Possible Mac capture options in 2018: Aja, Brighteye, Blackmagic? - digitalFAQ Forum
 Forum Possible Mac capture options in 2018: Aja, Brighteye, Blackmagic?
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#1
08-15-2018, 01:40 AM
 demitri Free Member Join Date: Jul 2018 Posts: 7 Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Hi,

I'm embarking on a project to digitize ~200 (maybe more) old VHS tapes. (It's time; I need to make the space.) I've been reading the forums extensively and learning a great deal. I'm a Mac person, and it didn't seem like there were good options for this platform, particularly for lossless capture. I was planning on taking the most suggested route (building a Win95 PC with an AIW card), but the thing that kept me from pulling the trigger is that I wanted to edit the (lossless) video on the Mac.

After much research, I came across this, the AJA Io HD:

https://www.aja.com/products/io-hd

It can capture up to lossless 10 bit 4:2:2 (overkill with a VCR, obviously) video over FireWire 800. Released in ~2012, the price was about $3K, but thanks to technology's march, I snagged on one on eBay for under$150. The downside is that the drivers only work through macOS 10.10, but that's not a big deal - I can boot from an external drive.

Reading about TBCs on this forum I thought it would be great to find something that output a digital signal - with a PC, one would be going from analog (VCR) to digital back to analog (TBC) then digital again. I read reasonably positive things about BrightEye boxes and determined that the ideal model for me was the BrightEye 3:

https://www.ensembledesigns.com/products/brighteye/be03

This is a TBC with frame sync that outputs to SDI, which the AJA takes. I like that it's one less A/D conversion. I was super lucky and found one on eBay for $30. I'm hoping that if I plug the audio straight into the AJA I won't have sync issues. I continued to do research and found a more modern option -- the BlackMagic UltraStudio HD Mini: https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/pro...pecs/W-DLUS-10 Again, this takes an SDI input (as well as analog audio/video) and also captures up to 10 bit 4:2:2 uncompressed. It retails at$495, but again I got lucky and found one on eBay for much less. It works over Thunderbolt, but too late did I realize that it's only Thunderbolt 3 and I only have Thunderbolt 2 computers. This is fine as I will certainly get a new computer before the project is finished. I also saw the UltraStudio MiniRecorder (which takes an SDI input and can capture uncompressed video over Thunderbolt), but I couldn't think of a way to capture the audio with that.

I won't be able to test any of this out before the weekend. I thought I might post here what I have found as possible options for the Mac. Fingers crossed none of the equipment is bad (a PC remains plan B). I'd appreciate hearing from anyone who has used any of this equipment. I'd also be happy to perform tests for the curious as I've not seen this equipment mentioned much on this forum.

Cheers,
Demitri
Someday, 12:01 PM
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#2
08-15-2018, 02:09 AM
 lordsmurf Site Staff | Video Join Date: Dec 2002 Posts: 9,643 Thanked 1,641 Times in 1,423 Posts
As far as the Brighteye, source matters. A TBC is not a TBC, and TBC is a wide term that covers too many things. It was made for a studio setting/workflow, with higher end source. You'll have issues with VHS, and other consumer analog sources. It expects master-quality BetacamSP and similar. I wish you well with it, and you may get lucky in that your tapes cooperate with it. But I'd not bet money on it.

For example, a post from here, a few years back: VHS capture with SDI issue
That sort of feedback has been consistent over the years.

Ensembles own marketing materials were just BS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXpcj9tRWMQ
Reminds me of Canopus. Too many factually challenged statements.

Blackmagic will admit to you that their devices are not intended for consumer analog, like VHS, and are intended for higher-end studio source. Those are essentially HD devices with a craptastic SD mode. (The one workaround, however, is if you upscale the SD to HD pre-capture, but that gets into buying more hardware, and complicating your workflow hardware chain. But it is doable.)

It's a lot of headache to even attempt a non-DV capture on Mac, especially when quality Windows options are about $100 plus the computer. And if you need a computer, you can build something new for under$500, or scrap out existing used parts (and buy a few select items from eBay) in order to get it working.

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#3
08-15-2018, 06:25 PM
 cerestan Free Member Join Date: Oct 2015 Posts: 31 Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts
I have been using the BE3 successfully with its SDI to analogue counterpart, but I never got to testing the SDI output successfully with another third party device.

I did get hold of a KDS Leeza that has SDI input but with the BE3's TBC on the picture looked oddly pixelated and was better with it off, but that defeated the object of using it.

