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  #1  
02-21-2020, 09:36 AM
K101 K101 is offline
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I am looking for advice on digitizing nearly 200 tapes across the VHS, VHS-C, and miniDV formats. I have been reading the forum over the last two months, and I am to a point at which I should have a knowledge base large enough to understand the advice given to me. I am a technical person, but most of my knowledge is about current technology and not that of the analog era.

Approximately 150 of the tapes are from my personal collection while another 50 are from various relatives. Unfortunately, the tapes from my relatives were stored in basements or outdoor sheds and are thus damaged with mold. Not all of their tapes show mold damage, but I am treating them all as if they are damaged since they were stored together. With that said, the tapes from my relatives are my last priority and if and when I find out what to do with them, they absolutely will not be played in a suggested VCR nor will they be played indoors ever. As it stands currently, I have stored my relatives' tapes in trash bags for isolation purposes and they will soon be transferred into individual Ziploc freezer bags and stored in their own plastic tote.

For my personal collection, all of those tapes were stored indoors in my family's entertainment center, and none of them show signs of damage. Of the tapes in my collection, I have about 20 VHS-C tapes, 50 miniDV tapes, and 80 regular VHS tapes.

All of the VHS tapes are in NTSC format. Nearly all of them were recorded onto new T-120 tapes across various brands such as Sony, Scotch, JVC, RCA, Kodak, and TDK. However, there are a few home videos that were recorded on top of broadcast TV recordings, but there are only a few of these. Almost all of the recordings are in SP mode, although there are approximately less than 10 that are in EP and LP mode cumulatively. Also, all of the recordings are on their original tapes as they came out of the camera and are not copies with the exception of a few tapes that are copies of miniDV tapes, but I still have the original miniDV tapes that those copies came from. The oldest tapes are from the late 1980s, but most are from the mid 1990s to the early 2000s. All of the original camcorders are either long gone or not functioning with the exception of the VHS-C camcorder. None of the recordings are on S-VHS tapes.

As it currently stands, I have been digitizing my tapes with a Panasonic PV-4661 VCR and an Elgato Game Capture HD USB capture card with a composite adapter plugged into the S-video port on the capture card as this was the last capture card by Elgato that supported analog input and I had one sitting around. I am aware that this is not an ideal setup as it is not using one of the suggested S-VHS players with an embedded TBC, nor is this workflow using an external full-frame TBC, recommended capture card, or an isolated power system. At present, I have digitized all of my VHS-C tapes and about 35 of my VHS tapes with this setup. I am glad that they are backed up in case anything happened to them, but I would like to have higher quality digitizations instead.

Now that all of the background information is out of the way, I'll move onto some questions.

First, I assume that the price to digitize this many tapes would be prohibitively expensive if sent to a service. If I am correct in that assumption, what workflow would you recommend for digitizing my collection? I want to have high quality, lossless digital transfers, and I am not interested in directly transferring these videos to DVD. I am not yet looking to copy master files to DVD, Blu-ray, or another storage medium for distribution amongst my family members. Currently, I just want archival digitizations of my home videos that can later be restored, edited, and distributed.

Second, what does the workflow consist of for transferring the miniDV tapes? I know that they are already digital, and that I will need a computer and camcorder / player with FireWire / IEEE 1394 ports, but I am not sure about the recommended computer, operating system, and software combo to achieve the best transfer of these tapes.

Lastly, what recommendations do you have for someone just starting out? I have tried to provide a complete, although long-winded, picture of my project, and I am open to all constructive criticism and advice.

Thank you for your time.
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  #2  
02-22-2020, 07:26 PM
lingyi lingyi is offline
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Start by reading and thoroughly digesting what's in these links and doing a search for the hundreds of posts here and at videohelp.com for advice.

http://www.digitalfaq.com/editorials...g-workflow.htm

VCR Buying Guide (S-VHS, D-VHS, Professional) for restoring video

For sale: Complete workflow = JVC S-VHS + TBC + capture card!

