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Old 11-25-2015, 10:29 PM   #1
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Default VHS Ripping Guide

Saw there is no current guide, only a discussion in the help section which is pretty old, while there is a whole forum about how to scan mags. I won't go into every detail because analog to digital conversion can get really complicated and I'm no expert. There are Hifi forums and doom9 communities that cover this aspect better.

So this guide is just about how to do cheap and easy VHS rips, while aiming to get the best possible quality. Any input or discussions are appreciated.

1. You need a VCR (It should be an SVHS and have TBC)
2. You need an A/D converter (in this case a PC Video grabbing solution)
3. Capturing Software
4. Editing Software
5. Encoding Software

There are some VCR 2 DVD Kombos, which have pretty good A/D converters. But they convert to MPEG2 which is not a good codec anymore (h264 is better) and those eat a lot of space. And then you'd have to rip a DVD again, because DVDs are not a good medium to store content for a long time. In 2015 those are not good solutions - IMO.

1. VCR: A SVHS VCR would be optimal because they always come with s-video out. Look up the details why this is the best solution. The VCR should have TBC (Time based correction). TBC comes usually with digital noise reduction (great) and can break macrovision.
It will also avoid other problems, so you should get a VCR with TBC to avoid stuff, that you'd have to try to fix later.

SVHS VCRs are still expensive on ebay, but if you know the models and search a little bit, you can get easily one cheap. Bought a JVC with TBC for 50€ because it was labeled as VHS not SVHS and I searched for DigiPure (which is some JVC tech brandname that comes with TBC and DNR). There are other places where you can get a TBC SVHS VCRs too.

2. The A/D converter

There are professional solutions from Canopus for example (that do come with better TBC algorithms) but they are really expensive.

And there are a huge amount of USB Sticks an converters. It's not easy to find out which one is good, because price doesn't relate to quality. And don't believe Amazon reviews! There is usually software bundled in - some come with utter crap software (honestech), some with better like ulead studio. Hardware might be more expensive because of bundled software; although you don't need bundled software as there are better open source solutions available.

I did some research on grabbers and found a post in the german Doom9 forum, where they did reviewthem:
(use bablefish but it should be easy to understand)

Unfortunatly I bought one of the worst sticks (Logilink) - but at least it was cheap (15€). CSL, Mumbi, Logilink - they are all the same - have bad driver support in W7 and you'll lose black and white information.

3. Capturing
My first choice was VLC - every one has it. It is easy to use and cross plattform. Open "Capturing device", convert and choose raw data. Unfortunatly I got no sound, which is because of the bad driver support of my stick.
Then I tried Virtual Dub - but my pc instantly froze.

They just didn't work with my china stick, but I found AVS Video Recorder (it is unfortunatly Win only but free now - VLC or VD may work with MacOS or Linux). Or get another grabber.

Capture settings: For PAL videos set capturing to 720x576 @25FPS. NTSC should be set to 640x480@30FPS. AVS VCR offers YUV as encoding, in VLC you should use RAW.

It's possible to encode on the fly with modern CPUs (especially with MPEG2) but if you want best quality, you should capture as raw as possible and apply encoding later. And h264 will be better than MPEG2. We will also add some filters later - so direct encoding is not helpful.

If your CPU is to weak and you encode on the fly, there will be dropped frames. Which will also lead to sound problems. This is analog encoding - the vcr won't wait for your shitty laptop. You should also close all Anti-Virus tools while capturing because of this.

Files can get big - 150GB or more is possible. But the bigger the size, the better the capture.
With AVS VCR and YUV my file was 9GB (but grew later to 160GB with VirtualDub full processing).
So you should have some space. Ideally you should use a fast HDD - but I'm not sure how important it is. Modern HDDs should be fast enough, as far as I know.

4. Editing
Once grabbed you need some editing software. Like Virtual Dub.
Size will grow to 180 GB with full processing mode - so have enough space.

Flickering border:
For instance you will get borders like this:

(look at the bottom!)

To get rid of those flickering borders add filter "null transform" (does nothing) in VD and press crop. You can now remove it by cropping. I also crop off the black borders here.

After cropping you will get a non-standard resolution. With resize filter, you can get the resolution back to a normal format. 720x576 or 640x480. Don't change the aspect ratio (at first)! If upscaling doesn't get you one of those resolutions, you have to crop some lines again. You'll lose some information with this but it was usually just 1 or 2 lines in my cases.In some cases you will hit the perfect ratio. In some cases not. If can't solve this with cropping, changing aspect ratio is ok.
For instance if you are at 720x576,x. Change the aspect ratio then to get rid of the x

(Possibly) Helpful VD Filters:
levels: Helps with lost black/white color information. I got a lot of "crushed blacks" in my capture. This may initially look good (so much color and contrast!). But you will lose details. For instance hair will be just plain black and you won't see any details.

(There are other filters in this pic active that you may don't like - but you'll get the point.)

This works also the other way around. In some scenes there might be to much light. Figure it out what's best for your source material.

temporal smoother: For digital noise reduction. TBC does this too. You can play around with it - don't go to strong - you will get ghosting. Don't know what is best here, just took it from guides. It will have a big influence on the final size, because every frame has to store the noise information. Use a lower setting here or just skip it. I don't use it here and just rely on handbrake.

HSV adjust: You can change the saturation. Some videos might look washed out (because normally TVs handled this) others may look over saturated (where all people are so extremly tanned that they look orange). Using levels-filter might lead to the situation that you want to use HSV.

You could also deinterlace und encode now in VD - but I do it in handbrake as VD is to complicated for me. There are probably other filters - but I'm no expert.

5. Encoding
I use handbrake.
You can pretty much use the same settings as for DVD that I posted here:

Disclaimer: I did just 3 rips - so I'm no expert. And my china grabber sucks. The end result is still ok, I think. I've seen worse DVD rereleases, which makes me wonder what they did there.

When you start to research, you will end in Hifi Forums that will tell you that you need grabbing cards for 200€s, daisy chain several devices and so on. Invested 65€. And could probably sell the vcr with profit. Only problem is to explain to your SO why you need an VCR

Sources: This site was really helpful (it's german only though):

Anyhoo - it is pretty easy to grab VHS now and the result is decent if you fix problems with Virtual Dub. And it could probably be done way better than I did it.

Last edited by luegowin; 12-03-2016 at 05:22 PM.. Reason: spelling
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Old 12-03-2016, 04:33 PM   #2
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Regarding levels filter: You can create a sample frame (or a sample video) which will show some form of histogramm. This helps a lot to figure out the best settings.
Usually move the upper white thingy to the left using the histogramm and the lower black bumper to the right (as the crushed blacks seem to be on the left adn the whites on the right).

Can't explain why and how this really works and what it means - but it works if you play around with it.



Way to dark and to many blacks. Half of the screen is just black.


Way to extreme settings

This looks way better now - you can now make out some details about the guys hair. Still some crushed blacks in there.

But - this was only analyzing one frame. Jumping to another scene using the same "good" settings:

To bright. And the histogramm is different. All details on the hat are lost now.

So you should either use reasonable settings - or you'd have split the movie into scenes. Some scenes might be to dark and others might be to bright.
Depends on the source. Especially a problem in comps. And with plantinum blondes. I'm to lazy to put that much effort into it. And in this case it's probably better to lose details on sky, white hats and shirts then on the girls

You can create a histogramm about the full movie, but this won't help much (and takes some time) as it will just combine all scenes.

But levels filter can help a lot to improve the source. Think in this case the crushed blacks are are result of my cheapo china stick.
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Last edited by luegowin; 12-03-2016 at 05:06 PM..
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