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  #1  
12-24-2010, 10:50 AM
jmac698 jmac698 is offline
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On the left, VCR2PC captured in mpg. On the right, a good RCA VCR captured with Pinnacle PCTV 800i. Images roughly tweaked to be comparable. Deinterlaced.

The VCR2PC was quite softer, brighter, more contrast, and less saturation than the PCTV, but they have been equalized here. The capture window is bigger on VCR2PC, showing black side borders, where PCTV filled the screen.

PCTV is missing two lines at the top; it's not centered (capture cards digitize 480 lines of the 486 analog lines). I made this comparable too.

VCR2PC would display but not capture video in vitualdub with just the drivers. I then tried the included Arcsoft capture software (which has a very nice GUI, btw), and that worked.

These are just initial tests, would like to put it on colorbars and frequency sweeps, and try the sharpness controls on VCR2PC.

Note: PCTV had sharpness set to highest, at 4, so it can be expected to be somewhat sharper, still, I think VCR2PC is quite soft. Would also like to note that you don't need to plug in VCR2PC, the capture device itself is USB powered. Will test the video in of VCR2PC. Interesting to see a side-by-side comparison of two VCR's though.

VCR2PCvsRCA+PCTV800i.jpg


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  #2  
12-24-2010, 11:35 AM
NJRoadfan NJRoadfan is offline
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Does the VCR2PC even support Hi-Fi stereo or VHS HQ? I noticed the audio input is mono only. Reviews of the VHS VCR part aren't the greatest either. The RCA is likely better built!

I applaud ION for trying to make analog-to-digital conversion workflows user friendly for the average end user, but their hardware screams of lowest bidder quality to the extreme.
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  #3  
12-24-2010, 02:03 PM
jmac698 jmac698 is offline
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No, it's not stereo. I got it used, my only interest was to see if it had a TBC. If not, I'll exchange it for a DVD Recorder.
However, the concept itself seems perfect to people wanted to dump 80's VHS camcorder, mono videos. It's just one of those simple solutions with no hassle. Obviously you can do it other ways and even cheaper, but I can see the appeal of simple.
If it has a TBC, I can use the external input.
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  #4  
12-25-2010, 04:41 AM
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The VCR2PC is unacceptable -- it's soft and splotchy. That's what a JVC VCR looks like when put on SOFT mode, with the TBC turned off. It has very visible chroma noise in the signal. That's what I'd expect from a composite connection on a cheap VHS VCR from 1995.

The RCA on the right has "detail enhancement" built into it (option to turn it off may or may not exist), as was popular in the mid/late 1990s. It significantly increases grain to create false sharpness, and such "detail" is often what leads to false perception that the better non-destructive S-VHS VCRs are "soft" instead of simply true to the source. (Panasonic is actually guilty of that on their default S-VHS VCR settings, and it cannot be turned off on their consumer VHS models.)

The image on the left (VCR2PC) would compress to MPEG-2 well, but ultimately look terrible on a modern large HDTV. The signal on the right (RCA) would look decent but compress with tons of noise, unless using "superbit" bit rates (8-9Mbps).

Most of what Ion makes is crap, be it for video or audio. It's just cheap junk that leads consumer believe that they can do it too, and with the best quality.

I'd pick the RCA, no contest.

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  #5  
12-25-2010, 07:51 AM
juhok juhok is offline
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On presenting comparisons the presentation format should not add it's own distortion. AKA heavy compressed JPG which seems to add it's own artifacts.
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  #6  
12-25-2010, 07:53 AM
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Although true, PNG and BMP images come at the price of bandwidth and server space, and are not always required to show basic differences between gear.

I don't know that JPEG compression would have caused any harm to the above VCR2PC vs RCA shots.

NOTE: This forum currently suffers from an error where PNG image are converted to JPEG upon upload, so any PNG would need to be uploaded inside of a RAR or ZIP file, to prevent its conversion. Locating the errant code, and correcting it, just hasn't been a priority so far, but it is further down on the to-do list. Something to keep in mind.

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  #7  
12-25-2010, 08:04 AM
juhok juhok is offline
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Alright. I see some compression artifacts in the image, which could be from mpeg2 or jpeg compression. Now the source of error is not obvious.