Another option for your Mac is to run Bootcamp. You could use that to do your capturing in Windows then switch back to OS X for editing. This has worked for me on my Macbook.

Off topic but LordSmurf I'm wondering how to gauge the quality of a TBC? Perhaps a subject for a separate thread. I've 3 devices now with TBC's and it would be good to know how to determine which is best.
 The following users thank cerestan for this useful post: lordsmurf (08-15-2018)
#4
08-15-2018, 07:31 PM
 lordsmurf Site Staff | Video Join Date: Dec 2002 Posts: 9,643 Thanked 1,641 Times in 1,423 Posts
Quote:
 Originally Posted by cerestan Off topic but LordSmurf I'm wondering how to gauge the quality of a TBC? Perhaps a subject for a separate thread. I've 3 devices now with TBC's and it would be good to know how to determine which is best.
The most important factor is having a test bed of analog sources, especially many VHS tapes, where you know what the errors are. Then you see how each TBC reacts to those errors.

You also have to insure that the test unit is fine, not just assume it is. That sort of sloppy unscientific method is why video forums often have "conflicting" info (because one person is just flat out wrong). Unless somebody has seen a lot of copies of hardware, it's not always an accurate assessment of the device model.

When it comes to TBCs, I've used/tested hundreds of units. Not exaggerating here.

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#5
08-16-2018, 02:18 AM
 cerestan Free Member Join Date: Oct 2015 Posts: 31 Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts
Thanks LordSmurf. I won't carry on here but will start a new thread once I have a chance to play.
#6
09-02-2018, 01:18 PM
 demitri Free Member Join Date: Jul 2018 Posts: 7 Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Hi,

I wanted to post an upgrade on my progress. I've been using the hardware described above (AJA IO HD, BrightEye 3 TBC, iMac mid-2011). My JVC HR-S9600U had the TBC/NR turned on. I first tried a capture without the BrightEye TBC to see how much difference it made. To be honest, I couldn't see much difference when I repeated the test with it in line. I posted two video files for anyone curious to see the result:

Codec: Apple uncompressed 4:2:2 10 bit
https://www.dropbox.com/s/iyq5qtd17u...t%208.mov?dl=0

Above compressed with Compressor to H.264 at 5 Mbps
https://www.dropbox.com/s/8w7dzds3t2...H.264.mp4?dl=0

It's hard for me to judge the success of this. I don't have duplicate components to switch out (VCR, TBC, etc.) for testing, so I don't know how close I am to the maximal quality of the VHS tape itself (recorded off TV and sat in a box for ~25 years). The picture is stable; it's watchable. Given the above, I'd be curious to hear how the result compares to what one would expect. I know nothing about color correcting video - is this something I should consider, or just encode the video as it is and move on?

The video is (notably) interlaced, but it appears to be progressive upon capture. I will need to see how I can correct this (and at which step!).

Finally, the AJA device doesn't take RCA audio inputs, but rather mono XLR. I purchased a cable that goes from RCA to XLR, but after reading I think this not properly addressing the situation. The audio captured is at a very low level. I'm guessing that I need perhaps a preamplifier to go from the unbalanced RCA to balanced XLR? I was not able to find a clear answer on this.

Thanks!
#7
09-02-2018, 01:56 PM
 dpalomaki Free Member Join Date: Feb 2014 Location: VA Posts: 1,024 Thanked 220 Times in 189 Posts
The AJA expects professional gear level analog audio. The spec sheet speaks to +15/18/24 dbu input level for Full Scale Digital audio recording, perhaps +4 dBu allowing for headroom. Consumer VCRs such as your JVC output a nominal -10 dbV, substantially lower. A preamp or simple mixer can address the issue.
#8
09-02-2018, 04:14 PM
 demitri Free Member Join Date: Jul 2018 Posts: 7 Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Thanks for the detailed info. I only have a phono preamp myself which I suspect is not the right thing. I found one of these on my local Craigslist - would this be appropriate?

https://www.amazon.com/Behringer-802...language=en_US

I can repurpose it when I finally learn to play guitar. If not, is there something you could recommend in the sub-\$50 range?
#9
09-02-2018, 04:47 PM
 lordsmurf Site Staff | Video Join Date: Dec 2002 Posts: 9,643 Thanked 1,641 Times in 1,423 Posts
That Berhinger Xenyx is very nice, almost identical to my Tapco (Mackie).

