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Towncivilian 02-10-2015 09:30 AM

Considering PAL equipment to digitize live tapes

I am considering obtaining the equipment necessary to digitize PAL VHS tapes of live concert recordings and TV appearances, primarily of the band Depeche Mode (I run the Depeche Mode Live Wiki). A colleague has about 50 tapes but I do not know any lineage information (what device they were recorded on / copied using, generation, tape types, etc) so I am assuming I would require a robust transport mechanism to handle varying tape qualities and lengths. I believe most are three-hour long VHS tapes. I can find out more specifics about this batch of tapes if that will assist in this process.

I live in the US, so PAL equipment will likely be difficult to find in my case except for I'm guessing. Reading the VCR buying guide, a JVC or Panasonic PAL S-VHS VCR would be the best options here. It is written in that guide that Panasonic VCRs generally have better tape playback. Will this be a greater benefit over the slightly (?) better picture quality of JVC VCRs?
I am not too concerned with an NTSC VCR at this stage. I am sure finding a high-end model will be nowhere near as difficult as a PAL one.

I am assuming an external TBC will also be of great benefit. Is the AVT-8710 still worth considering? I am very wary of the reports of defective chipsets.

A capture card will also be required. From what I have read, the ATI 7000 or 9000 AIW series cards will provide the best lossless capture, correct? Does it matter whether I use a PCI or AGP version of the card? I will build a dedicated Pentium 4-era capture box running Windows XP SP3 since that seems to have the fewest compatibility issues, from what I have read. I will do post-processing on a more modern machine (quad core i5 3rd gen with 32GB of RAM).

I also have a Creative X-Fi XtremeMusic sound card on hand. Will this yield better quality audio capture than a capture card?

I would prefer to spend $300 or less on a VCR and TBC (each). The capture card seems like it will be fairly inexpensive on eBay, or perhaps a coworker or friend might have a capable card on-hand, so I am not worried about that.

Is there anything else I am missing during this planning stage for a workflow? I appreciate any and all input.


lordsmurf 02-17-2015 09:21 AM

Personal Jesus, the 2006 re-release = one of my favorites. :)

FYI, your wiki seems to not be loading the CSS. It's a plain text HTML page that I see now.

PAL is not that hard to find, thanks to eBay. If you thinks it's hard now, imagine how it was in the 90s or even the early 2000s. Importing gear was a slice of hell. Not fun at all, but doable. Sure, you could buy those cheap Panasonic (and Samsung rebadged) AG-W1/2/3 plain VHS VCRs, but that really did suck quality-wise compared to an S-VHS Panasonic or JVC.

The DataVideo TBC-1000 should be fine with PAL. I know the 100 is, the the 1000 is the just a 100 married to the VP-299.

The ATI All In Wonder (AIW) works very nicely for PAL footage. The AGP is best, and I'd go for the 9000 if you can. But either is fine. Don't worry about the tuner, that does not matter. All ATI cards capture PAL analog s-video or composite input.

The ATI does not capture audio, only the video. It routes (sync time) through the audio input in the card breakout dongle.

Your budget is good, you plan seem fine to me. :)

Towncivilian 02-17-2015 09:25 AM

Cool! Did you mean PJ 2011, though? Or perhaps Enjoy The Silence '04? :D

Thanks, I will correct the problem shortly. Recently upgraded Apache to 2.4.12, that may be causing the issue. I noticed that problem at home occasionally, but nowhere else, so thanks for the confirmation.

In fact I did just purchase two VCRs:

a Philips VR1000 - NTSC, oddly, even though it's listed in the VCR buying guide as PAL. Do you happen to know what JVC model this is a rebadge of?
and a JVC HR-S7600 (PAL) with TBC
Also got a 9600XT AIW on the way with breakout boxes, original box, etc thanks to a generous individual. I read the 9600s may have some sort of interference issues - is this sporadic? Will I know immediately upon attempting to use it?

I will keep an eye out for a DataVideo TBC on eBay.

Thanks for the feedback!

