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  #1  
06-25-2016, 06:54 PM
beef beef is offline
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Hey guys,

So I've been lead to believe this forum is the place to be for advice on VHS and digitising! Was feeling nostalgic and wanted to digitise my old VHS and VHS-C home recordings. So I impulsively found a 10 VCR (LG PDC LV880 - no idea if it's good or not, but it works!) in the nearest charity shop, I was amazed I even found one at all. Picked up the worlds shittiest CRT for 5, A VHC-C to VHS adapter and the Elgato Video Capture device (have PC and Mac, but ideally wanted something that was Mac compatible too and this device had decent reviews).

I've just finished doing a few tape transfers, incredibly easy to do, but the quality is pretty crap and I'm not satisfied! I'm almost satisfied just by having them digitised even at all, but I crave more! It seems I'm unable to rip them at above 25fps, and 640x480 is the max resolution... If I watch the videos directly on the little CRT tv, the frame rate is obviously vastly better, the picture quality is better and the colours are nicer. Obviously you're going to lose some quality when transferring to digital, but I feel like there's a lot more that I could get somehow. From watching the tapes on TV it's clear that they're not 25fps recordings, so where is the limiting factor in my set up? I assume the VCR is not the issue, so it must be either my software, the Elgato device or both. I have tried using Virtualbox, and I was still unable to get more than 25fps, but I didn't really know what I was doing, I've never used that program before.

I know you're all shaking your heads at my choice of the Elgato, but do any of you know it enough to say whether this is the problem? I mean... I assume it'd be possible to rip these videos at 50 or 60fps with the right kit...

If it is the culprit, I can easily return it, so does anyone have a suggestion for a replacement that's within a similar price range (doesn't have to be Mac compatible, but that'd be nice) that would allow me to make higher quality captures with better FPS and higher resolutions? Would the Dazzle DVC-100 work?

Thank you

ps. I am a total dunce when it comes to technical terms and formats etc, please be kind!

Last edited by beef; 06-25-2016 at 07:09 PM.
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  #2  
06-25-2016, 09:22 PM
sanlyn sanlyn is offline
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Welcome to digitalfaq.

If you have a cheap VCR and no knowledge of video processing, you can't expect the higher quality that would be possible with better equipment and skillful processing. Many of us don't own or use the "best" or most expensive hardware or software. But with workable equipment, learned skills, and accurate information, we achieve very good results.

I'm sorry to tell you that changing the frame rate of your 25fps tapes will not improve image quality. If you visit your nearest cinema house you might be disappointed to learn that the Hollywood and Shepperton Studio movie films you see on the cinema screen don't display at 25fps, but at slower frame rates. Movies and TV shows on cable TV have not had their frame rates modified.

You can't expect good quality captures with the LG unit. You will find yourself struggling with results of very poor playback. You have no line level tbc to correct common VHS scanline timing errors, no frame-level tbc to clean the output signal for precise frame rate timing, no stable tracking, noise reduction, or high quality video tape heads to help generate a cleaner image. Also, Elgato makes several video capture devices -- different Elgato models accept different sources and capture or record to different digital formats. Most Elgato models are unsuitable for VHS capture, regardless of their advertised claims.

This forum has several capture and processing guides, and thousands of public posts that discuss video capture, video processing and video equipment. The internet has dozens of video forums similar to this one. You might want to begin with the forum's digital video and capture guides, here: http://www.digitalfaq.com/guides/video.htm.

VHS tape was developed during the CRT era. I agree that old analog sources that play well on a CRT look like garbage on a new HDTV, and that technology such as LCD cells were an inferior choice for visual media that involves motion. A new TV is even worse for older media that has a lot of noise, such as VHS tape. Such sources will look cleaner on a CRT, but you are not correct in thinking that a CRT modifies the frame rate.
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  #3  
06-25-2016, 09:57 PM
beef beef is offline
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Hey man, thanks for the detailed reply! Yeah, as you say, I can see from browsing this site that it's a vast topic that you could sink a hell of a lot of money into and still not achieve perfect results. That said, I knew my results wouldn't be superb with what I bought, I just expected something a little better, and it's left me wanting more. It should be said too that the videos i've digitised so far are absolutely passable copies for the sake of posterity, they look decent when viewed on their own, it's only when I did a side-by-side comparison with the tape on the CRT that I realised how much smoother it ran amongst other things.

