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I want to rip a LD to my Mac as a digital video file. I will create a DVD from this file eventually, but I'm primarily interested in playing it on my laptop. What video output from the Laserdisc player would you use? And what hardware and software would you use to import to a Mac? What settings (image resolution, audio sample rate) would capture the best quality—without going over the top? (Clearly 4k would be overdoing it for the analog LD, but MPEG-2 might introduce compression artifacts that I don't want to see unless I make a DVD.)

An accepted answer will include:

  • Recommendation for video output from LD player
  • Recommended capture hardware
  • Recommended capture software
  • Recommended file format
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    Here's a guide to get you started by the way. It covers the hardware aspect pretty well. – Saaru Lindestøkke Mar 20 '14 at 13:42
  • Does the guide cover (part) of your question? If not, please specify which part is not clear. If it does I guess the guide is your answer and I can post it as such. – Saaru Lindestøkke Mar 21 '14 at 23:06
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Generally, I would expect that just about any solution will work pretty well now. The capabilities of even cheap modern hardware so far outpace the capability of laserdisc that you aren't likely to lose much. Certainly a professional quality capture system similar to the ones Matrox sells would do a superb job, but I'd hazard that even a cheap $30 USB to composite capture device would do the job sufficiently well. You should be able to use whatever software comes with the capture device.

You will want to capture using the composite output rather than the S-video output since the Laserdisc is natively Composite. I would capture to a standard DV codec if you have the option for one. If not, a basic h.264 file is also a fine option. You may also want to run a 2 pass h.264 compression from your DV capture to minimize the file size while keeping quality high. (DV files are rather space consuming, but they are very high quality SD files.) You can use FFMPEG or Handbrake for the transcoding if you want a free option. x264 is a highly popular h.264 codec available in both.

Truly the most lossless way would be to use an actual lossless format, but that is excessive given the highly limited quality of Laserdisc to begin with. That's why I recommended DV as a balance of space and quality.

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A lot of these answers seem somewhat misleading unfortunately.

Forget about getting a capture card. Practically every one has AGC. AGC is very similar to macrovision, except it's superimposed onto any video source. It's impossible to disable unless you use Linux and know your way around hacking drivers. Some cards on Windows have third party tools to disable AGC, but the quality is extremely questionable and they all seem to use scaling and sub-sampling.

Think your best choice is finding an external device like a Panasonic DMR DVD recorder (these have a very decent comb filter). If you could somehow find an external device with USB or firewire, I think this is your best bet.

I think 4:1:1 subsampling should be kept away. I think 4:2:0 is actually better. 4:2:0 is most compatible and least problematic with transcoding and quality loss. If you get a device with 4:2:0 chroma, make sure it oversamples before subsampling; these seem to give the least quality loss after subsampling, and might be considered transparent sometimes.

For a laserdisc player it's hard for me to answer. You could stick with a player that doesn't split the composite or audio signal. These will have a single composite and audio output, with no RF or additional svideo or second composite/audio outputs. These also have missing features like digital still mode on CLV discs, and probably more common as very simplistic industrial players. People may recommend something like the HLDX0 or similar, but these are very expensive and actually pass the composite video through various noise filtering and splitting stages; these players are so huge and expensive I think because splitting analog signals introduces immediate quality degradations, which these players supposedly avoid according to their owners.

Avoid scaling at all costs. You'll get scaling artifacts immediately which isn't usually noticeable. Instead of 4k output, you should stick with whatever native resolution your capture device uses (usually 720x480). Let your software or hardware scale later, instead of the encoding and capturing. Same thing with audio. If you capture audio, make sure it's bit perfect digital stereo (LD calls for 44050khz according to wiki). Analog audio should be captured at 192khz 32-bit float at least, and can be compressed later.

Laserdisc video is actually pure analog AFAICT. RF is passed to a custom modulator and cut-off filters, which send the result to a TBC. TBC produces the composite video which is an analog signal. The composite signal can be routed directly to a composite video jack, but almost every player will split this into UHF, comb filter with svideo, and/or secondary composite output. The only players that avoid that are like those I mentioned previously (LD-V4200 I believe is one, and with a strong signal, albeit with noise).

