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11-27-2023, 03:33 PM
Teslamax Teslamax is offline
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I have parents and a sister who would like to digitize some VHS tapes, as well as some 8mm. Some film from a small movie camera (8mm iirc) is also on the list, but I don’t think I should try to do that myself.

I currently have a Panasonic PV-V4660 VHS VCR. I’m certain this won’t pass muster but it is in good physical condition. I may be lacking with equipment but I do have the spare time to devote to this project.

I am an amateur and have no experience in digitizing (unless you count converting some LPs to CD with scratch & pop filtering years ago). I have a CS degree and have *many* computers including way too many Raspberry Pi’s which I am using to experiment with clusters.

Apologies for the rambling, I’m trying to lay out my skill set.

My sister has lots of 8mm videos (recorded on a Sharp Viewcam iirc) that she wants digitized (family ones with children’s events) and a VHS of her wedding. She is not prepared to send any of them out to anyone she doesn’t know.

I need either advice for who can be trusted for this work or advice on equipment to get started.

I have limited financial resources but am prepared to make a capital investment if appropriate.

Thanks in advance!

I expect a critical response but it is expected.

Last edited by Teslamax; 11-27-2023 at 03:50 PM.
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  #2  
11-28-2023, 12:06 AM
Haunted_TBC Haunted_TBC is offline
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I myself am not exactly an expert, but I’ll see if I can provide some general helpful info before others arrive.
As for recommendations, I suggest resident analog video wizard LordSmurf, he’s probably the best option there is for analog video tapes and supposedly Digital8 as well (which you appear to have). But since you also suggest you will be doing this yourself, you will most likely need to purchase a workflow. To keep things simple, I’ll list the generic requirements or parts of said workflow:

1. JVC S-VHS. The most well-recommended ones seem to be from around the era of your unit (2000), but are of course, much higher quality and built to standards that reflect that. Many of them also contain a crucial component called a Line Time Base Corrector (TBC), which can correct several images issues.
2. A Frame TBC, which unlike the Line TBC, corrects issues with the actual analog signal/signal issues. Both are important to achieve the best results possible. This would be a device like one of the DataVideo Models or one from Cypress
3. Capture Card. You do not want any sort of modern capture card, those simply are not designed or optimized for this sort of work, and can cause all sorts of major issues. What is recommended however, is one of the Pinnacle Studio USB Capture Cards. While it is best to use an older Operating System with these, anything prior to around Windows 8 appears to work well. I know some newer OS tend to fry cards or devices, but that may or may not be an issue here.
4. The Necessary Funds™ Unfortunately, the scarcity of quality decks, Frame TBCs, and the knowledge to repair and service them have caused prices to rise dramatically compared to the 2000s or even 1990s. So to purchase yourself a workflow (be it combined in one sale or multiple) in the early to mid 2020s, we’re talking about at least two big ones ($2000 US) if you’re a bit lucky and are fine with simply decent gear. To get an “ultimate” workflow with truly high end, minty-esque gear, expect to part with closer to $5,000 US. Of course, this is assuming you have only one deck, as sometimes an extra deck (like the venerated Panasonic AG-1980) to get the best playback and capture results for certain tapes. Also worth noting the best deck for one standard (such as NTSC or NTSC-J) may not be the best for another (such as PAL or SECAM) with their respective markets and configurations.

While it may be a bit disheartening to read the four-figure-sums, it is very important to note that most of the funds used to purchase the necessary are not sunk costs. That is to say, once you have finished using it, you will most likely able to get much of your investment back by reselling the gear. To paraphrase LordSmurf, there will always be demand for high-quality, excellent or great condition gear (as there is with automobiles, homes, furniture, and almost everything really), but junky or poor-quality, terribly performing gear is (unfortunately) likely yours forever… unless you or a fool are willing to take a loss for it. LordSmurf does tend to have quality gears and complete workflows for sale sometimes if you’re interested.

Regardless, I hope this gives you some insight as to what you should prepare for/look out for, and I hope the path to getting those tapes transferred is at least a little clearer.
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  #3  
11-28-2023, 04:38 AM
Teslamax Teslamax is offline
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Thank you so very much for your quick response!
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  #4  
11-28-2023, 05:24 AM
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lordsmurf lordsmurf is offline
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Welcome.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Teslamax View Post
I have parents and a sister who would like to digitize some VHS tapes, as well as some 8mm. Some film from a small movie camera (8mm iirc) is also on the list, but I don’t think I should try to do that myself.
Is there any specific reason why you think this?

