Summer project: VHS transfer

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Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Sun May 04, 2014 6:49 am

This summer I'd like to finally transfer my old VHS tapes to digital. Has anyone here done this and can recommend a VHS player that has decent quality? I prefer picking up something new, maybe for a couple hundred dollars. Such a device won't have all the old pro features, but there's got to be something that can play old tapes with relative ease, right?
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Sun May 04, 2014 7:53 am

I have a still-working JVC HR-S7500U VCR, so I'd probably go from that to a tuner/digitizer card in my living room PC if I were going to undertake that task. However, there are cheap-and-cheerful stand-alone devices available for this purpose.
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Sun May 04, 2014 8:33 am

I don't have anything to add, but I'd be interested to know what you find. I have a handful of tapes that I'd like to digitize as well, and haven't really looked into the hardware aspect of it.
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Sun May 04, 2014 8:53 am

From what I understand there's high end VCRs like what JAE has, and then there's everything else. The high end stuff has all of the features necessary to safely, and with good quality, play back all your VHS tapes. There are a few drawbacks, though:

1. You have to find them used, and in decent shape. Typically, higher end VCRs were used by pros and might be overused and worn out, so they're not all that great.

2. They're much more expensive than lower end stuff, and the price may not be worth it for the limited run of tapes you'll throw at it because, let's face it, once you watch and transfer your current VHS tapes, you'll likely never use the unit again.

3. There's a learning curve, apparently, with all of the features, dials, etc. that the higher end tape decks have, and you have to learn how to get the most out of the unit or else it'll eat your tapes.


...thus my stated preference for a decent new unit, if one exists. I suppose I have my work cut out for me, given that VHS is a dead format and there's basically nothing beyond anecdotal evidence, even on AVS forums.
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Sun May 04, 2014 10:29 am

I helped my dad do this a couple of years ago with a basic Hauppauge card and an S-VHS cable.
We used an old Sony VRC that probably only cost £250 in the first place and was a decade old.

IMO, the image quality varied on the condition of the tape far more than the condition of the VCR, and poor tapes could be cleaned up a bit in software once you had a rip in digital format.
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Sun May 04, 2014 11:18 am

I have a Hauppauge 2250 sitting in the closet, and provided I can find the A/V dongle, that should hopefully do a decent job with the capture. As for the VHS player, I'm hesitant to make any sort of investment, as I've only got about 6-8 tapes, and they're probably somewhat lousy quality/degraded to begin with. I'm thinking a 4-head model with S-Video out should probably do the trick. I'm going to start asking around to see what family members might still have.
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Sun May 04, 2014 1:07 pm

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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Sun May 04, 2014 2:01 pm

There's probably a TV / appliance repair shop somewhere near you run by an owner-operator who himself dates back to the days of CRTs and VHS (and Beta). Odds are he has more equipment that can meet your needs than he knows what to do with, and would be happy to sell it to you for a relative pittance.
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Sun May 04, 2014 2:20 pm

I'm wondering if the cheaper, "fuzzier" VCRs might be a better option for ancient, rotting VHS tape.

If you get a vinyl record, the super-precise and mega-expensive decks pick up every single pop, scratch and mark on the disc. A cheap store-brand "HiFi" with an integrated deck on top used to sound much better than my dad's fancy player. Maybe the blunt stylus and heavy plastic head wasn't so easily jogged by dirt and scratches.

Perhaps super-sensitive, 6-head VCR's will do the same thing and pick up all the problems with old tape. All I can tell you is that the cheap JVC I had sitting under my Sega Genesis was better for rental movies than the fancy Sony downstairs, or the original (high-end) Toshiba that was our first ever VCR.
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Tue May 06, 2014 5:33 pm

this is just completely unrelated and I apologize if people find this needlessly frivolous, but every time that VHS mentioned I always hear that guy going "...on VEE HAICH ESS".

nearly always makes me think of that
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Sat Oct 03, 2015 3:22 pm

Sorry for the thread necro, but looks like there is not much discussion on any recommended actual capture device. There are lots of cheapo OEM (probably the same factory) devices like this:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 1HE0YP1219

