• 7 years 11 months ago
    • Posts: 441
    ...to DVD (dang subject line ran out)

    Okay, I've had a number of people asking me lately how I get such lovely quality for my homebrew DVDs, and some just flat-out refusing to believe that it's possible to make an old VHS recording look better than it is (and wondering why I use 3-4 discs for a 13 episode series instead of cramming it all on to one disc). Well, I can assure you it IS possible (you just have to know what you're doing), and the reason for the number of discs is - QUALITY (which once again, you'd know if you know what you're doing).

    So here's a rather lengthy blurb about just HOW I do it, and what techniques I use to get my old recordings looking and sounding their best for my DVD sets. Enjoy!


    It depends on the recording, but I'll give you the basics:


    The Wonderful World of TBC

    The most important thing I do is use time-base correction when transferring videos. A time-base corrector (TBC for short) will lock down and stabilize the video signal, effectively reducing or eliminating generation loss. Even a first generation recording will lose its signal strength over time, since the magnetic particles on a tape drift over time. With a TBC, you can re-lock the signal, removing any "waviness" or "jumpiness" in the picture. This is especially important when transferring to digital, as digital wil take any errors in your original recording and often make them look even worse. But if you're capturing a properly TBC'ed signal, it can reduce or eliminate such problems. The end result is a clean, stable video signal ideal for capturing. This is why a lot of my DVDs actually look BETTER than the original recordings they came from. I cannot possibly stress enough how important this is. It makes SUCH a difference.

    I use my Digital8 camcorder as a pass-through TBC, and it works beautifully (and is MUCH cheaper than getting a standalone TBC unit, whihc can be several grand for a good one). Transferring from VHS, I find the camcorder's built-in TBC does the job quite well. Most of today's digital camcorders have this feature, and you can usually find older models on ebay that also have that feature (and cost considerably less than a new model!)


    DV and why you should use it

    For capturing and editing, I work STRICTLY with DV format. It takes up a ton of disc space, but it is by FAR the most reliable format for video editing. Editing in MPEG can be a pain, since the computer has to RE-compress everything every time you make a change. This can actually REDUCE the overall quality as you go. DV doesn't compress anything, it's just a straight video stream. Which means you can edit and re-render all you want in DV and your umpteenth copy will look identical to your original master capture. Yes, DV is true lossless editing folks! MPEG ain't.

    Additionally, don't be surprised if you run into some major audio sync issues if editing in MPEG. DV rarely, if ever, has these problems. MPEG should only ever be used as the ifnal delivery format, and never as an editing format (unless you're working with HD, which is an entirely different beast that I won't go into here...). SO - Once I have all my editing and restoration done, I then (and ONLY then) convert the final video to MPEG-2 for burning to DVD.


    MPEG - why bigger is better

    A good rule for DVD authoring is - if you're using single layer discs (which most people do because they're so affordable), don't put more than about 90-100 minutes of video per disc. Anything higher and you start to lose quality because of the higher compression required. This is why my sets never contain more than 3-4 episodes of a half hour show or 2 episodes of an hour show per disc.

    The minimum bitrate I use is 6000kbps, although I often go as high as 8000 for disc with 3 episodes. My commercials compilation are all done at 8000-9800kbps. And I always use 720x480 resolution. Some people think it's okay to use 352x240 mode for VHS recordings. They're wrong. Yes, VHS has 240 lines of resolution, but that's 240 lines of ANALOG resolution. Analog and Digital are not the same. For the most accurate capture of the video, you MUST use 720x480, period.

    Simple rule of thumb: Low bitrate = low quality. High bitrate = high quality.

    Most consumer DVDs are encoded at around 6000kbps. High end titles (such as Criterion Collection or SuperBit titles) often go as high as 9500kbps. Basically, KNOW the rules of the format you're working with. Yes, with compression algorithms such as DIVX and XVID you can easily cram 13 half hour shows on a DVD, but despite what anyone tells you, neither of those formats are up to DVD standard for quality. You CAN cram that much on a DVD in mpeg, but only if you use 352x240 MPEG-1 (or VCD quality, in other words...gag!) Nobody who is truly serious about maintaining quality will EVER work with that format. If you're working with DVD, you're working with MPEG-2. And with MPEG-2, bigger is ALWAYS better.