I'm tempted to question the simpledness of these digitizers. I've seen a lot of "can't get it to work" threads in finnish forums. Also I get many tapes from clients where they have tried to transfer tapes themselves using their old VCR and tape is wrinkled/snapped because the VCR was in a bad shape.

It's not always so simple
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  #8  
12-25-2010, 08:16 AM
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Yes, at that detailed of scrutiny, MPEG vs JPEG, you'd want to eliminate the JPEG compression, and then you'd know for sure. I don't believe jmac actually gave us any information on the capture format/codec, so MPEG compression is maybe just an assumption on our part? (Either that, or you know something about the capturing software that I'm not immediately seeing, which is possible. Some programs only do certain formats.)

Starting around 2007 or so, most of our work has been re-doing the poorly done work of other crappy services, or terrible home attempts. Sometimes the original source tapes were damaged in that process, so there's not much that can be done. The perils of being cheap or not doing your research. It's really quite sad to see people lose their memories in this manner.

Things that promise to be "simple" generally are not -- or have significantly reduced quality.

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  #9  
12-25-2010, 08:42 AM
juhok juhok is offline
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Indeed, I don't know the particular details in this case. I have elevated interest towards these devices which I see people strugling with. I'll wait for jmac698's reply.
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  #10  
12-25-2010, 03:23 PM
jmac698 jmac698 is offline
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What was my very first sentence?
Hint:
Quote:
On the left, VCR2PC captured in mpg
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  #11  
12-27-2010, 04:21 PM
jmac698 jmac698 is offline
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What sort of measurements would you like to see on VCRs/Capture cards? And do you have the definition of some measurements? For example, VCR's measured bandwidth to what is called the -6dB point, I believe. They used to use some fancy oscilloscope equipment, but I can recreate that in software now. I've measured about 2.85Mhz bandwidth for my VCR.
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  #12  
12-30-2010, 08:17 AM
jmac698 jmac698 is offline
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Update: I have some technical measurements of capture cards and VCR's! Now we can definitely prove if there's *really* any difference between them.

First up is differential response. I can't say how accurate this is, but it gives some idea - I don't know if my source (DVD player) or capture card caused the problem. On the x axis is the luma value, 16-235 is typical for video. If I calibrate with test patterns to record black as 16 and white as 235, I get the middle values coming out too bright. This 'fat middle' shape is quite common for an ADC, because of the opamp.
The deep reason is, the formula for a transistor response, which is based on physics, has an exponent in the expression. Therefore, that shape is inherent in all electronics. You fudge the values to approximate a linear portion of this curve. This results in a 'bowed' shape, or in differential graphs, this hump shape.
That's my theory

Second graph is a straight frequency response for my RCA with VHS tape in SP mode. I recorded a screen full of sinewaves at every step.
In general I get luma response out to 2.85MHz for VHS SP and over 5MHz for S-VHS SP.

I can now directly compare all my VCRs and capture cards, and indeed DVD players.

It's my prediction that VCR's don't vary too much and all these messages on the forum requesting "best VCR" won't make your picture that much better. Think more about features and playability of bad tapes or obscure formats.

Don't give up on the Ion VCR 2 PC either, I have more tests coming


Attached Images
File Type: jpg ADC Differential-PVR250.jpg (14.9 KB, 24 downloads)
File Type: jpg Freq Response-RCA VHS SP.jpg (16.1 KB, 21 downloads)
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  #13  
12-30-2010, 07:55 PM
jmac698 jmac698 is offline
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More comparisons, note these are uncalibrated so differences in saturation, brightness could be equalized.

1 rca vhs through pinnacle 800i capture card vs ion vcr2pc capture card
2 rca vs jvc in composite on 800i
3 jvc vs hitachi in composite on 800i
4 jvc composite vs jvc svideo on 800i

I notice that the colors vary. The Hitachi has a problem with unstable color (just this old one I guess). The rca colors seem most real out of the box. The rca seems noisy. The ion has a larger capture window.
Both captures cards had sharpness turned up.


