Here, you can see a diagram showing the methodology used to transfer most of the videos :
* Tests still in progress
What type of supports are wanted, converted and preserved ?
Some DVDs got released but most of the videos are coming from tapes, originally sold to pro and consumers. The biggest part of it are VHS cassettes with some U-matic. Ideally, I would like to put my hands on Betacam too. Some of the tutorials were available in this format, for sure proposed as a purchasing choice. We can also dream further and imagine getting some master copies and rushes.
What are the specs of the VCRs ?
Until now, the NTSC VHS tapes have been converted mostly by using JVC D-VHS decks (HM30000U). I like this family of VCRs because they are not “too old”, ok to find, affordable and offer good tracking capabilities, on top of a very satisfying video quality. Another good reason is that they come with the full connection set such as (crappy) Composite, S-video and Component. This very last one is indeed meaningless for VHS conversion but I was curious to see the results. Feel free to tell us what you think about it.
I conducted more tests by using some other S-video (professional) decks that I got since (JVC SR-V101US, Sony SVP-5600 & SVO 5800) and more importantly, an external time base corrector (DPS-290).
Previews can be seen here:
Legend: DVHS=JVC HM30000U, SONY=SVP-5600, SVHS=JVC SR-V101U, TBC:DPS-290
Anyway, what mattered the most was to get a nice copy of the tapes online before they die (even if the VHS death myth is maybe not as true as we think) to finally open the site (the project has been in the box for years….).
Regarding the U-matic (Sony VO-9600 & VP-5020) and Betacam (Sony J-10 & UVW-1200), I’ve been lucky enough to get some (old and still working) professional decks but some of them need to be serviced. Broadcast hardware is usually intensely used and spare parts can be hard to find and expensive. That kind of tapes will be challenging in the future.
And for the SECAM/PAL standard, after months of investigation, I’ve finally put my hands on a good multi-format S-VHS Deck (JVC HR-S8500) including a TBC. You will see more European tapes on the website.
Why choosing the DV codec ?
At the beginning, uncompressed or lossless codecs like Huffyuv or Lagarith were considered. But those (can) require a huge amount of space (hundreds of gigs for one single tape) and since pretty much all of the collection is constituted (for now) of VHS aka the very bottom in term of quality, also the lowest step on the “preservation scale” and recompressed no matter what once uploaded online, not sure that this pain was really necessary. Also, some of the lossless codecs can be bound to a specific Operating System and were made for running on old generation PCs. Nothing is really made to last forever but I wanted a more “future-proof” and universal solution to start with. Digital Video (DV) appeared to be that choice. The conversion (Canopus ADVC-700) is easy to do, plug n’ play, do not depend of any platform, operating system or software, is rock solid with no dropped frames and the final files are not too big to be securely stored for a decent cost. However, I plan more tests with different captures devices (external usb, internal SDI card) and converters (Aja io) because the question will come back again if we can get our hands on “high-end” copies (dream mode ON), for which the preservation value will be way higher, so to be continued…
And the next step ?
When most of the tapes will be converted (about 170 tapes so far), I’ll start scanning the covers, complete the video pages with all the info available and make those as complete and attractive as possible. Still a lot to do !