    For Pete's sake, stop clicking that DE-INTERLACE button!!!

    NEVER de-interlace video unless you're only ever planning to watch it on a computer. All television (with the exception of a handful of HDTV broadcasts) is interlaced. If you're capturing from VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, or making recordings of your favorite video game, it's interlaced. Simple rule here: MATCH YOUR SOURCE. If your source is interlaced, encode interlaced.


    Now that we have the technical stuff out of the way...

    Here's what I do with certain types of recordings:

    If it's a relatively clean, glitch-free hi-fi SP recording, then I'll just do a straight transfer - just a straight pass from the VCR, through the camcorder, then out to the computer via firewire. If it's a series, then I'll do some audio checking just to equalize the levels of all the episodes in the set. But for the most part, if it's a clean recording there isn't much work to be done.

    If the original tape has some glitches, there are a few things you can do. The TBC will help to clean these up a bit (at the very least it will reduce or eliminate the jumping in the picture that often occurs with glitches), but with large glitches there's not much you can do.

    If the image where the glitch occurs doesn't have a lot of motion, you can "cheat" by taking it into a decent editing program and replacing the bad frames with good frames in the same sequence (meaning you take a "clean" section from before or after the glitch and manually patch it in - you need to have the audio as a seperate audio track to do this properly, however, since you're replacing sections of the video). This doesn't work as well if the sequence contains much motion, though, as the replacement sections will be really obvious. I usually only go to the trouble of doing this if it's a major issue with a clip, otherwise I'll just let the glitch go.


    EP/SLP vs SP...6 hours of garbage, or 2 hours of gold?

    EP (aka SLP on some machines) recordings are MUCH worse for glitches than SP recordings. SP runs at 3 times the speed as EP, and thus can blow past the average tape glitch fairly quickly. Which also means an EP recording will take 3 times longer to pass by the glitch...which can be excruciatingly painful to watch. This is one of the many reasons very few of my tapes are EP (the other being the superior picture quality that SP gives you).

    Plus, SOUND is a big issue with different speed recordings. It's not too bad with hi-fi audio, as it sounds pretty much the same for EP and SP. But if it's a lo-fi recording, then the difference in audio quality between SP and EP can be quite dramatic.


    Audio - and why you should pay attention to it

    Which brings me to the next thing I do - audio. If you really want to get heavily into the whole restoration thing, you almost ALWAYS want to do your audio and video seperately. Sometimes a recording may have great picture, but leave something to be desired in the audio department. That's when it's really useful to have a standalone audio editing program (I use Cool Edit Pro).

    By working with the audio seperately, you can do things like boost the volume if it's too quiet, remove excessive hiss, and get into even fancier stuff like parametric equalization - which, if you know what you're doing, can take a muddy lo-fi EP audio track and make it sound comparable to hi-fi (not QUITE, of course, but pretty darn close). The trick when doing this is not to cut any section OUT of the audio, as this will screw up the sync when you put it back together with the video. The best way to seperate the audio in the first place is just to rip it straight out of your captured video. That way the timing is the same right off the bat. Then you do your cleaning/processing/equalizing without changing the timing, and you can just slap them back together without any sync problems.

    My Cadillacs and Dinosaurs set is a perfect example. I had a beautiful recording of one of the old retail tapes, which had 3 episodes on it. Picture quality was as close to perfect as I could want. But - the audio was all mono. It's a stereo show. Fortunately, I had the same three episodes on tape from television in stereo. So I used the video from the retail tape, and used the audio from my other recordings. It meant having to manually sync up each act of the show to match, but the end result was unmistakeably superior to both of the original sources. In short, I took the best quality ELEMENTS from two different sources and put them together to provide the best quality end result.

    Once you've got your audio sorted out, and your video is cleaned up as much as you can, then you put the two back together in your editing program (Speaking of which, I use Ulead Video Studio 10 for all my capturing and editing).


    Now the short version!

    And that's pretty much it in a nutshell! Every recording is different, so I don't always have to do everything described above, but it's nice to be able to do all that when required because the end results definately make it worth the effort.