Standard video conversion is mostly about
(1) Having the proper hardware -- meaning quality gear from a reliable source, not cheap random junk bought from random places (including Amazon and eBay).
(2) Having time, and video takes lots of time.
(3) Ability to read, in order to master the small learning cruve required for basic quality processing.

The willingness to buy gear is the #1 problem, and is why so many conversions look like crap, even the so-called "professional" jobs. But if you remember to buy it, use it, resell it -- as quality gear holds values, junk is yours forever -- then there's generally not much reason to avoid the quaity gear. And also understanding that video is cheap compared to other hobbies (action figures, photography, sewing, etc) and other tools for home tasks (desktop/laptop computers, lawn tools, kitchen appliances, etc). It's not a Netflix subscription, and should not have the same budget as a cheeseburger for lunch.

Quote:
I currently have a Panasonic PV-V4660 VHS VCR. I’m certain this won’t pass muster
Correct, no, that will not work for this task.

Quote:
I am an amateur and have no experience in digitizing (unless you count converting some LPs to CD with scratch & pop filtering years ago). I have a CS degree and have *many* computers including way too many Raspberry Pi’s which I am using to experiment with clusters.
Apologies for the rambling, I’m trying to lay out my skill set.
That's fine. Based on what you've written, I think this is something you can do.

Quote:
My sister has lots of 8mm videos (recorded on a Sharp Viewcam iirc) that she wants digitized (family ones with children’s events) and a VHS of her wedding.
She is not prepared to send any of them out to anyone she doesn’t know.
This means acquiring the gear yourself, for a proper DIY.

The "local shop" is almost always using low-end gear, with no actual education in video. In short, they know barely more than you do now, and it won't take much for you to exceed their knowledge. The same is true of those large operations (that advertise on TV and radio), which are staffed by interns and other random "no experience required" people (same skill set as saying "would you like fries with that?") -- read the Indeed and Glassdoor reviews, shocking stuff. You can do a better job yourself.

You can take your time with your videos, to make sure the quality of your memories is properly archived. Most of those services don't care about your videos, you memories, or your family.

Quote:
I need either advice for who can be trusted for this work or advice on equipment to get started.
I have limited financial resources but am prepared to make a capital investment if appropriate.
Thanks in advance!
In terms of costs, you can pay somebody else, and that money is lost forever, even if they do a bad job. Those are sunk costs, kiss the money goodbye. But while DIY has capex, it also holds value in the gear. So buy it, use it, resell it when done. The recovery of funds can be both a bonus for yourself when done, and a slight incentive to not proscastinate too much.

Quote:
I expect a critical response but it is expected.
No such response should ever happen here on this site. You may get blunt, but it's it's just raw matter-of-fact truth or science, nothing personal intended.

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  #5  
11-28-2023, 04:33 PM
sordidpast sordidpast is offline
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As for the 8mm film, which is a whole other realm, there are a few trustworthy places you can send it to. I've had good direct experience with Spectra Film & Video and Perry Movie Transfers. There's also Pro8mm, and I think Dwayne's still does it, too. All of them will require a new hard drive for your files, but those are cheap enough these days. If you only have a few reels, that's a better idea than sinking time and lots of money into your own telecine and film cleaning setup, and I wouldn't want to trust those $300 Wolverine and similar film scanners on the market today.
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  #6  
11-28-2023, 05:35 PM
timtape timtape is offline
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One approach is to send a small, unimportant to you, 8mm reel (the same well exposed film, shot in bright sunlight with deep shadows for maximum contrast) to a few different recommended vendors and compare the results. Then compare these results to looking directly at the backlit film itself with your naked eye and a suitable magnifier. This is a most severe and telling comparison, and should quickly weed out the sub standard scans.
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  #7  
12-01-2023, 04:24 PM
Teslamax Teslamax is offline
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My sister’s 8mm video tapes (there are about 20 of them) are regular 8mm, not Hi8.

Are there any recommendations for a good 8mm VCR to act as source?

BTW, thank you all for your responses!
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  #8  
12-01-2023, 04:36 PM
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lordsmurf lordsmurf is offline
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Video8 ("regular 8mm") should still use quality recommended Hi8 cameras (camcorders) with line TBC.

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