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  #1  
03-13-2019, 10:00 AM
Tig_ Tig_ is offline
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INTRO
Hi everyone, I'm planning to convert a few hundred mixed VHS tapes—some my own, some belonging to family and friends, all probably home videos. As a wedding videographer who does my own post production, I have some equipment and experience I hope will help; that said I understand converting VHS tapes properly requires unique skill, equipment, and knowledge. Thank you dF for helping with the latter; otherwise I'd probably wind up strangling myself with the power cable of a cheap VCR.

Hopefully one day I'll be able to contribute here based on experience to come. Meanwhile, I'm looking for feedback. Please let me know where I'm on the right track and where I clearly need further guidance haha:

EQUIPMENT
Here's what I plan to buy. External TBC and DVD recorder will only be in the chain when needed, to avoid any degradation from unnecessary devices. Everything will be powered through a CP1500PFCLCD:
  1. HR-S9800U and AG-1980: these choices based in part on the VCR buying guide, which lordsmurf informed me is 15yrs old and he no longer recommends the 9800 due to its dynamic drum gear failing and being irreparable. He's selling an SR deck which he stated are now considered equal/superior. Q1: What are everyone's top picks instead of the 9800? Either way I plan to get an AG-1980 as well.

  2. TBC-3000: I've yet to find one for sale so might be off the table anyway, and lordsmurf informed me the green AVT-8710 clone 1T unit (aluminum body) he's selling is equally good. Per this post by sanlyn, my primary concern here is "(b) Avoid serious, chronic audio synch problems" as I don't expect to be dealing with retail tapes.

    I sought the TBC-3000 because a standalone dual-channel TBC seems like a good choice for the rest of my build. A little less clutter and seems well-regarded, but I suppose I could get a pair of AVT-8710s. Q2: Are different full-frame TBCs better-suited to different tapes the way VCRs are, such that there'd be benefit to having an 8710 and a DataVideo TBC?

  3. Philips DVDR3575H: Per davideck here, superior to the ES10/15. He also states that it's "better than the DataVideos," which confuses me as I think he's comparing full-frame units like the TBC-3000 to a line TBC (the 3575) that performs a different task. I could use some education on this point. If the Philips truly is superior to TBC-3000, Q3: should I get a DVDR3575H and skip TBC-3000/AVT-8710 entirely? I feel like I must be misunderstanding something here.

    Plus per lordsmurf here, the 3575 does nothing for cleaning up VHS (although to make it more confusing, there are other responses in the davideck post thread linked, which suggest the 3575 does clean up tapes). I'm also unclear on whether davideck was referring to using the 3575 as a pass-through device, which is my intention; I'm not interested in recording to DVD or to the 3575's HDD. Finally, I've seen AGC mentioned regarding the 3575 as well as several other devices, and want to avoid that if possible.

  4. Studio 1 Dual Proc Amp [TGP-8648]: I want to capture digital masters that are as true to the source as possible, and am guessing a good proc-amp can improve SNR (or maybe that's irrelevant here?) so I'm planning to get one of these regardless. But I'd like to be able to explain to others why this is superior to post-conversion digital color correction. Q4: What are the best arguments for using a video processor?

  5. AJA KONA LHe: AIWs get a lot of love here, and putting together a legacy system for VHS conversion wouldn't be too much of an issue (pretty sure I have a couple AIWs collecting dust somewhere too). But I'd like to upgrade to a video card with 10-bit output for NLE work anyway, and plan to use modern hardware and Windows 10 for three main reasons:
    1. My work requires ongoing support and compatibility with current software (e.g. Adobe CC) and hardware
    2. Modern hardware is faster (especially for video production) and more efficient (electricity/heat/noise).
    3. Win10 is more secure (especially after 7 reaches EOL January 2020). Even an offline machine faces security risks (ransomware etc.) when exposed to removable media for file transfers.
    Back to the Kona, I'm afraid I may need a far more expensive Kona 4 or 5 to check the UHD 10-bit output box for NLE work etc, and I don't know if they're appropriate for VHS capture. Before this VHS project came along I was looking at Quadros and Blackmagic for that … now I'm just lost, confused, scared, hungry, and possibly wet (please send help). Q5: What card do you recommend for quality analog capture and UHD 10-bit output?

