the material stays progressive from start to finish. Whereas if the sequence is interlaced, then there are fewer rules and no requirement to use progressive frames. ... The encoder can mix and match interlaced fields and progressive frames as long as each second of MPEG-2 data contains 60 fields, no more, no less (or 50 fields per second for PAL discs). The progressive frames, when they are used, are purely for compression efficiency, but the video is still interlaced as far as the MPEG decoder is concerned.
    This is all, of course, academic in relation to the task at hand, that is, whether one should convert interlaced video to progressive to author a DVD. Clearly, one should not, because when converting 30i to 30p (or 25i to 25p) half of the temporal resolution and up to half of the spatial resolution will be lost, while converting to 60p/50p will not work for DVD. It will work for an AVCHD disc though, or a BD disc.
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  7. Originally Posted by OldTech View Post
    So, there’s the dilemma: should you use a capture package that deinterlaces and writes progressive frames to the DVD.
    No. Not recommended.
    Your home videotapes is interlaced footage (99.99% sure) . By deinterlacing (base rate for DVD) you would loose temporal resolution and introduce deinterlacing artefacts. Moreover, the deinterlacers which are shipped with the packages are often disappointing.

    or do you write your unprocessed, interlaced material to the DVD and rely on the equipment manufacturers to render it well?
    Usually not in a single step. You may want to apply some filtering to the captured interlaced video (denoise, color tweak .... depending on the quality of the source) before encoding and authoring it to the DVD compliant format and structure. Keep it interlaced (or re-interlace at the end) in order to preserve the temporal resolution of the video and stay DVD compliant. The deinterlacers of the player and/or TV usually handle the deinterlacing very well.

    Do you even know which of those things your bundled software is doing, or how well?
    Study the manual. Unfortunately the documentation of these bundles is often poor, unclear and full of useless marketing gimmicks or "popular" and misleading wordings for laymen. You would have to try it out an analyze the result with your eyes and tools like Avisynth and similar.

    You may want to upload a sample here and get comments from members.
    (Also, you may want to consider AVC encoding (.mp4 container) rather than stick to mpeg2 DVD, which would give you more freedom than the strict DVD format.)

    If you are hesitant to bother with all this it is probably easiest to do the transfer with a reputed VCS/DVD recorder combo (may be difficult to get it these days), or use a recommended tape player linked to a recommended separate DVD recorder.
    Last edited by Sharc; 6th Dec 2022 at 04:46. Reason: Typos
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  8. Originally Posted by Bwaak View Post
    DVD-Video does not support native progressive-scan video for full-frame MPEG-2, ... Neither DVD supports 50p/60p.
    It seems I missed a crucial detail, here. So, if I deinterlace PAL to 50p (VirtualDub: deinterlace - Yadif - TFF or BFF - double frame rate) I can't then write that to a standards-compliant DVD; it would not play in (the majority of) consumer DVD players. So deinterlacing upstream achieves nothing useful if the target is DVD. Which is a pity, since I'd rather depend on one consistent algorithm in my control than the vagaries of external suppliers.

    If I were converting specifically to DVD, I would capture with a decent quality software directly into MPEG-2 with high enough rate, like 8 Mbit/s. Purist would argue that it is better to capture into uncompressed first, then clean up and compress, but I am not a purist.
    Thanks for that suggestion. It might be the simple but effective route I'm looking for.

    Originally Posted by DB83 View Post
    And I also thought that modern tv's do a good job of de-interlacing on the fly.
    In which case, I've done a poor job of cutting my first test DVD -- no surprise there. I attempted to use the obscure and undocumented interlace controls in the MAGIX software and probably got the wrong options. I have no idea whether the software set the appropriate flags, nor whether the stream was deinterlaced by the player or the TV. I haven't found any explicit controls around p/i handling in the menu of either device, though I suppose that may be subsumed under 'Display' selection.

    Since I can put a commercial DVD in and it all just works, I assumed the same would be (and probably should be) true of my home-made disc.

