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Spencer For Hire5,617 posts since 13 Jan 2003
Yorkshire Look North (Yorkshire)
Hi folks,

Looking for a bit of TV Forum wisdom here. I've got a big box of VHS tapes containing lots of geeky pres stuff from years gone by that I'm looking to digitise.

I bought a cheap, basic USB capture device a while back, and the results were pretty poor. So I'm wondering if anyone's got any recommendations as to what's best to spend my money on for the best quality results. In particular I want to make sure I'm capturing at 50fps.

To complicate matters, I'd prefer to do this using my MacBook... so an external device would be preferable. If this is a non-starter, I do have a PC, but I'm not hugely confident in opening up computers and fiddling about inside, plus it's a bit old too.

Also, is there any particularly good capture software I should be looking at?

Any help is gratefully received!
Robust amateurism
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Neil Jones4,587 posts since 23 Dec 2001
Central (West) Midlands Today
How poor is "poor" with your USB device?

Remember VHS will often look like a wet weekend compared to modern day digital quality and there isn't always a lot you can do about this as you're often dependent on the quality of your video player and that of the tapes. I'm assuming you're using either S-Video or RF? S-Video should wipe the floor and then some more with RF picture quality wise.

If you're able to get access to one of those combi VHS/DVD recorders that you can record to disk directly as opposed to feeding it through multiple devices, then that would be better, however I dare say they are quite expensive.
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bilky asko5,179 posts since 9 Sep 2006
Tyne Tees Look North (North East)
How poor is "poor" with your USB device?

Remember VHS will often look like a wet weekend compared to modern day digital quality and there isn't always a lot you can do about this as you're often dependent on the quality of your video player and that of the tapes. I'm assuming you're using either S-Video or RF? S-Video should wipe the floor and then some more with RF picture quality wise.

If you're able to get access to one of those combi VHS/DVD recorders that you can record to disk directly as opposed to feeding it through multiple devices, then that would be better, however I dare say they are quite expensive.


Even untested, second hand DVD VCR combi machines cost quite a bit on eBay.
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noggin13,884 posts since 26 Jun 2001
Hi folks,

Looking for a bit of TV Forum wisdom here. I've got a big box of VHS tapes containing lots of geeky pres stuff from years gone by that I'm looking to digitise.

I bought a cheap, basic USB capture device a while back, and the results were pretty poor. So I'm wondering if anyone's got any recommendations as to what's best to spend my money on for the best quality results. In particular I want to make sure I'm capturing at 50fps.

To complicate matters, I'd prefer to do this using my MacBook... so an external device would be preferable. If this is a non-starter, I do have a PC, but I'm not hugely confident in opening up computers and fiddling about inside, plus it's a bit old too.

Also, is there any particularly good capture software I should be looking at?

Any help is gratefully received!


Be aware that you will almost always capture at 25fps (frames per second) BUT these frames will be interlaced frames. When properly deinterlaced they will deliver 50Hz motion (as the 50 fields per second are captured at 50 different instances)
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TIGHazard291 posts since 3 Jan 2014
Tyne Tees Look North (North East)
Hi folks,

Looking for a bit of TV Forum wisdom here. I've got a big box of VHS tapes containing lots of geeky pres stuff from years gone by that I'm looking to digitise.

I bought a cheap, basic USB capture device a while back, and the results were pretty poor. So I'm wondering if anyone's got any recommendations as to what's best to spend my money on for the best quality results. In particular I want to make sure I'm capturing at 50fps.

To complicate matters, I'd prefer to do this using my MacBook... so an external device would be preferable. If this is a non-starter, I do have a PC, but I'm not hugely confident in opening up computers and fiddling about inside, plus it's a bit old too.

Also, is there any particularly good capture software I should be looking at?

Any help is gratefully received!


I've never captured VHS footage (I was going to, but then the VCR decided to jam up with a - luckily - blank tape in there so I binned it). However I have captured PS1/PS2 footage using composite using a Hauppage HD PVR and it gives alright results. I believe it is Mac compatible. It has composite and S-Video inputs on the front, and component (up to 1080i) on the back.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hauppauge-Capture-Definition-Hardware-Encoders/dp/B005FR1MFU/

Do not get the HD PVR 2, while it supports HDMI that is it's only input so would be useless for your purposes.
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james-20013,691 posts since 13 Sep 2015
Central (East) East Midlands Today
Sometimes the capture quality depends on the software you're using as much as the device. With the device I bought, the software that came with it only allowed you to capture in MPEG-2 at a maximum of around 8mbps I think (and audio at I think 256kbps), and the quality wasn't great, but using other software I could capture uncompressed, or compress into another format- I always captured it in DV format (25mbps video and uncompressed audio) and it gave much better results than the software that came with it. Pretty much indistinguisable from the original tape and few to no noticable artifacts.

The obvious problem there is VHS tapes can be quite noisy, and interframe encoding, especially at lower bitrates, can't handle that sort of thing very well- especially when it's being encoded in real time like it would be with software like that. At least a format like DV is a higher bitrate, and it's I-frame only, so doesn't have the issues you get with inter-frame encoding (like MPEG2 is).

