Quantcast DVD recorder or capture card for better quality? - digitalFAQ Forum
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05-04-2009, 05:49 PM
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Ok, I have a jvc recorder i can use for pal, the majority of the tapes will be NTSC anyway. I've tried to read up on the forums but the more I read the more my head hurts LOL.

Most of the tapes I am going to convert has crappy quality. I have the vcr and the detailer I got from you and a canopus advc-55 coming. And since i dont have a ton of money I was thinking about getting the AVT-8710 in addition instead of a separate TBC and a proc amp like BVP-4+. Would a dvd-burner/cleaning machine instead of using the advc-55 be better for the quality? I would still have to put it onto the computer to do some software cleanup.. and if so what sort of machine would you recommend?

Any advice and recommendations would be very much appreciated


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  #2  
06-05-2009, 08:07 AM
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So you have a lot of NTSC VHS tapes that you want to convert (maybe restore) to the highest quality onto a digital format (DVD, most likely, I would assume). Alright, check.

VHS tapes suffer from two major errors: color/chroma noise and grain. Many devices, especially low-end consumer ones (including that Canopus ADVC-55) will transfer all of the analog VHS noise to the new digital file, where it will exist forever. Yuck! What has to be done, for the highest possible quality, is for these noises to be filtered out. Most all captures cards, even professional ones, transfer the entire signal unfiltered to a computer.

However, a few years ago, some of the better video companies realized this dilemma, and using components/chips made by video companies (as opposed to computer graphics computers) to create more elite DVD recorders intended for dealing with these noisy VHS tapes. For a while there, JVC had it's own DNR (digital noise reduction) to suppress grain, and used LSI chipsets to suppress color noise. The result was a DVD recorder that made DVDs that looked better than the VHS tape. These models were only made in 2004-2006, models DR-M10, DR-M100, DR-M30, DR-M300, DR-MV1 (combo*), DR-MV5 (combo*) and some "JVC Professional Series" decks (I forget the model numbers off hand, and they are crazy expensive!)

* The VCR in the JVC combo unit is a low-end piece of crap. If you ever use this machine, pretend the VHS slot doesn't exist, just use the DVD recorder half!

Toshiba also made some machines, which filtered based on temporals and intra-frame only, no "chroma filtering" per se, but it did quite a nice job of cleaning up chroma/color noise anyway! These models included RD-XS32, RD-XS34, RD-XS35, and were mostly HDD (hard drive) based units. More expensive, less made, harder to find even when new.

These JVC and Toshiba machines are what I had referred to as "cleaning devices" for you.

But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, let's back up a minute.

You now have a JVC HR-S9911U S-VHS deck, which is quite nice. The JVC S-VHS series machines have several image filters, including a DNR+TBC made for cleaning the image. The JVC machines will handle most tapes most of the time. (Please note, no VCR will handle all tapes all of the time. Anybody that says otherwise is either lying, or is an idiot!) Anyway, the JVC machines will clean up most low-level to moderate chroma noise with the TBC. So the aforementioned JVC or Toshiba DVD recorders may not be needed. However, sometimes tape errors prevent the TBC from being used, causing secondary reactionary errors, such as "tearing" or jitter. In this case, you would be stuck with chroma noise showing, and something after the VCR would be needed to clean it up! It has to be done in hardware too, digital removal methods are very unreliable, and even the best methods leave ghostly artifacts/noise not found with an analog hardware filter. So that's where the advice for "cleaning machine" DVD recorders comes from!

For as much as people cry about "quality loss from re-encoding", restoration is about dealing with poor sources, and making them better. A couple of re-encodes, even from compressed intermediaries, isn't going to do any harm. That Canopus ADVC-55 is a nice device, but it works best on a perfect noise-free video -- not a murky old VHS tape. The quality you might gain from lesser-compressed DV (as opposed to MPEG-2 from a DVD recorder) will be entirely lost on all that digitized noise that wasn't removed. You can play a tape in the JVC VCR, run it into another TBC to avoid any false anti-copy issues (or other signal-based problems), use a proc amp if you want (I suggest it!), and then feed it to an image-cleaning DVD recorder in XP mode (high bitrate MPEG-2). Take those MPEG-2 files, and then open in restoration software like AVI Synth, VirtualDub 1.8 (with MPEG-2 input filter) or TMPGEnc Plus --- software with heavy filtering abilities. Filter out whatever couldn't be fixed in the hardware.