    So, I guess I need to get a proper grown-up toolchain.
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  9. Originally Posted by Bwaak View Post
    If I were converting specifically to DVD, I would capture with a decent quality software directly into MPEG-2 with high enough rate, like 8 Mbit/s. Purist would argue that it is better to capture into uncompressed first, then clean up and compress, but I am not a purist.
    Originally Posted by OldTech View Post
    Thanks for that suggestion. It might be the simple but effective route I'm looking for.
    Haven't you been through this already, with disappointing results?
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  10. Originally Posted by OldTech View Post
    So, there’s the dilemma: should you use a capture package that deinterlaces and writes progressive frames to the DVD, or do you write your unprocessed, interlaced material to the DVD and rely on the equipment manufacturers to render it well? Do you even know which of those things your bundled software is doing, or how well?

    I still haven’t decided which way to go. In fact, I’m still mildly concussed by the whole thing.
    I'm curious about why you want to convert to DVD - most that converted to DVD over a decade ago are now going through the pain for re-capturing or ripping their DVDs to digital files (which loses quality obviously).

    I've had CDs and DVDs start to "peel" after a decade in storage - these mediums definitely go bad and you shouldn't assume that by saving to DVD you are preserving forever.

    It seems these days most people want their videos in .mp4 format, so they can easily share and watch on iPads/Tvs/phones/etc. Why do you want to save to DVD??
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  11. Originally Posted by Xhumeka View Post
    .... or ripping their DVDs to digital files (which loses quality obviously).
    Sidenote only: Ripping a DVD does not reduce the video quality.
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  12. Originally Posted by Sharc View Post
    Originally Posted by Xhumeka View Post
    .... or ripping their DVDs to digital files (which loses quality obviously).
    Sidenote only: Ripping a DVD does not reduce the video quality.
    Capturing and writing to DVD, then ripping that to an .mp4 wouldn't lose quality vs lossless capture (ie huffyuv) then creating .mp4??
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  13. Originally Posted by Xhumeka View Post
    Originally Posted by Sharc View Post
    Originally Posted by Xhumeka View Post
    .... or ripping their DVDs to digital files (which loses quality obviously).
    Sidenote only: Ripping a DVD does not reduce the video quality.
    Capturing and writing to DVD, then ripping that to an .mp4 wouldn't lose quality vs lossless capture (ie huffyuv) then creating .mp4??
    I meant the problem is not the DVD ripping as such. The problem is the capturing process which is either good or crap, and possibly the poor on-the-fly mpeg2 encoding for DVD. When the capture was poor for the DVD creation one would have to re-capture the tapes using a better capturing process (lossless or little lossy). Also, the tapes may be in worse condition when one re-captures these tapes some time (years) later.
    I agree to re-think whether DVD is the recommended distribution format these days, but one may want to give videos away to people who's video knowledge stops at putting a disc into their player and press the Play button.....
    Last edited by Sharc; 6th Dec 2022 at 13:01.
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  14. Originally Posted by Sharc View Post
    I meant the problem is not the DVD ripping as such. The problem is the capturing process which is either good or crap, and possibly the poor on-the-fly mpeg2 encoding for DVD. When the capture was poor for the DVD creation one would have to re-capture the tapes using a better capturing process (lossless or little lossy). Also, the tapes may be in worse condition when one re-captures these tapes some time (years) later.
    I agree to re-think whether DVD is the recommended distribution format these days, but one may want to give videos away to people who's video knowledge stops at putting a disc into their player and press the Play button.....
    Oh gotcha, sorry I should have been more clear. Yes, I meant the original encoding of the DVD would lose quality, not the actual process of ripping the DVD to a digital file.
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  15. Member Cornucopia's Avatar
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    Depends on what your "ripping" apps' idea of "ripping" consists of. Many of them are rippers+(lossy)converters in one go.

    Scott
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  16. Originally Posted by Sharc View Post
    Originally Posted by Bwaak View Post
    If I were converting specifically to DVD, I would capture with a decent quality software directly into MPEG-2 with high enough rate, like 8 Mbit/s. Purist would argue that it is better to capture into uncompressed first, then clean up and compress, but I am not a purist.
    Originally Posted by OldTech View Post
    Thanks for that suggestion. It might be the simple but effective route I'm looking for.
    Haven't you been through this already, with disappointing results?
    Actually, now you point it out, yes. I didn't know what the bundled software was doing and naively assumed it was working in a lossless space until it committed to DVD. Wrong. I found the initial capture file and it's MPEG-2 interlaced (wrong field first) according to Mediainfo.
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  17. Captures & Restoration lollo's Avatar
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    Although not recommended (and I never use it), if your tapes are in good condition and you have a high end S-VHS VCR with lineTBC and Y/C output, a MPEG-2 live capture with the Hauppauge USB-Live 2 is not bad.