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#10
09-02-2018, 06:16 PM
 dpalomaki Free Member Join Date: Feb 2014 Location: VA Posts: 1,024 Thanked 220 Times in 189 Posts
The Berhinger is a good choice. Personally I am partial to Mackie based on their better documentation and meters. (I have a Mackie 802 and Berhinger 602).
#11
09-08-2018, 09:52 AM
 Eric-Jan Free Member Join Date: Aug 2018 Location: Netherlands, Posts: 278 Thanked 21 Times in 19 Posts
A DJ mixer isn't a better option than a PA mixer in this case ? a PA mixer has a lot of instrument inputs you are not going to use.
A DJ Mixer has better options i guess and a crossfader, if needed. and multi options for various devices.

Demetri, which MAC do you have ? do you have Thunderbolt 2 ?
If so, checkout the Intensity Shuttle (thunderbolt 2 interface) from Blackmagic Desin you can capture in ProRes LT, which is compressed, the files aren't that big that way, good quality and low data transfer rate to your storage device.
Lossless capturing is also possible if you want to, but you need large and fast storage space, you'll find out.
I'm very happy with the Intensity Shuttle, (you should not go for the USB version.)
It has HDMI, Component, S-Video, Composite video inputs, and analog audio RCA input, Also same for outputs,
A Thunderbolt 2 output for your MAC.
You should not use a Microsoft PC to capture on, MAC is the easy way to go, using the BMD hard and software,
is my experience .
#12
09-08-2018, 02:44 PM
 dpalomaki Free Member Join Date: Feb 2014 Location: VA Posts: 1,024 Thanked 220 Times in 189 Posts
Quote:
 A DJ mixer isn't a better option than a PA mixer in this case...
For purposes of this thread You are seeking amplification. Go for what ever best fits your budget, workflow and potential other uses.

Quote:
 You should not use a Microsoft PC to capture on, MAC is the easy way to go...
If you are a died-in-the-wool MAC user, it will be easier for you. Just be aware that it may be difficult to achieve the same level of end results with a MAC.

Some BM products have issues with getting captured SD analog video YUV levels right. Can't speak to the Shuttle though, so you should research it more.
#13
09-08-2018, 03:54 PM
 Eric-Jan Free Member Join Date: Aug 2018 Location: Netherlands, Posts: 278 Thanked 21 Times in 19 Posts
nice of you to answer for him
#14
09-08-2018, 04:53 PM
 lordsmurf Site Staff | Video Join Date: Dec 2002 Posts: 9,643 Thanked 1,641 Times in 1,423 Posts
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Eric-Jan the Intensity Shuttle, (you should not go for the USB version.) A Thunderbolt 2 output for your MAC.
I'm not aware of there being any difference in the connection types, in affecting the cature chips, and the issue with SD of unreported dropped frames. Blackmagic themselves state that these devices are intended for pro sources (BetacamSP, analog-in D1/D2, etc, maybe even U-matic at worst), and not consumer formats (VHS, S-VHS, Hi8, Video8, etc).

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#15
09-08-2018, 06:11 PM
 sanlyn Premium Member Join Date: Aug 2009 Location: N. Carolina and NY, USA Posts: 3,648 Thanked 1,185 Times in 957 Posts
The test 8.mov has Aja's proprietary codec, which I really don't need to install in my Windows machine (Win7 in this case, which I also use for lossless capture sometimes). Both captures are soft and and smeared, especially with JVC's dnr. This looks like EP tape (?). Both captures have illegal video levels that exceed y=16-235, and some badly crushed blacks that will look worse when converted to RGB. There's nothing you can do to get more detail in the samples, since detail can't be created from nothing. Edges are pretty noisy, made worse by the frame height (mod-2, which does not translate well for YV12 and h.264, which requires at least mod4 in all dimensions). Many filters and some encoders will demand mod8, which fits every standard out there. Mod-2 is a problemn in many ways.

The samples are hard-telecined, but even the non-telecined frames have buzzy, sawtooth edges. Encoding the mp4 as progressive screws up YV12 chroma and telecined frames. Any cleanup or levels repair called for fancy cropping and rebuildingh frame borders, not to mention removing telecined fields. If what was wanted was true 4:3 square-pixel frames, a height of 486 in a 640-wide frame is not 4:3 (or 1.3333:1), it's 1.316:1. There are 4 unused black pixels on the left and 10 pixels of the same on the right (not unusual with this SMPTE frame format), 12 pixels of head-switching noise along the bottom, and 6 lines of broken pixels across the top. I also see edge oversharpening and dct ringing effects at the same time as posterizing with smeared detail and false contouring in faces and hair. These effects are common with JVC players and are often present to a lesser extent with Panasonics.

