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  #1  
02-04-2018, 02:45 PM
Phthalocyanine Phthalocyanine is offline
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This probably falls in the category of a solution waiting for a problem but I thought I would share my findings for what it is worth.

I picked up a video surveillance DVR (the Zmodo DVR-H9114V) for next to nothing a thrift store and decided to see how it would work for digitizing analog video, specifically VHS tapes. This is a class of digital video recorders designed to work with analog surveillance cameras. The DVRs typically take a continuous feed from multiple cameras and digitize and store it on a hard drive. They are like mini-computers with networking capability and USB connections.

the Zmodo DVR-H9114V is circa 2012, based on the date of the firmware for the unit.

Most of this unit’s special capabilities, like the four channel input on my model, are of course wasted if all you want to do is digitize a VHS tape. But I wanted to see what kind of result one would get.

PROs:

Up to 704x480 resolution H264 encoding, with up to 2.5 mbps (which is more than enough to adequately capture a VHS taple). Also 704x240 and lower resolutions.

NTSC/PAL/SECAM video standards. Has the ability to input in one standard and output in another.
Ignores copy-protection on commercial VHS tapes (because who would have thought that anyone would be crazy enough to use it for that.)

Adjustable brightness, contrast, etc settings.

Outputs in .mp4, avi, and “raw” H264 formats. Of these only the .avi is useful. I re-mux the .avi content into a .mkv container and it plays perfectly in standard video programs. It outputs in 500 MB chunks, but these were flawless combined in mkv toolkitnix. The unit’s mp4 output is a proprietary container designed for some old version of Windows Media Player and works with nothing. The program includes a driver for its mp4 container but I didn’t want to risk messing up my system by installing it. The “raw” H264 is only video (no audio).

CONs:

Audio capture is only mono and capture is 16bit 8Khz. In contrast CD quality audio is 16bit 44.1Khz and most commercial video is 16 bit, 48Khz. So the sample rate is low and music is not going to sound very good. But it is perfectly adequate for movie dialogue, and the overall effect is not “tinny.”

Some of the RCA in and outs are BNC connectors, so you need to get convertor plugs to use with standard video equipment.

One can set selections to output chunks of video, but only down to 1-minute gradations. This means that one can output the whole chunk of the capture, but one will have to use other video programs to more accurately trim the beginning and ending.

There are many work-arounds because it was never designed to transfer discrete VHS video tapes. I finally found the setting to remove the date and time time-stamp on the video, which would have been a deal-breaker for producing useful video transfers.

So how is the final video quality of the transfers?

I would say perfectly adequate. Below are some screen capture from a commercial VHS tape coming from a JVC SVHS 9500. Once again, this DVR only accepts RCA video in, not S-Video. The real weak point is the audio capture quality. I’m not about to give up my HDD DVD recorders for this, but some of the features of this DVR (like ignoring copy-protection and multi- video standard input/output) could be useful for certain projects.

Remember too, that this is a relatively old unit (from 2012). The newer units may have more capabilities that would be useful for our kind of video transfer. But then again, newer units are not likely to show up cheap at thrift stores.

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  #2  
02-04-2018, 11:50 PM
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704x480 H264 @ 2.5mbps is decent. Like 264 equivalent to compressed DVD @ 5/6mbps.

The audio is a downer.

I think you sample capture is ideal for it -- old B&W TV, at least public domain or kinescope sources. Lots of those have marginal audio anyway, so HQ standards. I could see myself using such a toy on my own VHS of that sort of source.

Does it make interlaced H.264? That's another issue to deal with, many players expect progressive 264, be it MKV or MP4 wrappers.

Definitely a neat test.

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  #3  
02-05-2018, 01:46 AM
Phthalocyanine Phthalocyanine is offline
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You know, I'm not exactly sure whether the video is interlaced or progressive, but I think it is progressive.

It is supposed to be NTSC at 30 fps, but computer video players see it as 40 fps.

I can upload the video file if you give me a place to send it, but the entire file is 2.5 GB.

I was trying to slice off a smaller sample but my video editor AVidemux can't deal with the audio format, which, according to VLC player, is PCM S16 LE (araw). LE = Little Endian. The Zmodo manual describes the audio encoding format as G.726 ADPCM.

I'm attaching the manual for the Zmodo if anyone wants to check out more of its specifications etc.


Attached Files
File Type: pdf DVR-H9114V_DVR-H9118V_User Manual.pdf (11.65 MB, 0 downloads)
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  #4  
02-06-2018, 01:26 AM
Phthalocyanine Phthalocyanine is offline
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I upgraded the firmware on the Zmodo and was rewarded with a better editing interface that makes it easier to do precise cuts.

Here’s a short clip from a color commercial tape from our friends at the Magic Kingdom. (I remuxed this as a .mkv but had to rename it .mp4 to upload it here. My PowerDVD 12 actually likes it better named as a .mp4 and will play the audio now whereas it would not do so when it was named .mkv.)

The original tape has soft shot-on-video quality and the encoding here is not helping it any, especially as it has to come through RCA instead of S-Video on my JVC SVHS 9500. The image quality is blurry but not particularly noisy. Here is the media info on the clip. (The fps here is showing the correct 29.97.)

