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Ask Slashdot: Which VHS Player To Buy?

timothy posted about 4 months ago | from the and-which-8-track dept.

Media 201

stkpogo (799773) writes "I have several old VHS tapes that I'd like to digitize but my old VHS machine died years ago. What's a good VHS player to get so I can make nice clean digital videos from my old tapes before they're gone? I have a few TV -> USB adapters." How would you go about this, especially with tapes (like old home movies) you might be worried about sticking into a low-end VCR? And with what number of tapes does it make sense to outsource the digitizing?

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I remember my first VHS player (5, Funny)

ArmoredDragon (3450605) | about 4 months ago | (#46908927)

It was like my first first post.

Don't get a VHS player... (4, Funny)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about 4 months ago | (#46909097)

...you want to go Betamax.

Re:Don't get a VHS player... (1)

JustNiz (692889) | about 4 months ago | (#46909193)

nah, Laser Videodisc is the future.

Re:Don't get a VHS player... (1)

unitron (5733) | about 4 months ago | (#46909241)

Marty said different.

Re:I remember my first VHS player (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#46909845)

It was like my first first post.

As in, sort of neat but ultimately of little value, right?

Re:I remember my first VHS player (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909847)

1983 called. They want to know what you did with the remote.

Pre Macrovision with 4+ heads (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | about 4 months ago | (#46908929)

Something before the macrovision chip with 4+ heads... Though Im not sure if the heads affect playback...

Re:Pre Macrovision with 4+ heads (5, Informative)

HTMLSpinnr (531389) | about 4 months ago | (#46909119)

The number of heads only matters if the content was recorded at SLP/EP speed. On a 4-head VCR, 2 wider heads are optimized for SP playback, and the other two narrower heads are optimized for SLP/EP.

Re:Pre Macrovision with 4+ heads (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 4 months ago | (#46909453)

Or use a video stabiliser (AKA Macrovision stripper). But if they're not commercial tapes, there won;t be any protection.

Bees knees (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46908963)

Buy a broadcast-quality Sony player from eBay.

BTW remember to retension the tapes, which means to rewind the tape, then wind it to the end of the reel, then rewind it again.

Re:Bees knees (5, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | about 4 months ago | (#46909003)

Buy a broadcast-quality Sony player from eBay.

"Broadcast quality" Sony players run Beta, not VHS.

Re:Bees knees (2)

unitron (5733) | about 4 months ago | (#46909253)

Sony developed Beta, but manufactured both formats for the consumer market.

Re:Bees knees (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909259)

"Broadcast quality" Sony players run BetaCAM (or Digital BetaCAM). Not Beta. not VHS. But they do make higher end VHS decks that were known to be used for broadcast.

Re:Bees knees (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46910061)

BetaCam SP (analog) and BetaCam SX (digital). I worked at a TV station in the late 90s. While we did have a Sony VHS rack mounted deck, it was never and would never be used for broadcasting, rather the rare need for something dubbed to VHS for a client.

Re:Bees knees (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909563)

F*ck Beta!

Re:Bees knees (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#46909861)

"Broadcast quality" Sony players run Beta, not VHS.

Beta?! It's a trap!

Do the math (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46908967)

And with what number of tapes does it make sense to outsource the digitizing?

evaluate the cost of a vcr and the amount of time you have to transfer, I cannot provide a value to your time then compare it to the cost of outsourcing and make choice.

Re:Do the math (3, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 4 months ago | (#46909151)

That, exactly. I can't really imagine how it could be worth your time and effort to do it yourself, unless you have VHS tapes that have material on them that you don't want a third party to see. Send your tapes to someone else to have them transfered to DVD and spend the extra time you just bought yourself doing something enjoyable.

Send them out (3, Informative)

JaneTheIgnorantSlut (1265300) | about 4 months ago | (#46909223)

I had some VHS tapes converted to DVD at Walmart. Cost was about $20 for 2 tapes. Took about a week. Results are quite good, considering the VHS tapes were made from old 8mm movies going back to the late 40's. At the time I looked at doing it myself, but decided my time was worth more than $20.

Re:Send them out (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909379)

At the time I looked at doing it myself, but decided my time was worth more than $20.

Must be nice to be part of the 1%.

lol (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909415)

funny. this would be nice to be part of the 95% you poor lazy hippy piece of shit.

Re:Send them out (2, Insightful)

JaneTheIgnorantSlut (1265300) | about 4 months ago | (#46909651)

Must be nice to be part of the 1%.