TL;DR, contact lordsmurf and get one of his complete VHS workflows and dedicate the necessary time to learn the ins and outs of of properly capturing, filtering and editing for the best quality.
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  #3  
02-22-2020, 11:49 PM
BW37 BW37 is offline
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The archiving portion of your miniDV work is the easiest. As you've surmised, you will need a playback device. A miniDV camcorder should do it. They are readily available on eBay, but as is often stated here, buying on eBay is always a gamble. You might also find one at a local camera store that carries used equipment and they will let you test it out before you buy it. I've had mixed luck on eBay myself, but considering I paid $1300 (or whatever) when I bought my first DV camcorder, risking $50 to $100 today seems reasonable .

If you have a modern Windows PC it can probably be outfitted to receive the DV tape data. Because miniDV is digital, you are not "capturing" the videos (to digital), just transferring the data from the tapes to files on a PC. For a Windows PC you will need a "firewire" card, the correct cable to connect to the camcorder and the software to handle the transfer.

There is a DV guide on this site but it's a bit out of date.
There's been some discussion here

I just tried this pci card and Windows 10 loaded a good driver that worked fine with vidcap60.

If you need a PCIe card, I can't make any recommendations, and the same goes if you need to use a Mac or something. But there should be a way.

BW
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02-24-2020, 03:48 PM
K101 K101 is offline
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@lingyi: I have read all of those guides and more. I wouldn't waste everyone's time by asking questions before looking at the resources currently available to me. Thanks for the thought and your time though.

@BW37: Thanks for the response. I managed to pick up a Sony HDR-FX1 camcorder and a DSR-11 player for a decent price. I haven't had a chance to test them yet because I still need to buy power adapters for them. I still have some sealed miniDV tape sitting around, so I plan to record a video with the camcorder and then see how it plays back on both the camcorder and the player. I assume that this will be sufficient to test them, but I am less familiar with issues that usually appear with miniDV.

I wasn't sure if a PCIe card with a modern computer would be the best way to go or not. I thought that perhaps the software support on Windows 10 would be worse than that of something like Windows XP. Is vidcap60 the recommended software at this time instead of Scenalyzer or WinDV as is suggested in the "Introduction to DV" article? I'm not tied to any particular software or operating system, and I can get access to any that I need for the project.

Also, are there any common issues when transferring miniDV tapes? Is there a way to check for dropped frames or other issues that I may not be aware of?
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02-24-2020, 04:02 PM
hodgey hodgey is offline
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I've found cameras to be better at reading miniDV tapes than VCRs, and I believe others here have the same experience. E.g my Sony DCR-PC100 works better than the DSR-11 we have as they VCRs are built to work with wider track DVCam format tapes (and miniDV LP tapes won't work in the VCRs.)

One issue I have encountered is if there is a change from 12-bit to 16-bit audio on the same tape, which can screw up the audio in the dv output file after the change. Don't remember how windv handled that, may depend on the program used.
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02-24-2020, 06:31 PM
BW37 BW37 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by K101 View Post
I managed to pick up a Sony HDR-FX1 camcorder and a DSR-11 player for a decent price. I haven't had a chance to test them yet because I still need to buy power adapters for them. I still have some sealed miniDV tape sitting around, so I plan to record a video with the camcorder and then see how it plays back on both the camcorder and the player. I assume that this will be sufficient to test them, but I am less familiar with issues that usually appear with miniDV.
I have no experience with the HDR-FX1 or the DSR-11 but hodgey's comment might be worth noting. Neither of those devices were actually designed for miniDV and miniDV only. Assuming your tapes needing archive were made on a consumer miniDV camcorder, that might be the best type playback device. Technically, all miniDV cams should play back any other miniDV cams tapes, but if I knew what brand of camcorder they were shot on, I would probably try that brand first. There can be problems playing back tapes recorded in LP mode vs. SP mode (90 min on a 60 min tape) due to the narrower tracks. Here having the actual recording device is the best option (but often not possible). Same brand & model might help but no guarantees. Because my miniDV stuff was shot on a Canon, that's what I have "accumulated" as playback devices.