    So, to sum up, here's the short version:

    1. Use some form of TBC when transferring video

    2. Always capture and edit in DV

    3. Always use 720x480 resolution (or 720x576 for PAL)

    4. Never de-interlace your video. Just make sure you're using the correct field order (it's usually bottom field first for NTSC, upper field first for PAL)

    5. Restore the video and audio seperately

    6. Equalize the volume for all the episodes in a set so some aren't louder/quieter than others.

    7. Never try to fit more than 90-100 minutes per DVD

    8. Have fun and take pride in your work!


    That last one is probably the most important. I put a lot of effort into my DVDs, and take great pride in my work. And I think anyone who encodes should do the same! :)


    - Sean

    EDIT: If you're wondering about all the edits, I kept seeing typos as I was reading this over...so I fixed them. :)
    My website: Zaranyzerak

    Me on YouTube - DVD and Video Game reviews, Rants, Raves, and random bouts of creativity.
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      • 7 years 11 months ago
      • Posts: 74809
      Nice article! This should be stickied!
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        • 7 years 11 months ago
        • Posts: 9769
        Stickied to the max.

        Heh, and I didn't know EP did that (at the time), and I used to do all my recordings in EP/SLP.

        You may also wanna change every instance of EP into EP/SLP, some VCR's had SLP, which iirc is the same as EP, just reworded.
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          • 7 years 11 months ago
          • Posts: 441
          Noted and updated! Shoulda thought of that one... :) Thanks for the sticky! I hope this helps out some folks who wanted some of the mystery taken out of making nice encodes of stuff. :)

          - Sean
          My website: Zaranyzerak

          Me on YouTube - DVD and Video Game reviews, Rants, Raves, and random bouts of creativity.
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            • 7 years 10 months ago
            • Posts: 74809
            Can you explain what DV is?

            With my capture card and program, all i can use is divx or mpeg.
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              • 7 years 10 months ago
              • Posts: 74809
              the80sruled wrote:
              divx


              Now that's a name I haven't heard in a LONGGGG time.
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                • 7 years 10 months ago
                • Posts: 441
                the80sruled wrote:
                Can you explain what DV is?

                With my capture card and program, all i can use is divx or mpeg.


                DV is the video format that all Digital8 and Mini-DV camcorders record in. It's about as close as your going to get to broadcast quality with consumer equipment (in fact, there have been numerous benchmark tests which show it to be almost bang-on broadcast quality - standard definition, of course, there is no DV format for HD. HD uses MPEG-2). When transferring to computer, the format is referred to as DV-AVI.

                DV format takes up about 12 gigs of space for every hour of video, because of the low compression used. The advantage to using it is that despite the size, it's a very easy format for the computer to handle - little to no compression = less processing time required when editing/rendering. It is also true lossless quality. Because it doesn't need to re-compress the video eveyr time you make a change (as is the case with MPEG and DIVX), the quality of your edit will be identical to the original capture.

                DV is a pretty standard capture format, I would be very surprised if your card didn't support it. I don't use a capture card at all - I just use a straight FireWire connection from my camcorder to the computer, then handle the capturing with the editing software I use (I find the majority of capture cards gimicky and unnecessary - UNLESS you're recording TV via your computer, in which case you need a card to properly input the cable and get a pure digital off-air capture of the show).

                FireWire capturing in DV will give you the best results every time - little to no dropped frames, and a clean, accurate capture of the original source material. I've even been able to get clean captures with this method on an old P3 system, whereas it choked whenever I tried to do on-the-fly compression in other formats.