Laserdisc video quality is a love or hate thing IMO. The quality is actually very high and with a high end system can be considered better along with its sound, vs DVD. Only LD's that may seem inferior are widescreen, or those improperly mastered. Quality is basically 425 TVL always with good chroma. DVD by comparison is considered 525 TVL before MPEG2 compression. Unfortunately MPEG2 reduces DVD video quality considerably, and the only advantage DVD has in this situation is a pure digital path with consistent quality (no analog difficulties like noise and interference). MPEG2 reduces DVD TVL resolution to a variable of maybe 250 to 500 TVL lines at best with considerably less chroma by comparison. Mpeg2 quality greatly varies depending on the movie, and the movie length unfortunately. Only exceptions might be "Superbit" DVD releases which are very small in number. See a DVD and downscaled HD-TV source for resolution and chroma comparison here: [url]http://www.cornbread.org/FOTRCompare/[/url]

I hope I may have been of some help. I think your best bet may be an external device with firewire or usb. AGC is the biggest problem you'll have to avoid, especially with computer capture devices (USB, PCI, PCI-e, etc).

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The capture format will be dictated by the abilities of your capture hardware.

Many models of DV camcorders from the 2000's had a transcode capability - they will encode something sent to their analog inputs into the DV format, and send it over firewire to the computer, and you don't have to record to tape. Different models had composite and s-video inputs, s-video would be a little sharper. I've done this with the original iMovie - it plays well with the cameras and decks from that time period.

A professional capture device would give you the ability to capture to less lossy and higher data rate formats, possibly Apple ProRes. This would be as good quality as could be managed in my opinion. LD is a nice stable digital source and outputs a very clean analog signal. Given the SD format's limitations, I would consider this option overkill.

I see no advantage to using a higher resolution than the source - there's only so much data in the signal. Adding resolution would increase storage and rendering requirements to absurd levels to no benefit.

Either way you would convert to H.264 for viewing later.

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    @TotalForge- sorry to down vote, but your answer is currently incorrect (though with the same mistake I made on an earlier question.) Laserdisc encodes a composite video signal, so to get to s-video requires going through a comb filter in the Laserdisc player which from that time period are far lower quality than current hardware will handle. The best quality is actually composite out and then let the modern comb filter work it out. – AJ Henderson Mar 24 '14 at 21:59
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    Also, it seems like the question is asking for advice on what hardware and formats would do the best job. The DV camera trick would work if she happens to have one, but most modern USB capture devices would probably do a better job unless it was a pretty decent camera back in the miniDV era. Otherwise, I agree on the rest of your answer. I would agree that capturing to DV format is probably ideal for max quality without too much wasted space though, but atleast some direct capture devices support capture in DV format. – AJ Henderson Mar 24 '14 at 22:03
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Do not capture to DV. NTSC DV has a 4:1:1 color space. If LD has something better then you are losing information. Vertical resolution is not the only resolution you should be concerned with. Consider depth also.

Also, why is your goal DVD with a relatively terrible MPEG2 compression? These days we are approaching erasing the need to distinguish from mastering formats and delivery formats. MPEG2 is a lossy, delivery format. Since your source footage is only 425 lines why not store it near-losslessly for best presentation? You can convert for VC-1 Advanced LC2 ad 20mb/s and get a near lossless compression and play that back on VLC/XBOX/PS3/PS4, etc.

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    We're talking about LaserDisc's here, they were an analog medium that required comb filtering to separate the color and luminance information and had super low precision to begin with. I couldn't find any information on color space of LD, but I can't imagine it extends out of 4:1:1 unless you have a source of info that indicates it does. Also note, his goal was NOT to use MPEG-2 because he isn't sure he'll ever put it on a DVD. – AJ Henderson Aug 19 '14 at 16:00

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