Re. 25fps. So you're saying there's no point to ripping them at above that? Are the tapes themselves recorded at 25fps, or is this is a limitation in the analog to digital process? Perhaps the quality remains the same, but surely they would appear noticeably smoother?

And yeah, when I bought the LG VCR I was just happy to have found a working unit in a local shop. I hadn't done any research. I've been checking out the resources on your site and I would love to find an affordable VCR with TBC capabilities... but I just can't find any here in the UK at the moment. At least not in my price range. Ultimately, I would like better quality, not 'the best' quality - so I'd be happy to spend a bit more on improving that, but not too much!

The Elgato device I have is designed for VHS to digital use, it's just called the Elgato Video Capture. It seems a bit rubbish that it has such harsh limitations though, 640x480 25fps... Clearly it's good enough for video capture purely for the sake of having some digital records, but the quality really leaves a lot to be desired and I would rather have something a bit more suitable for VHS capture as you say.

Also, you'll probably think this is stupid - but having this LG VCR isn't all bad. I really love that lofi and unique artifacting and distortion you get from VHS and dodgy VCRs. I want to make the most of this for some future film projects, rather than just use some VHS simulator plugin. So while I'd like my old home movies to be as good as I can get them, I will also need the exact opposite. I'll save that for a future thread though, as I have a lot of questions about that.

Sorry if all the above questions make you want bang your head against a brick wall, but I really appreciate the help! I'll carry on reading some of your resources but honestly it's a little overwhelming, the sheer amount of choice when it comes to VCRs, capture cards, software.
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  #4  
06-26-2016, 12:05 AM
sanlyn sanlyn is offline
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PAL VHS tape plays at 25fps. NTSC tape plays at 29.97 fps. Notice, the two statements say that these tapes play at a specified frame rate via hardware designed for proper playback with each tape format.

Agreed, learning this video stuff looks challenging at first. I began my initial research 14 years ago and managed to get almost everything I needed to know during a weekend from reading and keeping notes on multi-page beginner's guides such as the one here. The rest was detail, one detail at a time, acquired as I worked. This doesn't mean I read a ton of 4-paragraph "tutorial" sites on some clueless mass-consumer blog like Cnet or PC mag, which I recognized from the outset were oversimplified, misleading, and often just stupid. There's more to video work than pushing buttons and clicking icons, which can be learned in a couple of hours if you use the dumbed-down stuff made for average consumers in a rush with low quality standards. It's like getting your digital photos printed at the local variety store using their automatic coin-operated printer booths.

On the other hand there are tricks aplenty that are handy enough to pick up from tech forum posts. Tech forums aren't like chat rooms. They're deigned and operate as channels of information exchange. A guide introduces you to the basics, then leads to further detail, then links to yet more discussions about specific issues, which in turn link to still more resources. One of the first things newcomers learn is to get away from the thinking behind all-in-one video processing package. The vast majority of these packages do everything for you, which is another way of saying that you don't need to have a clue about what's going on, nor do you you have no control over the results, nor do you have to learn anything new.

The choice in VCRs, good-quality capture devices and hardware, and good working software is not as unlimited as you'd think. If you find the names of 15 recommended capture cards in a list, try finding any two of them; once you do, one of them likely has limitations you don't want.

Odd that you mentioned the Elgato software limited to capturing standard definition at 640x480. That might be a limitation using their software. No one in this forum would recommend their software for capture or for anything else. We've had a few members report successfully capturing PAL VHS to the preferred 720x576 for PAL as lossless YUY2 digital working files using VirtualDub, but they had to go through hoops with third-party software to do so conveniently and with the proper setup tools. If you object to 640x480 because you're of a mind to capture VHS sources to high definition frame sizes, you're in for a great disappointment. Low-def upsampled to hi-def isn't high definition, it's just low definition blown up into big frames riddled with smeary artifacts. It's high source resolution that defines high definition, not frame size. In working with video you'll find plenty of low-definition garbage in big frames.

