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  #1  
03-29-2024, 06:36 PM
MrEightThreeOne MrEightThreeOne is offline
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Hello all!

For an untold amount of hours I've been working away at trying to find a good workflow for capturing my family's old home videos into a permanent archival format. And unfortunately, everywhere I turn, I hit some sort of dead end, and it's really beginning to frustrate me. So, here is what I have gotten so far.

I am capturing videos using the Lagarith lossless codec, at 720x480. My goal is to eventually output it into a 720x480i compressed format, with the pixel aspect ratio set so that the media player will automatically set it to 4:3 and with a deinterlace flag set (my capture card does upper field first) so the media player knows to apply deinterlacing.

Unfortunately, every single option I have tried so far, I have hit a wall. That all boils down to a major limitation I have -- I want the video file to be playable without needing to download VLC Media Player. And unfortunately, this has proven incredibly frustrating. Before you guys ask why I'm being stubborn like this -- I'm not trying to. The thing about this is that these are my family's home videos, and I want to easily be able to hand them off to them without having to stick a giant asterisk to it. Telling them they have to download a whole separate program just to play these not only makes me nervous for how easily they'll work in the future, it just adds an extra layer of complication that I really don't think is needed. I've been attempting to play them in Media Player (the Windows 11 version), and Movies & TV, and virtually all the formats that have produced satisfactory results in VLC fail this test.

So, here's a number of things I've tried so far:

AVI, x264vfw codec -- this is a fantastic codec, but it fails the "does it work without VLC" test
MP4, FFMPEG -- also fails the test, both x264 and x265
MPEG2 -- Doing this via FFMPEG gives me audio and no video on the non-VLC test. I've also tried rendering it in this format in Movie Studio 16.0 Platinum, but frustratingly it appears to have a bug in which no matter which field order I pick, it sets the flag incorrectly and gives that horrid stuttery look to it. I have an older version that doesn't exhibit this behavior (13.0), but it has a nasty tendency to oversaturate and crush the colors -- when these are my family's special memories, I can't afford to treat them that way

So...yeah, I'm further getting dumbfounded and just beyond out of ideas at this point. Nothing I've tried seems to get this working correctly -- do any of you have any experience with this sort of thing? What is the best platform-agnostic format you think I should use? I know there are people who might tell me I'm crazy for trying MPEG2, and believe me in most circumstances I wouldn't be using it, but I absolutely need this to be a format that "just works" while still maintaining good quality, and it's proven unbelievably frustrating to get that to happen.

Any help would be appreciated!

Last edited by MrEightThreeOne; 03-29-2024 at 06:48 PM.
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  #2  
03-29-2024, 09:58 PM
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archival compressed = MPEG 4:2:2 @ 15mbps+ (no more than 25mbps needed), interlaced

The key is 4:2:2 not 4:2:0 default. Lots of cheap/free software is stupid, and only knows limited specs. This is why many people wrongly think "MPEG is bad" when its really software is bad (plus some lack of knowledge by the person stating it).

Any OS shoulod native understand MPEG, even the 422 profile.

H.264 is not archival in any way, and adds mush/softness. even at decent bitrates. The codec was made for high compression, so it takes those shortcuts even when not needed. MPEG does not. MPEG just makes blocks when bitrate is starved. But for 720x480, assuming decent quality (TBCs where in use, so lack of chroma/etc problems), then 15mbps+ should be fine.

I use MainConcept TotalCode 3 for my MPEG archival encodes, but it's payware.

Maybe it's time to beg and plead with selur again, to add MPEG to Hybrid, especially 4:2:2 for archival.

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  #3  
03-29-2024, 10:50 PM
MrEightThreeOne MrEightThreeOne is offline
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Thank you for the response!

Unfortunately, MainConcept TotalCode is out of the question as it's now been deprecated and is no longer offered for purchase, so that drives a bit of a wedge in that.

I tried x264 at 10Mbps, and...honestly, comparing it to my oversaturated MPEG2 render, I really don't see that big a difference. The x264 one seems a tad fuzzier, but honestly it's really hard to tell. VHS already is hardly a great format to begin with, though I don't want to contradict myself on what I said about it all of course.