I know this has gotten a bit long, maybe even a bit heavy on the jargon. But it's an overview of your workflow -- I didn't include details on how to use each device, software help, lots of scenarios ("what if's"), etc. That comes later, if needed. I mostly wanted you to understand why the "cleaning machine" DVD recorders are an important consideration.

Two other random thoughts...

Please note that the "proc amp" found embedded in an AVT-8710 is a joke. It is so mild as to be near useless. It's not a proc amp replacement. But that TBC is excellent! I suggest it highly! Just don't expect those weenie proc amp functions to do much for you.

The detailer can be one of the least important devices for cleaning, but it is nice for the ability to re-sharpen video (psycho-visually speaking, of course!) -- very nice for making SP mode VHS recordings look almost DVD-sharp, or to make fuzzy VHS recordings look a little more crisp.

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06-05-2009, 08:44 AM
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Thanks for a long and very informative answer, that was very helpful.. and now of course I have more questions

Since I have the ADVC-55 already, would using a Panasonic S10 as a passthru help? Cause I can get one of those pretty cheap, and finding one of the records you recommend to a price I can afford might not be that easy.

Would BVP-4 be just as helpful for me as the BVP-4 Plus?

And with a TBC that would end up vcr -> tbc -> proc amp -> detailer -> S10 -> ADVC-55

Would that give me a good(ish) result, at least better than the original in most cases?
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06-05-2009, 09:13 AM
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The Panasonic ES10 can be useful as passthrough. That is another decent option, correcting flagging/tearing, as well as suppressing both grain and chroma. Not as good as the ones above, but an admirable second method. I say this because the ES10 has posterization issues (color palette compression) pretty bad sometimes. Your new DVD will still look better than the VHS tape did, but it can have this "digital look" to it. For this reason, ONLY use the ES10 when needed. Mine sits unplugged most of the time. Please also note that the ES10 suffers from that same issues a many other motherboards from the 2003-2005 era, and capacitors are known to bust or bulge, requiring a repair. Not from Panasonic necessarily, just any competent person with electronics skills (mine was fixed by the audio/video lab tech at a local college, charged me $25). And this is a Panasonic too, so the IRE/black level and luma values are cooked and all over the place, you may need to tweak the input and output values (in recorder setup menus, read manual if needed).

The workflow would be
  1. VCR first, play tape steady as possible, clean as much as you can here
  2. Then TBC, to correct any signal issues
  3. Then ES10 as needed, to further fix signal, remove chroma
  4. A proc amp, if ever used
  5. Detailer goes last
  6. Then your digital acquisition device, be it DVD recorder or capture card. For you, right now, it appears this will be a Canopus DV box
Yes, your new DVDs would look better than the tape...

...assuming you didn't screw anything up in the editing, software restoration or authoring stages. By this, I mean over-compression, down-resolution, or other bad decisions (usually made by software in an "automatic" mode) that would lower quality too much. For many people, computers are "too hard", so they let software make choices for them -- usually bad ones. Don't get caught in that trap. I don't think you will, but it's always good warning!

I always forget the difference between the BVP-4 vs BVP-4 Plus. The Plus is better, but the other non-Plus is going to be fine, too. I would not hesitate to use either one.
...... I really need to get more of my notes into the forum and blog, I have this info saved somewhere.....

For a device that can do both NTSC and PAL, that device was probably a smart move. I know you were seeking that functionality. You would not have found that on a decent DVD recorder.

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  #5  
06-05-2009, 02:21 PM
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Thanks again, this gives me something to work from and that workflow was very helpful.

One thing's for sure, I'll have plenty to do this summer
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