Analog to Digital conversion

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CultTVman
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Analog to Digital conversion

Post by CultTVman »

Hey folks, looking for recommendations for analog to digital video conversion. I've tried several and have not been satisfied. Any suggestions? Looking to digitize old VHS tapes.

Thx
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joguema
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Re: Analog to Digital conversion

Post by joguema »

A few years ago I found the following tutorial on another board and was able to transfer a lot of my old VHS-tapes to my PC. For recording I used 'Open Broadcaster Software' instead of VLC or Windows Movie Maker:



YYY is right. This is the key right here, and I learned this the hard way. Like ABC said at the top of this thread, what you really want to do is to import your VHS video in a "raw" format. That is, an uncompressed format. That is, lossless.

All external devices I have seen are USB devices, almost all of them USB 2.0. And USB 2.0 is not fast enough to deliver lossless video. Instead, they deliver compressed video, that is, lossy. And because this compression is done "on the fly", it can/does lead to dropped frames, pixelation, and sync issues.

Most USB devices don't come right out and say that the video file they create is lossy. Instead, it will say something like "Uses the H.264 video format" or "creates a DVD-ready mpg file" both of which are lossy. That means, even before you've touched the file that's been created on your desktop, there's already data loss. And I know how much we hate that kind of thing :)

Firewire doesn't have the same problem as USB because firewire's transfer rate is much faster than USB 2.0. Firewire was essentially designed to transfer video. So, at least on an iMac, once you plug a device into your Firewire input, the device basically takes over your computer's resources while you're importing video. Even if you wanted to, your computer's not going to let you do much else while the video is being imported.

Unfortunately, firewire is not standard on Windows computers (and I'm a loyal Windows user, so this sucked for me). So, if you want to use Windows, you'll need to install an internal firewire card on your desktop, like this. If all you have is a Windows laptop, you're out of luck.

It's easier to use a desktop Mac, though, instead of Windows because a firewire input comes standard on all desktop iMacs. Not on Mac laptops, only on desktops. (Recently, firewire has been replaced by its successor "thunderbolt" but the two are compatible. You just need a firewire-to-thunderbolt cord.)

Now, once you have a firewire connection on your computer, you need a way to connect it to a VHS player. For me, the cheapest way I found to do this was to buy a used Sony Mini DV Handycam. They don't make them anymore, but you can find them all over eBay for under $100. All Sony Mini DV Handycams have an RCA input, like you see on the back of a VCR, like these. And the Sony Mini DV Handycam also has a firewire output.

So, you connect the VHS player to the Sony Handycam using an RCA cable. You then connect the Handycam to your computer using a firewire cable. Both cables should already come with the Handycam, if the used one you're buying has all the original accessories.

You will also need to change one single setting on the screen of the Handycam. On some models, this requires a working remote control. On others, the Handycam has a touchscreen so you don't need the remote. There's instructions on the internet on how to change the setting, but it says something like "A/V-->DV Output" like seen in this video.

Now that you have everything connected and the "A/V-->DV Output" setting activated, on your computer, open up iMovie if you're using a Mac. On Windows, open up VLC or perhaps Windows Movie Maker.

Press "Play" on your VHS player. You'll see the video playing in iMovie. There will be a big "Record" button in iMovie. Press "Record" and it will start recording the video from your VHS player, compression-free. Completely lossless. (If using VLC or Windows Movie Maker, the button to record isn't so obvious. I didn't use those, so if you do, you'll want to look up instructions on how to use those apps to import video.)

Since the new file being created is lossless video, the file will be big. The transfer rate to deliver lossless video is at least 50MB/sec, so an hour-long video is going to come out as a 10GB file. But it will look exactly as it does on your VHS player. No pixelation, no sync issues, no dropped frames.

Now that you have your lossless video on your desktop, it's suggested you save it as-is somewhere for posterity. For portability, you can then use a free app like Handbrake to compress the video (not on the fly, so the results will be much better) to make a copy of your original file as large or as small as you want.

That's what I learned when I converted all my home videos last year, after buying a USB device that was junk. I didn't use a TBC because these tapes weren't in bad shape at all, though that certainly would have given better results. I think the main issue, though, is to import your video losslessly, and the easiest way to do that in this day and age is using firewire.

There are other products out there that might work. There are a couple external USB 3.0 devices that promise to deliver lossless video, but they all have bad reviews for the exact same reason as earlier USB devices did--dropped frames, pixelation, sync issues.