Elgato and others like to define certain digital formats as the only choices. It's a shame the way thisa marketing hype seduces newcomers into thinking that VHS captured to standard lossy "digital formats" will magically look like "digital video". No, it will look like rotten dirty noisy crumby VHS with added digital compression artifacts, encoded into digital form that defies further cleanup or improvement and can't be edited without further damage.

During the past two or three weeks alone you'll find enough posts and samples to replace a term of college video classes. In addition to the forum guides and posts, you'll find info at sites like AfterDawn and its post-processing guides. Or if you really want to get into the geeky zen of truly hardnosed capture and processing minutiae, you can find many guides at doom9.
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  #5  
06-26-2016, 01:18 AM
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I'll reply more later, but I saw a few comments when skimming.

@beef (funny name!)
- The VCR will never yield decent results.
- Which exact Elgato? Some are good, some not. Elgate is just a brand name. ("I drive a VW" can mean a bug or sports car.)
- There is a middle ground between $$$$$ perfection and $ crap. It's not binary.
- I'd not bother with CRT viewing anymore. That will hide flaws that you'll see later.
- Be careful with cheap all-plastic VHS-C adapters. Many eat tapes!

@sanlyn
- Doom9 doesn't have much on capturing methods, just the hardware (diagrams, drivers, etc).
- Afterdawn is vastly outdated, and was never focused on video, aside from copying DVDs and downloading torrents.

More later...

- Did my advice help you? Then become a Premium Member and support this site.
- For sale in the marketplace: TBCs, workflows, capture cards, VCRs
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  #6  
06-26-2016, 05:24 AM
beef beef is offline
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@lordsmurf and @sanlyn, you absolute legends. I will reply in more detail too when I get home later. I love having all my idiotic preconceptions about tech and electronics dashed in seconds, sincerely

Definitely wasn't hoping for modern HD resolutions, but I feel like 720x480 would be a large improvement over 640 would it not? I just haven't been able to do this with the Elgato Video Capture so far, could well be my own ignorance over a hardware limitation. I must say I was a bit confused to see the suggested capture size in one of your guides is 352x480 for VHS... Ultimately, it's probably not that important for me anyway; they'd sooner end up being played back on laptop screens watching via Youtube than being burned to DVD and watched on gigantic TVs.

But anyway, I have many more questions - thank you both and I shall return!
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  #7  
06-26-2016, 09:08 AM
msgohan msgohan is offline
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Your 25 frame-per-second home videos are really 50 fields-per-second. The CRT is showing them at 50Hz, the Elgato software is wrecking them, and a proper 25 fps capture would display them with what is often called "combing". For computer display, a proper 25 fps capture can then be processed to create a 50 fps encode. This process (double-rate deinterlacing, bob deinterlacing, bobbing, similar terms) is generally destructive, so we recommend keeping archived files in the original interlaced state.

On Windows, use VirtualDub instead of the Elgato software. Their application blends fields into frames, at least when MP4 output is chosen (bottom of this post and images here).

Quote:
Originally Posted by beef View Post
I feel like 720x480 would be a large improvement over 640 would it not? ... I must say I was a bit confused to see the suggested capture size in one of your guides is 352x480 for VHS
You should be capturing at a vertical resolution of 576, not 480, unless you have tapes produced outside of the UK using the North American standard. This is very important.

