07-20-2018, 11:42 AM
demitri demitri is offline
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Will do my best to keep this concise! I have a few hundred VHS tapes that I've recorded over the years. I want to - once and for all! - digitize them so I can throw them away. The content is only TV shows I recorded in the 80s and 90s. Anything that has been released on DVD I will skip over, so probably a fair amount. Ideally, I'd like to hit "play" on the VHS/computer in the morning, go to work, and have a ~4-6hr digital file when I get home. (Most of the tapes are EP.) My final result will be H.264 video files - I have no need for DVDs. I have maybe two tapes with Macrovision that I'd want to capture. The workflow will be

- capture
- delete shows I don't want/need
- edit individual shows into files
- edit commercials
- encode to H.264 (or maybe H.265)

I attempted this procedure ~15 years ago with a Canopus ADVC-100, an AVT-8710, an S-VHS VCR, and Final Cut Pro. This worked well enough. However, in that time all of that hardware has been lost (or in some box somewhere). I am also a Mac user and know pretty much nothing about Windows.

I've read the forums extensively, and the recommendation seems to be:

- find a VCR with a built-in TBC
- get a legacy ATI All-In-Wonder card/external USB stick
- capture losslessly

These are my questions:

1) I am hesitant to "build" a PC that would require a PCI card myself. Are the USB AIW sticks functionally the same (i.e. can capture lossless)? Can I purchase something like an Intel NUC, install Windows on it, and connect a large drive for capture? What is the highest version of Windows this will work on? Getting a mini-PC appeals because I can then install Linux on it and use it as a server when the project is done. (Also, NYC apartments are not conducive to large box computers.)

2) Is there a lossless video format I can edit on (or transcode losslessly to) my Mac? This is not critical - I suppose I can edit/crop files and run Handbrake on the PC.

3) I read that going to DV is terrible (loss of color/information plus compression). However, given my use case, what is the real world difference between the above workflow and reproducing my original one? These aren't family videos, but if there will be a noticeable difference in quality, I'm happy to go with the PC route.

4) Do I need an external TBC? I had one in the past, but I think I only needed it when the video had *really* degraded and the ADVC-100 wouldn't capture the video (which the TBC fixed). I don't think my VCR had a built-in TBC, so perhaps if I find a VCR that does it would be good enough?

Thanks in advance for the help!

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07-20-2018, 11:58 AM
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TV shows? What sort of TV shows? Any cartoons?

You don't need to know much about Windows to build a system dedicated to capture, and maybe slight editing.

ATI AIW USB is a bit squirrelly, and the AGP cards are more solid. The main benefit of the USB was that it could be used on a laptop, as long as the laptop plays nice with capture (not just ATI, but others). Either way, Windows XP is required. But if a normal desktop is not allowable, it's worth a shot.

Never use Handbrake to edit, nor even encoding. There are better apps for that, and freeware too.

Yes, 4:1:1 is noticeable, and cuts color data by 75% per frame. Both 4:2:0 and 4:2:2 are mere halving, which is how we normally see color video. (As a TV/toon collector, I'm screaming "NNNOOOO!!!!" on the inside.)

Yes, external TBC is unavoidable. It had nothing to do with degradation, and is for taming the chaos that is a VHS signal. Even the best SP mode tapes need TBC.

Let me ponder this a bit, get back to you with some options for your exact scenario.

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07-27-2018, 09:01 AM
demitri demitri is offline
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TV shows? What sort of TV shows? Any cartoons?
So. Many. Cartoons.

I don't remember all what I have, but on my highly advanced post-it note-based organizational system I know there's Eek the Cat, Taz-Mania, and ALF/ALF Tales. And many more. Shows I'm interested in reviving from tape include Working, the Paula Poundstone Show (all three episodes), and a Pop-Up Video version of NewRadio that I've never seen since it aired. Lots of stuff that's hard or impossible to find. And Weird Al on MTV (Al TV), Just Say Julie... who knows what else.

Quick update - I did some research and purchased a JVC HR-S9600U. Based on what I read the Panasonic AG-1980 seems to have been a better choice, but the cost for them was prohibitive, and many good things have been said about the 9600.

