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Old March 1st, 2006, 04:43 PM   #1
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VHS to Digital Video

What is the most popular method for getting old VHS and VHS-C tapes into iMovie or FCP for archiving to DVD and of course for authoring DVD's from said footage. Currently I'm using a Plextor ConvertX box hooked up to my G5 and an older DVD/VCR combo box. It does ok but I'm looking for better quality. I seem to get a lot of noise and distortion around the edges by the time I am editing in iMovie or FCP. Thanks for the knowledge.
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Old March 1st, 2006, 09:39 PM   #2
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Analog to digital...

I don't know if it's "popular" or not, but my method is to digitize the VHS, S-VHS, Hi-8 media by transferring it to digital tape via the appropriate deck. For instance, I just finished a project in which I used several formats and moved them to DVCAM on a Sony broadcast deck. That way I have timecode to work with in my NLE of choice, FCP.

Also, while there is no quality improvement with this, DVCAM preserves "what is" through FW to the capture, edit processes, with no further generational loss.

Of course, you could use any digital format, DV or DigiBeta, but obviously you need the decks for whatever transfer you settle on. Then it's into your NLE hopefully via the lossless FW transfer. Otherwise, you get what you already aren't happy about...
Hope this helps.
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Old March 1st, 2006, 11:12 PM   #3
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I use a Canopus ADVC100.Analog in and out ,composite and svhs.
firewire in/out , it does a great job.
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Old March 2nd, 2006, 01:35 AM   #4
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I don't know what the most popular method really is, but I can share a few ideas that work for alot of folks.

First of all, if you have a digicam with AV>DV passthrough capability, this is probably what you will really want to use either going directly to your Mac via iMovie or FCP, or to digital tape and then to the computer, or both at the same time.

If you don't have such a camcorder, than the Canopus mentioned earlier is likely a very good option, I have heard very good things about them.

I got a converter box from Formac a few years back before the Canopus box was available here. So the formac seemed my only reasonable option within my budget and it worked great for my purposes, however there are some types of footage that it doesn't seem to track well at all. Now I often use passthrough on my of my cams as they seem to be even more accurate - although bulky on my desk, I love the array of connectivity on my XL2 and sometimes just use that.

As as far a VCR, one thing I have found is that if you are using a VCR/DVD combo deck - an older one as you mentioned, I found that many manufactuers cut corners on these things to bring their decks early to market and for low cost - (my experience is that Go>Video and Samsung units among others leave something to be desired - very convenient and low cost to have both units in the same deck - both taken individually, each unit [DVD or VCR] is low quality - IMO)

For better purposes, you will want to use a VCR with an S-video ouput. The combo unit you have probably has this, but it probably only puts out signal from the DVD, but not the VCR. The s-video signal will give you a cleaner video signal than the composite connection - and pretty much any converter box from Formac, Pyro, Canopus, etc...as well as some digital camcorders with passthrough capability will be able to the s-video input.

One thing you might notice when seeing your VHS tapes digitized into your NLE will be a black vertical strip on the side of the frame - sometimes with a small amount of waver or flutter. I'm not sure about the technical geekspeak of this condition, but I presume it is because of the actual edge signal from the magentic tape - this strip generally lies beyond the 'tv safe' area of the screen, hence it was never visible when the tapes were viewed on televisions, and DVD's burned from the footage will also not show the edge when viewed on standard television viewing ratios.

Regarding additional issues of distortion or low quality.....I am sure you are aware that VHS quality is already going to be lower quality than dv quality anyway. This lower quality will often become self evident when viewing it on a nice quality computer monitor. It often looks better on a television monitor becuase the television is optmized and designed specifically for the format and specs of standard vhs. When viewing the burned DVD of the footage, it will usually look just as good on the television screen as the vhs tape did. The benefit of dropping into the NLE is that if you wanted to, you could do some image enhancing (faking it) in post by sharpening the image, enchancing the color, etc....

The one caveat has to do with vhs footage that was recorded in EP mode. I was recently handed a vhs tape of family footage. It was made about 15 years ago, and consisted of footage that was copied from another tape, and recorded in EP mode - they wanted to conserve tape space and were not aware that the EP signal is lower quality and that the quality goes down with each generation of copy. The one the gave me was pretty much the worst version they could have given me. They wanted it digitized.