EDIT: I believe I have corrected the CSS not loading issue. Could you retest if you have a moment, please?

lordsmurf 02-17-2015 09:36 AM

Pretty sure it's the 2006 MP3 release. I had it in 2008, so it's for sure not newer than that. Bought it from Amazon for $1. It's an extended version, longer than what I have on my ancient CD.

80s rock and metal fan here. :cool:

Yep, your CSS came back.

You won't know if you have an interference issues until you get everything plugged up and see what happens.

Towncivilian 02-17-2015 09:43 AM

Hmmmm... is your version a remix? Did you perhaps buy it as part of the "Best Of Vol. 1" release in 2006, or one of the iTunes compilations that was released during that year?

Cool, thanks. Hope I won't encounter it again. I'll post back if something is amiss with any of the equipment.

lordsmurf 02-17-2015 06:29 PM

It's this one:

Use to be $1, now $1.30.
Amazon Prime members gets it for free?! That's news to me. I need to see what else is free music-wise.
I'm out of touch now, not bought music in about 3 years.

Towncivilian 02-18-2015 09:47 AM

I see! That version of "Personal Jesus" is the album version - perhaps you are more familiar with the single version which does not have the "techno" section toward the end of the song.

Amazon Prime has some sort of video streaming service as well, but I don't have Prime. I order enough stuff from Amazon that I might as well get it.

lordsmurf 02-18-2015 09:28 PM

I like the instrumental at the end.
Golden Earrings' Twilight Zone has a similar extended version, which non-vocal instrumentals for a good minutes or two.

Sometimes I'm just not in the mood for words. :)

Towncivilian 02-21-2015 08:52 AM


I received the Philips VR1000. Turns out it is apparently a European model, with the Euro mains plug and all! I presume I will need to purchase a step-down transformer in order to plug it in? Do you have any recommendations, or are all the most popular ones on Amazon more or less identical?
There is a sticker on the top of the unit that says "NTSC Playback". I don't understand - can PAL VCRs also play NTSC? Perhaps I did not need to purchase the JVC HR-S7600 unit?
If it helps, here is the eBay listing:
There are some fairly decent photos you can look at.

Also, I would like to determine what JVC model this Philips unit is a rebadge of. Are there any specific photos of the unit's internals which could help determine that? I'd be glad to provide them.

Prelude 02-21-2015 01:09 PM

Technically you need a step-up transformer althouh it could be that they go by the same name, not sure.

In any case I would avoid any electronically or switched units since they are usually "enhanced sine wave" in other words, not pure sine and can cause the power supply of the VCR to break down in the worst case or cause interference on the signal in moderate cases. What you want is a good old metal transformer, wound with copper. The weight is mostly a good indication:

This seems to be a transformer based unit.

And Yes, I have several TV's and VCR's meant for the european market but they can play NTSC. somewhere during the 90's it became easier and cheaper for manufacturers to just make a unit that could do it all and sell that everywhere since that kept development and production costs down. Also, the power supply is a separate unit so it's more easily replaced per market.


Towncivilian 02-21-2015 01:27 PM

Thanks for clearing that up.
The VCR buying guide had confused me; at the bottom, the multi-format section, it states:

In terms of video quality, you're better off using a PAL S-VHS VCR to play a PAL tape, and NTSC S-VHS VCR to play NTSC tapes; only use these for the exotic tape formats.
This is why I was confused and assumed that I required an NTSC and a PAL VCR to be able to play the respective format. I did not know PAL VCRs (or at least some of them) could also play NTSC.

lordsmurf 02-21-2015 01:29 PM


Originally Posted by Prelude (Post 36906)
Technically you need a step-up transformer

No you don't.

JVC S-VHS VCRs have a 110~240 power supply. So they work fine almost everywhere.

Most DVD players/recorders are the same way, and have worldwide power supplies. That's one of the few good things that have come from Chinese production.

Look at the rating on the unit.

All you need are plug shape adapters. Those are cheap, just a few bucks on Amazon.


Originally Posted by Towncivilian (Post 36907)
This is why I was confused and assumed that I required an NTSC and a PAL VCR to be able to play the respective format. I did not know PAL VCRs (or at least some of them) could also play NTSC.


