Quantcast VHS-C best capture device for Mac? - digitalFAQ Forum
  #1  
03-10-2021, 08:11 AM
bee_doc bee_doc is offline
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Hi,

Thanks in advance for any help offered it is appreciated.

A friend has some very valuable video dating back to the VHS-C era and I have the camcorder (Panasonic NZ-R1) which has composite video/audio output only (yellow and white phonos). I appreciate and I'm sure that this may have been asked before but I simply can't find the answer in the Stickies or the many posts that appear on a Forum search.

I want to find the best (and low cost) option to capture these tapes to a digital format for posterity and viewing (I presume an MPEG format).

The question I have is what capture device would be best for this (please name brands) that is supported on a Mac. I use a Mac but he uses a PC. I have looked at Pinnacle Studio but it doesn't have Mac support. Ideally the device would work and have software for Mac (OSX) and Windows so that I can establish a process that he can then follow to capture all of his tapes (Covid lockdown rules prevent me visiting currently).

So what video capture device with software for Mac and PC support would you suggest?
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  #2  
03-10-2021, 08:48 AM
bookemdano bookemdano is offline
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Mac capture options have dwindled over the years as Apple has locked down its operating system. Please state what year/model of Mac you have and what version of OS X it's running.

As far as the capture process, you stated that the videotapes are "very valuable", but you also said that you're using a low-end camcorder with only composite output.

So I think you and your friend need to determine just *how* valuable the footage is. Is it valuable just in that you want to digitize it with the cheapest tools possible? Or is it so valuable that you are willing to spend a significant amount of money to get the best quality capture possible?

Either answer is fine, but it will guide the advice given here. If the former (and given your preference to use a Mac) your best bet is probably to get something like an ADVC-100 or Datavideo DAC 100/200. These boxes will take the composite and mono audio from your camcorder, digitize it to DV internally and output it to your Mac over firewire, which you can then transfer over using iMovie. You will probably also need some kind of frame sync in the chain, so you should pick up a Panasonic ES10 or ES15 (BTW all of this equipment has been discontinued so you would need to buy it used on ebay). So the chain would go:

Camcorder -> ES10/ES15 -> ADVC/DAC -> Mac

Please note that the tradeoff involved in capturing using DV is that your color resolution will be reduced. If you wanted to do any kind of software restoration work or color correction you will get very poor results. But if you just want to get the tapes in digital format so you can upload to YouTube or something, this is a valid method many folks do use. It's straightforward and fairly inexpensive (~$100 for the ADVC/DAC box and ~$100 for the ES10/ES15).

If you and your friend decide that you want the best possible quality from these tapes, then your first order of business is to buy a better playback device. At a bare minimum you would want to find an S-VHS-C camcorder which has a built-in line TBC and an S-Video output. A better (but even more costly) solution would be to buy the JVC P7U VHS-C adapter and then a Panasonic AG-1980P S-VHS VCR (get ready for sticker shock!). Unfortunately, JVC VCRs have a reputation for eating VHS-C tapes, so given that these tapes are valuable you would be better off with a different brand of VCR--the AG-1980P has its own set of problems but it does do well with VHS-C tapes in the adapter.

That's just for playback. You would then need a frame TBC to stabilize the signal. Again, these have gotten very expensive on the used market ($1000+), so you might settle for using the ES10/ES15 to do that. Then, the biggest problem is the dearth of capture options on the Mac. I would need to know your exact Mac model and version of OS X to make any recommendations.

As if that weren't enough to deal with, the restoration tools that can make video look as good as it can be are Windows-based.

It's a big can of worms if you want the highest quality. So if you just want to go the simple/cheap method I really can't blame you.

BTW, I assume you are in North America. If not, please state what country/region you're in.
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  #3  
03-10-2021, 11:15 AM
bee_doc bee_doc is offline
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Thanks,

I am in Scotland, UK

The tapes are valuable to him as the are family recordings but not of high monetary value.

All useful information and I guess what I was really asking is how I can get the best out of a cheap option. So essentially which interfaces to keep/capture the best quality onto digital (albeit it is analog).

I guess S-Video into a PC capture card (or USB) would be an option, but would require more expense in PC card and a higher spec playback device.
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  #4  
03-10-2021, 12:06 PM
bookemdano bookemdano is offline
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No problem. What are the details of your Mac? Year, model and OS X version.
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  #5  
03-10-2021, 01:06 PM
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iMac (circa 2009) running 10.12.6
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  #6  
03-10-2021, 03:05 PM
bookemdano bookemdano is offline
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Great! That should work well for going the DV over firewire route.