                - Sean
                My website: Zaranyzerak

                Me on YouTube - DVD and Video Game reviews, Rants, Raves, and random bouts of creativity.
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                  • 7 years 10 months ago
                  • Posts: 463
                  • Globally Banned
                  I have a Question for you sm2000. Does the version of Directx that you have on your system reflect the playback of DV Video's in Applications like QuickTime and Real Player? i'm asking because i'm running on an older systen that only has a 1.6GHZ Processor and it has Direct X 9.0C Installed and whenever I play a DV Video in QuickTime it can barely play it at all and i'm running QuickTime Version 7.1, So basicly what i'm asking is do you think uninstalling Direct X 9.0C and Installing an Older version will solve the problem?
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                    • 7 years 10 months ago
                    • Posts: 1021
                    Could someone explain to me what all this means. I always use a USB Dazzle Video Creator 80 with a VCR hooked into it via audio/video cables. I capture it with Windows Movie Maker. Can't afford a fancy movie editor.
                    Roadgeek: Proud Little Kid of the Mid '90s

                    In Memory of Carolina Circle Mall
                    1976-2002
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                      • 7 years 10 months ago
                      • Posts: 441
                      Radiation_Dude wrote:
                      I have a Question for you sm2000. Does the version of Directx that you have on your system reflect the playback of DV Video's in Applications like QuickTime and Real Player? i'm asking because i'm running on an older systen that only has a 1.6GHZ Processor and it has Direct X 9.0C Installed and whenever I play a DV Video in QuickTime it can barely play it at all and i'm running QuickTime Version 7.1, So basicly what i'm asking is do you think uninstalling Direct X 9.0C and Installing an Older version will solve the problem?


                      I'm pretty sure I have the same version of DirectX you do, I've never had a problem with DV files. My previous computer (up until a couple of months ago) was a 1.3ghz Celeron, so if THAT could handle it, there's no reason why your system should have trouble with it. (My computer before that was a 750mhz P3, and even THAT could handle it...)

                      The thing to remember is, DV isn't really a PLAYBACK format, it's really just an editing/archiving format. I also have trouble playing DV in regular video players, but my editing software handles it just fine (better, in fact, than MPEG - which my players have no trouble playing). As I described above, I recommend using DV strictly as a capturing/editing format because of the lossless quality, then downconvert it to the format of your choice for playback when you have all your editing done. If you're going to DVD, your final output format should be high bitrate MPEG-2.

                      Basically you just want to be using a decent editing program and you shouldn't have any problems using DV. DV is actually a lot LESS hard on the CPU than other formats, simply because of the lower compression (the CPU doesn't have to work as hard to decode the data).

                      - Sean
                      My website: Zaranyzerak

                      Me on YouTube - DVD and Video Game reviews, Rants, Raves, and random bouts of creativity.
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                        • 7 years 10 months ago
                        • Posts: 441
                        Roadgeek wrote:
                        Could someone explain to me what all this means. I always use a USB Dazzle Video Creator 80 with a VCR hooked into it via audio/video cables. I capture it with Windows Movie Maker. Can't afford a fancy movie editor.


                        I also have one of those Dazzle capture devices. I never use it anymore because I found the results were mixed at best. Dazzle is pretty much the low end of the video capture world, fine for beginners but not nearly stable or reliable enough for serious use. They tend to capture the image too dark, and they don't have any kind of built in image stabilization. It can be used with fairly clean video sources without too much trouble, but hit a tape glitch and it can ruin your capture. Or worse if you're capturing from a multi-generation recording, it can turn out almost unwatchable. Using the method I described above (using a digital camcorder as a pass-through time-base corrector and capturing via FireWire), all of these problems are reduced/eliminated. I guarantee you'll never go back to using Dazzle products after you try it and see the difference for yourself.

                        Windows Movie Maker is fine for beginners, it's basically a no-frills editing program. But if you want to get into any serious editing, then you'll need to upgrade at some point.

                        If your system doesn't have a FireWire port built in, you can get a low-cost PCI card (usually with 3 or more FireWire ports) for around 30 bucks. For editing, Ulead Video Studio 10 starts at around 60 bucks. They even have a trial version you can download for free to give it a test spin. So for under 100 dollars, you could give your capturing/editing capability a major upgrade.