    Here a small video with a comparison between two segments of the same tape captured with lossless HuffYUV and with Hauppauge Capture Software using MPEG-2 at 10Mbps, which is slightly out of specification for DVD, but it can be reduced a little bit in the settings of the capture software. The format is transport stream (TS) but it can be translated easily to MPEG-2 PS (program stream) for DVD creation.

    compare_huffyuv_mpeg2.avi


    Click image for larger version

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  18. Originally Posted by Xhumeka View Post
    I'm curious about why you want to convert to DVD [...] I've had CDs and DVDs start to "peel" after a decade in storage - these mediums definitely go bad and you shouldn't assume that by saving to DVD you are preserving forever.

    It seems these days most people want their videos in .mp4 format, so they can easily share and watch on iPads/Tvs/phones/etc.
    I want a portable medium that can be played on a domestic device - and that doesn't always include personal IT, in my age group. I guess MP4 on a usb stick would work for most TVs, but is that any more durable than DVD?

    For future-proofing (as far as that's possible) perhaps there's a distinction between archive and distribution. To preserve as much quality as possible, the material should be encoded losslessly and archived on bulk storage. For portability or distribution, it can be transcoded onto the medium of the day.
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  19. Originally Posted by OldTech View Post
    I want a portable medium that can be played on a domestic device - and that doesn't always include personal IT, in my age group. I guess MP4 on a usb stick would work for most TVs, but is that any more durable than DVD?

    For future-proofing (as far as that's possible) perhaps there's a distinction between archive and distribution. To preserve as much quality as possible, the material should be encoded losslessly and archived on bulk storage. For portability or distribution, it can be transcoded onto the medium of the day.
    I personally feel more comfortable keeping my "source" copies (whether that be lossless or almost lossless) on a USB hard drive than DVD. That being said, hard drives can and do go bad, so I wouldn't rely on a single copy either.

    My personal way of archiving digital media since the late 90s when I got my first digital camera, has been to store on 2 hard drives. Some choose to RAID the drives etc, but these days I just rely on two quality external USB 3.0 drives. When a drive eventually fills up (and its copy), I buy two replacement drives as large as possible, move all the data over, and repeat the process. I keep the old drives in a safe place just in case. This method may not work for you depending on the volume of data you are archiving.

    Aside from my huffyuv lossless captures (which I keep on separate drives due to their size) my entire digital collection going back to the 90s fits on a single 5TB drive, and I consider myself somewhat of a shutterbug
    Last edited by Xhumeka; 6th Dec 2022 at 21:35.
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  20. Xhumeka, that sounds like a good protocol. Thanks for your thoughts.
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  21. Member
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    Have you considered using a service that will convert your videos? Sometime they offer discounts.
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  22. Originally Posted by Santiago View Post
    Have you considered using a service that will convert your videos? Sometime they offer discounts.
    I have looked at that. The best price I could find for my 4 - 6 hours of Video8 was around £80. Being a natural tinkerer, I'd rather spend (less than) that doing it myself. Following the conversation with Xhumeka in this thread, I also want to archive my videos with minimum encoding loss. That means very large AVI files and I don't think that's an option offered by the conversion services.

    Thanks to advice and suggestions in this thread, I've modified my approach. The intention now is to capture all the video with a lossless encoder and archive it on a large dedicated drive. That's the long-term vault. For sharing or playback on domestic devices, I'll download and transcode them onto a portable medium -- DVD or USB stick.
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    Originally Posted by OldTech View Post
    Being a natural tinkerer, I'd rather spend (less than) that doing it myself.
    Just realize there's a direct correlation between "cheap" and "low quality". Don't expect good+cheap. You must be reasonable. Most costs advantages are at bulk. Or with the understanding that you buy good gear, use it, then resell it, as it holds value. When you buy crap, it's yours forever (unless you find a sucker that doesn't know any better).