One item I'm unsure about is detailers. Q6: Are detailers meant to counteract loss of detail inherent to the conversion process? I want my digital masters to be true to the source and certainly don't want "improvements" baked in. So, the only way a detailer appeals to me is if it counteracts loss of detail from conversion, and does so in a way that's superior to post-conversion digital editing. For what it's worth, I learned some thousand hours of post production ago not to overdo sharpening, etc. If this is the right tool for the job, I'll get one and use it with care.

CAPTURE SYSTEM
The PC I plan to use for this:
  • Motherboard: ASRock X99 Taichi
  • CPU: i7 6800K
  • RAM: 32GB DDR4-3200
  • Video card: GeForce 1060 3GB
  • Capture card: Aja Kona LHe
  • OS Drive: 1TB Samsung 960 Evo
  • Capture Drive: 2TB Samsung 860 Evo
  • Archive/data drives: assorted 5-6TB Toshiba X300 HDDs in DrivePool*
  • Monitors: BenQ PD3200U and Samsung C32HG70
  • Audio Interface: Behringer UMC404HD

    * I moved on from RAID to DrivePool a couple years back, which it should be noted provides file-level duplication rather than bit-level as in RAID. Thus there's no read/write throughput benefit for large files such as videos except when working on multiple simultaneously.

Can get another SSD for capture if needed to capture two tapes simultaneously (I'd just like to have that option), but I'm thinking 500MB/s should more than cover this. Let me know if there's any other relevant hardware I should mention. I use JBL LSR308s and a couple pairs of Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic headphones for monitoring. Moving on to software:
  • OS: Windows 10
  • Capture: My hope is to capture to UT Video, and I'm hoping Aja's capture software will cooperate…
  • Processing/NLE: Adobe Premiere Pro, Da Vinci Resolve, MAGIX Vegas, VirtualDub

Because I provide my wedding clients with videos at multiple resolutions and host them on my own server, my typical process is to render final edits as uncompressed AVIs, then encode via x264 to each final output resolution. My planned workflow for VHS conversion once captured, is to keep a UT Video master, perform edits if applicable, then encode x264 as usual.

Q7: Any changes you'd recommend to my capture PC?


OUTRO
Hope I've made this easy to read and answer. Sorry for the wall of text, but I'm hoping it'll help others to follow, and I'll keep this thread updated with my progress, experiences, successes and regrets. Thanks in advance.

Edit: not sure if an admin can fix this, but I mistyped a thread keyword as "h9800u" haha.

Last edited by Tig_; 03-13-2019 at 10:13 AM.
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  #2  
03-13-2019, 10:45 AM
NJRoadfan NJRoadfan is offline
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That Kona card is complete overkill for VHS work. Unless you really need SDI I/O and other features provided, its best to stick with a cheaper solutions for SD analog capture. Added bonus is that they almost all support DirectShow capture applications.

Regarding using AIW cards. Its perfectly acceptable to use the machine only for capture and to move the video files to a modern machine.
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03-13-2019, 11:18 AM
Eric-Jan Eric-Jan is offline
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Wow !i hope you get paid for this Job, all tapes are first generation ? no copies ? (must be old tapes if a camera recorded the VHS tapes directly, for live footage home movies)
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03-13-2019, 11:24 AM
Tig_ Tig_ is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJRoadfan View Post
Unless you really need SDI I/O and other features provided, its best to stick with a cheaper solutions for SD analog capture.
I do indeed seek other features, including 10-bit UHD output for NLE work (further details on why I'm opting for modern hardware and Win10 are in my post under Equipment -> 5. AJA KONA LHe). As I'm not sure the Kona LHe does UHD I may have to go to a higher model, but I'm not sure whether they're appropriate for VHS capture or if something else would be better. Either way, I can definitely find uses for more inputs and outputs for my other video work.
________________________________

Edit to reply to the following as well:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric-Jan View Post
Wow !i hope you get paid for this Job, all tapes are first generation ? no copies ?
I wouldn't make any assumptions about the tapes; some may well have been copied, as I imagine could be true of any collection of home videos.
________________________________

Another edit: ugh, sorry I posted this in the wrong forum. Meant to put it in Project Planning, Workflows and no idea how I screwed up.

Last edited by Tig_; 03-13-2019 at 11:38 AM. Reason: extra response, wrong forum
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  #5  
03-13-2019, 11:48 AM
NJRoadfan NJRoadfan is offline
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What kind of 10-bit workflow are you looking at? Keep in mind that if you intend to do any editing work on your main monitor, you need a 10-bit capable video card like a nVidia Quadro (not cheap). Cards like the AJA have outputs geared towards previewing the final product such as a SDI monitor.