To store enough video on a tape cheaply, the VHS format sacrifices horizontal resolution. This is why 352 horizontal pixels is sufficient to represent all of the picture detail. The S-VHS format was later invented to improve upon this.
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06-26-2016, 12:41 PM
beef beef is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by msgohan View Post
Your 25 frame-per-second home videos are really 50 fields-per-second. The CRT is showing them at 50Hz, the Elgato software is wrecking them, and a proper 25 fps capture would display them with what is often called "combing".
Hey thanks for the help and for explaining it. It's slowly starting to piece together, and that all makes sense to me - it's just the refresh rate of the CRT that makes them seem so much smoother. If the Elgato isn't allowing me to capture a proper 25fps, do you have any recommendations for a similarly priced device that would as swapping to something better wouldn't be an issue (gotta love Amazon returns policies). I will investigate deinterlacing/decombing too, thanks for that. I would like to start from the ground up though, as I assume there's limited reasons to look into that when I'm still using the Elgato to capture? Or is the device fine, but the capture method wrecking the FPS?

I'm just about to go test out Virtualbox and experiment with resolutions and codecs. Will report back later. Would it be okay to upload some short video samples to get feedback on?

Quote:
Originally Posted by msgohan View Post
You should be capturing at a vertical resolution of 576, not 480, unless you have tapes produced outside of the UK using the North American standard. This is very important.
Regarding that, my tapes were all recorded in the late 80s/90s within the UK, so I have no reason to believe otherwise. I will look into capturing at 576.
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  #9  
06-26-2016, 02:22 PM
msgohan msgohan is offline
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Samples are welcomed.

My understanding is that video capture peripherals cannot be used through VirtualBox. I thought you had an actual PC available?

The Elgato itself is not preventing you from capturing proper, interlaced 25 fps. One of the links in my post was to a thread where a guy posted an Elgato clip that was then deinterlaced to 50 fps for him. You just need to avoid using their bundled software.
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06-28-2016, 07:25 AM
beef beef is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by msgohan View Post
My understanding is that video capture peripherals cannot be used through VirtualBox. I thought you had an actual PC available?
Oops I meant Virtualdub, not sure where Virtualbox came from, never even used it. I'll give capturing on my PC a go.

So I have some free time today, trying to experiment with Virtualdub to see if I can get better results and I've already run into a problem... The Format..." option under the drop down Video menu is greyed out for me. Meaning I can't select resolution or compression mode... Any idea why this is? I can't seem to figure it out.

Edit. It's doing my head in! Format still greyed out but there's a "set custom format" option I can use which appears to let me click it. Only issue is that selecting any format option other than UYVY gives the "this capture device does not support the selected video format" error message sadly.

It lets me select 720x576, but I haven't actually tried capturing anything yet, so I'll see if makes a difference.

-- merged --

So it appears to have worked regarding the resolution! File size is colossal, and I will look into comparing it with the Elgato software capture in a bit - will upload some samples if I can.

Only bit I wasn't sure about is what FPS to select within VirtualDub - I know now that PAL VHS plays at 25fps, but I just didn't know whether to set the FPS in virtualdub at 25fps or higher if I want to try and "decomb" it at a later date so it looks better on a computer monitor. I just went with 25fps.

BTW does anyone have any links to guides on the best ways to convert these mammoth 20+ gigabyte files to much smaller ones without sacrificing quality? I'll keep the originals on a hard drive but I need smaller ones (<1GB) to send all my relatives.
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  #11  
06-28-2016, 12:23 PM
msgohan msgohan is offline
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It's normal for Format to be greyed out. As I recall, it's one of the direct hooks that can only be accessed by the old VFW driver model. The modern DirectShow interface packages most/all of the settings into Capture Pin and Capture Filter.

UYVY is fine. It's the same data as YUY2 (YUYV) in a different order. UYVY 720x576 at 25fps is correct.

While capturing, compress with a lossless codec like Huffyuv. This will still create large files, but half as big as uncompressed. I don't personally know of a good up-to-date starting guide on compressing for delivery.
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06-28-2016, 12:54 PM
beef beef is offline
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No worries thank you, I'll look into good ways to compress them later, still got to capture a few dozen first. I have been using Huffyuv (I think! I've followed the guides here as closely as possible) - i've done a bit of comparing the two, and the differences are pretty obvious. Much sharper picture, overall seems smoother and better quality. Also seems like the Elgato software crops the frame somewhat, as there's a border of sorts around the Vdub capture, and a distorted line running across the very bottom edge (it doesn't really bother me, but I imagine this is the kind of thing a TBC would sort out).

