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Old July 22nd, 2009, 08:44 PM   #1
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Old VHS/Hi8/DV to DVD process help using Intensity/CineForm

Hi all,

I recently picked up the Black Magic Design Intensity card with intentions of using it's analog ports to capture some old VHS/Hi8/DV tapes I still have, to convert them to DVD.

I have the CineForm codec, and the one that comes with the card. I am attempting to do/learn two things. The first is to figure out how to "clean up" the quality of the tapes. I see old DVDs, even movies before DVD that when they are put on bluray look stunning. What are some of the steps used to do something like this? I'd like to upscale them to 720x480 or even HD resolution, but doing so often makes them somewhat blurry/grainy.. loss of clarity. Is there some way using my Adobe suite (After Effect primarily) to upscale them and keep them looking clean/clear in the process?

The second thing is to figure out exactly how to turn 2 hours of video into 2 hours of DVD output. Using the HDLink program with CineForm, there appears to be the ability to convert the incoming capture directly to .mk2 files, yet, when I do this, all I see is AVI files that are huge in size. I've only recorded a few minutes to test it, and they are many GBs in size, obviously way too big for DVD use. I am confused because I select the option to convert directly to DVD and the quality options are not very helpful, there is low, medium, high, film scan, and film scan 2. I'd like to know how to set it to fit 2 hours of capture into 2 hours of DVD and so forth.

As a side note, for anyone considering the Intensity card for analog capture of VCRs, beware that it wont work out of the box. A "bug" has been reported over a year ago and yet they never resolved it. The problem is, somehow the analog output of the composite video from a VCR results in skipped audio/video frames when capturing using the single Y (green) cable on the Intensity break-out cable set. The solution supposedly is to spend about $40 or so buying a composite RCA to s-Video converter, then a s-video to Y/C 2 RCA plugs that use two of the three component cables on the break-out cable set. There is info online about it, but sadly their PDF document explains none of this to you. Another caveat to beware of.. that again their manual does not explain, is that by default the card records the HDMI input. You have to switch it using their software to allow analog record. However, the program is NOT installed on the Windows Program folders with their media capture program. It's found in the Control Panel. If their manual had included this it would have saved me some time looking it up and almost returning the card thinking it was bad. For OSX it is apparently in the Preferences menu.

Anyway, any help on how to clean up old video/audio to dvd or bluray like qualities, and how to best handle the larger file sets of CineForm and/or the Intensity provided codecs into DVD sized video/audio, would be greatly appreciated.
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Old July 23rd, 2009, 07:08 AM   #2
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I can't help with you specific questions, but I'm curious as to why you are going this route. Do you want to edit these old tapes, or just burn them to DVD?

If just burning to DVD, have you considered buying a DVD Recorder? That's what I use for old Hi 8 and VHS, and I've been really pleased with the results. I have a very old Sony DVD recorder (one of their first models.... man that was expensive, but they're cheap now) and I connect the Hi 8 camera with an s-video cable. There are menus on the recorder for noise reduction and image settings. A little tweaking of these and the results look quite nice.

For archival storage, I just rip the DVD to a .cdr file on my hard drive using Apple Disk Utility.
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Old July 23rd, 2009, 09:29 AM   #3
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Well, you make a good point, but I do want to edit the clarity and color of the older stuff. I am really curious what sort of specs tape records by.. such as 4:2:2 color or not, uncompressed (I assume), actual resolution, and so on. I'd love to know that for VHS, Hi8 and DV tapes. My DV tapes were from an old JVC camera before.

Ideally I could just burn it right to dvd using a vhs/dvd combo system.. they are pretty much the only VCRs you can buy these days. That said, I want to go into a "small" business of "odd jobs", one of which is offering to transfer VHS/Hi8 tapes to DVD for those people that have old home videos and don't have a means to do the transfer. Not really sure what I could charge per 2/4/6 hour VHS tape, or 1 to 2 hour hi8/dv tape, but I was thinking if it's a quick process (that is, put tape in, hit play, capture on computer, run through some simplified template that cleans audio/video up, then redner to DVD and burn), I'd charge about $20 per 2 hour tape/dvd. However, at some point, it is cheaper for people to just buy a vhs/dvd combo system and do it themselves if they plan to just put it on dvd. This is why I was asking about color correction and upscaling. I need that "edge" to sell this idea a bit more.. older folks that don't know much about how all this stuff works and too much hassle to go buy the gear themselves may pay the money to put their old videos to dvd. I need a reason for them to spend the money besides just the transfer process. I figured if I could offer a cleanup of audio/video, that would be more professional and might be more inclined to pay for the process.