I would look into a separate UHD solution and buy when you have a clearer understanding of your requirements (what sources are you capturing from? Do you need HDR support? etc). Don't "overbuy" a solution that might not ever get used.
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  #6  
03-13-2019, 12:13 PM
hodgey hodgey is offline
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Quote:
Q3: should I get a DVDR3575H and skip TBC-3000/AVT-8710 entirely?
The philips DVR has a SAA7136 video decoder, related, though newer than the SAA7114H in the AVT-8710, so I presume the poster is more hinting to working akin to an external TBC like the Datavideo rather than correcting horizontal jitter. These chips are pretty good at dealing with shitty video signals, though a DVR has to abide by copy-protection and doesn't usually have the input level control that the TBCs have so I don't know how well it works in practice. I know LS have one of these so I presume he can clarify if it is capable of anything.

I have an older Philips DVDR70, which I did find to handle shitty signals well, but the OSD shows up when it thinks it lost signal for a bit, it has no level controls, can blur the image a bit and seems to be set up to mess up the image if it detects macrovision, so it's not all that usable as a TBC. I did actually make use of it once on a section of a tape though.
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  #7  
03-13-2019, 12:28 PM
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The 3575 has zero TBC ability, line and frame or otherwise. It probably has a basic frame sync, and a frame sync is not a frame TBC. The 3575 is decent only with off-air signals without copy protection, and the main advantage is 16x9 (though flagged wrong at 4x3, needs manual adjustment once extracted).

Asking if a DVD recorder replaces a TBC is like asking if your push lawnmower replaces your car. Not at all the same devices.

I have both TBC-3000s and the "green" 1T TBCs, each is extremely nice. I use both, and am selling a few extra 1Ts. (Be aware that a 1T is not a 1T. Most units have flawed chipsets, the ones I have do not. I have both tested and dismantled the units to verify good chips are in use.)

As NJ states, don't overkill a capture system. SD and HD have very different needs, and trying to shoehorn both into the same hardware/software workflows never ends well. You make many compromises to do it.

In terms of bits, VHS has probably 6-bit dithered color at best. I stated this here year ago: Capturing full dynamic range (in terms of color) of VHS? And that thread also discussed Aja Kona.

I'll reply to the thread more, but want to address that right now.

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  #8  
03-13-2019, 12:34 PM
Tig_ Tig_ is offline
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Thanks hodgey!
_______________

Quote:
Originally Posted by NJRoadfan View Post
Cards like the AJA have outputs geared towards previewing the final product such as a SDI monitor.
So I'd still need a Quadro or FirePro in addition to the Kona—that's what I needed to know. Thank you!
_______________

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
Asking if a DVD recorder replaces a TBC is like asking if your push lawnmower replaces your car.
Thank you for the clarification. Comments like davideck's are confusing to those of us trying to learn.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
SD and HD have very different needs, and trying to shoehorn both into the same hardware/software workflows never ends well.
If I understand correctly, that means products like Aja and BlackMagic HD/SD cards are best avoided. Or do you mean there's no good way to capture SD content to a workstation that is connected to HD+ displays?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
In terms of bits, VHS has probably 6-bit dithered color at best.
Just to clarify, I'm under no illusions that VHS is 10-bit; 10-bit is specifically something I'm looking to output, not capture.

Last edited by Tig_; 03-13-2019 at 12:45 PM. Reason: I type too slow; added response to lordsmurf
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  #9  
03-15-2019, 06:25 PM
Tig_ Tig_ is offline
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Hope it's ok to bump after a couple days for answers/replies.
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  #10  
03-19-2019, 09:01 PM
ehbowen ehbowen is offline
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Put together a separate system for capturing legacy SD (VHS/Hi8) video. Lordsmurf will recommend an ATI AIW card for an AGP slot and they're great if you can find one...but I put together a decent homebrew PCIe AIW capture system with:
  • Windows XP tower computer with PCIe video slot (readily available many places)
  • ATI All-In-Wonder X1800 video card (currently available from at least two sellers on eBay)
  • Video-In-Video-Out replacement cable available from svideo.com (required if the AIW card comes without cables; few do)
  • A decent sound card (mine is an ASUS Xonar DGX, but if you have a spare PCI slot and can track down a used Turtle Beach Santa Cruz then that's the way to go)
  • Hard-drive hot-swap bay for a spare 5-1/4" drive bay (capture directly to HDD and sneakernet to a modern PC for post-production)

Total out-of-pocket cost: Less than $150 (I already had a suitable PC which was just gathering dust; it had both SATA and IDE hard drive ports; if your machine is IDE-only then get a SATA PCI expansion card for it). And my capture results have been just great! Of course, I did invest in a couple of good VCRs and a TBC found in the marketplace on this forum.