I did finally figure out what the issue was -- most "dumb" media players don't like YUV 4:2:2, which was what I was saving it as. Once I changed it to YUV 4:2:0, the dumb media players finally understood it. How big a quality loss does converting to this color space cause? I don't see a very perceptible difference but people here may know more than me.

Are there any other currently-available MPEG2 encoders out right now? If not, I may have to stick with x264, which honestly is what I wanted to do to begin with so I wouldn't be too torn up about that.

Thank you again for your help!
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  #4  
03-29-2024, 11:17 PM
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You can compress down to 4:2:0 and H.264, but don't fool yourself into thinking it's archival in any way. It's just not. A lot of loss happens, and is especially noticeable at full viewing size (not tiny preview screens, not cell phones).

I find the term "only VHS" irritating, as it's often used as an excuse to accept butchered or compromised quality. If you want to compress, or you want to cheap out on conversion hardware, then just say that, be honest about it. Don't blame the VHS format, because it's really not all that accurate. It's the VHS version of "the dog ate my homework" (ie, blame innocent Rover).

MainConcept has changed hands a few times, and the current product is Live Encoder.
https://www.mainconcept.com/live-encoder

For freeware, I think we're stuck with ffmpeg, and none of the GUIs really tap into advanced features like 4:2:2. All of them have basic DVD-Video quality options, which is the lower form of MPEG-2 quality, heavily compressed video.

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  #5  
03-29-2024, 11:56 PM
aramkolt aramkolt is offline
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Another idea to distribute them to family would be use hybrid to deinterlace your lossless files with QTGMC, then upload them to YouTube and it'll host them - so anything with a web browser can see the videos. The idea is that you make an unlisted playlist and you then just share the link to the playlist with family. You could then make that into a tinyURL and you'd have a link to all of your videos that ends up being something like tinyurl.com/xxxxxxxx and that's all you'd need to actually share. Technically that is cloud storage too which is a bonus - not sure if YouTube ever eventually deletes videos or not though. You do probably want to save your original lossless files on a HDD somewhere though. Downside to this method is that uploading the files to YouTube is going to be pretty bandwidth intensive.
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03-30-2024, 12:03 AM
MrEightThreeOne MrEightThreeOne is offline
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So to clarify -- I am using a full size screen here. My 4K computer screen specifically, so that's a pretty hefty amount of upscaling happening. I feel if anyone should be noticing a quality loss, it should be me, and I'm just not seeing it. I'm really not trying to be difficult here -- what kind of loss can I expect from 4:2:0?

My point with what I said wasn't so much an excuse for me to cheap out on quality. I've done that in the past and paid the price for it -- I regret old video captures I've done and I wish I did them differently. In fact, my old video captures were done as MPEG2 and I didn't know you could dial up the bitrate on them back then -- I left it at the default and I really regret that in hindsight (to be fair, this also predates when I had a TBC/DNR VCR so that doesn't help matters either). An x264 capture I did much later completely blows all of them out of the water, just to put it in perspective. So perhaps that's where my thought that it was adequate came from.

Again, I'm not trying to be difficult, and I trust people with a lot of experience; I do have an old computer with an old version of Sony Vegas that might do me better for MPEG2 renders (it was made when the format was a lot more commonplace), so maybe I could drag that out and save myself some cash. It'll be cumbersome, but I could do it. Actually I think I may even still have that install CD sitting somewhere. Hmm...

I do appreciate the help once again. I know you have been in this business for a long time now and I do trust your judgement. I'm just trying to lay out what my options are. Any other pointers are appreciated!

@aramkolt: Just saw your message. I appreciate the suggestion! However, I don't really like the idea of uploading to YouTube for a few reasons, and I don't really know if I trust them to retain it forever. I like the idea better of having multiple copies circulating among the family too -- even if I end up giving them second-generation, size-friendlier copies than what I have on my computer, at least it still means I'll have backups circulating among the family. But I appreciate the suggestion regardless!
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03-30-2024, 12:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aramkolt View Post
Another idea to distribute them to family would be use hybrid to deinterlace your lossless files with QTGMC, then upload them to YouTube
Most people are rightly afraid of putting personal videos on Youtube. It's not secure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrEightThreeOne View Post
So to clarify -- I am using a full size screen here. My 4K computer screen specifically, so that's a pretty hefty amount of upscaling happening. I feel if anyone should be noticing a quality loss, it should be me, and I'm just not seeing it. I'm really not trying to be difficult here
You're not being diificult at all.