It is.

Re:Send them out (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46910055)

let me guess your a dumb fucktarded nigger that voted for nobama.

Re:Send them out (0)

buybuydandavis (644487) | about 4 months ago | (#46910209)

Stormfront down today?

Re:Do the math (1, Insightful)

nowsharing (2732637) | about 4 months ago | (#46909553)

VHS > DVD: Why go from one horrible format to another? It would be a complete waste of time transferring VHS at all if the source format is DVD. These are old memories that will probably never be transferred again, so the least I'd do is a high profile h.264 or something similar. If you've watched a DVD lately, you'll notice that they look like complete shit.

It's kind of shocking to me that people still feel restricted by physical media's limitations.

Re:Do the math (1)

nowsharing (2732637) | about 4 months ago | (#46909561)

err, I meant "if the output format is DVD"

Re:Do the math (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 4 months ago | (#46909723)

Standard MPEG2 capture is fine for VHS. x264 won't give you better quality as it can't create lines of resolution. Besides, *everything* can read MPEG2...

Re:Do the math (2)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 4 months ago | (#46910047)

You can criticize DVD all you want, but it is more lines of resolution than VHS. Now, some transfers are better than others, so one would be wise to look around before committing to let someone do the transfer for them.

And while DVD may be a format approaching obsolescence (at least on the market), there are so many readers out there - and it is trivial to rip DVD to a file on your computer so you have another copy - that it is likely the most portable in the long-term sense.

Re:Do the math (2)

nospam007 (722110) | about 4 months ago | (#46910225)

"That, exactly. I can't really imagine how it could be worth your time and effort to do it yourself, unless you have VHS tapes that have material on them that you don't want a third party to see. Send your tapes to someone else to have them transfered to DVD and spend the extra time you just bought yourself doing something enjoyable."

Exactly! Where I live, we have an audiovisual document center where all that stuff is archived for the community.
They digitize any analog materiel, even for free if you give them a copy of stuff that's relevant for the community, like if you happen to have recorded anything historically relevant, like a concert, a speech, a jubilee, a parade, an inauguration etc.
Lots of people are now inheriting boxes of super8 tapes where nobody knows what's on them.
I'm sure there's something similar in the US.

Don't forget the other half of the equation. (4, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 4 months ago | (#46909179)

evaluate the cost of a vcr and the amount of time you have to transfer, I cannot provide a value to your time then compare it to the cost of outsourcing and make choice.

Include the cost of your time in dealing with the outsourcing service, too.

There's also the issues of:
  - what values you put on letting others see your tapes,
  - the risk of them making copies,
  - whether anything you want to tansfer is copyright-encumbered and the service wouldn't copy that for you.
  - the relative likelyhood of quality transfers and tape damage when done by a professional service versus do-it-yourself. They have the experience but you have the personal involvement.
You need to evaluate these as well.

(I often do things myself rather than hire them done because I'm more comfortable blaming myself than someone else if something breaks - even if breakage due to my efforts may be more likely. I also enjoy learning new skills and technical trivia, even if I'm unlikely to use them again later, and surprising situations keep coming up where some tidbit turns out to be useful.)

Tapes are better (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46908973)

But tapes are better for long-term storage!

Re:Tapes are better (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909043)

Digital tapes are better for long-term storage when they're kept in temperature controlled storage, and not subjected to constant read-write cycles.

Re:Tapes are better (2)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about 4 months ago | (#46909495)

Yes and analog tapes are also quite good for long term storage - you can store a tape for 20-30 years without a problem, while digital media (other than digital tapes) cannot be stored for this long, they need constant copying.

Depends (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46908981)

Will you actually bother watching the digital files when they're off VHS, or are you doing this "just because?"

Panasonic AG1980P (4, Informative)

tetatdo (1924764) | about 4 months ago | (#46908983)

I am working on a similar project with old VHS movie, if you can pick up a SVHS deck, that will help. Anything prosumer is good too. I just picked up 2 Panasonic AG1980P and that is supposed to be one of the better decks for such a purpose. I found them on goodwill's website! Hopefully they work. These have TBCs (time based correctors) which are supposed to correct issues with the picture due to damaged or old tapes, etc.

Re:Panasonic AG1980P (4, Informative)

Bitmanhome (254112) | about 4 months ago | (#46909321)

Be sure to test every tape with the TBC on and off. I've noticed a hint of pixelation with it on, and the dynamic range seems to be a bit narrower too. I believe you should leave TBC off as much as possible as long as your capture device likes the signal.

