I have VHS tapes that I want to digitize. I started this using something like Pinnacle's Dazzle. I notice that the only encoding options were for compressed video, which could lead to quality degradation, especially in reprocessing to improve the image quality (such as adjusting colors and contrast, noise reduction, and de-interlacing).

I was concerned whether I should continue such a time consuming process without first choosing an encoding wouldn't lead to unwanted limitations (e.g., as described here) in the final product.

I would guess that I have on the order of 100 hours of video. In the past, cost of disk storage was a concern, hence encoding with compression was the norm. But I don't feel constrained that way anymore.

Can I get some recommendations on a range of consumer hardware and encoding choices and some ideas of what the benefits and limitations are?

(Sorry if this has already been answered, but I didn't see anything in the list of related questions. This one touches on the subject, but doesn't go into much detail.)

  • What software do you have in mind for your "Post Processing"? It would probably make sense to capture in the format that is best suited to that software.
    – Corey
    Apr 16 '13 at 13:40

VHS is already highly 'compressed', so capturing to an uncompressed format is likely overkill. For your purposes MJPEG with a reasonably high quality setting will preserve all your options and shouldn't degrade the images any further than VHS already has.

MJPEG goes by other names -- the idea is that it's all "I-frames". It is a lossy codec, but there are no interframe artifacts since each video frame is encoded separately.

  • Could you provide some more info on MJPEG and what software is available for capture, encoding & playback? Can the audio be muxed with that?
    – Corey
    Apr 12 '13 at 18:04
  • MJPEG is just another codec. Any means you have of capturing, with audio, should honor the availability of any installed codec. Look at free-codecs.com/download/motion_jpeg_codec.htm for example. Any codec that allows you to use 'all I-frames', like DV or ProRes, will work as well, with different storage costs.
    – Jim Mack
    Apr 13 '13 at 17:41
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    Another point: if possible, find an encoder / video capture card or device that can handle S-video directly, and use an S-VHS deck for playback. The hope is that you can avoid a transition to composite and then to a digital format. Even if your original tapes are not S-VHS, the player would be able to deliver the chroma and luma directly, without re-encoding as composite video. Sorry, no specific products, but S-video input should be called out as a feature on any capture device that offers it.
    – Jim Mack
    Apr 15 '13 at 9:51
  • This may be an option. hauppauge.com/site/products/data_usblive2.html
    – Corey
    Apr 16 '13 at 13:31

If you want something pretty standard and with good quality with DV. The most important thin, whatever the codec you choose, configure it for an interlaced source (since VHS signal is interlaced). If you don't you will end up with a digitized file that will need more space and have much lower quality.


DV can also work well as a format since it is designed to maintain pretty good quality in standard definition and is still fairly compressed. That's the standard format used for capturing from miniDV cameras and should take around 1 gigabyte for every 4.7 minutes of video.

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