Right now I have an old crappy VCR. I'd probably need to get a good one, assuming any exist out there any more, something that can last thru hundreds of tapes and put out a good solid signal. I don't know if a non-SVHS recorded tape.. regular VHS can be played thru the s-video out of an s-video VCR or not, I thought it could not tho. I am not sure if they put the circuitry inside to convert analog video recorded via the 75ohm input OR the video composite input can be played out of the s-video on decks with s-video. I bought the converts for the intensity to convert composite video to s-video tho, so that my intensity card can capture it. I should know in a couple days if that works or not.

So that was my reason for doing this.. not just for myself which I DO want to possibly edit some of the video eventually (one day my kids will get married and I'll want to make a nice growing up video of them to show for fun).

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Old July 23rd, 2009, 10:17 AM   #4
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There's no point in capturing DV via component/BMI. You are degrading the image. Capture the DV directly and work with that.
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Old July 23rd, 2009, 02:07 PM   #5
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Yes..sorry.. didn't mean DV in that case.. I have a DV firewire connection so yah, I would just copy it real-time from my old camera on over.
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Old July 23rd, 2009, 08:55 PM   #6
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The absolute most important link in your chain is not the filetype/codec...It's the player quality.
I've got a Panasonic 1980P SVHS..It makes all the difference in the world. I don't bother using my Sima Color Corrector anymore...The digitizing process is secondary. The Cineform route is a bit overkill for your purposes, but if you're looking for theoretical advantages for digitizing footage, then i guess uncompressed captures would be the best bet..I simply digitize with a DV converter (you can use a DV camera that has digital passthrough). As far as cleaning up footage goes, you can search around on some third party filters for your favourite NLE...

But don't confuse DVD playback time with file capture quality..Encoding to DVD is strictly data related..
Max out the bitrate, and don't worry about burning extra disks..You should get between 1-1.5 hours on a DVD at maximum bitrate.

I'm not sure about linking to other websites, but definately have a look at the importance of a good VCR for playback..
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Old July 23rd, 2009, 10:02 PM   #7
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I'm still using a JVC HR-S9800U with a built-in TBC. Great quality, reminds me of our old Panasonic AG-1960's.

I don't know if a non-SVHS recorded tape.. regular VHS can be played thru the s-video out of an s-video VCR or not
Yes it can.

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Old July 24th, 2009, 12:44 AM   #8
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I understand there are a few softwares which can enhance VHS but not much. - A silk purse out of a sows ear sort of dilemma.

I have been able to slightly improve the look in cineform using the 32bit colour correction and levels tools and the RGB parade display choice in Premiere Pro 2.0.

If you have a noisy grainy image you may be able to get away with making three layers, each of about 30% transparency and making layer 2 one frame delayed from layer 1 and layer 3 one frame delayed from layer 2.

You may find you have to bump up the contast in each layer to stop it from looking a bit washed out and you will get a trailing effect with motion and camera moves. You can select out frame blend or leave it in, does not seem to make much difference to me.

To cause an "apparent" resolution improvement by smoke and mirrors, scale the image smaller in the 1920 x 1080 frame, I do it dirty by capturing in MiniDV and importing the image into a 1920 x 1080 project without scaling to frame size.

You may find you want to mask off the bottom few image lines as they are usually skewed or damaged in some way.

There are probably better ways of doing this so please take heed of the better advice already published above and which comes along later.
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Old July 24th, 2009, 02:03 AM   #9
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Kevin remember the old movies you mention that are now on blu ray and have stunning pq were filmed with 35mm film cameras so the quality is there to start with unlike vhs,the old films have enough resolution to be put on the next higher definition formats to come after blu ray.
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Old July 24th, 2009, 09:20 AM   #10
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Yah, I did forget that 35 film is like what, almost 4K rez? So that is true. Now.. can I get my VHS tapes to come out that good? :D
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Old February 7th, 2010, 02:11 PM   #11
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What did you finally end up doing? Do you have an reference as a primer for what you are doing?
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Old February 8th, 2010, 09:54 AM   #12
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Not quite relevent to the last question but hopefully addressing in that direction.

Here is a link to an old homevideo clip I recovered orignally from 1/2" EIAJ to VHS, then more recently off the VHS tape via a MINIDV capture from a JVC deck similar to the one Chris Hurd mentions. The TBC facility in the JVC went a long way in re-stabilising the damaged recording.

It can't do the impossible but some of the last generation of VHS machines were quite good with older damaged recordings.

YouTube - In Memorium

Mostly for convenience I took it into a cineform project and gave it some contrast. The original was very grey. To help with video noise, I did the layers thing.
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