sOT: Good VHS VCR and TBC/Proc Amp Needed

Leee wrote on 3/10/2012, 5:07 PM
I've been looking for a good setup to transfer old VHS tapes to digital (computer). I was browsing B&H Photo site for some ideas, but reading some of the reviews on products left me more confused than ever. I currently have a Panasonic AG-5700 (professional grade), but it's kind of old and probably needs repairs, it plays back with some noise at the bottom and top of the picture, kind of like the tracking is a little off. But when I adjust the tracking, I can't get it any better.

I'm thinking that a better (newer) VCR deck and possibly a separate TBC/Proc Amp might work better. My price range is probably around $500-$900.

Any suggestions on what I might look for?



rs170a wrote on 3/10/2012, 5:28 PM
The deck you have is one of the best ones ever made and I highly doubt that you'll be able to find anything comparable.
In my opinion, spend the money to get it overhauled.

Leee wrote on 3/10/2012, 5:33 PM
Thanks Mike, I might do that. Do you think adding a TBC/Proc Amp in the chain would help stabilize the image?
John_Cline wrote on 3/10/2012, 5:56 PM
The "grunge" at the bottom of the picture is head switching noise and it happens on all VHS machines, people just never saw it because the overscan on TVs just didn't display it. The "flagging" noise at the top is likely caused by inaccurate tracking between your current machine and the machine on which it was recorded. A TBC can help this. This flagging was particularly problematic on 6-hour mode recordings.
Leee wrote on 3/10/2012, 6:15 PM
Thanks John. So I got flagging and grunge, huh? LOL! I've heard the term flagging of course, but "grunge" is a new one on me. It looks kind of like small white horizontal streaks (several pixels wide) and it covers maybe 1/5 of the bottom of the screen. So you don't think there's anything I can do about that?

Some of my older tapes (15-20 years old, some wild times from my younger days) are the most problematic. I know I can't get a great picture out of these tapes, but I'd like to eliminate as much noise as technically possible (without having to sell my children into forced slavery) ;-)
johnmeyer wrote on 3/10/2012, 6:55 PM
I agree with everything posted above, but if you can post a single frame grab that shows the noise and other problems (or a five second clip), that would help. Head switching and TBC problems are definitely a possible problem, but a dirty head might also give you noise that is similar to what you describe. No matter what, you will most definitely get much better captures with a TBC in the chain.

Another thing not mentioned yet is that when you capture, make sure to use the "edit" switch on your VCR. It is sometimes called a "dub" switch. I have an older Panasonic semi-pro deck, not quite as good as yours, and I think it was called an edit switch. This turns off the "enhancement" circuitry which was designed to fool people into thinking that the video look sharper than it really was. It adds "ringing" to all the abrupt light/dark transitions, and to some eyes this looks sharper. However, when capturing video, all it does is degrade the image. You therefore definitely want to turn it off.

Leee wrote on 3/10/2012, 7:21 PM
Thanks guys, I appreciate the feedback. John, I don't think my deck has an edit or dub switch on it. I'll post a short video clip, along with a couple of pictures of the front and back of the deck. But it'll have to wait until after dinner.....we're having Pizza!!! :-)
johnmeyer wrote on 3/10/2012, 7:32 PM
John, I don't think my deck has an edit or dub switch on it.I think you are correct. I just downloaded and read through (quickly) the user manual. 75% of the manual concerns the RS-232 control of the deck. Given that this deck has that feature, and is a commercial deck, it was obviously designed for heavy-duty, old-fashioned deck-to-deck tape editing. Therefore, it probably doesn't have the HQ enhancement circuitry, and you can ignore that part of my previous post.

Pizza is due here in about two hours ...
Leee wrote on 3/10/2012, 7:54 PM
Yes, the deck was originally used at the university I worked out, it was part of a 20 deck dubbing bay. But when they decided to go digital they replaced all the decks, and I was lucky enough to get one in a surplus auction. I think the first thing I'll try is cleaning the heads. I live in a pretty rural area and unfortunately things get pretty dusty in a short amount of time. I'm constantly cleaning dust off all my equipment.

I also didn't mention that I have an ADS Tech, Pyro A/V LinK box. It has S-Video In along with regular RCA inputs. On the output side, it's got a 1394/Firewire, RCA video and audio outs, S-Video Out, and Component Video Out.

I haven't tried the component video (RGB) -> USB plug, maybe that would get better results. I'll have to check it out tonight and see if I could make due with what I have. If not, I'll have to think about getting a TBC/Proc Amp. Because I really don't think the Pyro A/V Link box does much of anything.
farss wrote on 3/11/2012, 5:52 AM
"I really don't think the Pyro A/V Link box does much of anything. "

I have one of those. Tried to use it once, gave up and bought the ADVC-300.


Leee wrote on 3/11/2012, 2:06 PM
Yeah, I was checking out the ADVC-300 when I was searching for various equipment. It has a lot of great reviews on Amazon, I think I might get it. Thanks for the suggestion Bob.