A PAL VCR does not play NTSC. It will, however, play as PAL-60. Not the same.

Towncivilian 02-21-2015 01:30 PM

This unit came with a shape adapter already attached to the plug, and the sticker on the back of the unit says 220 ~ 240V, so it seems I will need a transformer.

OK, so I need to continue my search for an NTSC VCR, then. Thanks.

lordsmurf 02-21-2015 01:32 PM


Originally Posted by Towncivilian (Post 36909)
This unit came with a shape adapter already attached to the plug, and the sticker on the back of the unit says 220 ~ 240V, so it seems I will need a transformer.

Then it's EU power only, and will not work for USA 110-120. It needs the step transformer. However, I've never seen a transformer that was transparent. They all leak interference into the video signal.

Towncivilian 02-21-2015 01:34 PM

Well, that is irritating. What am I to do with this VCR then?
Do you know if the JVC HR-S7600 is 110 ~ 240? That one is still on its way to me.

lordsmurf 02-21-2015 01:39 PM

If the Philips VR1000 really is a JVC clone, you could always plug it into USA power with a shape adapter, as see what it does. It should not fry on 110-120. (It would do so, however, if it were a USA device plugged into EU 220-240 power!)

The JVC HR-S7965EK was 110~240 for sure. That's what I use.

Towncivilian 02-21-2015 01:44 PM

The VCR turns on with the shape adapter.
Should I do some sort of manual cleaning before attempting to play a tape? I only have one PAL tape currently and would rather it not get eaten.
If I play an NTSC tape, will that cause any damage? I have a sacrificial tape that I wouldn't mind if it got eaten. I just want to verify functionality of the transport.

Prelude 02-21-2015 01:47 PM

The tape should work fine for transport testing.

Funny though that I have this all-one one POS that has a whole slew of standards printed on it that it is supposed to support but LS probably knows best and this cheap chinese product is basicly lying :)

Towncivilian 02-21-2015 02:00 PM

I see video on the NTSC VHS I have, and audio is fine. There seems to be some vertical bounce. I don't know if the TBC is on or not, I don't have the remote and am having trouble trying to find an Android app with the proper IR codes programmed for a JVC / Philips VCR. Buttons on the unit are sparse.

EDIT: D'oh, there's a TBC button on the front panel glowing green. How did I miss that?
Anyway, I certainly see an improvement in picture with the TBC on, but with it off the vertical up/down (is it termed jitter?) is nonexistent.
What does this indicate?

EDIT2: The audio is fairly noisy, with pops / clicks audible in the background. Perhaps it is from EMI? I do have a lot of cables running around. Then again, I use the same RCA audio cables to record from my cassette decks without any pops / clicks present. Maybe it's just this tape.

Towncivilian 02-21-2015 03:17 PM

1 Attachment(s)
I have cleaned the tape path (audio / control / erase / video heads, capstans / tape guides, and pinch roller). The pinch roller was especially dirty.
Should this spring next to the gear idler be ... stuck like it is? It looks rather out of place. See image.

Cleaning has not resolved the vertical jitter with TBC on, nor the pops and clicks in the audio.
Do VHS heads (other than the video heads) & capstans require / benefit from demagnetization like cassette deck heads?

Still working on finding a universal remote application which the VCR likes.

EDIT: OK, Philips IR set "81" (whatever that means) seems to work. Setting the audio to "NORM" seems to resolve the pops and clicks, though there is more hiss. I can live with that, the various HiFi modes seem to apply noise reduction (?) and there's an odd sort of "tunnel" effect to voices, etc.

Will an external TBC stabilize the vertical jitter? I'm viewing S-Video output directly to my Dell 2001FP monitor currently, haven't purchased a TBC yet.

EDIT2: Okay, playing the aforementioned PAL tape now and there is no jitter with TBC enabled now. I guess it's just that NTSC tape I was playing that had the weird jitter. I'll try some other NTSC tapes later.
"Norm" audio sucks, using the HiFi for this live concert tape. The pops & clicks are less frequent after the first minute or so of tape, and anyway would be easily dismissed with some post processing.

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