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Capture/Edit/Archive Analog Footage: Workflow/Codec Advice Needed

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Eric Balboa
Capture/Edit/Archive Analog Footage: Workflow/Codec Advice Needed
on Jan 14, 2014 at 5:30:33 pm

I have a variety of old tape formats including VHS, Betacam SP, Hi8, Umatic and miniDV that I need to digitize and edit for documentary pieces and archival purposes. I need to deliver these via DVD, Blu-Ray, external hard-drive and the web (YouTube/Vimeo).

I have all the equipment necessary to complete this project including working decks / TBC's, Canopus, AJA IO Express, and Matrox mxo2 Max capture boxes and a AJA Analog to SDI converter.

I'll be editing in Premier CS6 on PC but also have access to Premier CS5.5 and FCP7 on Mac.

Here are my options:

1) Capture everything with the Canopus in DV .avi/.mov format. Some say this is sufficient, some say I'll be losing quality. .
2) Capture everything with the Matrox in h264. Some say this will produce poor quality dvd's.
3) Convert all footage to SDI and capture in ProRes 422. Leaning towards this option but some say this is overkill and I might have compatibility issues when editing in PP cs6 on PC.
4) Capture everything in full Uncompressed 10 bit. Again I'm thinking "overkill" and file sizes will be huuuuuge and render times loooong.

My question is what codec should I capture in to produce the highest quality master files possible?

I've received conflicting information, and I want to do this right the first time, so thIs is why I'm reaching out to the COW...

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Sam Lee
Re: Capture/Edit/Archive Analog Footage: Workflow/Codec Advice Needed
on Jan 15, 2014 at 12:48:22 am

You may have to use several codecs for each type of format. Uncompressed 8-bit is way too much and you're wasting hd space.

I did this couple years ago and the biggest issue with legacy analog VHS and UMatic 3/4" SP is the TBC. Your deck must have it or else when you get to a trouble part, the capture device will give you an error. Even with the TBC, the signal sometimes will over the legal limit and capture would stop on its own regardless. It's a pain in the neck. You may have to baby sit it.

For Hi-8 and miniDV: I'd get a consumer digital 8 camcorder w/ firewire and capture it that way. Cleanest possible quality because it performs chroma noise reduction on the higher end model. Huge improvements. MiniDV is pretty much everywhere back during the 2000s and any consumer camcorder or deck should do. Not sure if you'll gain any benefit by going out to analog and go to SDI. For those who's a digital purist, it's best to keep in the miniDV tapes in Firewire DV25 domain because you're extracting that miniDV bit for bit and not going to further compress and encode cycles. Once you take that miniDV signal and go to SDI, it's not bit for bit anymore (except for STSDI deck to deck dubbing).

I used the Decklink Studio with analog inputs. There you can select the codec of choice. Uncompressed is overkilled. Pro Res 422 is plenty. Even DV25 is overkill for VHS. DV25 should be PC & Mac cross platform. Don't use DV25 for analog component Beta SP. ProRes 422 is the ideal codec for any Betacam SP source.

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Eric Hansen
Re: Capture/Edit/Archive Analog Footage: Workflow/Codec Advice Needed
on Jan 15, 2014 at 5:24:38 pm

I agree with almost everything that Sam says. ProRes is not overkill at all. Remember that ProRes SD is much smaller than HD and works well for this use.

The ProRes concern on the PC side is that PCs can play it (with the codec installed), but they can't create it. If you're editing a bunch of ProRes material and then exporting it as something else, then you should be fine.


Eric Hansen
Production Workflow Designer / Consultant / Colorist / DIT

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