Edit To Add: The PC MUST be Windows XP, even if it's a PCIe system and not AGP. ATI never updated the drivers after Microsoft moved to Windows Vista (and, apparently, broke a lot of the essential OS functions which ATI used). Same applies with the AGP ATI cards, of course. You can find some decent USB capture devices for sale in the marketplace of this forum if you want to stay with Windows 7 or similar. I've heard that they can be made to work with W10 but I did not succeed with such after several attempts. Avoid W8 like the plague.

Last edited by ehbowen; 03-19-2019 at 09:24 PM.
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  #11  
03-20-2019, 06:01 PM
Tig_ Tig_ is offline
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Thanks ehbowen. What would I be missing out on if I used, say, a VC500 capture card with the Win10 setup I already have (assuming the rest of my capture chain as proposed)? Same question for my UMC404HD the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz.

Just trying to figure out what quantifiable advantages these devices offer. I have much to learn.
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03-20-2019, 09:46 PM
ehbowen ehbowen is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tig_ View Post
Thanks ehbowen. What would I be missing out on if I used, say, a VC500 capture card with the Win10 setup I already have (assuming the rest of my capture chain as proposed)? Same question for my UMC404HD the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz.

Just trying to figure out what quantifiable advantages these devices offer. I have much to learn.
So do I! I'm still quite new at this, and frankly I'm largely repeating the advice I've received. But it has been good advice. I invested a couple thousand in quality hardware (mostly VCRs and TBCs) and I haven't regretted it.

There's an old saying: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." I've got three clips here, all cut from the original unprocessed captures. The first one was rendered to mp4 because it was captured as a transport stream file (DVD format) using a Hauppauge HVR-2250 capture card under Windows 10 in January 2017, before I ever found this forum, and I don't have software for directly editing a .ts video file. So I entered it into Corel VideoStudio and rendered the clip as an SD mp4. The second clip is the exact same source tape captured 22 months later with the same VCR (Mitsubishi HS-HD2000U; great machine!) but this time using a TBC-4000 for better frame sync and the ATI AIW X1800 homebrew system I cobbled together as per the other thread. No processing of any kind, just copy of the original AVI capture stream using the HuffyUV codec.

Finally, I have an unrelated source clip, of the Reagan 1984 inaugural gala and Donna Summer performing with the US Naval Academy glee club. I "just happened" to be a member of the USNA glee club at the time; my parents taped the show (in EP mode, on an el cheapo T-160 cassette, over previous on-air recordings) and I found the tape 34-1/2 years later. The wedding tape was likewise EP, a copy of a copy made by a friend of a friend who videoed my sister's wedding...that's her wearing the white; she's now a mother of eight and grandmother of three with more very likely to come.

So take a look at the clips and make your own determination...but be advised that this isn't the whole story. Remember, these clips are completely unprocessed. Someone like sanlyn who knows his post-processing cold could probably do quite a bit with the two lossless clips, even considering the bad source material they came from. On the other hand, I'll bet you a cold soda that he'd throw up his hands and refuse to have anything to do with the first clip, even if he had it in its as-captured .ts file format.


Attached Files
File Type: mp4 WeddingClipHVR-TS.mp4 (3.24 MB, 6 downloads)
File Type: avi 02=ErinsWeddingClip.avi (98.62 MB, 5 downloads)
File Type: avi Gala1985-MitsuClip.avi (85.93 MB, 4 downloads)
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  #13  
03-20-2019, 09:49 PM
Tig_ Tig_ is offline
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Ah thank you! I'll be poring over this for a while haha. I realized after posting that some of my questions might seem snarky or skeptical, but I'm really trying to fill in blanks and that's a big help so again, thank you!
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03-20-2019, 09:54 PM
ehbowen ehbowen is offline
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By the way, as regards the sound card: You want a sound card to take the load of processing the audio off of the PC's CPU; for a Windows XP-spec machine just processing the video is really all you want to give it at one time. The Turtle Beach is the recommendation of forum owner and all-around guru Lordsmurf, but I've had good results with a pair of ASUS Xonar DGXs (one in a PCI slot on an AGP/PCI machine; one in a PCIe slot on my PCIe capture machine).
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03-22-2019, 12:45 AM
sanlyn sanlyn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ehbowen View Post
Remember, these clips are completely unprocessed.
Not so. Your mp4 has been re-encoded to a very low bitrate, shows all the signs of multiple stages of lossy encoding. The Avi's have been converted to RGB (or were captured using RGB, which isn't recommended and is just as bad). RGB, even as HuffYUV, is twice the size of YUY2. The tapes have blown-out highlights and hot spots, and the wedding tape adds crushed darks to the mix. None of those boo-boo's can be repaired.