What you will need:

A DV conversion device--either the Canopus ADVC-100, Datavideo DAC-100 or DAC-200. There are others. See what is obtainable in the UK. You can also use a miniDV or Digital8 camcorder that offers video input jacks if you happen to have one. You would be using it merely as a pass-through device to convert your analog tapes to DV format.

An appropriate firewire cable. If using the Canopus or Datavideo options above then you would need a 6-pin to 9-pin firewire cable. If using a miniDV camcorder as a passthrough you would need a 4-pin to 9-pin firewire cable. Either should be easily obtainable at amazon, etc. Unlikely you would find one in a physical store as firewire is obsolete these days (Macs dropped the port over 10 years ago).

A Panasonic ES10 or ES15 DVD recorder. These are older models but still regularly come up on ebay (just make sure you get a PAL model). Again, you won't be using the DVD functionality of it at all--what you're after is to run the signal out of your Panasonic camcorder into the DVD recorder, where the picture and signal will be cleaned up, then output from the DVD recorder into your DV box. Other DVD recorders used in the same fashion may do the job of stabilizing the signal, but will not clean up any image quality issues. Without something to stabilize the signal, you will drop frames, which can lead to your audio going out of sync--especially on tapes that have damage.

The prime era for doing transfers of this nature was over ten years ago, so I hope you are comfortable buying on ebay!

In terms of the software you probably should use iMovie. Hopefully it's already installed on your Mac. Otherwise you can see if you can still download it from the App Store. I'm not sure if Apple allows downloads of software for such an old version of OS X (Mountain Lion was released in 2012!). If you can't use iMovie then there are some other options. You could also use the same gear on a PC so long as it has a firewire port (which can often be added aftermarket). There are some good free programs on Windows to transfer the video.

Anyway, that should be enough to get you started. Feel free to ask if you have more questions.

-- merged --

Too late for me to edit my post, but wanted to correct what I said above about your version of OS X. 10.12 is of course Sierra, not Mountain Lion While it is still an older version that Apple no longer supports, it's not quite five years old so you should have no problem running iMovie on it. Sorry for the slip-up!
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  #7  
03-11-2021, 06:09 AM
bee_doc bee_doc is offline
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Thank you @bookemdano.

I appreciate my kit is old but it does what I need(ed) it to do. Happy to browse ebay for kit.

I have a MiniDV and have ordered a IEEE1394 cable from 4pin to Firewire 800 for input to iMovie.

What I need to look out for is a decent Panasonic ES10 or ES15. I presume without this there is still the option to play the tape from Camcorder via MiniDV [acting as a bridge] into Firewire 800 on iMac although it won't be as clean perhaps as it could be?
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  #8  
03-11-2021, 08:53 AM
bookemdano bookemdano is offline
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Yep. Just make certain that your miniDV camcorder has analog input jacks (not all of them do).

And yes, you can certainly try some captures without the ES10/ES15 and see how it goes. You may want to try capturing in smaller segments than doing an entire tape at a time. The reason for this is that each glitch during the transfer could cause the video and audio to go out of sync due to dropped frames. If you do capture an entire tape then make sure to watch it through to the end to make sure audio and video is still aligned.

The ES10/ES15 will clean up the video quality a bit (may not be that noticeable if the original footage is in good condition) and should also stabilize the signal, so if there are dropouts in the original tapes they won't cause A/V sync problems.

Oh, and believe me an old Mac is far preferable for this task than the new ones.

Edit: If you do buy an ES10/ES15 then make sure you get a remote with it. Some of the settings you'll need to change are only accessible via remote.
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  #9  
03-12-2021, 01:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bee_doc View Post
and I have the camcorder (Panasonic NZ-R1) which has composite video/audio output only (yellow and white phonos)
Camcorders rarely had good playback. We'd need to see a sample.
In fact, ironically, VHS-C cameras tended to eat VHS-C tapes on playback more than VCRs did. If a tapes gets stuck in VHS-C camera, you're in for a bad experience. It's not as easy as the VCR with proper powered adapter (CP7U type)..

Quote:
I want to find the best (and low cost) option
"best" and "low cost" rarely touch. What's the realistic budget for the gear? (And remember, buy it, use it, resell it. Good video capture gear holds value, some even increase in value.)

Quote:
to capture these tapes to a digital format for posterity and viewing (I presume an MPEG format).
MPEG, maybe. Capture and final viewing formats not the same. MPEG can retain interlace, whcih you want for TV viewing.