Re:Panasonic AG1980P (4, Informative)

microcars (708223) | about 4 months ago | (#46909381)

These are excellent machines that will play back just about any VHS tape you can throw at them.
I am looking at 5 of them across the room from me right now. 3 are in excellent condition, one needs some audio work and one needs all the capacitors changed.
I also leave the screws off the covers so I can slide them back and manually clean the heads when I run into some bad tapes (tapes that were crinkled or damaged or have iron oxide flaking off).

The capacitors is the big issue with these. Every.Single.One needs to be replaced at some point.
I used to send my machines out to a place in Texas to have them changed for around $300 after I bought them on eBay.
Then there was a guy selling them on eBay with the caps changed out for around $300 and they were running like new.
I think he is still there.

These machines are excellent at playing back difficult to track tapes, or ones recorded in SLP/EP mode.
don't buy one of those all-in-one VHS to DVD machines unless your tapes are all in good condition and recorded in SP mode.

Re:Panasonic AG1980P (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909665)

Another vote for the ag1980p. A fantastic device.

time base corrector (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46908997)

A "normal" tv -> USB dongle may not be sufficient for the usual VHS players, since their timing may be way off. You'll need somehting that has a TBC (time base corrector), either in the player or in the device to digitize the signal.

Other than that, I'd recommend a player made by Panasonic, since they used to make more robust, metal drives thatn most other manufacturers.

Re:time base corrector (1)

unitron (5733) | about 4 months ago | (#46909275)

A "normal" tv -> USB dongle may not be sufficient for the usual VHS players, since their timing may be way off. You'll need somehting that has a TBC (time base corrector), either in the player or in the device to digitize the signal.

Other than that, I'd recommend a player made by Panasonic, since they used to make more robust, metal drives thatn most other manufacturers.

The older Panasonic models, perhaps, but by the turn of the century or so, theirs were pretty much the same inside as everyone else's.

Re:time base corrector (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46910107)

Other than that, I'd recommend a player made by Panasonic, since they used to make more robust, metal drives thatn most other manufacturers.

Starting with the G-series they went plastic which caused the frame to be flexible and they were skipping and stripping gear teeth all over the place. Pretty much the only Panasonics we see nowadays (that we're willing to fix) are the [AG/NV]-W1 World Video Recorders being used in libraries for archival videos.

really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46908999)

They sell some pretty good ones at a place called time machine

Depending on how many tapes (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909007)

Find a reputable service and have them do it for you. You will only need to do it once, so buying an expensive set up to get the best results is dumb. However, a professional service will invest in top equipment, because they do it all the time. The devil is in the research of finding a reputable service that does quality work, vs Staples.

least amount of pain.... (5, Informative)

Velociraptor101 (2746841) | about 4 months ago | (#46909015)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ... [amazon.com] "Toshiba DVR620 DVD/VHS Recorder" Highly recommend it. Read reviews and follow fellow buyers recommendations and its fantastic. Non-tech users can be taught to use it as well.

Re:least amount of pain.... (1)

clifffton (912293) | about 4 months ago | (#46909195)

Our family uses VHS to DVD for all the transfers. Once you have it on DVD most of the time you are done! It works better than you would think, but not as good as you might hope.

Re:least amount of pain.... (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | about 4 months ago | (#46910057)

Hmm... No. I have one of these. It just ate a VHS tape. It does that time to time. Sucks it in and just keeps on grinding the tape to shreds.

I bought this unit for the ability to transfer VHS to DVD. I was not happy with the results.

It is better to just buy DVDs on eBay or used on Amazon for a couple of bucks if your VHS are commercial releases. The quality is far better and it doesn't waste your time. Put the VHS tapes in a time capsule.

Best Possible Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909025)

You should ask the specialist

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z4iw8Ppo1o

Don't get a pro deck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909031)

no direct experience, but I read on the web that professional VHS editing decks have wider heads, so if a pro deck is reading and writing the tape it will make better use of the medium, and likewise it's ok if a consumer deck reads a tape written by a pro deck because the narrower track it reads will fall within the wider one written. However, if a pro deck reads a tape written by consumer deck, it will pick up noise on either side of the narrow track and actually produce worse output than a consumer deck would.

