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Old 19th January 2011, 23:09   #1  |  Link
eurosong
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Looking for a GOOD video capture program

I've been tearing my hair out while trying to find a good piece of software to capture video, and I'm wondering if any of you helpful experts may be able to advise me.

The basics: I have a Super-VHS video recorder, connected to my computer via an S-Video connection which plugs into a USB dongle which I bought on eBay from Hong Kong.

I live in the UK, and the video tapes which I am trying to capture are recorded in PAL.

My original SVHS tapes are excellent quality with crystal clear pictures, so therefore I want to capture in the best possible quality. I understand that I won't get DVD-like resolution, but I want to capture as if I could - just to ensure that the captured video is not in any way worse than the original video tapes.

Preferably, I also want to capture the raw, uncompressed data. Only AFTER I have captured this then I will look at finding a good, lossless codec to compress it. The reason I want to capture uncompressed is because I understand that many of the best codecs require multiple passess for optimal results: therefore if I am capturing from a source, obviously I need the raw data first. I have a 2TB hard drive which is free, so space is not an issue right now.

I have tried many different capture programs - including the one thrown in with the dongle, and none of them are quite adequate for the following reasons:

* VirtualDub - audio/video out of synch, even when trying a ten-second test capture. The program options suggest that they should be synched, but they're not.
* WinAVi Video Capture - cuts off the bottom of screen. Perhaps it's set in NTSC mode? Who knows. I only know that I can find no option to specify the input resolution.
* Honestech VHS to DVD 2.0 - Correct picture resolution, but will not capture uncompressed video. Very few options. Forces split files: no option to capture larger than 3.99GB.. presumably to let people transfer their files to DVD, but without letting people have the option of recoding later.
* Blaze Media Pro - shite. Simply shite.
* Windows Media 9 Capture - Barely any options.
* Cyberlinke PowerDirector's capture facility - again, cuts off the bottom of the screen with no adjustable options to retrieve it.

Ideally VirtualDub looks like the most configurable - but as I said, even a short test capture results in the audio and video being our of synchronisation. I have no idea why.

Can anyone give any suggestions? Even non-free software may be an option: I am willing to pay for something, as long as it does exactly what I need it to do.

Thanks.
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Old 19th January 2011, 23:33   #2  |  Link
onesloth
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The only way that a lossless codec capture could be suboptimal is with respect to compression. You can always transcode to a better lossless codec after capture. If you are using avisynth for later processing, you can concatenate split source files very easily. Is Honestech an option if you capture to lossless?
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Old 20th January 2011, 00:11   #3  |  Link
mariush
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Give Virtuadub more time, it really works.

I've successfully used and still use Leadtek Winfast 2000XP Expert tv tuner with Composite and S-Video in to record material, if you can find it somewhere I really recommend it as it should give you much better quality compared to a USB device: http://www.leadtek.com/eng/multimedi...lineid=6&act=1 I'm not sure you can find it anymore in stores, but there are models on eBay. Though not the Expert and you should be careful as there are several versions and for example WinFast TV2000XP Global and Expert have a better 10bit chip (CX2388X) while the Deluxe version has a less quality chip (8bit, BT Fusion 878A)


Don't capture uncompressed, use Lagarith or Huffyuv codec (preferrably find the patched version which supports both YV12 and YUV2). Both are lossless and should work perfectly. That USB capture device will not capture RGB, but YV12 or YUV so you should go to Video > Set custom format to see if there's any difference between YV12 or YUV2 - ideally you'd want YUV2 as it contains more information. On the same panel, you can select the capture resolution - the USB capture device may refuse lots of custom resolutions but you should be able to select 704x576 or 720x576 or.. what I find best... 768x576 and then I can crop out the extra black lines and so on.

Then you can go to Audio and select PCM uncompressed for audio which works best, and run several tests to determine the best sampling rate which doesn't cause sync loss. See Audio > Raw capture format. You may find it loses sync on 44100 Hz 16 bit stereo but it will work just fine on 48000 Hz, stereo 16 bit or 24 bit if that's how the usb capture device's driver works - you could even try 96000 hz....you can downsample the audio to 16 bit later when compressing to MP3 or whatever you want.
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Old 20th January 2011, 00:43   #4  |  Link
eurosong
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Thanks for the replies to far.

onesloth: as I said, I'll deal with the issue of codecs only after I find a suitable program to actually do the capturing.

mariush: I'd love to get VirtualDub working. I did a search for synch issues - but all the results appear to relate to captured videos which are long, and where it goes out of synch when dropped/added frames take their effect over a long period of time, causing the video to be out of step with the audio. But in my test capture of just a few seconds, the video and audio were completely out of synch - despite my having checked the synch options. Any idea what could be wrong?

