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05-09-2022, 05:21 PM
pugleon pugleon is offline
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Hi All

I have an old VHS-C tape of a friend who passed many years ago. It was found in an attic and in really terrible condition. It was shot in black and white (no idea why its from the late 90s) and there's tones of artifacts and lines and at many times in the footage there's nothing but static. It was also shot by someone who has no idea how to work a camcorder, and I believe the tape as been repaired with sellotape on more than one occasion. But there are a couple (4/5 short sections) with 10-20 seconds of footage that you can see this person out of the 30 minutes of recording. I'd like to try clean that up somehow. Methods of capture I've used:

Decent Sony VHS player with a VHS-C to VHS converter cassette (also tried the outputs of the camcorder but worse quality).

A reliable ezcap av to usb capture device I've used before. But eventually settled on a really nice cheap solution of a AV to HDMI converter and a separate HDMI capture dongle and OBS freeware. Works great managed to record (720p mkv) a part of an original VHS movie for testing and the quality is great. So I'm happy with the capture device itself.

Sadly the VHS-C tape is in REALLY bad shape so only able to capture what is, a bad source to begin with...

My question is this: Is there any cheap or low cost ways to use AI to clean up the footage? I tried AVClabs but I don't have a decent enough PC/GPU to run it it takes several minutes or more per frame. Also not convinced it would remove major artifacts seems more aimed at upscaling and clarity?

Is there anything out there that is more fit for purpose, cleaning up bad footage? Better yet is there any services online you can upload footage to and its done for you? I've a very limited knowledge of Adobe film editing/any others like it
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  #2  
05-09-2022, 07:33 PM
timtape timtape is online now
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Hi and welcome,

Most people seem to get their ideas about media transfer and "restoration" from watching TV shows coming from Hollywood and the like, which exaggerate what's possible just with after-the-fact digital cleanup, bypassing much of the unsexy stuff real experts have to do in real life with such tapes.

Probably a real expert would first examine the cassette and tape, disassemble it, carefully remove the tape, carefully remove the Sellotape, clean the Sellotape residues from the tape, separate each tape section, add the correct plastic leader tapes, place each tape section into its own separate labelled cassette, and possibly clean the tapes thoroughly (a difficult job even for experts and depending on contamination, and sometimes not even possible).

Then playback each section on an excellent machine able to be expertly custom adjusted to any recorded tape alignment errors.

It can be a difficult, precise job, taking time, the right equipment and expertise. The result can be well short of perfect but a lot better than what the average person could achieve.

I believe one of the best companies for this work is Specs Bros LLC. You might care to contact them or similar specialists for advice.



Best wishes, Tim

PS: Especially thin, fragile consumer video tapes are the most vulnerable. If it's in bad physical shape, attempting to play or wind it before expert examination/advice/treatment isnt advised. It's possible much permanent damage has been done to the tape by simply trying to play it.

Last edited by timtape; 05-09-2022 at 08:26 PM.
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  #3  
05-09-2022, 08:42 PM
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Note: I'm not being unfriendly/unkind here, but the honesty will sound brutal...

Quote:
Originally Posted by pugleon View Post
It was found in an attic and in really terrible condition.
What does that mean?
Is it moldy?
Or the tape is physically fine, and the image just looks terrible, sounds terrible?

Quote:
there's tones of artifacts and lines and at many times in the footage there's nothing but static.
Could be many things, misalignment is a top common problem.

Quote:
Decent Sony VHS player
Your idea of "decent" and actual decent are probably vastly different. Sony makes almost nothing of quality, in terms of players. Most are not even Sony manufactured products, just cheap rebadges.

Quote:
with a VHS-C to VHS converter cassette (also tried the outputs of the camcorder but worse quality).
A bad C converter can ruin tapes.

Quote:
A reliable ezcap av to usb capture device
That's an oxymoron. Easycap/Ezcap earned the nickname "Easycrap".