The original color is badly yellowed, grimy, and dim, with obvious chroma shift 4 pixels to the right. I made mostly levels corrections but rather mild color fixes notably to reduce some red-yellow imbalance and pump up blue a little. It appears that the overall balance was intended to lean toward the warm side.

For color correction: as long as whites look white, grays look gray, and blacks look black, with little or no obvious off-color tints, everything else will fall into place. The sample didn't need much correction, but what I used in VirtualDub was gradation curves, ColorMill, and a low-mid-high levels control - all of which mimic controls found in Adobe Premiere Pro, FCP, and other high-end apps.

With telecine removed in Avisynth using the TIVTC plugin and QTGMC as a denoiser and smoother, the attached progressive (for real) mp4 plays at the original 23.976 film speed. You could add 3:2 pulldown and encode to MPEG for DVD, or encode to MPEG or h.264 for standard def BluRay, and get 29.97 fps playback. But telecined video won't post on most 'net sites unless something has changed that I'm not aware of (not a fan of video off the internet, so I haven't checked in a very long time).

This thread can serve as another example of why analog source directly to lossy codecs isn't recommended, especially if modification and repair are intended. These samples show how noise is amplified by lossy codecs and by gear not optimized for tape capture, as well as how detail is lowered on re-encoding after cleanup when noise is removed, showing just how soft the lossy capture really is -- a tradeoff that has to be considered from the very start. The attached test8mp4_640x480_23.976.mp4 is an example of basic denoising and levels work with Avisynth and VirtualDub. There could be more edge cleanup, but that would entail more loss. Of course, if no cleanup or correction is desired then what you see in the original mp4 sample is as clean as it will get.

The Avisynth script I used:

Code:
aud = ffaudiosource("path\to\Test 8 5Mbps H.264.mp4")
vid = ffvideosource("path\to\Test 8 5Mbps H.264.mp4")
audiodub(vid,aud)

#--- inverse telecine ---#
TFM(pp=0).TDecimate()
Crop(0,6,0,0)
ConvertToYV16(interlaced=false)
ColorYUV(cont_y=-20,off_y=-2,off_v=-4,off_u=8)
SmoothLevels(12,1.0,255,16,250,protect=6)
ConvertToYUY2(interlaced=false)
QTGMC(InputType=1,preset="faster",EZDenoise=4,denoiser="dfttest",ChromaMotion=true,\
border=true,ChromaNoise=true,DenoiseMC=true,GrainRestore=0.3,sharpness=0.7)
ChromaShift(C=-4)
MergeChroma(awarpSharp2(depth=30).awarpSharp2(depth=10))
ConvertToYV12(interlaced=false)
FixChromaBleeding()
EdgeCleaner(smode=2)
LSFMod(strength = 200,edgemode=2)
return last
A frame from the original test 8 5mbps, with motion in the frame:

The same frame after, from the attached mp4, filtered, borders and frame rebuilt:

Attached Images
Attached Files

Last edited by sanlyn; 09-08-2018 at 06:22 PM.
 The following users thank sanlyn for this useful post: captainvic (12-19-2018)
#16
09-09-2018, 09:05 AM
 sanlyn Premium Member Join Date: Aug 2009 Location: N. Carolina and NY, USA Posts: 3,648 Thanked 1,185 Times in 957 Posts
I managed to get Avisynth's LSMASHSource plugin to decode "Test 8.mov" without Aja's c odec (don't know why I didn't think of it earlier). Anyway, the lossless or near-lossless codec holds up better than the lossy mp4 after filtering and encoding. Color nuance seems rather odd, however, and was tougher to correct. Still not satisfied with it. The lossless video preserved more detail -- such as it is, after JVC's dnr and other processing got hold of it. There's a little more chroma smearing and false contouring than the other sample but detail is cleaner overall. With less compression noise in the lossless file I was able to use less filtering.

You can't use really strong edge denosing or fancy sharpening because of the tape player's aggressive dnr. Ordinarily I would elect to turn off JVC's noise reduction and use more sophisticated filtering in software, but Mac doesn't have more sophisticated filtering available unless you invest a whole lot more money in software or go for Windows.