With regards alternative hardware - I may investigate that if I find that what I have is unsuitable. But to test, I first need some working software.

You're talking about colour space. With the programs that I tried that DID allow me to switch options, I played around with them - and found that YV12 and YUV were in black & white - and only RGB24 was in colour. Remember, this is with my S-Video input from the SuperVHS tape, if it makes any difference.

Why should the audio capture format (compressed or not) make a difference to whether the video is in synch?

Thanks...
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Old 20th January 2011, 01:26   #5  |  Link
mariush
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The s-video and composite signals are all analogic, color. The USB capture card or the USB stick converts this analogic signal in a digital one and sends it to applications encoded in a specific color space.

Color spaces are types of encoding of the color information for each pixel. The most basic one is RGB where each pixel is represented by 3 bytes, red , green and blue. YUY2 and YV12 are two types of pixel encodings in which the capture device takes advantage of the fact that humans notice variations of luminosity and color differently so they use less bytes to store one of these components so for example YUY2 encodes 2 pixels in 6 bytes and in the case of YV12 it encodes 4 pixels in less space than what YUY2 would use to encode 2 pairs of pixels.

See this for a better explanation: http://www.animemusicvideos.org/guid...olorspace.html

Now normally, you would think ... hey I want RGB to get the best quality, but the fact is that DVDs, x264, xvid, all lossy codecs use YV12 (and very few also allow the slightly better YUY2) to encode the content, and the difference between RGB and YUY2 or even YV12 is so small when capturing from a VHS, it's not worth capturing in RGB if it's possible to record in YUY2 or YV12.

When you go in Virtualdub to Video > Set Custom Format and set there YUY2 or YV12, Virtualdub simply tells the usb capture device driver to switch from RGB to one of those color spaces - being Chinese cheap device, the driver may simply not support these color spaces properly and output black and white image when it should output color image in the color space you selected. So in this case you'll just have to keep using RGB, which is OK but your computer will work harder and save more data which will be lost anyway in the end.

So the Video > Custom format tells the driver to send images to Virtualdub in that colorspace. If you don't save raw data to disk (and you shouldn't, it doesn't make sense), you can tell the codec you select to compress the video part to convert from RGB to YUY2 or YV12 and save disk space. You just go to Video > Compression and select Lagarith or Huffyuv (you have to install them first though, before you start Virtualdub) and you click on the Configure button and select the color space you want. I'd suggest using YUY2 if possible,

Lagarith and Hufyuv will use about 30% of a quad core processor to encode a 720x576 25 fps video. On an older dual core processor, it uses about 70-80% of the processor but the usb capture device requires much more processor compared to a TV tuner card like the one I mentioned - the USB device may use up to 10-20% of the CPU when running.

So the reason why I'm not recommending to compress the audio during capture is because the lossless compression of the video and the usb capture device already use plenty of processing power so the 5-10% the audio encoding uses, could cause Virtualdub to skip video frames. The audio data is about 170-200 KB/s of disk space, so it's really not a problem compared to 4-5 MB/s of data compressed with Lagarith/Huffyuv or raw data that's about 40 MB/s of raw video.

So anyway... play with audio sampling rate, 44100, 48000 Hz, see what works best. Also try using Video > Overlay or Video > Preview coupled with Video > Preview (both fields) to see if changing this reduces processor usage - sometimes Virtualdub uses a bit of processing power to display the images it captures - setting to Overlay should usually work best but on some video card you have to use Preview with acceleration set to Both fields.

You may also want to try to capture on 24 fps or 29.97 even though your VHS is PAL therefore it should be 25 fps. With cheap Chinese USB devices, who knows...
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Old 20th January 2011, 11:50   #6  |  Link
GrofLuigi
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Some short tips/ideas:

- You might be actually running out of USB bandwith. I don't know how to calculate it, but maybe someone else could chime in. In any case, try your hardest to work with YUY2 and use a (lossless) codec, as others said.

