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12-22-2022, 07:54 PM
MatMK MatMK is offline
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Hi,
in my process to restore old footage from Hi8 and VHS, I stumbled into this forum and quickly found out that it is probably the most informative source for digitizing video on the internet with many experts on the subject, so I decided to share my probably controversial findings:

I already had a Dazzle DVC100, but after days of going through the posts on how to setup capturing, I decided to go with the ATI AIW card, as they were recommended almost everywhere on this site, whereas the Dazzle ones were shunned upon.
I bought an old ATI AIW 128 Pro for next to nothing on local auction site, and put it into my Win XP system I still had laying around.

After capturing about ten hours of content on the ATI, I tried to capture few minutes of the same tape on my Dazzle too, expecting a huge difference in terms of quality between them. And it was there, just in the opposite way then I would have guessed.

To my eye, the footage from the Dazzle seems a lot crispier, with less chroma noise and more detail. The AIW also uses unsolicited crop of the left side of the image. The only negative thing I can say about the Dazzle is that it seems to overexpose a bit. I am attaching the same frame from both devices for a comparison.

The biggest difference can be seen on the date watermark in the bottom right corner, where the ATI is much blurrier and contains chroma fringing. Another huge quality issue is the horizontal lining on the sky in the chroma spectrum. The loss of detail can be noticed on the bird in the center at the top of the image.

I played around with the images, and noticed that if you decompose the image to an actual Y Cb Cr layers, you can see that the chroma values are clearly the originators of the problems, especially the horizontal lining. That doesn't mean that the luma is without an issues either, as the loss of detail applies here, too.

The provided footage is from a basic, but newer VHS player, captured through composite with VirtualDub 1.9.11 (almost default settings, no post-processing filters) and encoded with Lagarith YUV2 codec (lossless so no compression difference there). Both cards were capturing in their native resolutions, so 704x576 for the ATI and 720x576 for the Dazzle (yes my source is PAL). The pictures provided are not de-interlaced.

I also captured some more material from Hi8 camera through S-Video, but the difference between the two cards seems to be much smaller there - no more noisy chroma a low detail luma, just a little different brightness levels, hard to tell which one is better - the ATI seems to crush blacks, whereas the Dazzle crushes whites.

One thing to note is that I don't have the official cable adapter for the ATI card, so I soldered a spare composite/S-Video cable directly onto the card based on the pinout provided online. I double checked everything is conducting as it should, both the shielding and the signal wires itself.

Is it possible that the ATI card is truly lower quality? From what I understood on this site, it may be one of the eldest capture cards, but it has the Rage Theater chipset the same as some newer models, and the difference between Rage 200 (that the newer ATI AIW cards have) was said to be only in terms of hardware encoder for MPEG2 (that I don't use).

My theories for discussion why this could be, in no particular order:
  1. The posts promoting ATI AIW cards are obsolete (some are nearly 20 years old) to the point that a cheap USB capture card can beat them.
  2. I have something set incorrectly in the software, be it VirtualDub, Windows or something else.
  3. The issue lies in the driver version (I use the ones from this site with the install hack method).
  4. There is a hidden processing filter in the Dazzle card that enhanced the image, so I could in fact achieve the same result with the ATI captures in post processing.
  5. The quality is affected by my soldering instead of using the official cable box. I tested it thoroughly and even re-soldered it again without any effect, but there could be a different problem that I didn't think of.
  6. My card is defective and these problems wouldn't occur with another unit.
  7. The ATI AIW 128 Pro is in fact worse quality capture card than the rest of the lineup, even while it has the same Rage chipset.
  8. The ATI card has these issues only when capturing PAL - most posts on this forum presume the use of NTSC and the European format is not widely tested.
  9. I am wrong and the ATI image looks better, as judging quality is highly subjective and I don't have a lot of experience with analog video, let alone analyzing its defects.

Which option do you think it is? Please provide your opinions and/or ideas how to improve the quality.
Thank you.


Attached Images
File Type: png ati.png (951.0 KB, 33 downloads)
File Type: png dazzle.png (830.6 KB, 33 downloads)

Last edited by MatMK; 12-22-2022 at 08:02 PM. Reason: More specific term used
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  #2  
12-22-2022, 08:07 PM
hodgey hodgey is offline
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It's the later AIW cards that some people her like afaik - though they won't handle video direct from the VCR well regardless. The Dazzle is a bit better at that specifically. You really want to pass the video via a tbc or dvd-recorder with tbc functionality or similar for stabilization before the capture card discussed a million times here.

Differences between cards will be smaller with s-video since the card doesn't have to dealing with separating luma and chroma. If it's a newer hi8 camcorder it will have a TBC function as well so the cards won't have to deal with unstable timing either and the differences will be pretty small.

If you are getting crushed whites/blacks you want to adjust the capture card level/contrast settings to avoid it. Using virtualdub's histogram function is helpful for that.

