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best way to convert VHS footage to use in pro project

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Francisco Bech Gómez
best way to convert VHS footage to use in pro project
on Dec 26, 2011 at 9:56:30 am

Hello

I need to use some old VHS footage in a documentary , I would like to get the best quality out of this footage in order to do some color correction etc. I see the cheap converters around 50 dollar I see around are generally compressing to MPEG4. This documenatry is mainly shot with red and I am using FCP to edit. so, what would be the best codec or format I should get the VHS? I have seen a device that converts to H.264, cost 200 dollars, although I would not like to spend too much money in this VHS conversion.

I got a Mini DV camera with a minijack analog input, I though converting to MINI DV tape and then capture that from the camara with firewire in FCP. would be that enought or at least better than MPEG4 or H.264?

Thanks a lot


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Jeff Greenberg
Re: best way to convert VHS footage to use in pro project
on Dec 27, 2011 at 1:34:56 pm

Best format? Uncompressed video. You can buy a black magic decklink studio card , harder if you don't have a MacPro.

Generally speaking, pick whatever the least compressed format is for your budget. DVCPro25 (mini dv) is pretty compressed; it'll work and hits your budget and maybe the best case. Any h.264 format will have to be transcoded (making it TWO conversions) before it hits FCP - probably a bad choice, unless you get a great conversion.

Best,

Jeff G


Certified Master Trainer | Adobe, Apple, Avid
------------
You should follow me (filmgeek) on twitter. I promise to be nice.
New! FCPX DSLR workflows; What's new in Media Comopser 6; Full Media Composer 6 basics from macProVideo.com
Come see me speak at the Government Video Expo Nov 30 - Dec 1; Seminar link here
My book (with Richard Harrington and Robbie Carman)- An Editor's Guide to Adobe Premiere Pro
Lynda.com - Compressor Essentials 3.5 and 4
Contact me through my Website


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Francisco Bech Gómez
Re: best way to convert VHS footage to use in pro project
on Dec 27, 2011 at 2:25:14 pm

Thanks, well , I am using an Imac to capture in FCP, is there any good choice for this?

cheers


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Jeff Greenberg
Re: best way to convert VHS footage to use in pro project
on Dec 27, 2011 at 3:07:39 pm

Unless you want to purchase a thunderbolt device, unfortunately no, there isn't. That's the limitation of iMacs (and MacBookPros.)

I'd do a sample with the miniDV device to see how you feel it affects the quality. If you're not happy with it, you could look at some of the h.264 encoders - just make sure they have adjustable compression rates (and you'd want little additional compression.)

Best,

Jeff G


Certified Master Trainer | Adobe, Apple, Avid
------------
You should follow me (filmgeek) on twitter. I promise to be nice.
New! FCPX DSLR workflows; What's new in Media Comopser 6; Full Media Composer 6 basics from macProVideo.com
Come see me speak at the Government Video Expo Nov 30 - Dec 1; Seminar link here
My book (with Richard Harrington and Robbie Carman)- An Editor's Guide to Adobe Premiere Pro
Lynda.com - Compressor Essentials 3.5 and 4
Contact me through my Website


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Craig Seeman
Re: best way to convert VHS footage to use in pro project
on Dec 27, 2011 at 4:16:38 pm

Interesting that you're trying to mix VHS with Red, yet on an apparently tight budget. Red (assuming you mean the camera) isn't cheap.

An expensive but viable solution would be Telestream Pipeline which is a network device so connects via Ethernet (Cat6). Capture in TIFO format into Telestream Episode and you can encode to multiple codecs simultaneously such as ProRes for editing and H.264 to distribute screening copies. This would work with your iMac.
Pipeline
http://www.telestream.net/pipeline/overview.htm
Episode
http://www.telestream.net/episode/overview.htm
If all you need is a single channel standard def Pipeline, it's about $2000.



