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07-29-2022, 01:32 PM
Deadsy Deadsy is offline
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Hi, I'm a collector and archivist of rare animated short films. In my hands are some of the most obscure and rare surrealist animations I have ever known, recorded onto PAL VHS tapes from the early 90s. These animations were shown as part of a late-night program called Four-Mations on Channel 4 in the UK. The tapes do not belong to me, they were sent to me because the owner does not own a VCR and we are trying to digitise them. We both believe these to be quite possibly the only known copies of some of these films, which mostly have zero information about them available on the internet.

Computer Specifications + Equipment
Processor: Intel(R) Core (TM) i7-9700 CPU @ 3.00GHz 3.00 GHz
Installed RAM: 32.0GB (31.9GB usable)
System type: 64-bit operating system, x64-based processor
Operating system: Windows 10

UK PAL Schneider SVC 615
6 head hifi stereo PDC Videoplus+

Video capture device
"Video Audio Capture Adapter VHS TO DVD HDD TV Card" - unbranded junk EasyCAP knockoff USB dongle - eBay Link
(No doubt in my mind that this is where the problem lies, so I probably just answered my own question - but I have somehow had good results with this, so please read on.)

Video output:
AV out 2, S-video output of scart connector > S-video input of capture card

Audio output:
Separate (to the scart connector) direct RCA output of VCR > stereo 3.5mm line input on computer
Originally I had this connected to the L/R 1/4" jack input of a Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD audio interface, but switched due to fears of possible latency issues.

Initial Capture Attempts
My initial research led me to using OBS. I found myself dissatisfied with the poor quality results of using this software and this led me to using VirtualDub. Please see the attached image VirtualDub Vs OBS to see why the move was an obvious choice. The first image on the left is from VirtualDub, after being deinterlaced and then compressed to mp4 in HandBrake. The second image on the right is from capturing in mp4 in OBS. It's clear which is best. OBS however, had no audio sync issues with the captures.

Capturing Results Thus Far
It seems to vary from tape to tape... I have mostly stuck with the same settings outlined below throughout. Trying captures on different kinds of tapes has yielded both success and failure. Here are some examples of what I've obtained:

Wayward Girls & Wicked Women (commercially produced VHS) (1 hour 11 minutes)
Captured with zero issues, audio and picture are perfectly in sync.

Animation Classics Volume 22 (feels like a dodgy homebrew tape, but made by Educational Film Centre Limited) (22 minutes)
This has two cartoons on it. The audio and picture are out of sync, however if I interleave / skew correct the audio -400 ms for the first cartoon and 2700m (seriously!) for the second, they're perfectly fine. There's a blip between the two short films, so I can only assume that's what throws it off so drastically.

Various home recorded Four-Mations VHS tapes (3 hours, 3 hours and 4 hours respectively)
These are my top priority to digitise, but also the ones causing me the most headaches - sod's law. Results have varied, but they generally mostly end up falling out of sync. This does not feel like a consistent out of sync issue either; as changing the audio skew correction for features near the beginning will still fall out of time several hours in.

Current Capture Settings
(I hear now that this is not optimal and can create issues, sadly older versions I have seem to not function as well):
1.10.4 does not show preview or capture at all.
1.9.11 captures okay with a quick test, both video and audio, but I cannot see video previews like I can in VD2. A quick test and it is out of sync at the beginning, but then falls comfortably in sync soon enough. Further testing needed. I've mostly been capturing blind, but I still need to see what I'm doing outside of captures. I'll try restarting the PC. Any pointers appreciated.

Capturing: to E drive, not C drive
Allocating appropriate disk space per capture

Video: no display during capture
Video source: is blanked out for me
Capture pin: 25FPS (I'm working with PAL tapes)
Colour space / compression: MJPG (cannot select anything else)
Output size: 640 x 480 (cannot select anything else)
Compression: cannot select anything, regardless of how many codecs I install

Audio: playback disabled during capture
Raw capture format: PCM: 48000Hz, stereo, 16-bit

Capture: maximise CPU power when capturing enabled in capture settings
Timing: please see attached image Capture Timing
Disk I/O: chunk size 16MB
Chunks in buffer: 2
Disable Windows write buffering enabled

Internet disconnected
No other programs or background programs running i.e. antivirus
Restarting PC after each capture

Initially I used this video as a guide - I've read on here that this is mostly a guide for camcorder captures and is not good? Perhaps someone can point me towards something better? I did try some settings I found in a thread on here; but it made things totally worse so I had to revert. I have tried many different settings and test captures prior, these settings have so far produced the best results.

Example Of A Decent Capture
Captured in VirtualDub2 with everything outlined above, taken from Animations On 4 (commercially produced VHS) (59 minutes) tape. Had to interleave / skew correct the audio slightly, but as you can see, it's in time with the lip sync of the live actor. Captured, skew corrected, deinterlaced in VirtualDub2 and then compressed to mp4 in HandBrake. Watch the video here. I am highly pleased with the quality of this early attempt - I have only been learning this for around 4 days and it's all entirely new to me! A lot of trial and error and stabbing in the dark which has led me here.

My Help Requests
1. Please look over all of my information and lend your expertise to how I can produce captures that do not fall out of sync with the audio, or are at least better / manageable / consistently out of sync so can be easily corrected after. As I said I am entirely new to this, so if I am making any mistakes, please let me know.
2. No doubt that, because of the cheap and nasty capture card, perhaps I'm trying to mine diamonds from dogshit here - I would be interested in any equipment recommendations. I can probably spend around 200 or so. It's possible that the good captures I've had with this thing are a total fluke, but because they haven't all been bad, perhaps there's hope. But I'm pretty sure I need something better. Right?
3. Does having video preview on affect capture at all? I turn it off just in case, but if I'm about to perform the workaround outlined below, then I would honestly need to see what I'm doing.
4. Which of the two audio solutions I outlined (USB soundcard or line in on PC) are best? Forget about going RCA output on VCR > RCA input on the capture card - it results in horrible, distorted audio bounced down to a mono signal and I refuse to use it.
5. I would love to use the recommended 1.9.11 but I can't see what I'm doing due to no preview being available.
6. My old laptop has a graphics card, but is kind of a piece of junk in general - doubt it's worth a try over my desktop? I assume it's a no-no.

Temporary Workarounds
It's optimal to me that I can just easily capture the whole tapes without any issues to send to my friend who recorded them 30 years ago, but if that is not possible one workaround that I will try is capturing the shorts individually and changing any correcting any out of sync audio skews. They vary in time, but are short enough to probably be easily skew corrected... I think that, for now, that is my best shot.

I feel as much as this is very fascinating to me, due to the rarity of the films I have here, that it's just best I hand the job over to a professional who knows what they're doing and has all of the fantastic equipment like TBC VCRs and so on. If anyone here can be recommended, who can perform this for a decent price, I'd like to know instead of going through eBay etc. I'm still interested in information on how to better my captures though, because I would like to become efficient at this practice myself.

Thank you for reading. Appreciate it. I have kind of been at my wits' end over this, spending several full days experimenting, so I will be donating if this issue can be rectified at all.

Last but not least: I hardly know what I'm doing at all, so patience is appreciated.

Attached Images
File Type: jpg VirtualDub Vs OBS.jpg (54.4 KB, 9 downloads)
File Type: png Capture Timing.PNG (13.1 KB, 8 downloads)
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