This tutorial will teach you how avoid the most common mistake people make when trying to convert VHS/videotape to digital video -- and all it takes is a $20 piece of hardware and free software. Intended for pure beginners, this tutorial walks you through every step to produce perfect conversions every time. (And there aren't really all that many steps.)
Common lossless codecs (install these before running virtualdub):
UT Video: http://www.videohelp.com/software/Ut-Video-Codec-Suite
NOTE: UT requires more modern processors. If VirtualDub crashes when you use UT Video, use Lagarith.
01:22 - Understanding the problem: Interlaced Video
03:12 - Cheap USB capture devices
04:46 - Free software we'll need
05:31 - Capturing VHS properly
14:38 - Processing VHS captures properly
21:50 - Compress processed files with Handbrake
24:16 - Processing for YouTube upload
Q: I don't run Windows, I'm on OSX/Linux. How can I post-process an interlaced video correctly?
A: FFMPEG has a good deinterlacer built-in. Download a recent build (2015 or later) of FFMPEG and run it with the following command-line:
ffmpeg -i (sourcefile) -c:v libx264 -preset medium -crf 18 -vf "idet, w3fdif" (outputfile.mp4)
For 1280x720 60p output suitable for blu-ray or uploading to YouTube:
ffmpeg -i (sourcefile) -c:v libx264 -preset medium -crf 18 -vf "idet, w3fdif, scale=960:720:flags=spline, pad=1280:720:160" (outputfile.mp4)
If the output suffers from field order judder, try removing the "idet," portion.
Q: 720x480 doesn't always look right in players. Shouldn't I capture in 640x480?
A: No, you should capture at 720x480 and then resize to 640x480 after deinterlacing. This is because some drivers actually only support 720x480 and resize themselves, usually with a lower-quality algorithm. If you do it yourself, you get better results. Also, for any resize operation, ALWAYS RESIZE AFTER DEINTERLACING. If you do it before, you run the risk of mangling the fields before you have a chance to deinterlace them into frames.
Q: What is the specific model of EZCAP device used in the video?
A: The Syntek STK1160 or STK1150 (both operate the same, mine was an STK1150).
Q: Everything captures correctly but the audio is out of sync. Any tips?
A: If your audio starts out OK at the beginning of the captured video, but by the end of the video is out of sync, you have a sync drift problem. Instead of using "Sync audio to video by resampling", you can try "sync video to audio by adjusting video timing". This might retain sync at the expensive of a few dropped or duplicated frames.
If your audio is out of sync at the beginning of the captured video and also out of sync by the same amount at the end of the video, that is an audio skew (offset) problem. Try going to Video--Timing and trying different Audio Latency Determination settings: Try automatic with a large number of blocks, like 50. Also, try Fixed with an audio start time of 0ms. If you can't seem to find something that works, then you can try to fix it in Virtualdub after capturing: Load the captured file, then go to Audio--Interleaving and changing the Audio Skew correction values. It starts at 0 (no sync problems), but you can try altering the values and playing the file until it looks like it lines up. Try negative values like -100, -50, and also positive values like 50, 100 until you find something that works.
Q: What about PAL? I have a PAL VCR and PAL tapes to capture.
A: You can still follow this tutorial, but change any framerate reference from 29.97 (NTSC) to 25 (PAL), and change any number of lines reference from 480 lines (NTSC) to 576 lines (PAL). Also, instead top-field-first, you may find that bottom-field-first works for the majority of PAL capture devices (this is in the yadif deinterlacing filter section). Finally, in the Handbrake section, change 59.94 fps to 50 fps. I have converted PAL sources this way and it works, but of course you need PAL equipment (you can't play a PAL tape on an NTSC VCR).
Q: I am ready for the next step in making my videos look great! Is there anything additional I can do?
A: If you want to research how some people make their videos better, try looking into avisynth or VapourSynth (VapourSynth also works on Mac). These let you run better deinterlacing scripts like QTGMC, which is a huge improvement over yadif. As for me, I usually bring the interlaced captured video into Premiere Pro and perform additional steps like noise reduction using the NeatVideo plugin, correcting bad hue and levels, and cleaning up the audio. Then I export to a new intermediate file using a lossless codec for the QTGMC portion and final encode to .MP4.
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