Quote:
But eventually settled on a really nice cheap solution of a AV to HDMI converter and a separate HDMI capture dongle and OBS freeware. Works great managed to record (720p mkv) a part of an original VHS movie for testing and the quality is great. So I'm happy with the capture device itself.
That's not a capture device. That was made to convert a video game console signal to composite. It has multiple problems, and looks terrible. Colors, aspects, interlace, all ruined. It's like putting your VHS tape through a meat grinder, then pretending the output is steak. This dumb method was put on Youtube by a guy that still thinks VHS won the "format war" because of porn. He has an extremely limited understanding of video, and his ridiculous method has resulted in lots of bad conversions.

Quote:
My question is this: Is there any cheap or low cost ways
No.

Quote:
to use AI
No. Furthermore, most people use the term "AI" when they actually mean "magic". The terms are often interchangeable. Actual AI really does not exist for video application, aside from basic single processes, and deepfakes. But it tends to be very artifact-y, lots of manual work to make it not look terrible.

Quote:
I tried AVClabs but I don't have a decent enough PC/GPU to run it
You're not missing out on anything. This is similar to Topaz, and "AI" is mostly just marketing. Avisynth does better, and it's not AI. Neither have actual AI.

Quote:
Also not convinced it would remove major artifacts seems more aimed at upscaling and clarity?
You are half correct. It would do nothing for artifacts. But it also doesn't do anything for upscale or clarity. These bogus "AI upscalers" only work with images that area already HD, and merely sharpen it harshly. There's no AI, not even magic. Just turn the sharpen dial to 11, and done.

Quote:
is there any services online you can upload footage
No. You must start from the tape, not a botched conversion job.

Quote:
Originally Posted by timtape View Post
disassemble it, carefully remove the tape, carefully remove the Sellotape, clean the Sellotape residues from the tape,
Probably not. Why? Because it's (1) rarely needed, (2) can be damaging. But it fully depends on if the error is physical in nature.

Quote:
Then playback each section on an excellent machine able to be expertly custom adjusted to any recorded tape alignment errors.
It can be a difficult, precise job, taking time, the right equipment and expertise. The result can be well short of perfect but a lot better than what the average person could achieve.
PS: Especially thin, fragile consumer video tapes are the most vulnerable. If it's in bad physical shape, attempting to play or wind it before expert examination/advice/treatment isnt advised. It's possible much permanent damage has been done to the tape by simply trying to play it.
^ This. Needed repeating.

Quote:
I believe one of the best companies for this work is Specs Bros LLC. You might care to contact them or similar specialists for advice.
- Physical damage, yes.
- Signal damage, no.

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  #4  
05-10-2022, 06:29 AM
pugleon pugleon is offline
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The tape was in an attic for twenty years in Ireland where I live. The cardboard box it was in had water damage its unclear if any of that got on the tape but certainly moisture did as its cold in winters here. The tape itself has no flap protector this appears to be snapped off leaving the reel exposed so this wasn't looked after what so ever. It was also not a fresh tape used to record, it's something that was reused dozens of times from what the guy tells me.

From looking at various sections of the magnetic tape the outer edges appear warped/damaged in places. Not sure if that's environmental or from the tape being caught in a machine during playback, or some kind of alignment issue with playback/recording devices in the past.

No I appreciate the feedback and information I'd rather hear it like it is. The VHS unit is a Sony SLV-D983P, yes consumer grade stuff I don't have the money to buy anything high end. It is an attempt to save a small amount of footage on a budget for a friend who passed away's family. We grew up poor in 80's Ireland, no footage of him exists and camera phones weren't a thing back then. I did ask around local tape restoration facilities in Ireland and the UK but no one would touch it at the time due to the use of sellotape. Maybe I'm asking the wrong facilities?

In answer to your questions - Physically the magnetic tape looks damaged in many parts - including a photo. Audio and video is terrible in most of the 30 minutes. From what I understand it was never great to begin with even 20 years ago. Probably because the tape was in bad shape to begin with.

