...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 yo