    That means very large AVI files and I don't think that's an option offered by the conversion services.
    Quality services, yes, lossless is an option.
    Crappy services, no, no lossless.

    Thanks to advice and suggestions in this thread, I've modified my approach. The intention now is to capture all the video with a lossless encoder and archive it on a large dedicated drive. That's the long-term vault. For sharing or playback on domestic devices, I'll download and transcode them onto a portable medium -- DVD or USB stick.
    Yep.
    (1) lossless archive copy
    (2) lossy "watching" copy, be it discs or streaming

    Originally Posted by OldTech View Post
    There is a whole slew of video capture dongles now on the market. Most of these devices come bundled with some sort of editing software but the capability varies. They range from less than £20 to more than £100, but two of the well-rated mid-price ones are August VGB100 at £33 and Elgato at £90. At time of writing, there’s a special offer on MAGIX Rescue Your Videotapes at £25. I went for this but I’m not sure, yet, whether it was a good choice.
    Most are also low quality junk, including both of those options. The best gear isn't sold new on Amazon, in stores. It's legacy gear, from the era when video capture was the task at hand. That also often means legacy OS required, WinXP or 7, not Win10/11, new Macs, etc.

    So, there’s the dilemma: should you use a capture package that deinterlaces and writes progressive frames to the DVD
    No.

    [Your coffee’s cold.]
    I hate when that happens. I'll often run to the sink and spit it out. YUCK!
    Cold coffee, warm cola, warm beer. Yeck!
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    iMemories in Scottsdale, Arizona is charging $14.99 per tape. On the their website you can request a free shipment box. The format can be DVDs or USBs. I have used them many times.
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  25. Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
    Just realize there's a direct correlation between "cheap" and "low quality". Don't expect good+cheap. You must be reasonable. Most costs advantages are at bulk. Or with the understanding that you buy good gear, use it, then resell it, as it holds value. When you buy crap, it's yours forever (unless you find a sucker that doesn't know any better).
    Yep, wise words.

    Thanks, folks, for all the advice in this thread. To sum up:
    • To get the best quality lossless conversion from a DIY setup, it has to be built with a good legacy capture card on a Win XP or 7 platform.
    • The new consumer-grade capture devices on the market today, mostly USB devices, are mediocre-to-rubbish.
    • DON'T deinterlace when transferring to DVD.

    I don't think I want to invest in building a legacy platform for this limited-run task (I've got four Video8 tapes that I really care about plus a dozen or so VHS tapes that I just want to save from oblivion). So, I'm going to see what I can achieve with generic USB capture device on Win 10, with Vdub or Avisynth. Failing that, the Video8 is off to the professionals and I'll make do with the best the MAGIX package can do for the VHS.

    We've probably drawn this thread out far enough, so, thanks again. When I get bogged down in the attempted transfer, I'll open a new thread on the Capture forum.

    [Your coffee’s cold.]
    I hate when that happens. I'll often run to the sink and spit it out. YUCK!
    Cold coffee, warm cola, warm beer. Yeck!
    With you on the coffee and cola but, as a Brit, I have to disagree about the beer
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  26. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Santiago View Post
    iMemories in Scottsdale, Arizona is charging $14.99 per tape. On the their website you can request a free shipment box. The format can be DVDs or USBs. I have used them many times.
    Cheap service, awful reputation, infamous low quality output. You get what you pay for. Read the Glassdoor and Indeed reviews from actual employees. Your videos are being handled by minimum wage employees, not video professionals of any kind. The tapes are cattle, the employees are cattle. Seriously, read the reviews, especially the long neutral and negative ones, not the shill short gushing reviews.

    Terrible advice. That may work for the gullible Facebook masses, but not this site.

    Originally Posted by OldTech View Post
    With you on the coffee and cola but, as a Brit, I have to disagree about the beer
    In your defense, what we call "beer" is sometimes not too different from cold piss.
    But our weather is also hotter. Warm beer on a warm day, not refreshing at all.
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