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mguitonxlt 12-12-2007 10:11 AM

Digitizing analog 8mm tapes: Best capture software ?
I have "digitized" some analog 8mm tapes produce from my Sony Handycam CCD-TRV212 Video 8 using my Sony Digital 8 camcorder (DCRTRV-480), firewire cable and a new Dell desktop with Vista. For optimum quality, is capturing to AVI using something like Windows Movie Maker the best choice? If so, can you lossless compress to save disk space? I have 40 hours of tape. Or can you suggest a better (hopefully free?) capture software and/or file format to use? Is there a file format I could use that comes very close to the original quality where I won't notice the difference? I wonder what format the D8 is sending over the firewire cable. My intent is to produce a digital archive of my family videos in the best quality I can that doesn't break my family bank account.

admin 12-13-2007 05:27 AM

How big is your current hard drive, in terms of GB's (gigabytes)?

mguitonxlt 12-13-2007 09:45 AM

288GB. I also have a WesternDigital Book that holds 500 Gig. I use it to back up my PC. I am willing to consider more storage, including using packs of DVDs if the reason is compelling.

admin 01-24-2008 07:02 PM

Sorry for the delay in answering this. My normal helpers are busy on other projects.

The site is undergoing major upgrades, including the forum (it will very soon have a new look and added functionality). Please note that once this change happens (and it'll be quite obvious), your password will no longer work. I have to manually reset passwords after the upgrade. Instructions will be obvious as well.


Anyway, the best method to transfer DV is to use the freeware program WinDV. The official site for it is

It uses basically zero RAM/CPU resources on the computer (thus preventing a dropped frames problem), and dumps the DV-AVI files onto your hard drive. A Digital-8 is basically DV data recorded onto higher grade 8mm tapes. A Sony proprietary system (as is pretty much anything made by Sony).

This is "lossless" in the sense that it is a perfect copy of the data on your video tape. Nothing is lost.

Now then, the DV format, in and of itself, is a compressed video format, about 5:1 compression. It's optimized for editing. By comparison, MPEG video (as used on DVD-Video discs) is about 15:1 compression, optimized for space over editing.

Having 288GB of free hard drive space, you've got nothing to worry about. DV is about 13GB per hour. Plan accordingly.

Ideally, you want to keep your Digital-8 tapes in a box or on a shelf in the house (temperature controlled environment). For the "video master" that you watch, convert to a high bitrate MPEG file. Your video bitrate should be about 8000k CBR, and the audio can be left as an uncompressed WAV. For a better video quality, consider 9500k CBR, and compress the audio to 384k AC3.

Conversion to MPEG is a whole different discussion. If you need any advice on converting to MPEG, ask away.

mguitonxlt 02-10-2008 09:14 PM

I should point out that I do not have Digital-8 tapes. I have 40 hours of family video on 8mm analog tapes produced by an earlier version Sony camcorder (Sony Handycam CCD-TRV212 Video 8).

So it sounds like my best bet is to put the 8mm analog tapes into the newer version Sony camcorder (Sony Digital 8 DCRTRV-480) which would be connected via firewire to my Dell PC (Vista). WinDV could have the Sony D8 convert the analog tape data to DV-AVI, and then transfer the DV-AVI to my computer hard drive via firewire at the rate of 13GB per hour. If I save all 40 hours of tape as my digital archive files, I will need 520 GB of storage. That will require me to buy a new hard drive.

If I decide not to buy a new hard drive, it sounds like my next best option is to create a lossy copy of the digital data by converting the DV-AVI files to high bitrate MPEG files, which would be stored on my hard drive or a DVD disk. I could make the MPEG files the digital archive and erase each DV-AVI file once it is converted to MPEG.

Would the video quality of the MPEG files be noticeably inferior to the DV-AVI files?

admin 02-11-2008 02:43 PM

I missed that somehow, in my last post. At any rate, the camera is converting the 8mm to DV format, so the data comes across as DV. WinDV is still the tool of choice here.

If you want to compress the video further, but not degrade it, yet keep it in an edit-friendly sort of format, then I suggest converting some of them to MPEG-2 (interlaced) with I-frame only compression, using HP@HL profile (instead of normal DVD-Video MP@ML), as well as keeping bitrate in the 8000-15000k range. Maybe even 2-pass VBR at 8000k with max 15000k.

For maximum quality, I use the MainConcept MPEG Encoder 1.4 or 1.5. What are you using, or what might you plan to use as an MPEG encoder? Or are you wanting suggestions there? If so, do you have a budget for what you'd be willing to spend on said software? (Or maybe you have access to it by other means -- such as work or whatever).

Quality of the MPEG will not be worse than the DV-AVI if the setting are set as such.

Before proceeding with more detailed information, knowing the exact application for MPEG encoding is required.

Buying an extra hard drive is a great idea. Then again, I think you've already got enough room.

On the super-valuable videos, like a wedding, you may want to leave it as a DV-AVI stream. Only convert the lesser-important events (little league games, etc) to the MPEG files. I have all kinds of mixed sources and output, based on source quality and priority of the archive.

mguitonxlt 02-11-2008 08:34 PM

This is very helpful. I donít have an encoder in mind. If MainConcept MPEG Encoder 1.5 is only $21, I would be willing to buy it for the extra quality. My plan is to keep a digitized archive of the analog tapes. I would play the digitized files from time to time at family gatherings and such. Whenever I get a lot of free time, which maybe years from now, I would like give copies of selected footage to individual family members and friends, perhaps, the footage that they are in. Beyond that, I have no interest in doing any fancy editing or overlaying audio with music or commentary.

Do you think MainConcept Encoder can fulfill my needs? If so, I will buy the software. Since, I am unfamiliar with a lot of this terminology; I may need some help in selecting the ideal settings in the software.

admin 02-11-2008 11:07 PM

I don't know what that MCE thing is. I installed it, but it's nothing. Must embed in WMM or something, it's not an encoder app.

The full MPEG-2 encoder application is apparently recently renamed "MainConcept Reference" (a stupid name, if you ask me, sounds more like a help manual than piece of software). The new program merged several older programs, and it appears to now run $450. 0202/information-20222.html

Not exactly easy to afford anymore. Ridiculous.

I'll probably end up suggesting this well-known $37 option:
It's not bad, I've been using it for years, just that MainConcept was better.

I've had suggested Procoder Express, but Grass Valley seems to have dropped the $50 Express version after doing some kind of merger with previous owner Canopus.

MainConcept is embedded inside Adobe Premiere Elements ($99), so I might give the newest version a try here as well. Not looked at the new version 4 yet.

Will get back to you.

mguitonxlt 03-17-2008 08:16 PM

Did you need to get back to me? Are you saying that if I buy the Adobe Premiere Elements I will have what I need, which is MainConcept? Otherwise, I am inclined to use the TMPG program. Unless you have any other suggestions.

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