The attached mp4 was inverse telecined and resized with Spline36Resize for square-pixel playback at 4:3. But after some cleanup and removing the noisy original telecine the 720x480 capture would be the ideal frame size for DVD or standard def BluRay encoding with 3:2 pulldown and authoring. 720x480 also gives you more horizontal resolution to work with.

Attached Files
#17
09-09-2018, 12:10 PM
 hodgey Free Member Join Date: Dec 2017 Location: Norway Posts: 838 Thanked 183 Times in 156 Posts
You can run avisynth (outside of plugins using OpenCL, but there are not lot of those) and VirtualDub (except the capture functionality) in a Virtual Machine (using VirtualBox/VMWare etc) on MacOS, so that is an option. You don't really even need a win10 license as you can use it fine without activating unless you have a massive need to change the windows theme/background for some reason.

Alternatively, vapoursynth runs natively on macos but it's a bit clunky to set up.
#18
09-14-2018, 05:52 AM
 Eric-Jan Free Member Join Date: Aug 2018 Location: Netherlands, Posts: 278 Thanked 21 Times in 19 Posts
You did a nice job there Sanlyn, any color correcting i do here with Davinci Resolve the free version, it can be done in detail, but i pick the white point and black point in the image and that is most of the time good, or needs a little adjustment.
I was lucky enough to have a vcr with component (yuv) outputs,( i first thought it was only for the optical drive) and have less artifacts like composite would have.
Davinci has also some nice correcting options in way of crop, mask, or transform, output resolution will always be one of the official ones,when rendering, allthough ProRes422 is a lossy codec it will be not visible for the work we do, only ProRes422 Proxy might show some at a 2nd or 3rd generation copy,(i use ProRes422 LT during capture) I do sometimes use Handbrake, or MacX Video Convertor to encode to MP4 at the end, because thats just fast to work with, Hybrid i try to use, but it crashes a lot on my MacBook Pro, and it wont accept PCM audio, or does not work at all, which settings i try to use.
Recently i also captured a NTSC tape on the Panasonic VCR i have, and with the simple deinterlace option Handbrake have, gave it a good result, (i had the comb filter off on the Panasonic ) i will try this again with the Progressive mode on, and comb filter on, who will win ?
#19
09-14-2018, 06:02 AM
 lordsmurf Site Staff | Video Join Date: Dec 2002 Posts: 9,643 Thanked 1,641 Times in 1,423 Posts
Quote:
 Originally Posted by Eric-Jan allthough ProRes422 is a lossy codec it will be not visible for the work we do
Yes, least compressed ProRes422 looks great, be it Mac native or FFMPEG version.

Quote:
 only ProRes422 Proxy might show some
I've never like proxy formats. That includes Cineform.

Quote:
 or MacX Video Convertor
That's a decent tool.

Quote:
 Hybrid i try to use, but it crashes a lot on my MacBook Pro, and it wont accept PCM audio, or does not work at all, which settings i try to use.
That's a shame. Most video software has bugs. I've never gotten the Hybrid embedded Avisynth to work in Windows.

Quote:
 Recently i also captured a NTSC tape on the Panasonic VCR i have, and with the simple deinterlace option Handbrake have, gave it a good result,
I'm fairly certain it uses Yadif natively, which can be fine, depending on content. But still not as good as QTGMC, especially with the advanced script switches.

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#20
09-14-2018, 09:58 AM
 Eric-Jan Free Member Join Date: Aug 2018 Location: Netherlands, Posts: 278 Thanked 21 Times in 19 Posts
if i Google QTGMC, (just now), ....first thing they say it's heavy on CPU usage, but a good one that has many options, but i didn't find if i could use it on my MacBook, is it a kind of plugin ?
To deinterlace in Davinci's option and also rescale takes queit a time... compared, and is a part of the Studio version, so it is watermarked for me.
A disadvantage of Davinci is, that a render to H264 takes quiet a time, and gives a big H264 file, to my likings,

btw. i also just captured from my Sony PSP hand console (pre-Vita) it gives a (composite) NTSC tv signal i discovered, no black or dropped frames, funny I've also LaserDisc players, Pioneer, and Philips, the Philips i won in a Firato competion,
but has a drawer failure, i caused myself.

 Tags aja, brighteye, macos lossless capture, tbc

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