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Paul Buhl
Re: best way to convert VHS footage to use in pro project
on Jan 17, 2012 at 6:27:59 pm

Francisco,

It's not as complicated as it sounds. The VHS footage is the quality it is, you can't improve it by capturing to a higher quality codec, you are just increasing the file size. BUT it is important to capture to a format that is friendly to your work flow in FCP, so ProRes is the best bet.

One question on quality before getting to the capture.

Given this is a RED project, are you finishing, grading and mastering from FCP with HD ProRes or are you going back to the R3D files in a higher end environment like Smoke, Lustre, etc?

If you are eventually going to do a real online outside of FCP, then capture the VHS to 10 bit Uncompressed, because that will be friendly to the online environment. You can edit with the 10bit Uncompressed in FCP along with your ProRes, but depending on your system, it may bog down.

If so, from the 10bit captures, you can create ProRes copies to edit with, and the online can use the 10bit set later. Just be sure the ProRes copies are made from the captures and the file lengths stay the same on both the 10bit Uncompressed and the ProRes versions.


If you are finishing in FCP, then capture the VHS to the same format as the RED footage is now, in your FCP sequence. Hopefully ProRes 422 HQ or the newer 4444 version. If you are just working in 422 (not HQ) that's fine as well. Either way, just capture the VHS to what you are using for the RED in FCP if you're finishing in FCP. DO NOT use h264!
That's NEVER a good idea for editing and mastering.

To capture directly to your Mac, you can simply use a number of inexpensive devices that have composite / analog in, and firewire out.
About 5-6 years ago these were running around $200, could be cheaper now.

OR, find a post house that has a PRO VHS deck and have them capture it to ProRes. You will get a better result this way because they will use component analog out instead of composite. So not because of the codec, but really due to component vs composite out from the deck.

You also may be able to borrow a prosumer VHS deck from somebody that has component out, but then the converter you need for firewire has to have component in, to firewire out, so could be more expensive than the composite in, to firewire out models.


Best of luck with the Doc!

Paul Buhl
Feature Editor
http://www.paulbuhl.com


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Francisco Bech Gómez
Re: best way to convert VHS footage to use in pro project
on Dec 27, 2011 at 4:18:06 pm

Ok, thanks a lot! I am lloking to find this thunderbolt device, but I only see descritpions of the technology, would you know a specific name ? or I just have to look for look for a capture device with this technology?

cheers


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David Eaks
Re: best way to convert VHS footage to use in pro project
on Dec 27, 2011 at 4:21:15 pm

Matrox MXO2 LE with the thunderbolt option. If you frequently deliver H.264, the MAX option is a must have in my opinion.


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Francisco Bech Gómez
Re: best way to convert VHS footage to use in pro project
on Dec 27, 2011 at 4:47:51 pm

Thanks a lot, I have an Imac three years old, so I realize thre is not thunderbolt technology , Do I need a thunderbolt port in my to use these devices?


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Craig Seeman
Re: best way to convert VHS footage to use in pro project
on Dec 27, 2011 at 4:52:44 pm

MXO2 uses either Express Port, PCIe, Thunderbolt.
That would mean MacPro, older MacBookPro with Express Port, any new Thunderbolt Mac. No way to connect to pre 2011 iMac.

Pipeline uses Ethernet. You can attach directly to a single computer with Ethernet or you can have it attached to network and it's available to multiple computers.



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David Eaks
Re: best way to convert VHS footage to use in pro project
on Dec 27, 2011 at 4:54:53 pm

Yes, you need either Thunderbolt, PCIe or Expresscard/34. Unfortunately none of which are available to you on that iMac.

See Craig's earlier pipeline suggestion.


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Leslie Nuccio
Re: best way to convert VHS footage to use in pro project
on Dec 27, 2011 at 10:27:07 pm

If you just want to convert a single tape, it's probably cheapest to send to a pro service. GoPhoto converts slides, negatives, and photos to digital, and also converts VHS to DVD for $20 a tape.

Digital transfers are done in the U.S., and there are coupon codes on Facebook and Twitter (and via the mailing list) fairly often.

Good luck!


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