Quantcast Quality vs. effort to transfer VHS? - digitalFAQ Forum
  #1  
12-20-2021, 05:07 PM
Cap5 Cap5 is offline
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I have a few video transfers I'd like to do, but I'm struggling to get motivated enough to do the best possible job (mainly because it takes so much effort to aquire the right hardware). The digital side of thing I dare say is easy, the conversion however from analogue to digital not so much.

The prospective transfers are from television broadcast recordings and one or two from camcorders (including what I believe to be a lost episode of a television series).

At my disposal I have an XP capture PC with an ATI AIW card, a bog standard VCR and a VCR DVD combo device (capable of outputting HDMI). As mentioned above, I don't really have the patience to spend time getting the right hardware so for now I'll have to make do with what I've got.

As a benchmark of quality I'm outputting from my original Xbox (through a scart adapter to video, audio right and audio left) to the ATI AIW card into VirtualDub. It still looks bad, but I'm too used to (U)HD quality that I'm not sure if it's as good as it's going to get lol (though I know that S-Video and component(?) SCART can give better quality video).

Would my setup be good enough to capture the recordings at a decent level of quality? Would an S-VHS really improve the quality considering it's recorded from television and camcorders?

Looking for some advice on this matter. Thanks in advance
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  #2  
12-20-2021, 05:17 PM
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With the right hardware, the transfer itself really isn't that hard, assuming the tapes cooperate.

The biggest issue for people is wrapping their head around hardware costs. Too many folks approach hardware pricing with no research, just a pulled-from-butt random number of what it "should" cost. Some look at VCRs in thrift junk shops. Some try to remember what a VCR cost in the 2000s (and always undershoot it, too). Others see cheapy Chinese USB cards on Amazon/eBay. So hardware pricing is wildly distorted, to the downside. It's like trying to buy a car (new or used) with a Hot Wheels budget.

Once you move past that, you're set. It helps to remember that this gear holds value. Buy it, use it, resell it. You don't use it, then toss it in a drawer.

AIW = good
plain consumer VHS VCR = bad
VCR with EOL (end-of-life) VHS era, crappy Funai, HDMI/whatever = worse than bad

And then you lack any sort of TBC whatsoever. So that plan does not work at all.

At very minimum, you need a ES10 or ES15 as TBS(ish), as line + non-TBC frame sync. Not ideal, but better than nothing. That VCR will probably make your videos look far worse than they actually are, with off luma/oversharpening/etc

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  #3  
12-20-2021, 05:37 PM
Cap5 Cap5 is offline
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I get the issues with pricing etc, the main issue is being able to get a hold of what's required. I've just had a brief look on a commerce site and there do appear to be a few S-VHS players for sale in the country I'm in (though not sure if they're any good). Is the ES-15 the Panasonic DMR ES-15? If so there do appear to be a few available! The only snag with buying used hardware is that I'll neither know if it's working properly nor how to fix it if it isn't.

A few of the television recording I think were done on the standard Bush VCR (probably around twenty years ago).

At this point I think I just need to get something transferred and make better transfers later, as the videos are sitting there slowly deteriorating.

Last edited by Cap5; 12-20-2021 at 05:57 PM.
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  #4  
12-21-2021, 08:23 AM
RobustReviews RobustReviews is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cap5 View Post

A few of the television recording I think were done on the standard Bush VCR (probably around twenty years ago).
.
You're a fellow Brit I'm guessing?

Bush, Alba, Amstrad all usually the same thing 'under the bonnet' - usually Funai stuff in a cheaper case. I wish you the very best of luck If the tapes did geninely come from a Bush (or Alba etc..) machine they are noticeably low quality when reviewed in 2021.

I can tell when a video came off of one of Alan Sugar's (he's our wannabe Trump for those outside the UK) who made a fortune selling distinctly cheap and low-quality electronic appliances. The Amstrad machines (especially in Long Play) are catastrophically tricky to transfer and have very low visual quality.
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  #5  
12-22-2021, 10:11 AM
Cap5 Cap5 is offline
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You guessed correctly ��

I might be able to get an S-VHS player that's mentioned in the recommended players thread. If this is sufficient without an external TBC then I might pursue this approach!
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  #6  
12-22-2021, 10:25 AM
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line TBC = cleans the image
frame TBC = clean the signal
You need both.

S-VHS VCR has line TBC to clean image, not a frame TBC.
"external" TBC = framesync TBC

As mentioned, you can attempt line TBC + non-TBC frame sync in ES10/15/etc. There will be a fail rate, either bad transfers or refusal to transfer. But better than nothing. Not suggested workflow, but merely "it could be worse" -- ie, not a compliment, "yes dear, in those pants, your ass doesn't look as fat as it normal does" (try that, I dare you! ).

The VCR is the most important part of the workflow. Without a good deck, quality never travels downstream, TBCs and capture cards become mooted discussion. So your upgrade is worthy. Do it. Get that. BTW, VCRshop is suggested, not random eBay buys (with bogus claims of "tested" and "working").