I also read the advice about TBC and assume it's correct, but I have to say this seems really stupid. AIUI a TBC is basically a capture card and a video card, back-to-back. Why don't the capture cards include this function? It's where it belongs. Are there good capture cards you can buy that make TBC irrelevant, or do all capture cards suck?

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909037)

The things Star Wars fans have to put up with just to watch some movies...

Re:Wow (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 4 months ago | (#46909243)

you laugh but it was precisely because of VHS versus BETA that I spent 10 years trying to figure out why in one version of Return of the Jedi the Falcon loses it's sensor dish escaping from the Death Star II and in another it doesn't.

our BETA copy of the video didn't have it and my cousins VHS did. It was an off comment made by my cousin that went along the lines of "Not a scratch". Only years later did I realize that lucas randomly edited and rereleased versions of the movies.

Personally though if you going to watch star wars you have to watch it on Laser sword disc.

Re:Wow (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 4 months ago | (#46909407)

I have a couple reels of 8mm film from the promos for Star Wars. I've thought of bringing them to a video transfer service, but just haven't had the desire to spend the money on a novelty. Maybe next year.

Prepare for a deep rabbit hole (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909067)

I have been going though the same process. digitalfaq and videohelp are good resources.

http://www.digitalfaq.com/forum/dvd-video/
http://www.digitalfaq.com/guides/video/capture-playback-hardware.htm
http://www.digitalfaq.com/forum/video-restore/1567-vcr-buying-guide.html

Let me know when you decide to de-interlace or not. I'm still deciding on that. All the research on-line I have found says to not de-interlace. I feel it would be better to de-interlace though. The video can have a lot more detail before a video is compressed with h.264 or something a de-interlacer could use.

Re:Prepare for a deep rabbit hole (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 4 months ago | (#46909213)

I would do a sample test of a segment, Do it both ways, see which you prefer (since im assuming its for you, not a wide audience) and do the rest the way you see best

Dude, don't a get a VHS.... (-1, Offtopic)

d0n0v6n (2899117) | about 4 months ago | (#46909077)

BETA is the way to go!

Yes, I am that old. ;)

Re:Dude, don't a get a VHS.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909135)

Does Betamax play VHS tapes? and if it does, does it play with better quality than that of a typical VHS player?

Re:Dude, don't a get a VHS.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909697)

Does Betamax play VHS tapes? and if it does, does it play with better quality than that of a typical VHS player?

The two formats are incompatible.

Re:Dude, don't a get a VHS.... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909431)

Fuck BETA!

Re:Dude, don't a get a VHS.... (1)

mrbcs (737902) | about 4 months ago | (#46909465)

LOL ... just awesome!

Re:Dude, don't a get a VHS.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909775)

im not even that old but hell growing up i kept my dss porno caputres on betamax just so my folks couldnt figure out what the tapes went too...... they set in plain sight right on equipment stack.

Speaking From Experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909115)

Speaking from experience, the greater difficulty is going to be getting the digitizer to not freak out when your old-ass videotapes warble. Video input adapters, especially cheap ones, freak out and glitch on bad video signal, completely dropping the video sometimes for a second or more before it recovers. This can make the digital recording just unusable. I have heard that DVR-style recorders handle this better, but have no personal experience with this.

I would highly recommend a SVHS deck that has video enhancement, to try to minimize this (SVHS standard doesn't come into play, just that the machine will automatically have four heads.)

Re:Speaking From Experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909801)

I did all my VHS to digital transfer almost 15 years ago, using a Hi-Fi 4 head SVHS deck for video out, and a Sony Digital Handicam in passhtrough mode to Firewire for the digital conversion. It wrote straight to disk in Digital Video mode (1 hr of video took 13GB) at which point I could compress/deinterlace/etc. however I wanted after the fact. My archival copies are all in uncompressed D-Video format.

Ion Audio (2)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 4 months ago | (#46909117)

I've had good luck with an Ion cassette-to-USB deck for ripping an old tape collection to digital on the computer. They've got a VHS-to-USB one as well: http://www.ionaudio.com/products/details/vcr-2-pc [ionaudio.com] .

Make sure it has s-video output (4, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | about 4 months ago | (#46909121)

I've converted several old family VHS (and Beta/Hi8) tapes to digital. In my experience, s-video output makes a much bigger quality difference than the type or quality of player. Composite video (the yellow plug in the yellow, red, white RCA triplet) combines both luminosity (brightness) and chroma (color) into one signal, resulting in a lot of crosstalk (the shimmering "marching ants" when you display high-contrast lines and borders). S-video keeps these signals separate so there is no cross-talk. Makes for a much cleaner transfer to digital.