The c converter used worked fine on other VHS-C tapes I have (my own ones, kept in good condition). But playback is terrible from his own camcorder too. But I understand a converter is not ideal. Only tried it as it was so bad from the camcorder itself.

I used an easycap again on a budget. Same with the hdmi converter and usb capture. I dont have the money to buy a high end ATI card or something like that. Or even a new PC with a decent GPU just using my work provided laptop. But good to know that software wont do what I want thank you for that. I would just like to impress this is a one-off capture for a friend and I'm really broke at the moment so doing the best I can with what I have.

I absolutely take on board what you are saying, it's the tape that needs work. What would be the typical price range if I shipped to Spec's bros to analyse/repair the tape convert to some sort of modern file format? Does anyone know of a company in Ireland that does similar tape restoration work?

Thanks again for your input and honesty it's very much appreciated


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  #5  
05-10-2022, 07:51 AM
timtape timtape is online now
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Thanks for the extra comments and photos.

The tape is marked SVHS-C. I think you said you have your friend's original camera. Is that too marked SVHS? SVHS is a higher picture quality format than VHS and both tape and machine were meant to be SVHS or the picture reproduction will be poorer. So even if the SVHS tape had been in perfect condition, recorded on an SVHS camera but played on a VHS player like yours it still wouldnt have looked optimal. VHS and SVHS were always colour formats. Maybe this is black and white because of a recording problem, or the playback, or a combination.

It's probably understandable most transfer shops wont touch problem tapes like this, and if they have neither the skills or the equipment, it's best they dont of course. I do a little tape repair work for local transfer shops and tend to be given the difficult cases, but I dont pretend to have the facilities that Peter Brothers or probably others have in other countries. I believe their services dont come cheap unfortunately.

In your photo what looks like a machine caused crease runs across the top edge. It's right where the sound track lies, and may affect the video as well. I can also see crinkling/creasing damage as the tape exits the cassette. Sometimes with physical damage, the tape contact can be improved with custom technique, improving picture and sound in the transfer.

Living in far flung Australia I'm afraid I dont know of any expert tape repair facilities in the UK or Europe but I suspect they will be there. Others on the forum here may chime in with some recommendations.

Tim.

Last edited by timtape; 05-10-2022 at 08:07 AM.
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  #6  
05-10-2022, 10:17 AM
pugleon pugleon is offline
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Hi there. The short answer is we dont know "for sure". He believes the camera given is the one used to record it, but it was a long time ago. The camera he gave me is SVHS-C. The tape of the recording is SVHS-C. It plays just as badly on the sony player and black and white in both cases. Even black and white on the view finder on the camcorder. But could be why its playing badly if it was recorded on a different just VHS-C cam I guess
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  #7  
05-10-2022, 05:30 PM
RobustReviews RobustReviews is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
Note: I'm not being unfriendly/unkind here, but the honesty will sound brutal...
Your idea of "decent" and actual decent are probably vastly different. Sony makes almost nothing of quality, in terms of players. Most are not even Sony manufactured products, just cheap rebadges.
I know it's different for NTSC regions, but a lot of the 90s Sony machines in the PAL regions at least are very well made, and perform very well - I don't think it's fair to swipe all Sony products into the same category, that said I don't know that much about the models available in NTSC regions. There was plenty of late junk here too, I have a stack of them in the junk room we've acquired.

You must have used Sony cassette players in 'studio days'? I'm sure you agree their broadcast players are very good?

Quote:
This dumb method was put on Youtube by a guy that still thinks VHS won the "format war" because of porn.
These are both revisionist viewpoints, there are two camps here I've found after five years of research.
i - "VHS won because of porn."
ii - "Porn had nothing to do with the format war."

Neither of these statements are really correct. Porn played a role in the format war as did hundreds of other events and genres. Bundling (very expensive) porn videos with VHS players was a tactic adopted both in Europe and North America, there's some evidence this was sanctioned by the importers in respective markets and the adult film industry had settled in VHS before all other markets as best as I can demonstrate. It's muddy and unclear, but I would say neither the true/false statement is correct. Pornography played a minor, but important role in the 'format war'.