- I wouldn't give up on VirtualDub yet, try all the options in (capture mode) menu > Capture > timing. Both checked and unchecked may make a positive difference for your device.

- In VirtualDub, the main place where you'll discover the capabilities and formats that your device's driver exposes is (capture mode) menu > Video > Capture Pin. But, many drivers are buggy in a sense that "forget" the settings there and force their own defaults when the capture is started (graph is re-built). You might try to override that in (capture mode) menu > Video > Set Custom Format, but no guarantees...

- If you haven't already, study The Capture Guide very carefully. Although it's outdated in some parts, it's still the best there is.

- Other programs to consider: VirtualVCR (free), iuVCR/iuVCS, but I I'd try real hard to make VirtualDub work first.

GL
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Old 20th January 2011, 12:29   #7  |  Link
manono
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jagabo over at Videohelp.com recently posted a good tutorial on getting VDub going. Maybe it'll help:

http://forum.videohelp.com/threads/1...=1#post2042997
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Old 20th January 2011, 13:05   #8  |  Link
eurosong
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Mariush: Thank you for the very useful information.

You're correct: I was thinking "Even though I may not see a visible difference in quality by capturing in RGB24, I still want to do so just because it will retain more lossless data from the original" - as I have plenty of drive space. Then when I find a good way to encode the file I can delete the original.

Anyway - I tried capturing with uncompressed audio - and I also fiddled around with various synchronisation options in VirtualDub - to no avail. The audio is still completely out of synch There seems to be no explanation for this. I also tried setting the frame rate to 30fps - but it makes no difference. Anyway, when using the overlay preview and not recording, I can see the current frame rate hovering at 25fps, so I know that my device is outputting as such.

GrofLuigi: how would I know if I'm running out of USB bandwidth? When I try my (out-of-synch) captures in VirtualDub, it shows the CPU usage - which is a fraction of its maximum capacity. I know that CPU usang is not the same thing as USB bandwidth - but how would I tell that anyway? My CPU and motherboard are very new: only 3 months old, and are powerful. I do not believe it's a hardware problem. Anyway - with most other capture programs, the audio and video ARE in perfect synch - so it's obvious that the device does not have a problem there. Additionally, when I am previewing in VirtualDub the synchronisation is perfect. So the signal which is being fed into the computer has no problems at all. The only issue is when I try to RECORD the damn thing!

I tried the two programs you suggested. iuVCR also has synchronisation problems. I saw many options to be played with, and tried a few - but that did not help. And without knowing the precise problem, I am disinclined to spend all day trying multiple test captures for every single combination of options! VirtualVCR for some reason does not save valid .avi files: when I try to open them with Windows Media Player, I encounter a file error.

It is so frustrating - because I can see that my hardware does not have a particular error preventing me from capturing video properly. I know this because the problem is different with every piece of software I use. For example, MOST of the programs I try do not have any problems with synch: it's just that they have crappy options, like not allowing uncompressed capture, or limiting file sizes! Or even not allowing you to specify input format, so the bottom of the screen is chopped off. If just one of these programs allowed some more adjustable options then I could use them.

Any other suggestions?
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Old 20th January 2011, 13:29   #9  |  Link
manono
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eurosong View Post
Any other suggestions?
Yeah, do a test capture in compressed but lossless YV12 (I'd use Lagarith) to confirm that the audio synch issue isn't caused by USB bandwidth limitations because you're trying to cap uncompressed.
Quote:
For example, MOST of the programs I try do not have any problems with synch: it's just that they have crappy options, like not allowing uncompressed capture
Doesn't that tell you something?

Last edited by manono; 20th January 2011 at 13:35.
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Old 20th January 2011, 14:27   #10  |  Link
eurosong
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Thanks.

I installed Lagarith and did a test capture in YV12. Still completely out of synch

I also tried changing the audio input from my Line-In to the integrated phono input into the USB dongle - in case it would help to have both streams coming through the same device. But the problem remains.

I give upon VirtualDub. There is NO reason why the audio & video should be so completely out of synch - even for test recordings of just a few seconds. Therefore I am looking for a good alternative program.