One thing I would look for in a playback device is how easy it is to load/unload a tape with all the wires hooked up. Top load should be easier, but maybe not always. Where the designers located the ports is more about miniaturization and cost savings than user experience!

It's too bad there is not a list of recommended miniDV playback devices like those for VHS and 8mm video formats.

Quote:
I wasn't sure if a PCIe card with a modern computer would be the best way to go or not. I thought that perhaps the software support on Windows 10 would be worse than that of something like Windows XP. Is vidcap60 the recommended software at this time instead of Scenalyzer or WinDV as is suggested in the "Introduction to DV" article? I'm not tied to any particular software or operating system, and I can get access to any that I need for the project.
I don't know anything about Scenalyzer, but WinDV is not compatible with Win 10. It works nicely with XP so if you end up building an XP machine for analog capture WinDV would work with it. But you can transfer your miniDV to a Win 10 x64 PC for archive and/or editing. For that you need a firewire card (PCI is fine -and cheap- if your PC has PCI slot, PCIe should work too) and a piece of software. I only suggest vidcap60 because I have it as part of my Magix Movie Studio 14 editing software. The ability run vidcap60.exe standalone (even extract it and install it on another PC) makes it nice for Win 7/10 x64 use. It is much more full featured than WinDV, allowing control of the (compatible) playback devices once connected. WinDV does not, but it is definitely a bit more simple to use and understand.

As far as I know vidcap60 is not available as a separate program. But once you have it, it can be run either from within Movie Studio or standalone. Standalone would be recommended just to reduce PC overhead and thus minimize the chance of dropped frames. All manner of Movie Studio versions are available on eBay. I don't know that they all include vidcap60, but I've used 9, 12 and 14 and the miniDV transfer interface was about the same for all from within the editing program. I've only recently done transfer standalone. Even the current Movie Studio version (16?) is pretty cheap but since Magix took over it is getting harder to tolerate as they push market stuff at you once you install their software. This can be disabled, but it is a bit of a hassle. Whether MS is the best editing program is another question.

Quote:
Also, are there any common issues when transferring miniDV tapes? Is there a way to check for dropped frames or other issues that I may not be aware of?
WinDV tracks dropped frames as does vidcap60. As hodgey said, how the audio was recorded can be an issue but during transfer but it should be manageable just by transferring in pieces vs. entire tapes. How audio gets managed in editing, etc. is something I'm going to have to relearn. So far MS 14 is giving me some problems that I think are related to how and when it does or does not re-encode the audio with the video. I have much to learn here myself. There may be better editing software options and/OR I'm just not doing it right.

BW
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02-24-2020, 06:49 PM
hodgey hodgey is offline
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I forgot to mention, if you want to inspect the DV captures for problems, DV Analyzer is a nice tool. It shows the extent of error correction and issues in the DV stream.

I personally use dvgrab on linux to transfer miniDV, which works great if one is okay with using a command-line. Only issue I got with it is the noted problem when switching audio format mid-tape.
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02-26-2020, 10:00 AM
K101 K101 is offline
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I am fairly certain that all of my miniDV tapes were recorded in SP mode, but they haven't been played in years, so I could be wrong. I do know that the first miniDV camera broke and we had to get a new one, and both were just regular consumer cameras. I'm not sure what happened to either of these, nor do I know the brand names for them unfortunately. With that said, I do know that the Sony HDR-FX1 only records on miniDV tapes. The tray doesn't appear capable of holding anything larger.

As for the audio, I imagine that the settings never got changed on the camera, so all of the tapes should be the same. There might only be one that is different from having to switch to the new camera back in the day.

That's good to know that the software can detect dropped frames. I'm comfortable with command line, so I'll be sure to check out all of the suggestions especially DV Analyzer.

I'll probably chime back in once I get my workflow completed and actually start transferring tapes.

Thanks! @hodgey @BW37
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