Capping VHS to lossy h.264 with an HDPVR is a bad idea if you want to get into restoration. h.264 is not designed for modification, and the HDPVR for SD uses too low a bitrate for further work with lossy encodes of VHS source.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ehbowen View Post
Someone like sanlyn who knows his post-processing cold could probably do quite a bit with the two lossless clips, even considering the bad source material they came from. On the other hand, I'll bet you a cold soda that he'd throw up his hands and refuse to have anything to do with the first clip, even if he had it in its as-captured .ts file format.
Maybe, but we don't have its as-captured .ts format. Anyway, OMG, thanks for the compliment, but, really, there are lots of members here who are pretty good at restoration and likely better than I am in most respects. I wish some of them were still still around because I have many nagging questions I'd ask. For myself, I wouldn't want to work with any of the samples. I'm just crazy enough to tackle one now and then to see if I can learn something. Each is a disaster in its own way. The mp4 has the worst damage, the wedding tape has very limited possibilities, and the gala tape stands the chance of suffering the highest losses because of the frequency noise level that's similar to herringbone (among the very worst noise patterns to clean without coughing up a lot of video real estate). And that gala tape, wow, how do you get simmering macroblocks in analog tape? That flicker in Nancy Reagan's dress might get cleaner if the video hadn't been converted to RGB. But maybe not. It looks more like a recording or playback defect. The edge halos and edge ghosting are pretty glaring, too, along with oversharpening. The filters required to clean all this schmutz leave things looking rather sterile and over-filtered.

BTW I have a boatload of .ts captures made with my HDPVR, both SD and HD, and I pretty well got accustomed to their properties when working with them, even with not-so-great SD sources over digital cable. But VHS is another story. The first thing I learned early on was to never capture VHS with an HDPVR. I had some pretty bad tapes and bad cable signals, almost all of which were "workable" with the VCR's and ATi AIW's I used for capture (players and 7500 and 9600XT AIW's made a huge difference in capture quality). I even had a CMT tape that had FM noise during cable transmission. But none of those tapes looked as bad as the gala tape -- but we have seen plenty of bad tapes around here, and many that were worse.

I gave the AVI's a try, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that bad tape and unwanted colorspace conversions impose serious limits on restorations. The attached filtered versions could definitely use more time and tweaks. I wouldn't consider them "final", but I think they're near the point of diminishing returns. And you're right -- I wouldn't invest time in the HDPVR version, especially since it should have been avoided in the first place.

What you first notice about tape dupes like the wedding tape, other than the ugly noise, is the disappearance of fine detail and texture. Then there's the color issues and ugly effects like overly dark eye sockets and black mouths. In the ladies' hair you can see black blobs of crushed darks. The wedding tape also has ugly interlace effects, not because interlacing is bad in itself but because of the nth-generation condition. One of those players had bad heads. Take a look at the notches and other edge defects in the image below. It's a 2X blowup of part of a deinterlaced frame (it's the edge of a mirror on the left, and the edge of a white closet door frame on the right).



The notches in that image change with every frame, so you have all that buzzing noise on edges every time something moves. I managed to smooth some of them, but they'll never go away or remain stable. The fixed 29.97i DVD version looks better, but the best fix was deinterlacing and discarding alternate fields for the 4x3 progressive mp4 (which I also resized to square-pixel format for web mounting).

It's unlikely that the same filters and settings could be used in every shot, especially with the wedding tape. That's common with home videos and even with many retail tapes. For one thing, whatever is shot in different lighting will have different noise patterns, and different color and levels problems. These samples are also rather short, probably because of the size increase caused by RGB conversion.


Attached Images
File Type: png notches and ragged edges 2X.png (236.4 KB, 25 downloads)
Attached Files
File Type: mpg wedding_29.97i_DVD.mpg (6.32 MB, 1 downloads)
File Type: mp4 wedding_2997p_4x3.mp4 (5.00 MB, 1 downloads)
File Type: mp4 Gala1985_4x3_i.mp4 (4.23 MB, 1 downloads)
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