So it's nearly all positive, except that the audio is totally out of sync when I capture with Vdub. I don't have any other programs running or anything, and it reported 0 frames dropped. Yet the audio was totally borked - the Elgatos audio was fine, so this must be a problem with Vdub or my capture settings surely? I suppose I could always sync the audio in another program, but this is less than ideal. A quick google shows that it's quite a common problem, but doesn't immediately present a solution... The only thing I've seen so far is people suggesting to use AmarecTV instead.
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  #13  
06-29-2016, 04:02 AM
sanlyn sanlyn is offline
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VitualDub's default capture setup configuration ( as well as other software's) defaults can't be ideal for every variation in capture cards. The image below shows VDub timing options I've used with several cards over a long period of time, without problems. In VirtualDub capture's top menu, use "Capture..." -> "Timing..." to access the Timing options dialog. Resync modes are usually the culprit with many cards. The settings I've been using for AGP and USB cards alike are shown below:



Side borders, lower border noise: The noise along the bottom border is universally common everyday VCR head-switching noise. In post processing it's cropped and replaced with black pixels, or simply masked. Many newcomers to post processing will cut off that border and then resize the image to fit, not realizing how much damage they're inflicting.

By some SMPTE engineering standards, varies devices play/record/capture 4:3 video in 704 of the 720 horizontal pixels. You will find so many variations of this standard, as well as many devices which ignore it, that it's simply hilarious. On most VCR/capture card combinations I have side borders of one kind or another. Tapes I made on cheap VCR's in the early 90's playback today with thick rippling white borders along each side. Then I'll get one tape from the same era that plays with no borders at all, not even bottom head switching noise. Go figure.

Again, in post processing these are handled in numerous ways.


Attached Images
File Type: png Timing Options.png (106.6 KB, 256 downloads)
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06-30-2016, 10:18 PM
msgohan msgohan is offline
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If you are using VirtualDub's audio preview while capturing, don't.

I don't recommend using those Resync options with capture devices that include onboard audio, like these USB sticks. They were designed to deal with the differing clocks involved when you capture audio with a separate device, like All-in-Wonder + sound card. I would choose "Do not resync" here.
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07-01-2016, 03:05 AM
sanlyn sanlyn is offline
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Thanks to msgohan for that comment, which I neglected to mention earlier.

With USB devices as msgohan describes, "Do not resync" (which is the default, if I recall) is usually preferred. The problem with all those options is the way different cards respond to them. I've used the options pictured in post #15 with two All In Wonders + sound card, a borrowed ATI600 USB, a VC500 USB, a trial of an EZCap from the original maker, and 3 different XP machines. I can turn on audio preview while setting up for capture, but with USB devices it should be turned off. VDub let's you view an audio levels display during capture with audio preview turned off, if you feel insecure about that with USB cards.

I had audio sync problems on only 3 captures. On one occasion I used the F5 key to start capture and had audio progressively out of sync within 20 minutes. On occasion #2 I used the mouse to click "Capture..." and then "Capture Video", and had the same sync problem. I've never had audio sync problems by starting a capture with the F6 key. F5 is called the old "compatibility mode" audio option. I've been told and have read that F5 no longer applies, and that using F5 or F6 made no difference. So on occasion #3 I started a capture using the F5 key and had audio out of sync within 20 minutes. Your mileage might differ. I always use F6.

With Windows 7 it's roulette all the way.
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07-02-2016, 06:26 PM
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Hey guys, once again thanks so much for sharing your insight and knowledge and offering advice!

I haven't had much time to sit down with all my tapes the past week, hopefully I will tomorrow. I *believe* i may have sorted out the audio sync problems using Sanlyn's timing options, and making sure that audio preview was off this time around. Made sure 'do not resync' was turned off. I only did a short test clip, so it remains to be seen whether it would drift out of sync with a full length capture.