I'm going to open up the VCR deck today and give it a good cleaning.
mekelly wrote on 3/11/2012, 2:14 PM
A second thumbs up for the ADVC-300! I converted probably 100 old VHS, 8mm tapes etc. and never had a problem. It's a great little box.
R0cky wrote on 3/11/2012, 2:54 PM
another thumb for the ADVC-300. I love mine though I don't use it much anymore.
Leee wrote on 3/11/2012, 2:57 PM
Okay I just have one question about the ADVC-300. Will it help reduce the moire effect? I just cleaned the heads and put in one of my best SVHS tapes that I own and while I didn't see any flagging or grunge I did notice a substantial amount of moire patterns throughout the picture.

JJKizak wrote on 3/11/2012, 3:02 PM
Have you ever considered that the VCR might have about 500,000 hours on it?
Leee wrote on 3/11/2012, 3:14 PM
Yes I have, that's why my original question was seeking advice on buying a new VCR and TBC. :-)
farss wrote on 3/11/2012, 3:54 PM
Seems to me there's two issues here.

Firstly, yes VHS needs TBC because it is not "locked". I can't recall the exact issue here, something to do with the V and H sync gnerators being "non heterodyne". That wasn't so much an issue when it all stayed analog but when it's being digitized can cause havoc.

Secondly the helical head system used in VHS is fragile and complex. Yes, a TBC may clean up errors from that but seriously, you need the heads and servos and all the mechanical and electronic "stuff" in the VCR working properly AND you need a TBC. Relying on a TBC to fix problems that should and can be fixed at the source is poor thinking in my opinion based on experience.

Leee wrote on 3/11/2012, 4:24 PM
Thanks again Bob, I agree totally. When the first link in the chain is weak, the following links have only that to work with. I ran a couple more tapes through the machine this morning with varying results. After cleaning the heads, I'm seeing a great improvement, and some tapes are playing extremely well, with no moire, no sparkles or flagging. So I think I eliminated part of the problem by simply giving it a good cleaning. So I think the next step is to purchase the ADVC-300. Even if I have to get this deck professionally worked on or even buy a new deck, I'll still be able to get good use out of the AV unit.

Thanks again for everyone's input and suggestions. I greatly appreciate the feedback.

Oh and I learned something new as well. Cleaning the record/playback head using an ordinary piece of paper is better than using a Q-tip or cotton pad. The paper of course needs to be soaked with alcohol. (Not whiskey or beer though)
craftech wrote on 3/11/2012, 4:30 PM

Last time I saw something posted on another forum regarding the ADVC-300 the person had major problems trying to get it to work on a Windows 7 64-bit platform.


EDIT: Look here.
Leee wrote on 3/11/2012, 6:11 PM

"Last time I saw something posted on another forum regarding the ADVC-300 the person had major problems trying to get it to work on a Windows 7 64-bit platform."
It looks like a couple of people gave bad reviews, but it seems the overwhelming majority of people on that forum, and various other forums, seemed to really like the unit. But thanks for the warning, I'll probably end up taking my chances with it though.
John_Cline wrote on 3/11/2012, 6:44 PM
" It looks kind of like small white horizontal streaks (several pixels wide) and it covers maybe 1/5 of the bottom of the screen."

Well, that's not head switching noise, sounds like a dirty head problem.

Regarding the ADVC-300, its output is standard DV over Firewire so there is nothing inherently incompatible with Win7-64. I use mine on Win7-64 without problems, although I typically use my Blackmagic Intensity Pro since it captures 4:2:2 instead of 4:1:1. I use it with Cineform NEO and it captures directly to Cineform AVI files. I do have an external TBC, which would be one advantage to the ADVC-300. (Although, the TBC in the unit is line-based instead of a full-frame TBC, so it's more of a TBC Lite.")
Editguy43 wrote on 3/11/2012, 11:26 PM
I have both the 110 and the 300 I use them both depending on the condition of tape is. We do allot of VHS transfers and they are used allot and we have Windows 7 on all editing systems and have not had any problems as of yet.
Unfortunately Grass valley has stopped production of the 300, I am not sure why but the 110 is very capable.
I am also interested in finding a different VHS unit ours are getting a little long in the tooth.
Leee wrote on 3/12/2012, 1:20 AM
Thanks for the info guys. I'm going to order my 300 tomorrow before they run out. :-)
I didn't know that Canopus was a division of Grass Valley? That gives me some more confidence, Grass Valley is like a "household name" to me.

And Editguy, I'm sorry but I am an Obsessive Compulsive speller and grammar nutcase, so I apologize. But it's "a lot", not "allot". I used to spell it "alot" which isn't even a word! Allot is a word but misused in this case. :-)
Editguy43 wrote on 3/12/2012, 2:19 AM
Sorry about that I didn't catch the spelling, I do spell it wrong all the time, I quess I need to put tht in my auto correct list in Word. Anyway good luck with the 300.

Paul B
Leee wrote on 3/12/2012, 3:37 AM
Heh! No need to apologize. I know sometimes correcting people's spelling is just as annoying as typing in all CAPS on the Internet, but like I said I can't help myself.
I think I missed my true calling as a book editor or proof reader, or something like that.

Thanks for the info on the 300...much appreciated!