Of course if the original tape was recorded using a composite signal, then there's nothing you can do.

Re:Make sure it has s-video output (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909201)

All VHS was recorded with composite video, S-Video output was invented to go along with S-VHS.

Re:Make sure it has s-video output (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909771)

Actually I think you're mistaken there. VHS recorded the luma and chroma signals separately, see wikipedia [wikipedia.org] . S-VHS recorded more lines of resolution.

Re:Make sure it has s-video output (4, Informative)

Air-conditioned cowh (552882) | about 4 months ago | (#46909305)

Also, on top of S-Video output, make sure it has all the latest VHS quality enhancements such as S-VHS (probaby has if it has a S-VIDEO output -duh!) and FM sound. Although it won't help with tapes that were never recorded in these formats, it will certainly bring out the best of the tapes that were.

For old analogue audio recordings, being able to tweak the audio head azimuth will help bring out the best of the recording. I also consider this essential for archiving cassette and open reel recordings. You have to hear how much difference being able to tweak aziumuth makes to believe it. It is a critical adjustment and the playback azimuth has to match that of the recorder otherwise all your top end goes down the plug-hole and it sounds washed out.

Get them converted by someone else or ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909139)

Check ebay, buy one, do your conversion then sell it. VHS quality for old tapes would be bad so don't worry too much about the player.

Remember... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909165)

Don't stick your tapes in crazy.

Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 (4, Informative)

Talinom (243100) | about 4 months ago | (#46909171)

2 head VCRs are SP only. 4 head VCRs add two heads for EP. If all of your content is SP then a 2 head VCR should suffice. Depending upon the quality of the audio you want to present you might consider either stereo or Hi-Fi. Whatever VCR you choose should have manual tracking adjustment.

For capturing content on a Windows box I cannot recommend the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 [amazon.com] highly enough. That capture card should also be compatible with MythTV [linuxtv.org] .

The output from my current consumer grade 4 head Panasonic Omnivision (mono audio) VCR was friggin amazing. My wife had a selection of out of print VHS tapes and I captured them with that card. She was missing one tape and while searching for it I found a three pack of DVDs, one of which matched what she was missing and two of which matched what she had. I had to look at the output frame by frame to see if there was any perceptible difference between the Hauppauge output and the DVD. There was none.

Even with normal recordings from home there can be issues with the picture quality. If you have problems with the video becoming lighter and darker that my not be a copy protection issue (obviously as you are working with home movies). Consider purchasing a Digital video stabilizer. The guys at the electronics repair shop nearby recommend ones by MCM Electronics [amazon.com] to help mitigate transfer issues.

Tossing your MPEG-2 output from the Hauppauge through the NLE of your choice might help with noise reduction (I use NeatVideo> [neatvideo.com] and color skew. YMMV.

Re:Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909505)

I will second a Panasonic. Video quality out of a 4 head omnivision rivals that of dvd. I've been in two small tv studios and broadcast houses as digital was coming of age, and they had many Panasonic recorders/players. Although they were svhs, the one I have now is a consumer vhs; still looks and plays great.

Re:Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46910159)

WTF, that is a TV tuner. We don't need a TV tuner, we just need a VCR to PC adapter. Where do I get one? I don't even know where to start.

Re:Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 (1)

Talinom (243100) | about 4 months ago | (#46910247)

WTF, that is a TV tuner. We don't need a TV tuner, we just need a VCR to PC adapter. Where do I get one? I don't even know where to start.

The WinTV PVR has analog input for recording from analog sources. It does happen to have both analog and digital tuners but I do not use them. Their analog capture is the best that I have ever seen.

Buy a new one (2)

edibobb (113989) | about 4 months ago | (#46909175)

Get a cheap, new VHS player. It's higher quality than the expensive ones were 30 years ago. Something like Toshiba SD-V296. A used one will probably work, but you're taking a chance that it's sold because it's unreliable.

Sony SLV-R1000 (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 4 months ago | (#46909203)

http://www.ebay.ca/itm/NICE-So... [www.ebay.ca]

That should do the job, and it'll keep its resale value. Skip the ultra cost-reduced thingies you see at walmart.

How many tapes are you talking about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909215)

For just a few, just buy the DVD or Blu-Ray disc. Unless you want the unborked Star Wars.