The VHS system was definitely the one that the porn industry leant toward whereas until about 1982 in North America/1981 in the PAL regions it was a pretty even spread in all other genres.

It's potentially statistically significant that as porn was bundled with low-market VHS players this encouraged more to buy into the system, also some adult film distributors in Europe (can't find any evidence for other markets) quietly got in to the equipment lease/rental businesses which again may have forced some early adopters to VHS as porn distributors were offering some quite good deals on renting VHS machines.

Speculative of course, but I 'bring receipts' with my hypothesis here.

What is nonsense, and is often trotted out was that 'Sony didn't allow porn' or similar nonsense. I think this is conflated with something else that happened, but as most are aware, Sony (or anybody else of that matter) had no control over what was distributed on any format.
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  #8  
05-10-2022, 06:38 PM
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I don't really want to discuss VHS porn at length in topics...

But that trope didn't appear until the mid 2000s, along with the false idea that JPEGs and online video was because of porn. Nonsense then, nonsense now. Any porn that exists was merely happenstance, not a catalyst, nor even anything with a large footprint (and doubted to even be 1% of the equation). Smut exists, it has purveyors, but it's always been relegated to a few folks in a backroom. Even now, easy online access, it's just a rounding error in terms of the % of internet traffic.

I've always taken the stance that, anybody that thinks this, is somebody that should be ignored entirely. Why? Because it's just an inch/mm away from believing full-on conspiracy. And those folks deserve zero oxygen in conversations.

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  #9  
05-11-2022, 03:05 AM
pugleon pugleon is offline
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I've learned alot about smut (inadvertently), and historically. So. Em, yeah! Thanks I think

So would anyone know the typical ballpark costs of sending a tape to Specs Bros or similar? And does anyone know a more local film restoration company or are they the only show in town so to speak?

Might be something I can save for
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  #10  
05-11-2022, 03:23 AM
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BTW, off-hand, I'm not sure that Spec Bros does PAL. So check. Expect $100 minimum per tape.

Beware of "the local shop". Those people rarely have any video experience, as they see video conversion merely as a way to make money. Quality is secondary, if that. It doesn't matter where it's local to, 99%+ of them at the same. Equally bad are transfer mills that advertise on national TV channels.

From the photos, I see catastrophic crinkle damage. But I don't immediately see any mold or moisture damage, which is good.

I handle signal-damaged tapes (PAL, NTSC, and some others), as the footage stands a chance at recovery and restoration. But physical damage is generally have issues permanently baked into the signal. There is a slight chance that it can be ironed, maybe requiring some baking. Not 100% sure here. Attempting to recover a physically damaged tapes is a mix of voodoo and extreme analog tape knowledge. And each tape is always different.

Another likely issue here is that you may be trying to play S-VHS content on a VHS deck. Maybe even a VHS SQPB deck, as those often don't work as claimed.

So physical damage, S-VHS in VHS ... the image output look accurate to me, for those errors.

I would, at very least, try to play this on a true S-VHS deck, and see how much the physical damage interrupts the signal. The damage looks to be a type of tape feathering from a bad deck head interaction. Sometimes playback isn't as bad as it physically looks. But sometimes it is, or worse. Again, each tape is different.

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  #11  
05-11-2022, 04:15 AM
pugleon pugleon is offline
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That's actually not as bad as I had thought. Ballpark figure it's something I can save toward/budget wise. Thanks. Yeah I did wonder do they even work with PAL tapes. I emailed them the other day when they were mentioned so I'll find out I guess.

Thanks so much to all for the information Tim and lordsmurf. I cant reply to DM's so thanks for those as well I really appreciate your knowledge and help.... and patience!
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  #12  
05-11-2022, 04:37 AM
RobustReviews RobustReviews is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
I don't really want to discuss VHS porn at length in topics...