Quote:
-- what kind of loss can I expect from 4:2:0?
4:2:0 is color co-siting. So you lose about 25% of the color data vs. 4:2:2, and face a 50% softening of color details. It's not horrid, as DVD-Video was 4:2:0. But the difference is that DVD-Video was generally from high-end sources, not VHS, excluding you own DIY.

Quote:
My point with what I said wasn't so much an excuse for me to cheap out on quality.
Oh no, you misunderstand my statement. "cheaping out" was a reference to other situations. The direct references here was about compression. My only point here was to not tell yourself it's "archival", because it's not.

Your statement was really this, correct?
"I want my videos in high quality, to archive for myself (and family), but I don't want huge files that need VLC to open."

But don't confuse that statement with "archive format". Why? If you try to edit those compressed videos in the future, you may pay a price for compressing those now.

Yes, that may seem like a nuance to some, but it can be a damned hard ordeal to deal with a later date. Trust me, after 30+ years, even working for studios, been there. That's why "archival formats" are not compressed, or lightly compressed most. And no, H.264 and MPEG-2 are not lightly compressed, aka GOP compression. The MPEG compression is less intensive on resources, far lower typical GOP, so it can squeak by as "archival" under certain conditions.

Quote:
Again, I'm not trying to be difficult,
And again, you're not.

Quote:
I do have an old computer with an old version of Sony Vegas that might do me better for MPEG2 renders
You know what else? Sony Vegas uses the MainConcept SDK.

Quote:
I do appreciate the help once again. I know you have been in this business for a long time now and I do trust your judgement. I'm just trying to lay out what my options are. Any other pointers are appreciated!
As stated, be honest with yourself. Only then can you acknowledge pros/cons and (more importantly) consequences of choices you make now. And it's really not too different from your choices all those years ago, the first attempt with inferior gear. I'm trying to get you to look further down that road than tomorrow, or even next year. Think next decade. And no, never assume "it'll all be faster and work better then", because "LOL, no".

If this is for file size considerations, buy a $300 Seagate or WD CMR 20tb+ drive, and done. In fact, two drives (different brand/model), for backup, and store it off-site (work, family).

I can appreciate the OS native aspect, interesting, and rarely considered. But FYI, H.264 is actually less compliant than MPEG here. Too many profiles, options, GOP lengths, etc. H.264 gets messy, and to some degree was never "finalized" as such. H.265/AVC is worse.

In this thread, I've unintentionally put my teacher hat on. I'm not giving you an answer, but giving you info to arrive at your own educated answer. I'm actually curious to see what you'll decide.

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  #8  
03-30-2024, 11:58 AM
MrEightThreeOne MrEightThreeOne is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
4:2:0 is color co-siting. So you lose about 25% of the color data vs. 4:2:2, and face a 50% softening of color details. It's not horrid, as DVD-Video was 4:2:0. But the difference is that DVD-Video was generally from high-end sources, not VHS, excluding you own DIY.
That makes sense. I did try to flip back and forth between two sources again and I didn't see any drop -- if there was, I certainly had trouble noticing it. But yeah, sounds like it was a much bigger problem for motion pictures than it was for people digitizing VHS.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
Oh no, you misunderstand my statement. "cheaping out" was a reference to other situations. The direct references here was about compression. My only point here was to not tell yourself it's "archival", because it's not.

Your statement was really this, correct?
"I want my videos in high quality, to archive for myself (and family), but I don't want huge files that need VLC to open."

But don't confuse that statement with "archive format". Why? If you try to edit those compressed videos in the future, you may pay a price for compressing those now.
Yeah, I think that's more on point. I highly doubt I'd be trying to edit them personally, it's more like we just want to have them around for looking at whenever we want. But, it is important I do it right the first time to me, so that's why I'm here!