Attached Images
File Type: jpg rca-800i vs rca-ion.jpg (48.1 KB, 45 downloads)
File Type: jpg rca vs jvc-comp.jpg (38.6 KB, 40 downloads)
File Type: jpg jvc-comp vs hitachi-comp.jpg (36.7 KB, 39 downloads)
File Type: jpg jvc-comp vs jvc-svid.jpg (34.9 KB, 45 downloads)
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  #14  
12-30-2010, 08:08 PM
juhok juhok is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmac698 View Post
It's my prediction that VCR's don't vary too much and all these messages on the forum requesting "best VCR" won't make your picture that much better. Think more about features and playability of bad tapes or obscure formats.
I don't know what to make of these tests. Ain't that a bit bold statement, seeing that you're insofar tested pretty obscure and not-so-great hardware both in playback and capture? Doesn't "best VCR" also mean playability of bad tapes etc? I don't understand your premise. What do you think people mean by "the best VCR"?

About the comparisons. Could you be more verbose about the models you're using etc. If you're talked about it elsewhere link will suffice. When comparing PQ still images don't do justice so samples of video would be appreciated.
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  #15  
12-30-2010, 08:36 PM
jmac698 jmac698 is offline
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Hitachi VT-S772A S-VHS
JVC HR-S5910U S-VHS
RCA VR-631HF VHS Hi Fi

Pinnacle 800i HD TV Card
Ion VCR 2 PC

The message I've browsed for those looking for the best VCR, mention quality as a factor. I'm scientifically comparing picture quality here. As for playing bad tapes, I actually mentioned that in the quote you made of me

The JVC S-VHS series is well regarded on forums, although I only have a lower model.

Obscure doesn't mean much to me, in general some electronics are made by a very few companies no matter what 'brand name' is on them. I don't judge by brand, just by a particular model. Even then, each model could be in different shape. You just have to test what you have available and pick the best device for the job. That's what I'm doing here.
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  #16  
12-30-2010, 09:10 PM
juhok juhok is offline
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I meant that maybe the people asking for the best also mean those other qualities. Semantics

I'm not someone who goes by brand name either. Don't get me wrong. It's all about models and what works and what doesn't.

I've had many of these "lower" models. Based on experience with them I wouldn't end my search there.

If this is a personal project of yours to get the best out of what you have access to, I have no objections! I maybe misinterpreted that you were making broader claims outside of what you've have / are doing.

I have one NTSC VHS D-Theater deck. If you want I can run some tests with that. It's not a "recomended" model here but I like it.

PS. It's 5am and thinking/typing is difficult.. Sorry if I came out nasty. Let's continnue after sleep.
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  #17  
12-30-2010, 09:19 PM
jmac698 jmac698 is offline
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Quote:
best also mean those other qualities
of course, but often these forums are filled with beginners, who want to transfer their old movies, and not knowing much about it just want 'best quality'. There's an assumption there, perhaps that some models have much better picture. I think it has more to do with the filtering myself.

This is more about basic research. I do want to know which device is best for my jobs, but I also want to know how much do they really vary, ie answer my question, if picture quality really varies noticably.
I also want to learn how to calibrate in different areas.
Quote:
NTSC VHS D-Theater deck. If you want I can run some tests
Sure! I'm working on a calibration video to test lots of things, from levels, noise, frequency response, capture window and so on.
I'd also like to test *bad* VCR's, to learn the problems and write a script to fix them, like bad colors on some lines, drop outs, flagging, etc.
I can gain experience and fix the common problems then.

A lot of people are curious about this product "VCR 2 PC". I think I could end up doing the best testing that can be found on the internet. Should get a lot of hits
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  #18  
12-30-2010, 10:45 PM
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Quote:
This is more about basic research
I'm hoping to find some time this weekend or next week to go over this thread -- for this exact reason. Research is always good, whether it reinforces your current understanding, or challenges it entirely. That's one thing that always keeps me going, in all things media (photo, video, design, and the industries as a whole).

Lovin' the posts.

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  #19  
08-01-2012, 03:36 AM
jmac698 jmac698 is offline
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hahah, I fooled msyelf! I was looking at this thread again, and I couldn't figure out where the two images were. Let me just say that they are side-by-side, the left half is the combination first described in the accompanying description. For example, jvc-comp is on the left side (meaning the composite output of the JVC 5910 S-VHS).

The differences are so subtle that I didn't notice they were two halves at first.
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  #20  
08-06-2012, 11:20 PM
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It's very obvious to me. One has high frequency grain and detail (right half), one really doesn't (left half).
How good is your monitor?

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