I've got some 40-50 tapes – Disney movies my children watched as kids and "original" Star Wars, among others. I've still got a working Sony VHS/DVD deck with composite outputs, which I feed to a Sony digital camcorder equipped with Firewire to a Mac where I use iMovie and iDVD. It's a bit Rube Goldberg, but I already had all the pieces and it does a good enough job.

It beats buying the Disney movies all over again when grandchildren come along.

Re:How many tapes are you talking about? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 4 months ago | (#46909743)

Unless you want the unborked Star Wars.

One of these days I am going to get my parents VHS-DVD recorder and switch my VHS copies of the original Star Wars to VHS so I can forece my fiance to watch it-and also for when we have kids of course.

capture device (1)

tetatdo (1924764) | about 4 months ago | (#46909249)

Also in my experience the best quality you can get is to buy a MINI DV camcorder that has firewire, most have an input function where you can input video through the camcorder to firewire. I have a JVC GRD90u and it has this functionality. USB based capture devices seem to be flaky in my experience.

Nobody you can borrow from? (1)

shoor (33382) | about 4 months ago | (#46909281)

If it's just a few tapes, don't you know anybody, friend or relative who still has a VHS player tucked away in their attic or basement that you could borrow from?

BTW I still have a working VHS player. Once in awhile I'll find where somebody has put their old VHS tapes out on the street or something and there will be a title that intrigues me enough to take it home and try it. (I also still have an old analogue TV capture card from the late 90s that works.) I don't think you need to be too concerned with the player itself. The quality of the images from those old VHS tapes certainly leaves a lot to be desired after one has gotten used to HDTV, but, if there is no alternative, as when it's a home movie, then it's just a question of whether it's worth the bother at all. If the tape isn't playable in standard consumer equipment, then ask yourself it you want to pay the premium for a recovery specialist.

May not be worth it (1)

StonyCreekBare (540804) | about 4 months ago | (#46909315)

I went thru this a couple of years ago. I had hundreds of movies on VHS I had bought over many years. I had a very good VHS deck to play them on. I spent several weeks playing them into my computer, using Pinnacle Studio to trim the beginnings and ends and remove some of the noise, and Handbrake to further transform them to MP4 files on my Plex server. The result was OK, if not spectacular. Since them I have found many of my favorite movies in the DVD bargain bin at Walmart, at much better quality than my VHS originals, and many more popped up on TCM or Cinemax, where I could capture a nice clean copy. In the end, many of the VHS files on my Plex server got over-written with better copies. I also discovered I could simply watch many of the same movies on Netflix, negating the value of owning a copy at all. For example, many years ago I bought a VHS release of the freshly restored "Vertigo", one of my favorite movies. A couple of weeks ago, TCM aired the same print, much better than VHS quality, and of course it is also on Netflix. The effort I spent making my own MP4 of my own VHS copy was a waste. I still enjoy the movie, but rather the low quality of my own Plex copy, I just watch it on Netflix. Think carefully about what videos you want to copy, and you may find that there are few, if any, you really want to bother with.

my real life friend (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909343)

has a whole library of vhs. he has a panasonic and he has a sony and the panasonic plays the data better. but download the pirated dvds if you already own the movies. dont steal but if you already paid, get better copies for your xbmc or whatever

Old stuff? (1)

The New Guy 2.0 (3497907) | about 4 months ago | (#46909367)

I think we've got a problem here... there doesn't seem to be anything current in analog-video-in ports right now... I think you have to go all the way back to XP to get a driver for those things.

Re:Old stuff? (1)

Kaenneth (82978) | about 4 months ago | (#46909487)

Yeah, my analogue video capture cards are XP (MCE) only

Re:Old stuff? (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 4 months ago | (#46909701)

Hauppauge PVR-150 works in 32-bit Win7. Same thing for my Syntek 1160 (EasyCap)
Hauppauge HVR-1600 works in 32/64.

Hire Someone (2)

odie5533 (989896) | about 4 months ago | (#46909489)

Send your VHS tapes into a company and have them do it. They have much better equipment than you can afford, and it saves you the hassle of having to find a recorder and do it yourself. I recently sent VHS tapes + 8mm reels + slides in to a company to have them digitized. The results were incredible. I have a VCR and a capture card, as well as a slide projector and a slide scanner, but the quality of their high end equipment was unbelievable. I didn't realize an old slide could hold such high quality photographs, and the scans my little slide scanner made were not even approaching the quality of theirs.