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
You know what else? Sony Vegas uses the MainConcept SDK.
So, I had a bit of an interesting development happen here. I pulled out one of my old computers (which, as a fan of retro computing, hardly even qualifies as old by my standards), and it still had Vegas Movie Studio 6.0 loaded on it. Great! Except...as it turns out, it exhibits the same behavior as version 16 that I tried using with the so-called field-swapping bug. That changes a lot! So it wasn't a bug after all; it's just, for whatever reason, it seems insistent on getting the field order wrong on my lossless captures! That's an incredibly strange behavior to be happening, and I don't know why version 13 doesn't have the same issue. It's so irritating though, version 13 would be perfectly usable if it weren't for the fact it insists of oversaturating and crushing the colors on its renders. I'll have to play with it more. In the meanwhile, does there happen to be any lossless codec that can set an interlace flag? A longshot, but it may be the answer to my problems.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
In this thread, I've unintentionally put my teacher hat on. I'm not giving you an answer, but giving you info to arrive at your own educated answer. I'm actually curious to see what you'll decide.
And I appreciate all that help! There's a lot to consider here of course. I think going for those big hard drives might be overkill for me. The one nice thing about our VHS home videos is that they don't span that long -- they are a cumulative 11 hours or so of content. We switched to MiniDV after that, and thank goodness for that -- it's SO much easier to archive properly. And thanks to tech advances, hard drive space is hardly much an issue for keeping the original master copies these days.

Actually, little fun fact about it -- our home videos alone justified every penny I spent on my high-end VCR. Towards the end of the VHS era of home videos for us, the camera progressively got worse and worse at recording a stable signal, until it basically was near-unwatchable. Our last tape especially (which only spans 45 minutes) is insanely bad to watch on a normal VCR. The picture wiggles back and forth rapidly near constantly (and it's on every field too so it's seizure-inducing), and sometimes it pulses in and out. The VCR doesn't magically make it perfect again, but my GOODNESS does it ever make it easier to watch. It was basically like watching those videos for the first time ever.

Anyway, just had to share that little tangent. Thanks again for the help! I'll try toying with Vegas again and see if I can make it do better.

-- merged --

Anyway, there's a bit of a wrench thrown into this -- as it turns out, Vegas only lets you do up to 9.8Mbps for MPEG2 video. I guess the reason for that is because it's the highest quality allowed by the DVD standard which is a bit annoying.

So I guess my question is...if it came down to that or 10-15Mbps H264 video, which would you do? I know about the software suggestions given but I feel a bit weary about buying software just for this at the moment so I want to hear your thoughts.


EDIT: Disregard this, I was wrong. You just had to pick non-DVD options in the render settings.

Double EDIT: I FIGURED IT OUT! Oh my goodness I am so thankful. Turns out, when you add video to a timeline in Vegas, it internally sets a field order on that clip -- and it was setting it to the wrong one by default. I gave it a test render and the field order is finally right! Oh my goodness I'm so thankful, the countless hours I spent on figuring that out absolutely drove me up the wall. Thank you for all the help!
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  #9  
03-31-2024, 04:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrEightThreeOne View Post
so-called field-swapping bug.
for whatever reason, it seems insistent on getting the field order wrong on my lossless captures!
It's not a bug, but developer ignorance. Certain software (or versions) was DV-centric, and made the stupid choice to assign default interlace field dominance as BFF. But only DV is BFF, everything else is TFF. So the default should have been TFF, especially since DV flags itself (via codec, not via container).

Quote:
In the meanwhile, does there happen to be any lossless codec that can set an interlace flag?
No.

Quote:
our home videos alone justified every penny I spent on my high-end VCR.
my GOODNESS does it ever make it easier to watch. It was basically like watching those videos for the first time ever.
the countless hours I spent on figuring that out absolutely drove me up the wall. Thank you for all the help!
And stories like yours are while I'm still helping others with video.

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  #10  
03-31-2024, 03:44 PM
MrEightThreeOne MrEightThreeOne is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
It's not a bug, but developer ignorance. Certain software (or versions) was DV-centric, and made the stupid choice to assign default interlace field dominance as BFF. But only DV is BFF, everything else is TFF. So the default should have been TFF, especially since DV flags itself (via codec, not via container).
Oof. That's annoying. Where I was having trouble was that I was setting the *output* settings to TFF, but I didn't realize you could right click video on the timeline, click "Properties", and then set the field order there. That was what was driving me so insane. But it's fixed now! Except now I have yet another issue that's come up...sigh. Gonna have to post in a different area because it's about capture rather than encoding. But again, I appreciate the help!
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