My Video gear overview/test/repair/stuff yt channel http://youtu.be/cEyfegqQ9TU
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  #3  
12-22-2022, 08:32 PM
MatMK MatMK is offline
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Wow thanks for your quick reply.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hodgey View Post
It's the later AIW cards that some people her like afaik
You are right, I only wonder why should there be difference between the cards, if the capture chipset is (very nearly) the same.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hodgey View Post
You really want to pass the video via a tbc or dvd-recorder with tbc functionality or similar for stabilization before the capture card discussed a million times here.
I know that the use of TBC is preferred, but these things are not cheap, and going through this rabbit hole can only lead further and further. The VHS tape is also recorded from an old Hi8 camcoder without a TBC, so I am not sure how much visual improvement I could achieve there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hodgey View Post
[later AIW cards] won't handle video direct from the VCR well regardless. The Dazzle is a bit better at that specifically.
You say that the Dazzle is better at handling direct video from the VCR. Would you please elaborate on why that is?

Quote:
Originally Posted by hodgey View Post
Differences between cards will be smaller with s-video since the card doesn't have to dealing with separating luma and chroma. If it's a newer hi8 camcorder it will have a TBC function as well so the cards won't have to deal with unstable timing either and the differences will be pretty small.
The S-Video capture I described was indeed done with the use of a newer Hi8 camcoder with line TBC. I know how S-Video works in principle, but never realized the difference in quality between cards will be smaller there, it makes sense when you point it out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hodgey View Post
If you are getting crushed whites/blacks you want to adjust the capture card level/contrast settings to avoid it. Using virtualdub's histogram function is helpful for that.
Thanks for the advice, will definitely try. I was a little skeptical to use the card's brightness/contrast settings, since I am not sure if these are indeed taken into effect during the capture, or if it's just post-processing.

Last edited by MatMK; 12-22-2022 at 08:35 PM. Reason: typo
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  #4  
12-23-2022, 12:29 AM
traal traal is offline
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So the Dazzle has a better comb filter. That's nice to know.
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  #5  
12-23-2022, 08:00 AM
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lordsmurf lordsmurf is offline
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Welcome.

Dazzle better than ATI AIW? No, not even close. For starters, your Dazzle image is blown out, overexposed. Yuck.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MatMK View Post
Hi,
in my process to restore old footage from Hi8 and VHS, I stumbled into this forum and quickly found out that it is probably the most informative source for digitizing video on the internet with many experts on the subject, so I decided to share my probably controversial findings:
Thanks.

Quote:
I bought an old ATI AIW 128 Pro
Nope. Probably a mistake. There were actually several variations of this version, and the only decent one was the pre-Radeon with 32mb RAM. Is that the one? Even then, the AGP Radeons are what you want. (Some rarer PCI and USB exist, but must be careful here too, more wrong versions that right versions.)

Quote:
To my eye, the footage from the Dazzle seems a lot crispier,
False sharpening. Easyt osee the halos around the clock. It's not even good sharpening, very primitive and butchers video. (The clock in that still also reveals tendency of Dazzle to amplify line timing errors.)

Quote:
with less chroma noise
It's actually the opposite. More noise in that blown-out building. The chroma noise in the sky (seen on the ATI) was lost due to being blown out.

Quote:
and more detail.
No.

Quote:
The AIW also uses unsolicited crop of the left side of the image.
That exact ATI has a native 712x480 chip resolution, and crops to 704x480. The overscan of the source wasn't centered, so it crops. It's not a negative against the card, more like a negative against the tape. It should not hard justify like that, all black on right.

Quote:
The only negative thing I can say about the Dazzle is that it seems to overexpose a bit.
Horribly so. Unusably so.

Quote:
The biggest difference can be seen on the date watermark in the bottom right corner, where the ATI is much blurrier
No. False sharpening in the Dazzle. ATI is accurate.

Quote:
and contains chroma fringing.
No. The Dazzle hid it in halo. Look closer.

Quote:
Another huge quality issue is the horizontal lining on the sky in the chroma spectrum.
You're seeing noise patterning in the chroma channels, that's not normal. Usually a shielding issue. Remember, ATI is internal, Dazzle is USB external. That doesn't at all make USB better, just different. Must pay attention to dirty power within the system.

Quote:
The provided footage is from a basic, but newer VHS player, captured through composite
That doesn't help matters.

Quote:
the ATI seems to crush blacks,
No. ATI AIW captures all illegal values, 0-15, 236-255.

Quote:
whereas the Dazzle crushes whites.
Crushes, blows out.

Quote:
One thing to note is that I don't have the official cable adapter for the ATI card, so I soldered a spare composite/S-Video cable directly onto the card based on the pinout provided online. I double checked everything is conducting as it should, both the shielding and the signal wires itself.
That didn't help either.

Quote:
Is it possible that the ATI card is truly lower quality?
This exact card? Maybe.
All ATI AIW Radeon cards? Absolutely not.

