09-07-2009, 11:18 PM
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I've been reading the forum postings, and find your responses to indicate that you are a fairly reliable source of knowledge regarding VHS archiving. I was hoping you can give me some guidance regarding a rather sizable project that I've put off for far too long, VHS conversion to digital media. I have about 96 hours of home video that my father has shot from 1980-1996, and my goal is to convert this to a digital format for preservation and to edit the home movies in Adobe Premier.

I have a high technical level and even spent a little time cutting VHS using Video Toaster and NLE solutions on an Amiga. While I may not be hip to the analog side of Video, I'm somewhat knowledgeable on the digital side of things. I've built up a workstation that I find capable of handling the editing workload, and I've got the NAS to handle the video store, but I'm lacking the most vital tool, a VCR for playback. My ideal configuration would be a direct dump of the VHS tape to raw file for later editing (and even later encoding to DVD) using a Canopus ADVC300. I read the VCR Buying Guide sticky, but I just wanted to see if you had any VCR suggestions specific for 2009 with consideration to my goal and purposed method. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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09-08-2009, 10:28 AM
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Hi there, thanks for writing.

Yes, I've worked at restoring VHS tape for more than a decade a now. First it was to higher-grade S-VHS tape, and then to digital formats (mostly DVD) for archiving.

Converting 96 hours of home video is a medium sized project, not too bad at all. With a lot of editing, it may take some time. I'd suggest not only converting and editing it, but creating DVDs with a secondary audio track for family commentary -- especially if you're young, as the elders of the family are often decent narrators. That makes for a complex project, but if you're decent with an NLE, it should be fairly simple.

Storage sounds good, nice to have NAS (on a gigabit, I'd assume?), Premiere is a great solution. Hopefully you're on CS3 or CS4, they work great. Of Premiere Elements, current version.

Canopus ADVC 300 is not one of my favorite boxes. It's been maybe 4 years since I handled one, and it was kind of lackluster. It made big promises, but honestly fell on its ass in follow-through. For starters, to call the filters inside of it a "TBC" is a bit laughable, it never really did anything that I could tell. And then the filtering on the video was often overdone, various visual clarity loss. Finally, consumer DV (DV25) is just not a good format to crunch a VHS tape into -- it's not uncompressed. The colorspace for NTSC is just a killer as far as I'm concerned, it gives an odd look to the video color palette, both in contrast and in the green/red values.

I'm sure that's not what you wanted to hear, but I felt the need to mention it. The device may work -- then again, you might also notice such oddities, so keep this in mind. It's the card, not the tapes.

As far as a VCR suggestion that is more "specific for 2009", no, there won't be one. The VCR suggestions post is what is sometimes referred to as "evergreen" information -- it does not expire, and it's unlikely to become outdated.

What I would say, however, is that the VCRs listed there all differe a bit. The one you pick should be determined by the tapes you have. I can help in this process. Answer these questions:
  1. What mode are the tapes recorded in? (SP, LP, EP, SLP)
  2. Do the tapes have any physical damage, such as having been "eaten" by a VCR in the past (in part or in whole).
  3. Is the original camera still available?
  4. How many cameras, given that is was a 16 year spanse of shooting?
  5. Have you ever had tracking problems with these tapes when trying to play them in the past?
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