I played it from an S-VHS deck through s-video and tried to digitize it first through my Formac, and then through two different camcorders. They all looked like crap. I played it straight to a television using composite out and it was at least watchable - even though it was not a very good quality, but the converted digital video was constantly warping the image and was basically unwatchable.

I never tried to go first to digital tape, but either way, it still wouldn't look very good....instead I compelled the family to hunt down and compile the original tapes as that would produce much better results.

From my limited knowledge of digital image encoding, the imaging sensors bascially rely on contrasting light and color elements (the lines between light and shadowed points) to decipher an image and transcode it...my best guess would be some version of the idea that the low quality 2nd or 3rd generation vhs imagery produced such soft, poorly exposed, and obscure imagery, that the imaging sensors simply couldn't figure out what to do with it.

Or it simply had something to do with a timecode thing....something I don't know much about.

I only shared that in case it helped feed your thoughts on your situation. Hopefully someone with more knoweledge in this area can shed some more light.
-Jon
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Old March 2nd, 2006, 06:58 AM   #5
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The best hope for VHS is to use a device with time base correction. I use both a Canopus ADVC 300 and/or a D8 deck or camera. Both also provide Dynamic Noise Reduction. There is another subtle difference, the D8 system uses a full frame TBC, the ADVC 300 uses a line based TBC, on some material one method works better than the other.
One advantage to the ADVC 300 is it comes with a utility that you can run on a PC or Mac at the same time that you're capturing to adjust the settings in the proc amp, you can tweak the amount of noise reductions, adjust gain etc.

Once you have the footage into your NLE it's a good idea to mask out the edges and the head switching at the bottom of the frame. If you're transferring to DVD all those moving pxiels are using up encoder bandwidth and VHS needs all the bandwith it can get.

For really bad VHS look around for some fancy noise reduction tools, I'm a Vegas user so I don't know much about what'll work with FCP but we've got some rather smart noise reduction tools that have been ported from Virtual Dub (free too) that can help quite a lot.
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Old March 3rd, 2006, 03:01 AM   #6
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VHS to Digital Video

All great information guys. Jon, you basically have my situation nailed. I actually have a Go Video combo deck...yes I'm now embarrassed to admit that. In any case, I was looking for a better combo deck to replace the one I have. I haven't gotten a real clean copy of any footage on VHS tape to date, so I'm not sure if it's just the quality of the tapes I've received or it's my procedure. I messed around with a VHS version of a fairly recent movie, "National Treasure." Once I got it into FCP the quality of the video didn't seem much different then the actual tape. I suppose all of this is a manifestation of my inability to please myself when it comes to this type of work. I've only had happy customers, but I dread the day a customer is unhappy with what I've given them.
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Old May 15th, 2006, 02:21 AM   #7
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I know this thread is a little old, but does an S-VHS deck with S-Video out help with a regular VHS tape? When using a camcorder in passthru mode from a VHS deck, I've noticed some flutter/rumble in the audio - is this generally due to a bad deck or are there too many factors to tell?
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Old May 16th, 2006, 05:48 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shawn Redford
I know this thread is a little old, but does an S-VHS deck with S-Video out help with a regular VHS tape? When using a camcorder in passthru mode from a VHS deck, I've noticed some flutter/rumble in the audio - is this generally due to a bad deck or are there too many factors to tell?

Could be too many factors to tell. The S-Video connection will not affect the quality of the audio transfer - it is just carrying the video signal, but is a cleaner signal than the standard composite connection generally available on most vcr's.

The audio flutter/rumble could be any number of things on either end...bit rate setting on your capture or even the quality of your connections...although more likely it could be the condition of the tape. If the tape has some wear....or perhaps it could be vcr tracking problems. Also, the analoge vhs tape may possibly have been recorded in EP mode. (Lots of people have done this in the past because "WOW you can get 6 or even 8 hours onto ONE TAPE!", but the quality sucks badly), and quality loss in EP mode is quite evident in the audio.

Even something as simple as spooling could be part of the problem. The tape my be sitting slightly loose on the spool, and should be tightened to make sure it is properly lined up and set well in the spool. Try FFing to the end and REW back to the beginning once, and then remove the tape and finger crank the bottom spool anchor once or twice, then reload the tape and see it that helps.

That's about all I can think of for now. Good luck with it.
-Jon
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