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Closecall 01-03-2022 01:27 AM

VHS capture workflow overview?
Hello Lordsmurf,

My father and I have been reading your posts for almost a week now haha.
We have been trying to learn about the process to digitize our VHS tapes and have learned that our Sony dcr-trv340 Camcorder is not the best way to go because DV is such a tough format for the videos.

We have been trying to figure out a good but not crazy expensive workflow without having to completely rely on older equipment that, if broken, could be irreplaceable. We understand that it is difficult to achieve the best standards without picking up some older items and that is okay by us.

We have a pretty good VCR, but we have a couple questions and I wonder if you could help.

What is a recommended Format and Container to use when converting VHS to Digital? We have read about lossless to non but haven't really seen a YES THIS ONE kind of approach and we get that there are alternatives, but from your experience what would you say works best for ending up with a good editable quality video before outputting to an MPEG-4 for giving to family members.

The next question is what cables you recommend over all and again we understand that composite is the worst and it'll depend on what devices we get but in general what to try and get if we can.

It just seems like so many people have their own take on what works vs doesn't or what's better etc. We just want the best possible quality we can get out of the gate and then run it through my editing software if needed before converting to a distributable format.

Thank you very much for your time!

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lordsmurf 01-03-2022 01:47 AM

General tech question, so answered in a post. To help others, not hide my advice. ;)

I've gone over most of this before, but don't mind doing it again. [x2x]

Correct, DV not good for VHS conversion. You lose quality, lost color, added blocks. Yuck. That's a 1990s, Pentium III, method of conversion. You can do better.

"crazy expensive" ... put a number on that. But it needs to be realistic. Not "I want a mansion for $50", or "my budget to buy a car is $1M". Sensible. Currently, good VCR is $500+ in non-crap condition, ideal TBC (again, non-crap condition) is about $2k (not ideal TBC situation, shortcuts, quality hits, costd less), most decent capture cards are in the $100s range (with some exceptions). Sure, some deals to be had at times, with lots of hunting, but don't fall prey to eBay "tested" and "working" horsepucky. eBay is gambling, not buying, and the house usually "wins" (everybody loses).

Remember: buy it, use it, resell it. It's a project cost, not a forever cost. You don't stick in a drawer or closet when done. The gear holds value, and it also needs to stay in circulation.

Capture formats:
- MPEG-4 (MP4) container = never
- H.264 / x264, be it MP4 container or otherwise = never
- lossless = usually
- lossless Huffyuv almost always better than others, usually less issues with dropped frames (almost/usually because all rules have exception, but be mindful that most people think they're exceptional when they're actually typical)
- MPEG-2 = sometimes

So, most likely lossless = "this is the one", for your needs. :D

Yep, lots of opinions out there. But some are wrong opinions (especially what you see on Youtube). And yes, when the opinion is based on non-factual BS, the opinion is also BS, invalid. Opinions can be wrong, or even damned wrong. Something that you're not taught in grade school, but it's often taught in college in the sciences. We get a lot of that in politics and medicine these days.

At this site, you'll mostly see actual opinions, nuanced disagreements on agreed-upon quality items and methods. Usually. Bad methods and gear tend to be shot down quickly, as they should be.

"distributable format" (actually "distribution") is the accurate jargon term. Good job. That is DVDs, MP4 H.264 streaming files, etc. Capture files/formats are not distribution, nor are the intermediaries (pre/during/post edit files).

What is a "pretty good VCR"? Brand, model?

Closecall 01-03-2022 10:56 AM

Thank you for the reply!

We have a Panasonic ez48v VCR/DVD Recorder unit.

We are fine spending up to $200 on a capture card. (was looking into Blackmagic Design Cars as I work with their software often)

One of our major hold-ups right now is finding an output from a device that would allow us to save the file in a Lossless format. Which side note is AVI an acceptable container for lossless with this kind of work? I am still doing research into formats and containers and figured I'd ask.

Finally for the TBC we probably wouldn't go over $600 if we can help it.

lordsmurf 01-03-2022 11:11 AM

EH75V has the passthrough of the ES15, but I'm not aware of the EZ48V having it. In terms of VCR playback, Panasonic consumer VCRs are overall pretty lousy.

$200 for a capture card is plenty, several options. Depends on OS. What OS? Note that your online daily computer makes for a terrible capture system.

Do not get Blackmagic, those capture cards are bad for SD, dropped frames (even without reporting), even with true frame TBC. HD cards do SD capture lousy.

Lossless is not an issue with the right card, right software, right codecs. The combo of all 3.

Yes, AVI is what lossless almsot always uses.

$600 for TBC won't get a good model, but flawed chipset models (frame sticking, etc). You're now in eBay gamble territory, the "for parts" auctions for good models, and a good way to lose that $600. You're in TBC(ish) territory here, but even then that's low, unless you're trying to squeeze by with only ES10/15. Unless you have all SP mode camcorder masters, you have no chance with just ES10/15.

