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I have some old VHS home videos that I'd like to digitalize to preserve them, and I'm looking for the "best" way to do that with my setup. The videos were recorded around 1990, in the USA. I'd say they are in NTSC format, but I've also heard that VHS don't have NTSC or PAL, so I'm not sure. They play on my PAL VHS device, even in color. I am guessing that it converts the video to PAL60 for playback. The colors are slightly dull, but I don't know whether this is a feature of the camera, the old tapes, or any conversion. Another issue is that there is a bit of clipping in very bright/dark areas, but I think nothing can be done about that.

What I have right now is the following: German (PAL) VHS with the old tapes, connected via SCART->white-red-yellow cables to generic USB digitalization device, connected to the computer.

A couple of questions:

  • The documentation of the USB device says that a S-Video cable will improve the quality, should I use one?
  • Would I get a big improvement from using a different VHS player? NTSC devices are hard to come by here and probably pretty expensive. I found that sometimes the USB device or its driver corrects the colors (that I assume suffer from the NTSC/PAL thing), but I'm not sure whats going on there.
  • While I'm at it: the signal seems interlaced. I was planning on recording it via VirtualDub, and then possibly deinterlacing it. A test worked pretty well, and removed any jaggy artifacts. I can generate 60Hz, but I've read that I should either not deinterlace it or convert it to 30 Hz.
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Slightly related... video.stackexchange.com/questions/8533/… –  AJ Henderson Mar 27 at 17:59
    
VCRs can play back whatever type of signal is on the tape as it just reproduces the signal on the tape on to the output line. Your capture device is able to process the NTSC video that was recorded on the tape. –  AJ Henderson Mar 27 at 18:00
    
@AJHenderson: Ah OK, that makes sense, thanks. My recording software seems to recognize the signal as NTSC, but only sometimes. I think there is still some kind of conversion going on, as supposedly my VCR can play NTSC videos to a PAL TV. I wonder if the S-Video connection gives the "raw" signal, as opposed to the composite (yellow) connection... –  jdm Mar 27 at 18:22

2 Answers 2

For VHS, the signal will be kept highest quality if you connect via s-video, so yes, you should use an s-video cable if your VCR has an s-video output.

Depending on how good your VCR is, you may get a significant improvement from a better deck. Quality of the read heads on various VCRs can vary a fair bit and while the majority of the difference was in recording quality, there were difference in playback quality as well. That said, finding a good VHS deck in good condition is probably difficult these days.

I'm not sure about the color correction, most likely it is something specific to your capture device.

The signal is most certainly interlaced. Both NTSC and PAL were interlaced formats. NTSC video should be 29.97 frames per second. That is the NTSC standard. The resolution should ideally be 720 by 480 using oval pixels with a .9 pixel compression.

You didn't ask about it specifically, but using a DV codec should give the maximum quality though it will also be quite large. Once you have a DV codec capture of the VHS tape, then using a traditional 2 pass transcode to either h.264 (viewing on computer or blu-ray) or MPEG-2 (DVD) should work well.

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Thanks, the bit about codecs is also helpful! –  jdm Mar 28 at 9:07

Get the video into some kind of file (digitize) like avi or mpeg. Use DVD flick to burn it to dvd disk, its free and can convert NTSC and Pal playable disks. Honestech made a $10 box (Bought at BigLots) to usb converter that converts VHS to DVD it makes them fit a 4.7 gig single layer disk (new $79 USD). No brainer. Since VHS is 640 x 480 its low rez compared to most types today. I'm in the USA and convert to UK to send to relatives,never had an issue with either method.

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Hi Steve, welcome to Video Production on Stack Exchange. It does seem like what you are suggesting may be a viable way to get from VHS to digital or even DVD, however it's rather difficult to follow your answer. For example, you mention a $10 box but later comment about something being new $79. If you could clarify what you are suggesting as to how to digitize files from a VHS tape to files on the computer, it would greatly increase the benefit of this answer. Thanks. –  AJ Henderson Mar 31 at 3:36

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