Quote:
Video
ID : 1
Format : AVC
Format/Info : Advanced Video Codec
Format profile : Baseline@L3
Format settings : 2 Ref Frames
Format settings, CABAC : No
Format settings, RefFrames : 2 frames
Format settings, GOP : M=1, N=25
Codec ID : V_MPEG4/ISO/AVC
Duration : 29 s 825 ms
Bit rate : 1 998 kb/s
Width : 704 pixels
Height : 480 pixels
Display aspect ratio : 3:2
Frame rate mode : Variable
Frame rate : 29.970 (29970/1000) FPS
Standard : NTSC
Color space : YUV
Chroma subsampling : 4:2:0
Bit depth : 8 bits
Scan type : Progressive
Bits/(Pixel*Frame) : 0.197
Stream size : 7.10 MiB (94%)
Language : English
Default : Yes
Forced : No

Audio
ID : 2
Format : PCM
Format settings : Little / Signed
Codec ID : A_PCM/INT/LIT
Duration : 29 s 813 ms
Bit rate mode : Constant
Bit rate : 128 kb/s
Frame rate : 32.033 FPS
Bit depth : 16 bits
Stream size : 466 KiB (6%)
Language : English
Default : Yes
Forced : No


Attached Files
File Type: mp4 Electrical Parade clip 1.mp4 (7.58 MB, 6 downloads)
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  #5  
02-06-2018, 09:19 PM
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There's no way that's 16-bit. It sounds awful on that test clip. Very tinny.

The encoding isn't terrible. Soft, not not worse than Xvids from 10 years ago.

Color may not be as good as B&W. I'd like to see something old B&W as a sample from the unit. That may be the one thing where I'd find it acceptable, maybe enjoyably so.

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  #6  
02-08-2018, 12:57 PM
Phthalocyanine Phthalocyanine is offline
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I've been trying to upload a 35MB clip but your server keeps re-setting. Please advise.
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  #7  
02-08-2018, 12:59 PM
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What is the extension of the clip?

It should not be timing out. The size limit is 99mb and timeouts are generous.
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  #8  
02-08-2018, 08:22 PM
Phthalocyanine Phthalocyanine is offline
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The fourth time was the charm!

Here’s a two minute clip from a B&W 1943 film (commercial VHS from 1992.)

Quote:
Format : Matroska
Format version : Version 4 / Version 2
File size : 33.2 MiB
Duration : 2 min 12 s
Overall bit rate : 2 108 kb/s
Encoded date : UTC 2018-02-08 17:47:58
Writing application : mkvmerge v10.0.0 ('To Drown In You') 64bit
Writing library : libebml v1.3.4 + libmatroska v1.4.5
FileExtension_Invalid : mkv mk3d mka mks

Video
ID : 1
Format : AVC
Format/Info : Advanced Video Codec
Format profile : Baseline@L3
Format settings : 2 Ref Frames
Format settings, CABAC : No
Format settings, RefFrames : 2 frames
Format settings, GOP : M=1, N=25
Codec ID : V_MPEG4/ISO/AVC
Duration : 2 min 12 s
Bit rate : 1 976 kb/s
Width : 704 pixels
Height : 480 pixels
Display aspect ratio : 3:2
Frame rate mode : Variable
Frame rate : 29.970 (29970/1000) FPS
Standard : NTSC
Color space : YUV
Chroma subsampling : 4:2:0
Bit depth : 8 bits
Scan type : Progressive
Bits/(Pixel*Frame) : 0.195
Stream size : 31.2 MiB (94%)
Default : Yes
Forced : No

Audio
ID : 2
Format : PCM
Format settings : Little / Signed
Codec ID : A_PCM/INT/LIT
Duration : 2 min 12 s
Bit rate mode : Constant
Bit rate : 128 kb/s
Frame rate : 32.003 FPS
Bit depth : 16 bits
Stream size : 2.02 MiB (6%)
Default : Yes
Forced : No


Attached Files
File Type: mp4 Clip A.mp4 (33.25 MB, 1 downloads)
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  #9  
02-08-2018, 08:33 PM
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The deinterlacing is very rudimentary and non-precise, and audio is of course audio is still taking a quality hit -- but I must say, I don't find it unacceptable. At least for personal non-commercial use. If I wanted to hastily dump some VHS tapes to MP4/MKV, for an archive of stuff being watched on a tablet or phone, this would be quite nice.

Only larger TVs and good speakers would reveal the quality limitations.

Indeed, and interesting test you've done!

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  #10  
02-08-2018, 10:03 PM
Phthalocyanine Phthalocyanine is offline
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This model, the Zmodo DVR-H9114V, is also known as the ZMD-DD-SAN4 or ZMD-DD-SBN4, the later being the model numbers used on the Zmodo support pages.

It occurs to me that this class of surveillance DVRs might be the last area in which contemporary computer components will be used to digitize analog video. There is probably a much larger installed-base of old analog surveillance cameras in use whose footage needs to be digitized on a regular basis than there is a base of VHS users who want to digitize their tapes. As we know, manufacturers of consumer electronics have largely abandoned making new devices for digitizing analog video.

I was browsing some of the more recent analog surveillance camera DVRs and the new selling point is “960H” which is 960x480 resolution. This is a kind of faux 16:9 that looks better when stretched out on contemporary 16:9 monitors.

Of course 960x480 is not a resolution that is particularly useful for converting 4:3 analog sources.
Here’s a sales image of a particularly photogenic burglar caught in the act and illustrating the different resolutions.

960H illustration.jpg


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