Due to the not-so-good VHS sources that I may have, would these be sufficient? Or do I need a real internal capture card? Any recommendation and good/bad/horror experiences with your capture devices? From a budget perspective, I do feel that the ~$100 capture cards are too much, unless I really want to get into doing OTA TV watching as well after my conversion project is finished.
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Mon Oct 05, 2015 11:25 am

^^ How many tapes are you dealing with? I ended up just taking mine into a place to have the transfers done. My experience with these sorts of things is that it often isn't worth the time investment unless there's a significant cost savings.
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Mon Oct 05, 2015 11:33 am

I did the same thing this summer. I went with this: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0029U2YSA

The software is what makes the product worth it. Yes, you can use some crappy capture card and try and get VLC or something to record from that. But this card with the Elgato software was dead simple to use, lets you trim and set a timer for everything, and you can use your computer in the background. It transcodes it straight to H264/MPEG4, which is crazy efficient. It's about 1GB per hour of video at greater-than-VHS resolution, and I can't tell the difference between the VHS and captured video.

I sound like a corporate shill but it really took the pain out of digitizing VHS tapes for me. Setting up a tape and then going to get something to eat or play a game while it records and automatically stops in the background is great. And the fact that it's already H.264 means I didn't have to play any transcoding games to save disk space. It's also far cheaper than the "professional" cards that blow past $200.
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Mon Oct 05, 2015 12:39 pm

As for the VCR, I'd recommend finding a SuperVHS player if possible. They tend to have S-Video output for higher quality capture. Though finding one nowadays is going to be difficult.

As for capturing equipment, I'm a fan of the Twin Pact 100 as it will output a DV stream over Firewire. This enables applications like Sony Vegas or other editing software to directly import from the TwinPact 100 (actual video playback control is done via the tape deck). The other thing that makes this nice is that it can also capture a VGA signal and convert it to DV or upconvert composite/S-Video to VGA for display. This little device has been a bit of a life saver in a few scenarios.

The TwinPact 100 is the older model but there is the ADVC 110 which should offer similar quality for S-Video and composite capture but I have no first hand experience.
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Mon Oct 05, 2015 3:51 pm

I did something similar, though I had to pull it off a HI8 tape. This meant loading it in to the camcorder and pulling it off that way.

I followed a similar route as Duct Tape Dude but I used one of these: http://www.amazon.com/Diamond-VC500-Cam ... 0ZVY3QKRXA

It was cheaper, that's the only reason I went with it and it did the job great. I liked the hardware button as using a camcorder meant I had lots of fragmented clips as people would randomly start recording on the tape. I could just press the button when I wanted to record something and press it again to stop, then trim off anything I needed when I combined all the recordings.
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Mon Oct 05, 2015 4:06 pm

While it's true you can get some higher-end units that have s-video, unless your source tapes are super VHS you will see zero difference. This is because a regular old VHS camcorder / VCR would have recorded the signal to the tape as composite. Outputting from a VCR with s-video at this point will unfortunately do nothing to improve the picture, as the information on the tape is already recorded in the composite format. Now, getting a semi-decent quality composite cable (not monster) might make a tiny bit of difference since it's an analog format, but that's really the best you can hope for.
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Mon Oct 05, 2015 9:58 pm

Been dabbling in this for a few years myself. From what I've discovered, there is ABSOLUTELY a difference between cheaply made VCR's and good ones. The picture you see playing back from one VCR to the next can vary DRAMATICALLY on a per tape basis.

If you get a VCR with TBC, you'll likely see a measurable difference in at least some of your tapes' playback. Having said that, all that matters is what you're satisfied with. If you're getting decent playback, with few flickers, few chromas, and a relativley clean and clear picture with the $5 VCR from the garage sale, then by all means - that's what I'd probably use. But if you have a lot of old tapes, you may find they are "choosey" as to which VCR they play best in - and after all, what you see is what you get.

This is a very good forum for VHS/VCR info. I would recommend having a look around. I'll link to a somewhat relevant post over there...
http://forum.videohelp.com/threads/3052 ... 00-SR-V10U

Also, this is the capture device I use (these are all about the same, all that matters to me is capturing an uncompressed stream; included software is the biggest difference in these devices):
http://www.amazon.com/Diamond-VC500-Cam ... B000VM60I8

The software that's included for the one I use is 'meh' - serviceable, but certainly not ideal.