There are also video capture cards that take an analog input (like RCA cables) directly. However, the ones that I have seen only import the video, which means you have to plug the audio into your sound card, so the audio and video get imported as two separate files. Which means it's going to take more work than it would to just use firewire.

And again, I say this all as a loyal Windows user. I can't vouch for how well this method works on Windows with an interal firewire card, since I didn't go that route. I had access to an old iMac, so I used it. And I can say that it works perfectly on an iMac desktop. So if you have access to an iMac desktop, I highly recommend using the above method. Because once you're done with the Sony Handycam, you can then re-sell it on eBay. I sold mine at about a $15 loss, but hey. I got all of my old family home movies into digital format, all lossless, all saved for posterity, for $15. Way cheaper than taking them into Costco, with more control, too.

One other thing: Sony still makes Handycams, but they are no longer Mini DV. Now, they save video onto an SD Card. But you need the Mini DV version of the Handycam, because those are the only ones that have RCA inputs, which allow you to connect it to a VCR. Newer Handycams do not have RCA inputs, so are useless to do this. Most other Mini DV camcorders also have RCA inputs, but not all of them. That's why I recommend Handycams because they're well known and it's easy to find instructions on the internet to use the above method. That said, if you already have an old Mini DV camera in your closet, I'd start by seeing if that one will work for you.

And just to be clear: Don't even bother with any USB devices to do this. It will be junk and you will be disappointed, if you care about the video quality at all.

I am sure there are other methods to deliver lossless video to your desktop that work just as well. I thought I'd write this up in case anybody here has interest in doing it. If anybody here does try this method and has questions, feel free to drop me a line and I'll try my best to help.

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I also forgot to mention.....the results of your efforts is also dependant on the software you use to process the video.

There is a huge difference in quality between using something cheap or "built in" like Microsoft Movie Maker as compared to Adobe Premiere or other such programs.

Usually "built in" programs are designed for novice users to create a dvd from their home video captures from a cell phone or laying out a spread of pictures and adding music.

The more robust the software is, the more options you have for capturing and processing video. I know from experience that Adobe Premiere can process video in a number of different ways and formats....everything from lossless to lossy, from PAL to NTSC, from 4:3 to 16:9......and also has a lot of really nice tools for fixing any issues you may run into after the transfer has been made "post production" type tools.

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brunoigalves
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Re: Analog to Digital conversion

Post by brunoigalves »

I recommend that you watch this video:

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James_Creek
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Re: Analog to Digital conversion

Post by James_Creek »

or you could try this...

https://vidbox.company/
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maccafan1
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Re: Analog to Digital conversion

Post by maccafan1 »

Guess am quite lucky as had a VHS/DVD machine since mid 80s and just before Covid started to copy the VHS to DVD and did improve the footage slightly and was so easy too
CultTVman
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Re: Analog to Digital conversion

Post by CultTVman »

Thanks for all the feedback. The video was very helpful. Has anyone used that Vidbox product?

I've had DVD recorders, but they are not as reliable as they once were. And getting them repaired has not been successful.

Much appreciated!
harrylime
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Re: Analog to Digital conversion

Post by harrylime »

And the big downside of DVD recording is that you will be using a very outdated compression format (MPEG-2) for the digital master.
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Lord Reith
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Re: Analog to Digital conversion

Post by Lord Reith »

Don't buy any usb dongles they are totally crap. Dropped frames, framerate issues, stuttering, the lot.

Buy a game capture device. They capture video in HD with no dropped frames or loss of quality. The only issue is that they ususally only accept a HDMI input so you will also need something else to convert the vcr's rca outputs to HDMI.

Or grab an old dvd recorder for peanuts and use rewritable discs and just rip each one to your hard drive.
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chrisp
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Re: Analog to Digital conversion

Post by chrisp »

I connect my VHS player to a Pioneer DVD recorder. The Pioneer was a top quality machine back in the 80. I think it must have some time code capability because I don't get dropped frames. It has some editing facilities so you can get rid of adverts if you want to. I then use it to output to a DVD which I can then convert to mkv or MP4 and add to a hard disk. The Pioneer I use is a DVR720H. I was heartbroken when it broke down last year but I was able to buy another quite cheaply on Ebay.
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Re: Analog to Digital conversion

Post by maccafan1 »

Re VHS to DVD, I also have a Sony VHS linked up to a Sony HD/DVD Recorder that have had for a good few years and always does a good job, I picked up lots of VHS from a friend who I originally met at Liverpool
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