Not sure whether it's just superstition at this point but I used F6 to start and clicked 'stop capture'. Lo and behold, perfect audio (so far!)

Gave the tape heads in the VCR a good clean to boot. No idea how to adjust tracking, especially without a remote, but that probably wouldn't hurt either. Speaking of VCRs, I've been looking far and wide for a VCR with TBC built in, seems they are extremely hard to come by here in the UK (at least at reasonable prices), unless you really know what you're looking for. Found a potential vast improvement over my current hunk of junk though: an auction for a JVC HR-DVS2U (with no remote) going rather cheap at the moment. Has 4 heads, compared to my current 6, but on paper it seems to be an improvement in most other ways. I'll see if i can snag it!

Edit.

Seems I spoke too soon. Audio is fine with short clips, but it drifts out of sync every time with longer ones.

Just tried a few tapes from 40 minutes to 3 hours and the audio ends up well behind the video every time, even if it starts off in sync.

Any suggestions?
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07-03-2016, 07:28 AM
sanlyn sanlyn is offline
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The resync function setting is often a hurdle for different capture cards and audio card combinations. The best alternate choice is msghohan's suggestion to select "Do not resync" under resync mode. However, before you do that, check your "Audio" menu and make sure "Compression" is set to uncompressed PCM, and under Audio "raw capture format" your sampling rate should be 48KHz @16-bit. Some sampling frequency settings can result in sync drift.

Last edited by sanlyn; 07-03-2016 at 07:40 AM.
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  #18  
07-03-2016, 09:18 AM
sanlyn sanlyn is offline
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Oops, I just noticed this from an earlier post, so may as well check out a few details:

Quote:
Originally Posted by beef View Post
I have been using Huffyuv (I think!...
,LOL, you should be more certain than that. If you set video compression to hufyuv, that's what Virtualdub will use.

You should also have "Video" custom format set to 720x480 for NTSC (720x576 for PAL), with YUY2 or UYVY color.

During capture, watch in "Preview" mode, not "Overlay" mode.

You can turn on audio playback only to preview or to cue up the tape during capture setup, but turn off playback before you start capture. Virtualdub has an item in the "Audio" menu that let's you view an audio volume meter at the bottom of the window if you want to check that audio is feeding thru.
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07-03-2016, 03:08 PM
beef beef is offline
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Haha, well Sanlyn, generally I tend to not get along with technology and software all that well so I'm always hesitant to say something definitively. You're right though, i DID use Huffyuv!

Well, I'm pretty sure mine are all PAL - so I've been trying to capture at 720x576, and UYVY compression.

I changed my settings from overlay mode to preview mode.

I tried changing the settings to "do not resync" as msgohan suggested.

Sadly the audio is still well out of sync. It starts off great, but by half an hour in it's noticably out of sync. By the end it's probably close to being delayed by 2 seconds.

I'm sure it's pretty hard to say but what do you think the culprit is - Vdub? The VCR? The Elgato? A combination?

It is worth mentioning that when I capture them as crap 640x480 Mpegs with the bundled Elgato software, the audio is in sync throughout. So perhaps I need to try another program as perhaps Vdub just isn't playing nice with my set up.
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07-03-2016, 07:55 PM
sanlyn sanlyn is offline
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OK, then something's not set correctly, and as I re-read earlier posts in this thread I'm getting confused myself. So I have a couple of questions:

What capture device are you now using? If I've kept track, you're using a USB capture device ? If using a USB device, you probably have your audio wires plugged into the USB device, right?

In Virtualdub capture, when you click on the "Device" item and the drop-down menu appears, what are the names of the capture devices or drivers shown in that drop down list?

What kind of audio card is installed in your PC?
In the VirtualDub capture top menu, in the "Audio" menu there are two drop-down items. "Audio input" and "Audio source". What audio options are shown in the input and source menus?

Otherwise you can try VirtualVCR, which can be set to capture to lossless huffyuv. Not as advanced as VDub and won't recognize as many capture cards but can use DirectShow cap drivers. But first I'd check the settings requested above.
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