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  #7  
12-27-2021, 09:57 AM
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Seems like there are a few of the recommended VCRs available from that site! Again though availability of good external TBCs is still an obstacle.

My question now though is whether it's worth it:

As I said it'll mainly be for transfers from analogue UHF television recorded with a bad/bog standard VCR and ~twenty years of tape degredation. Would there actually be a noticable quality increase from capturing these tapes using the workflow you suggested? Only the commercial tapes that I can't get in digital form I'll look to copy.
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  #8  
12-27-2021, 10:15 AM
RobustReviews RobustReviews is offline
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Interesting question.

If they're OTA (Over/Off The Air) recordings you'll normally be at the mercy of various factors including reflections and general muck - but that would depend greatly on the quality of your signal at the time etc.

A TBC is always useful and you will always get a better transfer with one, however understanding the quality of the equipment used in recording AND they're only OTA (not treasured family memories) AND you're working with a modest budget you might try without and see if you find the results acceptable.

Obviously this is going to be easier with an A/B comparison, which you won't have.

As I cautioned earlier, if they're LP recordings made on these machines a 'better' VCR may actually struggle to play them back with any quality, these PAL machines often used a 'compromise' head where the LP isn't really to any sort of standard (nor is the SP, but for dull reasons, it's usually unnoticeable) which makes them pretty difficult to work with in the 2020s. This was a cost-cutting measure whereby the video heads don't record true LP track-width. Good quality machines find them particularly distasteful and have trouble tracking them. We actually keep a geriatric Amstrad machine for when we come by these tapes, as they're the best hope we have!

We rarely see LP tapes, but where we take domestic jobs these type of tapes in LP can be an absolute pain in the socket.

You may have no LP recordings of course, but if you do, you may have a bad hand to start with!
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  #9  
12-27-2021, 10:16 AM
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Frame TBC is not yet an obstacle, I still have a few left in the marketplace. But that day may come, and soon

Worth it? Absolutely.

Don't confuse video only with what you can see. The VCR with line TBC will increase visual quality, but the signal is still dirty, and capture cards balk at not-clean signals (dropped frames, audio sync issues, etc). Frame TBC purifies the signal, and allows trouble-free capturing.

Retail tapes sometimes have "copy protection", an artificial video error. Frame TBCs don't care if the errors are natural or artificial, the signal is corrected, the end. So it effectively removes the anti-copy, allows capturing. Without removing these errors, the capture card will balk, not work.

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  #10  
12-27-2021, 12:02 PM
Cap5 Cap5 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobustReviews View Post
You may have no LP recordings of course, but if you do, you may have a bad hand to start with!
I think some, if not most, of the recordings may well be LP actually.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
Don't confuse video only with what you can see. The VCR with line TBC will increase visual quality, but the signal is still dirty, and capture cards balk at not-clean signals (dropped frames, audio sync issues, etc). Frame TBC purifies the signal, and allows trouble-free capturing.
I presume frame TBCs take a hardware approach to clean the signal? Is this something that could be done in software?
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  #11  
12-27-2021, 12:05 PM
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No, software cannot do this task, no software exists. These issues have to be resolved before the capture card, not on post-digital files.

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  #12  
12-27-2021, 12:24 PM
Cap5 Cap5 is offline
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Sorry I was thinking more along the lines of the firmware level of the capture card, though that would be something very specific so I doubt any mods or anything exist.

On the frame TBC situation: Would it enable old degrading tapes to play again if the output from the VCR is jumbled? I have a few tapes I think where the VCRs struggle to output a picture (when connected straight to the television).
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  #13  
12-27-2021, 12:32 PM
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Firmware? No, nothing like that.

Can it recover "jumbled" video? Yes, sometimes. It really depends on what sort of error is causing the garbled output. A TBC cannot fix tracking, but signal. While a frame sync TBC is mostly to correct the signal, that process does have some image-improving consequences.

Remember that you cannot buy/use any random "TBC", because it's a wide term. I often joke that my toaster has a TBC. You must have a TBC that is known for correcting consumer analog videotapes, and without having chipset flaws.

Also remember: Buy it, use it, resell it. These hold value.

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  #14  
12-28-2021, 04:27 AM
RobustReviews RobustReviews is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cap5 View Post
Sorry I was thinking more along the lines of the firmware level of the capture card, though that would be something very specific so I doubt any mods or anything exist.

On the frame TBC situation: Would it enable old degrading tapes to play again if the output from the VCR is jumbled? I have a few tapes I think where the VCRs struggle to output a picture (when connected straight to the television).
Are these LP tapes by any chance?

It's a curiosity of some of those Bush machines, assuming you're playing them back in a different machine? If you're using the same machine, it could quite possibly ease the issue, but it's a deep a complicated topic.

If you want me to have a look at a problem tape drop me a PM as you're in the UK and I'm quite happy to clarify what might be done gratis.
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