Quote:
From what I understood on this site, it may be one of the eldest capture cards, but it has the Rage Theater chipset the same as some newer models, and the difference between Rage 200 (that the newer ATI AIW cards have) was said to be only in terms of hardware encoder for MPEG2 (that I don't use).
Correct.

Quote:
My theories for discussion why this could be, in no particular order:
The posts promoting ATI AIW cards are obsolete (some are nearly 20 years old) to the point that a cheap USB capture card can beat them.
No.


Quote:
I have something set incorrectly in the software, be it VirtualDub, Windows or something else.
Perhaps.

Quote:
The issue lies in the driver version (I use the ones from this site with the install hack method).
Should be fine, those are final drivers.

Quote:
There is a hidden processing filter in the Dazzle card that enhanced the image,
No.

Quote:
The quality is affected by my soldering instead of using the official cable box. I tested it thoroughly and even re-soldered it again without any effect, but there could be a different problem that I didn't think of.
My card is defective and these problems wouldn't occur with another unit.
This is likely.
That purple dongle was less than $10 on eBay.

Quote:
The ATI AIW 128 Pro is in fact worse quality capture card than the rest of the lineup, even while it has the same Rage chipset.
Perhaps. I just don't recall anymore, it's literally been decades since I did much with it. I don't suggest 128 Pro cards, and haven't for at least 10 years now.

Quote:
The ATI card has these issues only when capturing PAL - most posts on this forum presume the use of NTSC and the European format is not widely tested.
Perhaps. There are PAL-first and NTSC-first cards that "also do" the other format. Was this the PAL or NTSC tuner model?

Quote:
I am wrong and the ATI image looks better, as judging quality is highly subjective and I don't have a lot of experience with analog video, let alone analyzing its defects.
It is subjective, but not entirely. Flaws are flaws. You can enjoy eating a turd, but it doesn't make it a Hershey bar. The Dazzle card has issues.

Quote:
Which option do you think it is? Please provide your opinions and/or ideas how to improve the quality.
Thank you.
At the moment, my leading theory is the homemade solder work.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MatMK View Post
You are right, I only wonder why should there be difference between the cards, if the capture chipset is (very nearly) the same.
The Theatre Rage/100 chip is the same, but the full card chipset is not. The drivers aren't the same either (which I know, since I hacked it all those years ago; my hack was based on the irrepeatable hack attempt of somebody else, so I can't take full credit for it).

Quote:
I know that the use of TBC is preferred,
It's not a preference, it's a requirement. Nobody likes buying TBCs, boring boxes. But it's the tool required for this task. Everybody resists TBCs at first, but it's a futile battle in almost all cases. You even suffer a miserable capture experience (bad quality, or failed transfer attempts), or you use TBCs. You can attempt to use TBC(ish) items, like specific DVD recorders (ES10/15 type), but it has warts, problems. You're really analyzing card differences, and you'd do the same with the VCRs and recorders.

Quote:
but these things are not cheap,
Buy it, use it, resell it. Quality gear holds value. (Crap has no resale value; congrats, it's yours forever.)

Quote:
and going through this rabbit hole can only lead further and further.
VCR > TBC > capture card is a simple formula
Not any random gear, but recommended specific brands/models (and conditions) of each.

The real rabbit holes are things like Avisynth. Easy to get sucked in, sidetracked.

Quote:
The VHS tape is also recorded from an old Hi8 camcoder without a TBC, so I am not sure how much visual improvement I could achieve there.
It depends on factors. Can range from total cleanup to hopeless.

Quote:
You say that the Dazzle is better at handling direct video from the VCR. Would you please elaborate on why that is?
I don't really agree here. There are some capture cards that are more forgiving of input errors (allow bad signal, not correct, still drop frames), but Dazzle doesn't make that list.

Quote:
I know how S-Video works in principle, but never realized the difference in quality between cards will be smaller there, it makes sense when you point it out.
Composite itself is not bad. Implementation is. And sadly almost all devices implement it badly.

Quote:
Thanks for the advice, will definitely try. I was a little skeptical to use the card's brightness/contrast settings, since I am not sure if these are indeed taken into effect during the capture, or if it's just post-processing.
Some versions, some software, some drivers, some cards, it is NOT recorded on ingest, and is indeed only preview processing. So test. I ran into this with an ATI AIW 7200 card back in '01 or so.

Quote:
Originally Posted by traal View Post
So the Dazzle has a better comb filter. That's nice to know.
I don't agree here. Overall, all aspects of that Dazzle card are craptastic. Mind you, it gets far worse, Easycap is worse. It also does not apply to all Dazzle versions, some do not blow out that way. Dazzle is a Pinnacle brand name, and as I often state, Pinnacle has many unspecified production changes. Chips, firmware, etc.

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  #6  
12-23-2022, 04:54 PM
cinemaman cinemaman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post

(Crap has no resale value; congrats, it's yours forever.)

Oh ouch..
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