Please help me...
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Old 20th January 2011, 15:33   #11  |  Link
eurosong
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Hmm, I may have found a viable solution.

One program which I had previously written off was "Debut Video Capture", because it could not capture uncompressed. However, having installed Lagarith, it now recognises this codec - and if it's lossless then it may do the job for me. Debut does not appear to suffer from the synch problems of VirtualDub. This is mysterious: from what I can see, VirtualDub is a "power user" program which is configurable for every possible option, so it should be superior to any basic user program which includes default options which can not be changed. But for some reason, VD refuses to work for me, whatever options I choose - and the more basic programs seem to just get the synch right without any worries. Most mysterious.

Anyway - my tests with Debut worked, and I am now capturing my 3-hour recording with Lagarith. Fingers crossed that it will work! If it does - then I may be seeking advice as to whether I should just use a DVD authoring program to directly recode the resulting HUGE avi file to fit on an 8.5GB DVD, or if I should first play around with recoding the AVI to make it smaller.
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Old 20th January 2011, 18:40   #12  |  Link
manono
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eurosong View Post
...then I may be seeking advice as to whether I should just use a DVD authoring program to directly recode the resulting HUGE avi file to fit on an 8.5GB DVD, or if I should first play around with recoding the AVI to make it smaller.
A DVD Authoring program authors. An encoder encodes. Those are 2 separate and distinct operations, although there are programs that do both. However, I don't understand the difference between ...I should just use a DVD authoring program to directly recode the resulting HUGE avi file to fit on an 8.5GB DVD and ...I should first play around with recoding the AVI to make it smaller. Once you get your lossless AVI and if the intent is to make a DVD from it, you reencode it for MPEG-2 DVD video, preferably using an AviSynth script fed into your favorite encoder. If you're asking if you should first make an intermediate smaller AVI from the original big one, the answer's 'No'.
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Old 20th January 2011, 22:48   #13  |  Link
eurosong
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Thanks manono - that's what I thought. An intermediate, smaller AVI file would not help matters. Although if I want to keep a smaller, manageable AVI to watch on my computer I should also do this. By the way - my three-hour recording took up 140GB of space using Lagarith

I'm trying to use VirtualDub to recode, but it does not appear to list many of the codecs which I have on my system. For example, I have xvid - but it does not show in the list when I go to the Video menu and select "Compression". Any idea why this might be? And yes - I do have xvid for encoding and not just for decoding, because it shows up in other programs as a choice to use for encoding.
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Old 20th January 2011, 22:59   #14  |  Link
onesloth
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Install ffdshow, select it in the compression list, press configure, and select Xvid from the drop down.

But really, if you intend on doing a lot of encoding, just learn how to use avisynth with x264. If you just want to make DVDs it might not be worth your time, though.

Last edited by onesloth; 20th January 2011 at 23:03.
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Old 21st January 2011, 01:36   #15  |  Link
mariush
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eurosong - you may have installed Xvid 64 bit and you're using Virtualdub 32 bit or the other way around. It should pop up in the Codecs panel in Virtualdub if everything is installed correctly.

I'll also second onesloth and suggest using Avisynth and x264 to encode the content. You can write a basic script that would crop some unneeded lines, deinterlace the video if needed and provide x264 with the video frames to encode in MP4 or MKV
Such command line for x264 would be x264.exe --pass 1/2 --tune film --preset slower --bitrate 4096 --output film.mkv/.mp4 video.avs

1/2 meaning 2 passes so you have to run it twice - which should give you a very good encoding (I'd say almost transparent) at around 4 mbps for a SD (DVD) resolution, or about 30 MB per minute of video (with audio, ending up at around 2 GB per hour, so you could write 2 x 2 GB files on a plain 4.3 GB DVD). For SD content, x264 should also automatically pick defaults that would make the video playable on any video player capable of h264 (bluray) decoding and I don't see any reason why it wouldn't even play on things like iPhone and portable players.

The audio part you can encode with Lame to MP3 160/192 kbps vbr or AAC with Nero's aac encoder (if you want to save everything to mp4) and then everything you can mux together into a single MKV file or MP4 file with MKVToolnix or MP4Box (or whatever mp4 muxer is currently liked, I'm not a fan of mp4 so I don't keep up)

Last edited by mariush; 21st January 2011 at 01:38.
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Old 21st January 2011, 11:03   #16  |  Link
eurosong
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I don't know Avisynth and x264 - but they sounds intriguing. I'll take a look at it, thanks.