Have a company digitize your tapes. If the content on them is meaningful to you, you won't regret it.

torrent (cough cough) is your best value (1)

jsepeta (412566) | about 4 months ago | (#46909501)

that is, if the content wasn't that which you created yourself.

Re:torrent (cough cough) is your best value (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about 4 months ago | (#46909881)

If they're available in a torrent they are 90% likely to have been released on DVD or Blu-ray. You'd be surprised how cheap older movies sell for even in HD.

Sony (1)

Ice Station Zebra (18124) | about 4 months ago | (#46909511)

Have a 17 year old Sony player and it works great.

Speaking from personal experience (3, Interesting)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 4 months ago | (#46909541)

I did about 15-20 of them last year, some of them Macrovision protected. I used an Hauppauge PVR-150 capture card (didn't seem to mind Macrovision like my Theatre 550), or I could have used my video stabiliser.

I used two vcrs. A really nice JVC from around 1986 (HR-830U) for most of the tapes with the PVR-150. for some of the tapes where I couldn't get audio from both channels (mangled tape), I used a Samsung VHS/DVD combo since that one allowed me to force left or right on both channels (but no manual tracking).

Most important thing, be prepared to clean the machine quite a bit using a wet cleaning system, not the abrasive ones, as those old tapes could flake (or be dirty). For capture, I used DVD movie factory (came with an old burner) and Video Redo (trial) for commercial removal and editing. Figure about 2GB/hour on DVD Quality (not worth going higher since it's only VHS.

If it's an old VCR, be prepared to replace straps as some of them might have dried out or decomposed / broken (like I'm about to do on the old Beta, one of them is slipping).

As someone else said in the thread, some home movies might have issues with white balance, a video stabiliser is helpful to help fix that issue...

Ask Slashdot: Which VHS Player To Buy? (1)

rickyslashdot (2870609) | about 4 months ago | (#46909545)

Several years ago, some high-grade hobbiests recovered data from warehouse-stored audio/video mag tapes from the lunar missions. The one important thing I remember is that they were able to get remarkably good recovery from these ancient tapes by using a very low (mildly warm) oven setting and warming the tapes for several hours BEFORE trying to read them. This had the effect of releasing the tape-to-tape stiction and also re-tensioning the mag-tape mylar base material. Good luck finding the article - possible by asking /. about it - - - or searching NASA's site. Another hint - tryout an empty cassette first to see if the other materials can withstand the temperature. You might have to remove the tape spool and heat it seperately. The tape removal and reinsertion is not child's play, but is fairly easy with a steady hand and patience. It all really depends on how valuable the material is to you personally. cheers

farm it out (1)

flappinbooger (574405) | about 4 months ago | (#46909551)

find a local place that will do it for you and pay them to do it.

If you absolutely have to do it yourself, find a local place that does it and ask what tape deck they use.

Several years? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 months ago | (#46909567)

A couple of hundred bucks and who knows how many hours of work and fiddling for movies you haven't watched since your last player died? That seems a bit steep to me.

We just came across a bunch of boxes of old VHS movies, and after some conversation... we're just tossing them in the Goodwill donation box. If we haven't watched 'em in five years, there's no point in going to all the trouble of copying them to a new format. The handful we might have converted, we've long since bought on DVD or Blu-Ray, not knowing this box was buried underneath a bunch of other crap. If our DVD player wasn't a combo DVD/VCR unit, we wouldn't even have hooked the VCR player back up when we re-arranged the living room a month or so ago.

Seriously, unless you have a ton of old (commercial) tapes that simply cannot be replaced, just convert the home movies (and possibly outsource that) and toss/donate the rest. If it's a movie that's in demand and it's one you actually want, odds are it's been remastered if it's available on DVD or Blu-Ray and you can get a copy pretty cheap at your local used disc place.

DVD Recorder ZV427MG9 (1)

C0L0PH0N (613595) | about 4 months ago | (#46909585)

Find the Magnavox DVD Recorder ZV427MG9 with Line-In Recording at Walmart (or Amazon) for about $160. It is worth searching for, or having it delivered to your local store from another store. This is a VHS-to-DVD recorder, and does an amazing job. I copied about 40 VHS tapes to DVD's (priceless family videos). The audio is perfectly synchronized with the video. Now I am loaning it out to other family members and friends for their collections. Be sure to specify the highest quality. The results are amazing.

