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Junk Into Digital Gold: Photo and Video

Preserving For Posterity

In our last analog-to-digital article, we covered the ins and outs of converting your old LPs and tapes to digital. The great thing about music conversion is that it’s relatively simple. Plug in the player, hit the record button, stop recording when the media is done playing, maybe filter out some pop and hiss, slice the recording up into tracks, and save the tracks into whatever high-quality format you desire. After a few rounds of trial and error, the settings that suit you best tend to remain your default settings forever.

As we’ll see, film scanning follows in much the same vein and video is even simpler. Unlike audio, most people assume that analog video is by nature imperfect. VHS tapes looked terrible to begin with—if you can’t see the difference versus DVD or especially Blu-ray, then I can’t help you—and being in a drawer for 10 or 20 years doesn't do them any favors. Similarly, the Hi8 or similar camcorder tapes you might have floating around will be passable, but we all know that such media was designed for the age of standard definition. In the United States, that means NTSC format, or effectively 480 interlaced lines. (The actual spec is for 525 vertical lines, but only 480 of these contain picture information.) Color reproduction under NTSC can be anywhere from decent to terrible. As a result, most consumers don’t worry too much about the audio quality or color control of their analog video encodes. You just want to capture the content before it vanishes.

  • ravewulf
    For video capture I just use the S-Video and Component ports on my TV card (which has hardware off-loaded MPEG-2 encoding). After editing and everything I have taken to encoding to h.264 video and aac audio in the mp4 container. You can get the same (or better) quality as MPEG-2 in a significantly smaller file size. The major trade off is that it take a lot more time to encode.

    As for scanning photos and other stuff, my scanner isn't very good and actually does better if I increase the scan resolution then downsize the scanned image to get rid of some of the noise (and of course further editing in Photoshop).
    Reply
  • williamvw
    ravewulfFor video capture I just use the S-Video and Component ports on my TV card (which has hardware off-loaded MPEG-2 encoding). After editing and everything I have taken to encoding to h.264 video and aac audio in the mp4 container. You can get the same (or better) quality as MPEG-2 in a significantly smaller file size. The major trade off is that it take a lot more time to encode.Excellent point about H.264/MP4, ravewulf. It's definitely a more space-efficient archival format, and if you have a decent transcoding engine, you shouldn't take much (if any) of a visible hit in image quality. Of course, most of the editing titles that come with these capture products don't yet support HD-oriented codecs because most of the source material is SD. But if you're willing to bring another app into the loop, it's a great idea.
    Reply
  • killmenow
    In regards to audio, I believe the only way to preserve CD's is the uif format - (iso doesn’t support music cd's).

    I once tested a recreated disc using mp3, flac, and uif and only uif gave me a perfect result, even though flac is lossless, there still is loss in the transition of formats.

    So all my cd’s get backup in uif, then from there I can create mp3 for the car, or perfect copies for the HiFi.
    I believe Nero has a nrg format that may work just as well.
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  • How good/bad is the Canopus capturing device (like anopus ADVC 110) in comparision with others?

    Also what is best way out to convert S-VHS tapes to Digital format? Links to info. about these would be appreciated.
    Reply
  • husky91
    I didn't see any solutions to the audio and video being out of synch. I had this problem too. Every time I paused my Hi8 cam, then start recording later, I would get a split second of static. Each time this happens, I would get the audio and video out of synch only in the captured video. I struggled with stopping and restarting over and over again until I found that I could record analog video on my digital camcorder and not get any out of synch audio. I then could capture the digital video from my digital cam which never had any problems with audio and video being out of synch. In fact, I might have been able to just pass the video through the digital camcorder and gotten the same results. I never tried that.
    Reply
  • husky91
    I didn't see any solutions to the audio and video being out of synch. I had this problem too. Every time I paused my Hi8 cam, then start recording later, I would get a split second of static. Each time this happens, I would get the audio and video out of synch only in the captured video. I struggled with stopping and restarting over and over again until I found that I could record analog video on my digital camcorder and not get any out of synch audio. I then could capture the digital video from my digital cam which never had any problems with audio and video being out of synch. In fact, I might have been able to just pass the video through the digital camcorder and gotten the same results. I never tried that.
    Reply
  • mactsk
    you speak of mpg2 and avi.. but avi is a container not a codec!!!
    Reply
  • wild9
    I have a huge array of VHS tapes lying around, from the 80's to the present, resulting in 100's of tapes.

    The convenience of accessing digital media is appealing. However, over the years I've grown a dislike for digital formats especially camcorder - dark, bland and uninspiring; conversely the recordings of my Mediterranean trips on old Hi-8 tapes seemed to portray much more color vibrancy, and light levels despite the lack of resolution. I still preferred it to high-quality digital recorders that could handle Mpeg 4 formats.

    Alas, there's only so much time you can allocate to fast-forwarding/rewinding tapes, and naturally they deteriorate over time and the machines themselves break down. Plus, younger family members are only used to distributing stuff in a digital format..show them a Super-VHS recorder and they look at you as though you've arrived from the past in Delorian, complete with flux capacitor lol.

    So digital is inevitably the way to go. Now comes the question of which route to take: PC or other. I've never had much faith in PC-based capture solutions due to quality, stability and compatibility issues. So Instead of spending £100's I just opted for a domestic DVD video recorder. The device was made by Lite-On and cost around £100, supporting single-layer DVD+R media. The highest-quality was HQ giving 1HR of footage. I was very impressed with the quality - Mpeg 2 is good enough for my uses.

    Such machines seem to have excellent video filtering hardware, and some can be updated to overcome Macrovision difficulties as well as offer the ability to play Region 1 disks. With these devices you effectively do away with the capturing hurdles associated with PC solutions - and naturally you get to archive your source material before you do any post-processing.

    So given a choice between an expensive DVD video recorder and a half-decent PC card, I'd choose the former any day. I don't think digital is all it's cracked upto be in terms of quality, not just yet but you can't live in the past forever I guess..

    p.s. Going down the local video storeS in the 80's to rent out all the VHS horror films before they were banned and before the days of politically-correct mush..happy days :)
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  • techguy911
    I use my archos for this i plug it into the base hook up camcorder to base press play on camcorder and record on archos then take file transfer to pc and convert the video to dvd and burn.

    It's amazing what new archos can do compared to ipod/itouch or zune/hd it has more uses and has MUCH better video playback.
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  • Shnur
    I've been looking into converting my 100+ VHS' into Digital and stack them in one or two external drives (space wise most importantly...) but every single guide always mentioned that it takes about 8 hours/VHS... is there anybody that can confirm this to me? I'd really like to go and save some of the stuff that's non-existant anymore in digital versions but I'd be happy to know how much months it's going to take me before I start the process...
    Reply