Closecall 01-03-2022 11:17 AM

I am using Windows 10 and I have a dedicated work machine for working with Drone Videos I work with. So Specs shouldn't be an issue.

RayNotes 01-03-2022 09:37 PM


Are you looking to digitize videos originated on your Sony DCR-TRV340 or were you just trying to use it as a DV transcoder? If they are originally your Digital8 tapes, then they're already digitized, so you just need to transfer (clone) them to your PC. I can try to help if that's the case. I can also help with rendering the DV AVI files to a sharable format that preserves their quality. Deinterlacing and compressing to an MP4 has a good and bad workflows as well.

Let me know - thanks,

Closecall 01-03-2022 10:06 PM

We are using the Sony camcorder as a passthrough. So from the VCR player we would have it go to the camera and then into our Media Center and capture it on Windows Movie Maker.

RayNotes 01-03-2022 10:48 PM

So you're going out of a VCR -> composite -> Camcorder -> FireWire -> Computer? If that's the case, you're capturing DV files to an AVI container. I'd download WinDV to capture, rather than using Movie Maker. It's smaller, easier to use, and just does the one thing - captures DV video... that's it.

Another possible inconvenience is capturing DV Type 1 (Audio/Video interleaved stream) vs Type 2 (Audio and Video in separate streams). A lot of modern video software will not open DV Type 1 videos - no idea why. Set your Type to 2 in order to make it more convenient to deinterlace and edit.

Lastly, NTSC DV is interlaced. The video play back at 59.94 fields per second (29.97 frames per second). To share you video with others, you'll need to deinterlace it and convert it to MP4. The simple/fast way is to use Avidemux. You'd use the Yadif deinterlace filter setting the mode to "Field: temporal & spatial check". With the Sony, it's probably "Bottom Field First". You will also need to resize the video from 720x480 to 720x540 to correct the NTSC DV pixel aspect ratio (PAR) from 8:9 to 1:1. Then you can set the audio to ACC or MP3, and the output container to MP4 and you're ready to save it as an MP4.

That said, this is the minimum quality can to convert DV. Things improve greatly if you use the MSU Deinterlace plugin in VirtualDub. Others use AviSynth for even better results but I haven't used that. Others also use Handbrake to compress to MP4 but I haven't tried that yet either.

But as lordsmurf said, using a TBC between your VCR and a real capture card would yield the best results. But if that's not possible, deinterlacing DV video is better than using one of those $15 EasyCap adapters that most people use.

lordsmurf 01-04-2022 02:27 AM

With low budget, DV gear, consumer Panasonic VCR, etc, this isn't going to end well. Quality will suck, you will notice, and you'll redo it at a later date. I've seen that scenario play out countless times now. I've even had people argue with me ("I don't need no expensive TBC!, I don't need no fancy VCR!"), only to ask me later if I have any (or know of any) available for sale. A wise person learns from the mistakes of others, not repeat them.

ES10/15 = Panasonic DMR-ES10 (or ES15) DVD recorder. Not used for DVD, but as passthrough between VCR and capture card. Lots of posts about it on this forum already. ES15 is part of a TBC(ish) when used as passthrough, but not a TBC replacement by itself.

NTSC DV quality is soft, lacks color (50%+ thrown out for 4:1:1), blocky, yuck.

@RayNotes, MSU deinterlace is pretty awful. Use Hybrid, an "easy button" GUI to use (and learn) Avisynth or Vapoursynth, easy to QTGMC deinterlace in it. Handbrake is equally lousy, Hybrid better here too.

VCR > TBC > capture card isn't just "best", but TBC is required.

The dumb DV boxes do drop/insert frames, but that fact is just hidden from you. DV boxes do not remove the need for TBC, do not do anything beneficial to VHS video sources.

RayNotes 01-04-2022 10:24 AM

Thanks @lordsmurf and yes, I agree... the DV route is very clearly a sub-optimal method but it's worlds ahead of these $15 USB EasyCap workflows, which despite so many soccer moms loving them for sharing on Instagram, I find 100% intolerable.

I will be looking into Hybrid. I've had no luck with AviSynth or QTGMC as I've never been able to even figure out what anybody is talking about when they describe how to use them. I know everyone agrees QTGMC is better than MSU Deinterlace but not if you can't get it to work. LOL! Thanks for the quality info.

I *will* be trying to source a good TBC for my Hi8 and VHS tapes. The Sony DVMC-DA2 will have to fill the gap just for fun until then.