                        - Sean
                        My website: Zaranyzerak

                        Me on YouTube - DVD and Video Game reviews, Rants, Raves, and random bouts of creativity.
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                          • 7 years 9 months ago
                          • Posts: 74809
                          WOW! Thanx for this post, looks like alotta good information. I have some VHS tapes I really love & in the future I wanna transfer them to DVD....thanx!
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                            • 7 years 9 months ago
                            • Posts: 441
                            My pleasure, tomstoyz! Glad I could help! :)

                            - Sean
                            My website: Zaranyzerak

                            Me on YouTube - DVD and Video Game reviews, Rants, Raves, and random bouts of creativity.
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                              • 7 years 9 months ago
                              • Posts: 9769
                              sm2000,

                              can you point us to a good PC Card (the kind for notebooks, aka PCMCIA, etc) version of a firewire card ?
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                                • 7 years 8 months ago
                                • Posts: 72
                                If you want video immediately, but without best quality, connect via red/yellow/white (RCA Video/Audio cables).
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                                  • 7 years 8 months ago
                                  • Posts: 3365
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                                  Aw man, if I knew that before then I never would have extended my tapes, I have a couple tapes recorded in 2004 (I know not retro, :( pretty sad though) and I got another VCR so I would change them from SP mode to EP mode. But I found out with my other VCR (built into TV). Well at least I have some Dexter's Laboratory episodes in SP with others in EP. Also a friend of mine has a recording of the Donkey Kong Country episode, Speak No Evil Dude. I'm not sure if it's in SP, LP, or EP mode. If SP or LP (I don't know if LP works) then maybe I would transfer them. However I would have to get the equipment for that. Oh yeah and also if I do get equipment for all of this then maybe I would transfer these: Donkey Kong Country: Legend of the Crystal Coconuts, Super Mario Bros Super Show: Count Koopula VHS tape episodes (well possibly but possible not because I would have the DVDs), Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers (possibly) Tiny Toon Adventures: How I spent my summer vacation, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Alvin's Christmas Carrol, etc.

                                  Hey I made a sad face.

                                  Say sm2000, when you burn them onto DVD does the screen get more stretched out or is it the same exact broadcast screen.

                                  edit by adventure_of_link: triple post I didn't catch before D:, please use the button next time.
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                                    • 7 years 8 months ago
                                    • Posts: 441
                                    blueluigi wrote:
                                    Say sm2000, when you burn them onto DVD does the screen get more stretched out or is it the same exact broadcast screen.


                                    Not sure what you're referring to, sounds like an aspect ratio question. If it's a "full screen" image, then there is no difference. If it's a 16x9 widescreen show, I convert it to anamorphic widescreen whenever possible (meaning it is technically "stretched" on the DVD, but it is encoded in such a way that a DVD player recognizes it as an anamorphic cip and corrects the aspect ratio accordingly when playing back on a regular or widescreen TV). I don't make any changes to the aspect ratio - when I convert something, I always leave it in the original format.

                                    - Sean
                                    My website: Zaranyzerak

                                    Me on YouTube - DVD and Video Game reviews, Rants, Raves, and random bouts of creativity.
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                                      • 7 years 8 months ago
                                      • Posts: 3365
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                                      Well the reason why I asked that is because when I put a downloaded file onto DVD the screen would look more stretched out then on TV. But I use a video editing programming to make it look smaller so it wouldn't look like that.
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                                        • 7 years 8 months ago
                                        • Posts: 441
                                        blueluigi wrote:
                                        Well the reason why I asked that is because when I put a downloaded file onto DVD the screen would look more stretched out then on TV. But I use a video editing programming to make it look smaller so it wouldn't look like that.


                                        Ah, okay - then it is an aspect ratio issue. What you need is a program that will recognize the aspect ratio and format it correctly as a 16x9 widescreen image. Check some of the preferences in your burning software, it may just be a matter of clicking a button. Some programs require you to "tell" them to format a video that way, otherwise it will re-format the widescreen video as full screen, stretching the image as you describe. I use NeroVision Express for quick assembly of downloaded videos, and it automatically recognizes when a video should be formatted as a 16x9 widescreen image.

                                        - Sean
                                        My website: Zaranyzerak

                                        Me on YouTube - DVD and Video Game reviews, Rants, Raves, and random bouts of creativity.
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                                          • 7 years 7 months ago
                                          • Posts: 3365
                                          • Account Disabled
                                          Now I want to get a camcorder with a built in TBC, not just to upload videos but also film some videos that I'm planning on filming. Like a fan-based series of Captain N.
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