But that trope didn't appear until the mid-2000s...
That might have been when you heard it, but it was being discussed in 1994 as the earliest evidence I can find on BB archives, by the late 1990s on open web comment sections. This sounds quite revisionist to claim it only erupted in the 2000s. I appreciate this is wholly off-topic, but it is incorrect and I am sure you would rather not repeat nonsense.

Before making any attempt to repair a tape with heat, as said, you need to be absolutely certain of the stock that you are dealing with. I'm really not altogether sure heating many of the tape substrates is an overly bright idea given the formulation of many of them.
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  #13  
05-11-2022, 05:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobustReviews View Post
it was being discussed in 1994 as the earliest evidence I can find on BB archives,
It didn't gain steam, the gullible believers to scale, until the 2000s. I'm sure some people back in the 70s or 80s said it, too, not just the 90s. But it generally takes years for myth to gain ground, to entrench in the public mindset. The real parroting didn't take hold until the 2000s. It wasn't just kooks anymore, but Joe Blow was believing it. That's the difference. BB days was mostly kooks, forum era was the entrenchment, Youtube more than doubled it.

Quote:
Before making any attempt to repair a tape with heat, as said, you need to be absolutely certain of the stock that you are dealing with. I'm really not altogether sure heating many of the tape substrates is an overly bright idea given the formulation of many of them.
Something like this is best left to expects, do not DIY. Even I don't DIY physical damage very often, because it takes a special knowledge, a special experience. That's just not something I want to do. Simply acquiring the right tools has costs. A wise person knows he can't DIY everything, seek help as the difficulty and risk rises.

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  #14  
05-11-2022, 08:18 AM
msgohan msgohan is offline
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The black streaks are expected when playing S-VHS[-C] in a regular VHS[-C] format player.

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Just pointing this out for other readers, not for yourself -- don't worry about what this means:
  • Your Sony SLV-D983P is a DVD player/VCR combo and the manual doesn't claim SQPB (S-VHS Quasi Playback).

The takeaway is, while you mentioned the playback through the camcorder also looks bad, it shouldn't have these streaks at least...

(The viewfinder on the camcorder is most likely B&W, so that is no indication of whether the cam is playing the tape in colour.)

Do you have other tapes to test the S-VHS-C cam with? Does it play those in colour?


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  #15  
05-11-2022, 08:34 AM
hodgey hodgey is offline
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Second that, blown out levels + black streaks tends to indicate super-vhs recording in a deck that does not support it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobustReviews View Post
I know it's different for NTSC regions, but a lot of the 90s Sony machines in the PAL regions at least are very well made, and perform very well
As far as I know US and European Sony's vcrs are relatively similarly internally. Other than Panasonic for North America, and firms that used different OEM depending on region like Philips, I think in most cases vcrs sold in different regions from the same manufacturer tended to base vcrs for different regions on the same platforms, as like most of the parts weren't system specific, especially in later vcrs.

Sony stopped designing their own VHS decks like around 2001/2002 or something, and from then on the VHS decks with Sony badges share internals with Samsung VCRs, including as far as I know all the VHS/DVD combos too, and seem much more cost-reduced than the earlier Sonys (though not as bad as e.g Funai jank).
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05-11-2022, 08:38 AM
pugleon pugleon is offline
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Msgohan. No sadly. My old camcorder (also SVHS-C) bit the dust years ago and I threw it in recycling as, I'd already backed up my stuff to PC by then long ago. And his one (the one it was originally recorded on the video out isnt working). So I'm guessing at least half the issue is SVHS-C to VHS player as you are all saying.

But looking at the second hand market its pricey to get a SVHS-C camcorder and I dont see any set top boxes/players at a price I could do either including shipping. Might be getting it restored professionally actually works out more affordable..

Either way I feel a whole lot better having talked to everyone here than when I pulled the footage I got last week. So thank you
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