Re: xvid - I am using VirtualDub 64, so perhaps that's why xvid is not showing up? I'm unsure if I have xvid 32 or 64: I did not know that codecs came in such versions!

Now I have my cropped and edited 128GB AVI file, I need to find a good DVD authoring program which encodes all that at the best possible quality to fit on an 8.5GB DVD. Ho hum.
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Old 21st January 2011, 12:56   #17  |  Link
mariush
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HCEnc is an open source MPEG2 encoder that has very good quality - it can take your avi file and encode it to a DVD compliant mpeg file.

After this, you only need an authoring program to create the menus for it if you want - you don't have to though - Nero Burning ROM I think will create a playable video DVD if you give him just the mpeg file you encoded with HCEnc. Otherwise, you could probably use TMPGEnc Authoring Works, the trial version will work for about 14 days and other than a watermark in the menus it will work just fine: http://tmpgenc.pegasys-inc.com/en/download/taw4.html

But anyway, if you've cropped and edited to a 128 GB file, so that's the final version that's going to be encoded to DVD, you could use x264 directly without AVISynth and scripts. If you want try to encode a part of the video and see if you like the result.Copy x264.exe from http://x264.nl into the same folder with your video, open a command prompt and type :

x264.exe --pass 1 --frames 15000 --tune film --preset slower --bitrate 4096 --output video.mkv video.avi
x264.exe --pass 2 --frames 15000 --tune film --preset slower --bitrate 4096 --output video.mkv video.avi

the frames parameter will tell the encoder to process just the first 15000 frames, which for a 25fps movie is about 10 minutes.

Last edited by mariush; 21st January 2011 at 12:59.
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Old 23rd January 2011, 20:50   #18  |  Link
eurosong
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Mariush: Before I start poking around with unfamiliar software, I want to check one thing with you.

From what you said, it appears that once a video file is encoded into MPEG2 format, that means no further conversion is required to put it on DVD. This is what's confusing me: I understand that a video DVD consists of .VOB files. So does that mean that VOB files are basically just the same sequence of binary information as an MPEG2 video file - with the addition of menu information? Or what...

I always believed that VOB was an entirely different format, and it did not matter what sort of video file you had to start with, you still needed a converter in order to encode your video to VOB format. But it appears you're saying that MPEG2 is the same thing as VOB. Is this correct? If not - then what exactly do you mean by "DVD-compliant mpeg file" - because if it still needs conversion then any other video would also be DVD-compliant. Please clarify!
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Old 23rd January 2011, 21:22   #19  |  Link
eurosong
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Update: I'm giving the x264 program a go.. I used your suggested parameters. It's on its first pass - still "indexing" the source file. Wow, it's slow...! And this is just in preparation of the first pass for ten minutes of the video? I checked my CPU usage: for some reason, x264 is only using 1-2% of CPU power. Why? For a three-hour programme, it would take many days at this rate! I have a whacking great processor which is idle, as this process trundles along. Any idea why it's only using such a tiny amount of the computing power available?
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Old 23rd January 2011, 21:47   #20  |  Link
mariush
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A VOB file is a container for data, just like AVI or MP4 or MKV is. It contains video, audio, subtitles, menu information, all combined together. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VOB

If you encode the video to MPEG 2 making sure all parameters are within what the DVD standard wants, the program creating the VOB files won't need to re-encode everything again, it will just copy the video and audio into the VOB file and add whatever information is needed. HCenc (or other mpeg 2 encoders) should create the mpeg 2 file (or should have an option to restrict encoding to DVD standard) in such way that the vob creator won't need to re-encode the video.

As for x264, the indexing of the video file is just a quick parse through the whole content, to get a clue about how long the video is, the frame rate and other things, it does no encoding at this point so that's why the processor usage is low. It probably has to do this indexing because you have a raw video. With an AVI file where the video is compressed using Lagarith or another codec, it shouldn't have to index the content.

Anyway, once it indexes the file, it should start encoding using all your processor and as fast as the hard disk can read the video from disk.

Last edited by mariush; 23rd January 2011 at 21:49.
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