Closecall 01-04-2022 11:27 AM

Looking at the items LordSmurf is selling I have a question. I was under the impression that using USB to bring the video into the computer was a big NO NO. But it looks like all of the capture cards recommended are all USB plug-ins. Have I read something wrong here? I am looking at the ATI 600/AIW (I do have a windows xp machine I could use for the AIW) and the pinnacle USB. Not sure which pinnacles are best though.

latreche34 01-04-2022 12:31 PM

Stay away from Windows crap, Use WinDV or ScenlyzerLive to stream, This is not capturing, it is streaming, The capture has already been done inside the camcorder's ADC chip, so $hit like movie maker or media center won't do you any good.

lordsmurf 01-04-2022 12:43 PM


Originally Posted by Closecall (Post 81602)
Looking at the items LordSmurf is selling I have a question. I was under the impression that using USB to bring the video into the computer was a big NO NO. But it looks like all of the capture cards recommended are all USB plug-ins. Have I read something wrong here? I am looking at the ATI 600/AIW (I do have a windows xp machine I could use for the AIW) and the pinnacle USB. Not sure which pinnacles are best though.

USB is just a communication method.
Same as PCI.
PCI Express

There are good cards, and there are bad cards. There were many crappy PCI cards, then AGP and PCI, then PCI Express, then USB. But every generation had some gems.

An ATI AIW in XP is a real winner. (Not all AIW are good, but most Radeon AGP, few rare PCI, rare USB, not really PCIe.)

Closecall 01-04-2022 01:30 PM

That's great! I was a little confused as we have had some people tell us never to use USB and always wondered why.

So if we wanted to go with the best possible workflow using one of each (as we do not have the funds to acquire multiples of each as you recommend in your professional workflow setup), what would you recommend amongst the items you have for sale as a solid and reliable workflow for a few hundred VHS tapes.
If you can be specific to your selections that would be a great help!

lordsmurf 01-04-2022 01:37 PM

The more tapes in a project, the more important it is to have quality gear. With a few hundred tapes, you could have a stack of 50+ tapes that refuse to cooperate, and have to outsource those. End costs are therefore the same, between cheap DIY gear + outsourced work, or quality DIY gear. Don't get caught by negative economics.

- Capture card can come in at budget.
- A possibly passable TBC(ish) can come in near budget.
- But you really need to just "splurge" (suck it up) and get the quality JVC S-VHS VCR with line TBC. What you have now just will not work, unless you simply have zero care for quality.

Closecall 01-04-2022 01:44 PM

Thank you very much. We are looking into upgrading the workflow.
I am considering;
TBC = DataVideo TBC-1000
Capture Card = TBD?

We are using an HP pavilion m7500y Media Center with a TV Tuner
Any suggestions on this workflow to make it better?

lordsmurf 01-04-2022 02:40 PM

I would avoid the 9600, unless modded to bypass the DD. Too many issues these days.

TBC-1000 is nice, but not the end-all/be-all of TBCs. So don't overly focus on it, it not available, or others (comparable) are available.

Condition matters more than exact model.

And you need to be aware that eBay is a gambling site these days, not a buying site, when it comes to video gear. "Tested" and "working" are usually nonsense, because it means the seller saw LCD panel lights, or it played a ratty old retail tape (complete with tracking errors). Some sellers flat lie, and nothing was tested whatsoever. Most eBay video gear sellers are just recyclers (e-cyclers, e-junk resellers), not somebody that has a clue how this gear should work. The machines can moan and grown, no lube, failing motors, etc. Way out of maintenance, last legs. Again, when you have 100s of tapes, you want to avoid that mess. Don't be tempted by a sometimes-lowball pricing. Worse yet, as a newbie, you may not know the gear has issues until the return window passes. Heed the warnings.

"HP pavilion m7500" really doesn't mean anything. What are the actual specs?
- motherboard
- etc

What is the exact tuner brand/model?

Details matter.

JVC VCR, TBC, captrue card -- that's better. The computer has only base needs, OS and I/O mostly.

RayNotes 01-04-2022 02:50 PM

1 Attachment(s)
The reason staying away from USB is generally advised are due to the reputation EasyCap, dongle style devices have for being awful. See attached image. These are great if quality is of no concern.

Closecall 01-07-2022 12:49 PM

Would these kind of workflows also work for a beta machine to transfer beta tapes?

RobustReviews 01-07-2022 12:56 PM


Originally Posted by Closecall (Post 81671)
Would these kind of workflows also work for a beta machine to transfer beta tapes?

Yes, consider all advice applicable to both. The output from them is as near as identical as makes no difference for this topic.

Finding decent Betamax machines can be a pain in the behind though - unless you have one available. They're all getting to the stage where any extant machine is going to need some major overhauls if absolute capture quality is a must; unless you're in a market where the machines stayed relevant into the 90s.

We struggle more with Betamax machines than any other (including Video2000) as they seem to need far more 'love' than other machines of the same vintage broadly. That is our experience anyway.

Betamax transfers often need to be monitored due to the lack of automatic tracking on Betamax (or PAL models at least) so there's a risk an unattended capture may go awry, especially if there are different recordings on the same tape.

If you have working machine though, any VHS setup will do broadly the same thing, this goes for V2000 too for the Europeans.

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