Even if you capture at DV, then compress it down to an MPEG-2 file, like I did for copying to DVDs (I used 2-pass VBR as well), you tend to get much better results than capturing directly to MPEG-2 in real time, because it can analyse and encode the image better.
Last edited by james-2001 on 15 August 2018 11:28pm - 4 times in total
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tesandco931 posts since 28 Sep 2001
Granada North West Today

Do not get the HD PVR 2, while it supports HDMI that is it's only input so would be useless for your purposes.


I believe the majority of the HD PVR 2 models do support composite as well (I think it's only one labelled something like the PVR-60 which might lack it completely). Whilst the PVR2 version primarily markets HDMI, there's still a second proprietary 'AV port' present on them. In the box they include a breakout cable for component to connect to this, but this also doubles up as a composite cable. There's no S-Video one supplied in the box (although such a cable can probably be found on eBay as it's available with other Hauppauge devices). Although if you're capturing from VHS how much benefit you can get from S-Video vs Composite input is debatable due to how colour info is stored on tape and what VCRs output in the first place.

When it's working right the HD-PVR2 gives decent quality captures. Unfortunately where it falls down is that's it's just such a temperamental device. The drivers from Hauppauge are a bit unstable as if often the case with them. And generally only works with their own capture software with any third party software seeing it but not being able to control anything with it. For as long as I've used stuff from them, Hauppauge's own capture software has always been bobbins to use! Basically in my experience it'll usually work, but unplugging/replugging of the device may be needed every time it falls too far out of sync, turns to black and white or suddenly has picture tearing issues. This is all on Windows anyway. I can't say what their Mac support is like, but given Hauppauge have always seemed to fall down on polishing their primary Windows software and drivers I'd not hold my breath on their Mac support.

What can be quite useful aside from the card itself is if you've got certain models of JVC S-VHS players. Some of their higher end ones (usually identifiable on eBay if they're going for considerably higher prices than usual) came with a basic pseudo Time Base Corrector in the machine. Whilst it can't work miracles on the VHS format, the processing it can do to the video signal can really help with many capture cards which like to drop out frames for even the slightest of things. With the TBC on I can actually capture video of the static noise bars you see on blank tape, which normally capture cards will just shut off all capturing of as an invalid signal. Sounds like a completely useless feature initially, but actually comes in quite handy if you have those tapes where a recording of something interesting is either right at the start of a tape or a recording cuts off very sharply at the end, as it can buy you that extra second or so...

eg:
Last edited by tesandco on 16 August 2018 6:56am - 2 times in total
TV Whirl - Still covering UK idents, presentation, teletext and programmes after 17 years
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noggin13,884 posts since 26 Jun 2001
Yes. HD PVR 2 can accept component and composite with the cable that is supplied with (at least most) versions of it. The S-video cable is an optional extra (but only really relevant if you have S-VHS recordings)

The HD PVR 2 is also buggy as hell and not good with VHS-quality sources, though a VCR with a TBC (I have a Panasonic S-VHS machine with a TBC) may help. When it works it's OK - and it can capture in H.264 which can be a better option than MPEG2.

A good quality DVD Recorder is always a good option if your VHS recordings are short enough to let you run at a high quality / low recording time bitrate.
Spencer For Hire5,617 posts since 13 Jan 2003
Yorkshire Look North (Yorkshire)
Thanks for all the advice, everyone.

How poor is "poor" with your USB device?

Remember VHS will often look like a wet weekend compared to modern day digital quality and there isn't always a lot you can do about this as you're often dependent on the quality of your video player and that of the tapes. I'm assuming you're using either S-Video or RF? S-Video should wipe the floor and then some more with RF picture quality wise.


It did look significantly worse than when played through the TV - much more smeary and flickery looking. More saturated colours seem to fare worse. This is the only example I have...



Looking at that again, I suspect there are some interlacing issues I need to sort.

As for the input, I think I used the component video connection. Having looked at the dongle, it does have an S-Video connection, so I might give that a try.



Be aware that you will almost always capture at 25fps (frames per second) BUT these frames will be interlaced frames. When properly deinterlaced they will deliver 50Hz motion (as the 50 fields per second are captured at 50 different instances)


Thanks - that makes sense. I'll have to look into how to do this correctly.


I've never captured VHS footage (I was going to, but then the VCR decided to jam up with a - luckily - blank tape in there so I binned it). However I have captured PS1/PS2 footage using composite using a Hauppage HD PVR and it gives alright results. I believe it is Mac compatible. It has composite and S-Video inputs on the front, and component (up to 1080i) on the back.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hauppauge-Capture-Definition-Hardware-Encoders/dp/B005FR1MFU/


Looks like a good, reasonably priced option - might look into this.
Robust amateurism
Inspector Sands12,732 posts since 25 Aug 2004
I went through my old VHS collection and digitised a load of it a few years ago. One thing I would advise is make sure you have something handy to clean the heads with. I had the issue that a couple of tapes in it hit something and totally headclogged the machine. I couldn't do anything else till I got it open and removed the dirt

It's fairly simple to do, needs a lint free cloth and some pure alcohol. I can't remember what I used, I don't remember going out and buying anything.

Better still maybe clean the heads before you start for the best quality captures
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noggin13,884 posts since 26 Jun 2001
The S-video cable is an optional extra (but only really relevant if you have S-VHS recordings)


Well, not just SVHS, my Hi-8 camcorder has an S Video output too, and I used that for transferring those tapes.


Sorry - this was in the context of VHS tapes - but yes S-video can be useful for Hi8 too. Firewire better for Digital8 and DV.