I pair it with this Freeware (for personal use) capture software:
http://www.nchsoftware.com/capture/

Also, depending on how picky you are, you may want to have a lot of HDD space available. Capturing uncompressed streams allows for a lot more freedom, and better end results if you have a decent PC to do just a little bit of editing with. Compressed transfers can look absolutely dreadful depending on the compression being used (I have found this to be especially true of most VHS to DVD stand alones). But again, if you're happy with what you see, then who cares?

Hope that helps, and good luck. It's fun to see the old VHS tapes come back to life. And although it's quite tedious, it's also a bit of a kick making adjustments to all of these old analog systems, tweaking them to get that perfect capture.
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Tue Oct 06, 2015 12:08 am

Of course you should want to acquire the best capture, but having just recently looked back at my VHS recordings and transfers, I can't see putting in anything more than a modest investment of time and/or money. There's only so much you can do with a poor-to-fair quality medium, and the years have really not been kind to VHS (figuratively and physically [tape degradation]).
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Tue Oct 06, 2015 2:24 am

Question:

If a DVD/VHS conversion setup costs approximately 200 bucks, and DVDs are approximately 1.00 per disk, how many VHSs must you copy in order to make it cheaper than buying new DVDs on amazon for 2.99 apiece?

Answer: 100. Careful though, all the VHS tapes you'll actually want to copy will be copy protected.
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Tue Oct 06, 2015 2:59 am

VincentHanna wrote:Question:

If a DVD/VHS conversion setup costs approximately 200 bucks, and DVDs are approximately 1.00 per disk, how many VHSs must you copy in order to make it cheaper than buying new DVDs on amazon for 2.99 apiece?

Answer: 100. Careful though, all the VHS tapes you'll actually want to copy will be copy protected.

DVD's are less than 50 cents in India. (INR 20 or 30).
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Tue Oct 06, 2015 6:41 am

The Egg wrote:Of course you should want to acquire the best capture, but having just recently looked back at my VHS recordings and transfers, I can't see putting in anything more than a modest investment of time and/or money. There's only so much you can do with a poor-to-fair quality medium, and the years have really not been kind to VHS (figuratively and physically [tape degradation]).


I did this two years ago using VHS tapes that I had made my self using suitcase size VHS camera, you know, the kind you balanced on your shoulder. :D I decided at that time to archive the old tapes, but could not play them back through the S-video connection on the camera due to a dead battery. I decided to get a Samsung-DVD-VR357-Tunerless-Recorder-Combo and was able to make DVD back ups, which I then was able to again back up to my computer. The tapes were actually in very good condition and held up very well. I did some video editing using Sony Vegas platinum, which turned out OK. Of course, I did not have to deal with copy protection on my tapes, and have not tried any commercial tapes, as those were given away many years ago. As others have mentioned, why not obtain newer source material rather than try to convert, unless it is just not available. I doubt you would save any money in the long run, and if your time is of any value you will come out way behind. You might try putting the tapes up for auction on Ebay as there is probably someone out there looking for what you have.

Two cents time: Living in a world of 1080p, getting ready to transition to 4K, the videos I made and then copied were almost unwatchable when scaled up on a large TV, a 47" 1080p Panasonic LCD. I tried every combination of upscaling possible, i.e., native source and software upscaling in Vegas as well as any number of video players, VLC, GOM, etc., and also using the TV upscaler playing the disks through the blu-ray player. The hardware used to edit was an i7 3770 with a Radeon 7850. They videos actually looked better not scaled at all, in a small window on the computer screen. At least then I could use my CNS upscaler (eyes and brain), and the magic of moving pictures to give the illusion of detail. :D
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Re: Summer project: VHS transfer

Postposted on Tue Oct 06, 2015 8:42 am

VincentHanna wrote:If a DVD/VHS conversion setup costs approximately 200 bucks, and DVDs are approximately 1.00 per disk, how many VHSs must you copy in order to make it cheaper than buying new DVDs on amazon for 2.99 apiece?

Answer: 100. Careful though, all the VHS tapes you'll actually want to copy will be copy protected.

Aside from very poor areas of the old Soviet bloc in eastern europe, I don't think anyone is copying VHS tapes as a means of piracy in 2015.
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