Would greatly appreciate your recommendations on a PC and capturing hardware. If a desktop is going to be easier to work with, more reliable, or give me a better result, I'm happy to go with that. I assume given the era of hardware we're talking about, smaller form factors (maybe a box that only takes a half-size card?) is probably not an option. I know nothing about PC hardware from that era, so any hardware spec advice appreciated!
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07-27-2018, 11:32 AM
ehbowen ehbowen is offline
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Caveat: Lordsmurf is the expert and if he objects to this advice, you should probably do what he says. I only say that this has worked for me and that the materials to carry it out are (were) readily available and that it has given me good results.
  • Step 1: Call or e-mail "svideo.com" and inquire about the availability of part #6110018100, the VIVO adapter for ATI X700/X800 cards (it also fits X1800). The cost is just $3.95. If it's still available, order one; if it's not, abort...the next steps are useless without it.
  • Step 2: Go to this listing on eBay and purchase an ATI All-In-Wonder X1800 PCIe card. There are other listings, but check to make sure that the pinouts are the same on the end connectors. You want the twin DVI-out (no additional adapter needed for output) and the 9 pin VIVO jack (which the cable above fits).
  • Step 3: Purchase a refurbished full-size Windows XP PC, preferably a tower, which has an x16 PCIe video slot and at least 2GB RAM. SATA for an eSATA port and/or hot swap drive bay is highly recommended as well. If you have trouble finding XP (which is essential), check eBay again...some refurbishers are unloading legitimate copies of XP which were intended for refurbishing PCs. They will work just fine.
  • Step 4: Recommended: Purchase and install a third-party sound card in your XP PC; the ATI card captures video only and the extra overhead of using on-board motherboard sound can cause the CPU to fall behind. Lordsmurf recommends the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz PCI card; I wasn't able to find one but I've had good results with a Xonar DGX.
Install Windows XP (32 bit!) on the PC if it is not already installed; uninstall the driver for whichever video card came with the PC; shut down the PC and swap out the old card for the ATI X1800 card (remember to power off completely and observe proper static discharge precautions); install the ATI drivers from the included CD-ROM disc, and hook up the VIVO cable to the X1800 and plug the output from your TBC into the S-Video In jack of the VIVO cable. Then install HuffyUV codec and VirtualDub 1.9, put a fresh hard drive in your eSATA dock or hot swap bay, and you should be ready to begin capturing (Note: See other guides on this site for setting the timeout on VirtualDub so that your capture stops when your 4-6 hour tape has finished playing if you intend to capture unattended).

This setup has worked well for me (once I learned the proper settings for VirtualDub capture); I just captured a Disney direct-to-video VHS and an unknown recording which turned out to be news coverage of Hurricane Katrina from a home VCR. Zero dropped frames on both tapes. Hard to beat!

Last edited by ehbowen; 07-27-2018 at 11:51 AM.
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07-27-2018, 05:45 PM
demitri demitri is offline
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Thanks ehbowen! That really fills in a lot of gaps for me. I read things suggesting that the AGP cards were a better bet than the PCIe versions, but it's good to know this is a reliable option. The eSATA is a good suggestion as I have an enclosure with that. Can't wait to get something started.
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07-27-2018, 05:50 PM
ehbowen ehbowen is offline
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Lordsmurf says that the AGP is preferable if all else is equal...but they're also a lot harder and more expensive to get hold of these days with all required pieces intact. I lucked out and was able to put one together with parts from eBay...but I also got burned on incomplete ATI cards a couple of times in the process.

But while AGP may be preferable to PCIe, the PCIe setup I have works and works well. If you're looking at something you can put together RIGHT NOW without breaking the bank, I would recommend it.

Edit To Add: One important factor I forgot to mention; the XP PC must have a modern power supply with a 6-pin PCIe video power connector...I recommend 300 watts minimum and 450 to be on the safe side. If your PC doesn't come with this, replace the power supply...replacement PSUs are not expensive (but do shop for a good-quality name brand).

Last edited by ehbowen; 07-27-2018 at 05:56 PM. Reason: Possible Power Shortage!
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