VHS to digital capture / conversion - help refine my transfer workflow?

MiketheMechanic

Standard Member
Hi all. With some extra time at home due to COVID, I'm tackling a project that has been outstanding for 15 years.

I have over 50 VHS tapes to transfer to digital before the tapes are lost to time.

The recordings are 99% PAL and a mixture of camcorder home movies on VHS-C and recordings on VHS from TV from the late 80s and early 90s.



I want to transfer them to digital and keep the highest possible quality.

I'm not bothered about burning each tape to DVD or Blu-Ray, I just want to save in a solid reliable video format on a Hard Drive.

Most likely these will be shared YouTube, or viewed on an computer or on TV via a memory stick at a later stage.

For really special home movies, I may do some editing in the future. So I want a solid digital capture to work with.


I attempted to start this project around 3 years ago and experimented with the following setups.


1. A good quality Panasonic 4-head VCR. Does a reasonably good job playing the tapes cleanly when viewed on a monitor.

I am taking the output from this VCR via a S-video cable and red and white RCA phono for audio to the next stage.



2a. Capture Device: A TOTMC USB 2.0 Video capture device dongle. This is an EasyCAP type device - cheap and cheerful.

It is running ArcSoft ShowBiz 3.5.15 software on Win 10 on my PC.

Pros:

You can get up and running quickly. Press play on the VCR, and hit Capture on the ArcSoftware, then when finished, publish to MPEG2 format video.

Cons:

1. Quality isn't great - seems to be a lot of loss and noise in the conversion, even applying the various filters.

2. The software is ancient and a bit clunky. Is there a better software package that works with these EasyCAP type of dongles?

3. MPEG2 isn't ideal - would prefer AVI or uncompressed video format options.


I also tried a different capture method.

2b: Capture Device: A Sony RDR-HX525 DVD Recorder with HDD.

I feed the output of the VCR into the recorder and record to the HDD.

Then burn from the HDD to a DVD-R to get a digital video file.

Pros:

Better quality than the EasyCAP method - still hope there's a better quality method though.

Cons:

1. Slow and time consuming. Essentially an extra step in the process in burning and finalizing the DVD-R from the internal HDD.

Then ripping the digital .vob file from the DVD back to the PC.

I tried to extract the files directly from the HDD on the recorder by removing it from the recorder, but the HDD was not in a format I could read on a PC.


Are there better methods of capture?

I have read about people using Mini DV Camcorders, with AV in passing through to Firewire and on to a PC.

Is this a better method? If so, what models of Mini DV Camcorders have a good ADC converter? And what software is needed on the PC?


Are other DVD Recorders better at the ADC conversion and more user friendly than the Sony unit I have?


I have also read about Canopus ADVC units? Are they recommended - if so, which one?


Finally, I could buy a Video Capture Card for my PC - is this a better method - if so, which one?



Thanks in advance - always brilliant advice on AVF,

Mike
 

AJohnston

Active Member
Hi all. With some extra time at home due to COVID, I'm tackling a project that has been outstanding for 15 years.

I have over 50 VHS tapes to transfer to digital before the tapes are lost to time.

The recordings are 99% PAL and a mixture of camcorder home movies on VHS-C and recordings on VHS from TV from the late 80s and early 90s.



I want to transfer them to digital and keep the highest possible quality.

I'm not bothered about burning each tape to DVD or Blu-Ray, I just want to save in a solid reliable video format on a Hard Drive.

Most likely these will be shared YouTube, or viewed on an computer or on TV via a memory stick at a later stage.

For really special home movies, I may do some editing in the future. So I want a solid digital capture to work with.


I attempted to start this project around 3 years ago and experimented with the following setups.


1. A good quality Panasonic 4-head VCR. Does a reasonably good job playing the tapes cleanly when viewed on a monitor.

I am taking the output from this VCR via a S-video cable and red and white RCA phono for audio to the next stage.



2a. Capture Device: A TOTMC USB 2.0 Video capture device dongle. This is an EasyCAP type device - cheap and cheerful.

It is running ArcSoft ShowBiz 3.5.15 software on Win 10 on my PC.

Pros:

You can get up and running quickly. Press play on the VCR, and hit Capture on the ArcSoftware, then when finished, publish to MPEG2 format video.

Cons:

1. Quality isn't great - seems to be a lot of loss and noise in the conversion, even applying the various filters.

2. The software is ancient and a bit clunky. Is there a better software package that works with these EasyCAP type of dongles?

3. MPEG2 isn't ideal - would prefer AVI or uncompressed video format options.


I also tried a different capture method.

2b: Capture Device: A Sony RDR-HX525 DVD Recorder with HDD.

I feed the output of the VCR into the recorder and record to the HDD.

Then burn from the HDD to a DVD-R to get a digital video file.

Pros:

Better quality than the EasyCAP method - still hope there's a better quality method though.

Cons:

1. Slow and time consuming. Essentially an extra step in the process in burning and finalizing the DVD-R from the internal HDD.

Then ripping the digital .vob file from the DVD back to the PC.

I tried to extract the files directly from the HDD on the recorder by removing it from the recorder, but the HDD was not in a format I could read on a PC.


Are there better methods of capture?

I have read about people using Mini DV Camcorders, with AV in passing through to Firewire and on to a PC.

Is this a better method? If so, what models of Mini DV Camcorders have a good ADC converter? And what software is needed on the PC?


Are other DVD Recorders better at the ADC conversion and more user friendly than the Sony unit I have?


I have also read about Canopus ADVC units? Are they recommended - if so, which one?


Finally, I could buy a Video Capture Card for my PC - is this a better method - if so, which one?



Thanks in advance - always brilliant advice on AVF,

Mike
I did this about 10 years ago. I used (and I think it's still available) a device from Pinnacle called Dazzle but I also used a time base corrector as some of my old VHS tapes wouldn't play properly. If I recall correctly VHS data is recorded helicaly with a timing track to synchronise the data which degrades over time.
 

jaffamuffin

Standard Member
Hi Mike

did you get anywhere ? I'm at the same stage having put this off for many years. I tried a panasonic SVHS deck many years ago with a hauppage PVR card but never got great results.

However I think I might be at an advantage possibly as I'm now using a panasonic ez47V which is a vhs/dvd combo deck i bought a while back for aobut £50 second hand. I used this previously via VHS copied to DVD and then ripped the disc to PC but it was such pain and the tapes were longer than the DVD could hold I only ever did a few clips.

B ut it has direct HDMI out. So now i'm using one these new HDMI to USB Adaptors (about £10 on amazon) and am getting pretty decent results so far. I'm still in testing stage, but using either quicktime on mac, or OBS seems to get decent results that I can then edit in final cut.

I do believe they made a unit with HDD rather than DVD but i never found one. I reckon that would be pretty easy - one button and then copy over to PC.

As for bulk video conversion bigasoft total video convertor 6 works pretty well on my PC to take any video file and convert, it does it to prores for editing on my mac and it uses all the power of my multi core machine.

I know a TBC and extra hardware will give better results no doubt but the results are decent enough
 

a.wiseman

Standard Member
I have a similar set-up : a Panasonic VHS connected to a Panasonic DVD/HDD recorder. They are connected via SCART and I made sure to use a decent SCART cable and also to ensure the playback and recording is using RGB on the SCART rather than composite.

I then transfer the recordings from the DVD/HDD recorder via DVD-RAM to my Windows PC. I'm now using Sony Vegas to trim the recordings ready for upload to YouTube.
 

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