Panasonic AG 1980 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909593)

Panasonic AG 1980
as far as I know is/was the best ever made

a few good points here (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909729)

The best players are not made anymore but if you go back to around 1986 - 1993 ish 4 head hi fi should do the trick, otherwise get a Television with video (outs) there was a generic apex that did it around 2000, that particular tv would take care of that macrovision crap even if you are stuck with a newer unit.

Get a used Panasonic or Sony Pro/Industrial deck.. (1)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | about 4 months ago | (#46909763)

These are going cheap (like all the other analog NTSC gear) on eBay or from video supply houses now that the world has gone digital. You likely can buy a good used rackmount VHS deck for less than the shipping will cost you. I bought a Panasonic AG-6500 for $40 about a year ago.

The only caveat here is that these things generally ONLY work in the SP (2 hour) mode. If your home movies were recorded in LP or EP/SLP, you obviously need to look for a deck that can play those speeds.

Outsource it ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46909791)

http://www.scancafe.com/services/video-transfer-to-DVD

Outsourcing (1)

philmck (790785) | about 4 months ago | (#46909837)

Archiving old media is a time-consuming process, unfortunately. How many is "several" in your case? If it's more than a dozen or so you will probably run out of time and patience and will want to consider only doing the most precious ones or else paying someone else to do it. Also it may take a bit of experimentation to get the quality right. I asked around my friends and this is a common experience - so much so that I was considering making a business out of it.

If you're considering outsourcing, there are quite a few companies that will do this for you for around $10 per tape. Obviously this can get expensive if you have hundreds of tapes - it's up to you to decide how much your time and the tapes are worth to you. Unless you're willing to trust the post (or a courier) with your tapes, you'll need to find a local company.

A reputable commercial company is likely to get a better result than you would yourself, unless you're the obsessive compulsive type (not unlikely on Slashdot, I guess.)

Throw most of it away? (1)

CptJeanLuc (1889586) | about 4 months ago | (#46910041)

I was about to write a longer post, but it boils down to this; you probably have too much stuff you don't need. And VHS tapes which you think you may want to watch later, but 95% of them you never will, and the remaining 5% is no big loss, or you can just get them on DVD or similar. If you are afraid of losing information, just put the VHS tapes in a box somewhere. If you find out later you really want to watch one of them, then you will find a technical solution at that time. Which is going to be cheaper and/or less time consuming than converting a bunch of commercial and/or personal videos, which you can then not watch in digitized format instead of not watching them on VHS.

Hopefully expert info for you (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46910233)

I'm a BSEE who, among many things, has done VCR (etc.) repair for over 30 years. I own many VCRs and a really high-end A/D converter. I do this for people from time to time.

The BEST VCR to play a tape is the _one_ it was recorded on. There is NO guarantee that the recording machine was 100% aligned to correct standards. Even among perfectly aligned new machines and adjusting tracking, a tape recorded on one can look terrible on another. There are so many possible mechanical variations due to normal manufacturing tolerances, and minute differences can make huge differences in the final picture. Each manufacturer has their own design ideas. Flying head thickness is a factor. Head wear is a huge factor- as the head wears, the gap will widen. You may not see the difference until it gets so bad that the video frequency response is bad and you see it. I could go on and on about tape path, head azimuth, etc., mechanical adjustments, and sometimes dozens of electronic adjustments (especially in older machines), but I won't bore you.

Bottom line: I have many brands and models so I can pick the best VCR for the tape. Tape wear is negligible during transport, _unless_ there is a broken head, worn flying head (big gap), tape path guide misaligned, etc. If in doubt, play another tape for 20 seconds or so, eject it, flip open the cover, and see if the tape is visibly damaged at all before playing your good tape.

Panasonic and Mitsubishi are great. At both a company I worked for and an A/V team I was part of did some tests and the Mitsubishis had the best video frequency response of 10 or so brands we tested. Sony wasn't bad, but cost more and seemed to wear out faster.

A great A/D converter for the money is Canopus ADVC 110 Converter. Some high-end ones: http://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/intensity/ [blackmagicdesign.com] , http://www.ospreyvideo.com/products/osprey-cards [ospreyvideo.com] , and I have an AJA http://www.aja.com/ [aja.com] .

Step by step guide? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46910239)

So is there a step-by-step guide for copying your VHS tapes into digital files on your PC? What hardware, what connector cable, what software, and what settings to use? I honestly can't find a guide anywhere.

Everything on the internet wants to describe coping VHS to DVD, which is useless. If I wanted to copy VHS to DVD, I'd just go buy a VHS/DVD recorder machine.

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