Quote:
Mac support. Ideally the device would work and have software for Mac (OSX) and Windows so that I can establish a process that he can then follow to capture all of his tapes
Have you considered Bootcamp, boot into WinXP/Win7? That gives some more options.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bookemdano View Post
you stated that the videotapes are "very valuable", but you also said that you're using a low-end camcorder with only composite output.
So I think you and your friend need to determine just *how* valuable the footage is. Is it valuable just in that you want to digitize it with the cheapest tools possible? Or is it so valuable that you are willing to spend a significant amount of money to get the best quality capture possible?
To add...

There's really 3 flavors of capture hardware:
- junk
- passable
- ideal

junk = crummy old VCR/camera, no TBC, junk capture card (or even good capture cards, the VCR/TBC situation makes it moot).

passable = good non-TBC JVC S-VHS VCR, ES10/15 (preferably also with DVK) as TBC(ish), good capture card

ideal = JVC/Panasonic VCR with line TBC, actual frame TBC, good capture card

Quote:
Please note that the tradeoff involved in capturing using DV is that your color resolution will be reduced. If you wanted to do any kind of software restoration work or color correction you will get very poor results.
True, choma reduced. With NTSC, 4:1:1, really often unacceptable. However, PAL is 4:2:0, and that's a bit better for visual color retention, similar to DVD-Video format (also 4:2:0, though different co-siting).

Quote:
Unfortunately, JVC VCRs have a reputation for eating VHS-C tapes, so given that these tapes are valuable you would be better off with a different brand of VCR--the AG-1980P has its own set of problems but it does do well with VHS-C tapes in the adapter.
True, but...
- certain EOL JVC decks did actually work well with VHS-C (but still not a a good as 1980)
- this user is seemingly PAL, so NV-FS200 and HS1000 are the 1980 equivalents (argument often ensues on which of those PAL decks is the truer 1980 PAL version)

Quote:
That's just for playback. You would then need a frame TBC to stabilize the signal. Again, these have gotten very expensive on the used market ($1000+), so you might settle for using the ES10/ES15 to do that.
But understand the ES10/15 is a not a TBC, but a crippled+strong line TBC with non-TBC frame sync. There is a fail rate (tapes won't work), and you get the ES10/15 downsides (luma/brightness alterations, posterization, aggressive NR that always on even when "off").

Quote:
As if that weren't enough to deal with, the restoration tools that can make video look as good as it can be are Windows-based.
Vapoursynth has some Mac tools. I have no experience with those, however. Hybrid leverages Vapoursynth in the Mac version, so look to use Hybrid.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bee_doc View Post
All useful information and I guess what I was really asking is how I can get the best out of a cheap option. So essentially which interfaces to keep/capture the best quality onto digital (albeit it is analog).
I guess S-Video into a PC capture card (or USB) would be an option, but would require more expense in PC card and a higher spec playback device.
Cheap without being crap:

(1) Canopus ADVC 50/55/100/110, Panasonic ES10/15, preferably update the VCR with a basic JVC S-VHS from 2/3/4/5000 series (2901, etc). That old camera might work, but you're taking a risk. And the powered VHS-C adapters that look like the JVC CP7U (sold under several brands, mostly Panasonic and JVC).

Quote:
Originally Posted by bookemdano View Post
Too late for me to edit my post, but wanted to correct what I said above about your version of OS X. 10.12 is of course Sierra, not Mountain Lion
I hate the "names" for OS. I always forget, and I never care.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bee_doc View Post
I appreciate my kit is old
No.
- old tech = worthless
- legacy tech = still useful, just not sold shiny and new in big box stores

Quote:
Originally Posted by bookemdano View Post
And yes, you can certainly try some captures without the ES10/ES15 and see how it goes.
That would be a mistake. It will look bad, guaranteed. Being budget minded is one thing, being a stubborn cheapskate is another. Don't skimp here.

Quote:
The ES10/ES15 will clean up the video quality a bit (may not be that noticeable if the original footage is in good condition)
Often stated, but often wrong.
- "not noticeable" in small preview window, sure
- "not noticeable" on a modern TV set, or even full-screen at computer, no

Quote:
Edit: If you do buy an ES10/ES15 then make sure you get a remote with it. Some of the settings you'll need to change are only accessible via remote.
Yep, good call. Too many orphaned unit on eBay. And then remotes alone are often sold by shady Hong Kong sellers (and I have no idea why that is).

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