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Tape-Based Capture: In AVI vs. MP4?

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Tape-Based Capture: In AVI vs. MP4?

Postby HSA » Mon Feb 11, 2019 5:47 pm

This topic is an off-shoot from a matter raised under a hardware/computer thread. But the focus has changed so much that I believe it warrants a new discussion thread.

The foundation matter is the intent to convert VHS tapes to DVD, but to first import the digital files into Premier Elements (version 11) for editing. The intent to edit is key.

I already own (but have not yet used) a very good, S-VHS player having S-Video output, a Canopus ADVC 110 converter, and a computer having Firewire input.

Yesterday, I was about to begin my first capture project ---- into AVI format ---- when I learned that, while AVI used to be the recommended digital format (indeed the only recommended format) if intending to edit files before burning DVD, today that may no longer be true.
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Here is a recent post wherein Steve is responding to a gentlemen named Red, someone like myself, who is digging-up an old, long-delayed, VHS-to-digital project, and has asked whether AVI is still the file format to use:

Steve: “Man, was that a LONG time ago, Red. The world has changed a lot since then. Especially video.

MP4s are just fine as an editable format now (assuming you're using a relatively current version of any video editing program). And 640x480 MP4s are just fine for converting your family's old movies.

DV-AVIs are of course still perfectly acceptable. But just make sure that they're DV-format AVIs. AVIs are just a delivery format, so an AVI could be made up of any of thousands of codecs, most of which don't edit well.”

____________________________________________________

Well, I had never before heard of MP4s (as noted, I’ve been away from the field for a few years). From considerable research last evening and today, I now have the impression (in summary) that MPEG-4/MP4 is a clever but massively compressed format developed for cutting file size for easier distribution over the Internet for play over a myriad of modern devices.

Several posts made particular mention, however, that where EDITING IS THE INTENT, one should begin with the least compressed file format (no doubt a reason that some years ago AVI was the recommended format). All of this would lead a novice to conclude that perhaps MP4 would be acceptable if intending to burn the video file directly to DVD ---- WITHOUT PRIOR EDITING. So, in light of my intent: VHS to Digital, Edit in Premier Elements, Burn to DVD, I am confused.

I note that in addition to Steve’s post that I quoted above, Steve also has a recent YouTube video showing a tape-to-digital, USB-based converter that costs only about $30; recommended settings are: Format MPEG/MP4, Codec H.264.

So, although I already own a Canopus 110 converter and Firewire-capable computer, if Steve has moved from Canopus/Firewire/AVI to a tape-to-digital USB-based converter that costs only about $30, who’s to argue! But my confusion is about editing files in the highly altered/compressed MP4 format (I do not know the influence of codec H.264). Perhaps it works because we’re starting with a relatively low-resolution, VHS-based signal ---- not likely to show the shortcomings of editing an MP4 file. Any discussion?

Thank you,

Howard
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Re: Tape-Based Capture: In AVI vs. MP4?

Postby Steve Grisetti » Mon Feb 11, 2019 8:49 pm

I think you may be overthinking it, Howard.

MP4s are perfectly acceptable formats for editing. In fact, the MTS and M2T video that comes from most AVCHD camcorders is essentially the same as MP4 video, taking advantage of the excellent H.264 compressor.
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Re: Tape-Based Capture: In AVI vs. MP4?

Postby HSA » Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:18 pm

Ok, I'll give it a try. Thank you.
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Re: Tape-Based Capture: In AVI vs. MP4?

Postby sidd finch » Sat Feb 16, 2019 9:37 am

I might also add that the DVD is in decline and down the road might put you back in the same place as your DV tapes. The DV resolution is 720×480 (NTSC). I might suggest that in the long term the solution would be to capture the footage to keep on a hard drive. The as the formats change (and they will) you can output your captured footage to the desired format. DVD is also not a long term storage solution, because if something happens to the disc all information is lost.

I can really empathize with you. Having hundreds of DV tapes I need to make the arduous journey of getting it all on to a hard drive. Importing one DV tape is 13GB so I have a mountain to climb.

The lesson I have learned ts to always make sure my footage is stored in a method that is able to be saved in the most current format. That way I will always have access to view the footage. DV tape seemed to be short lived and in the blink of an eye it is antiquated.

With a perspective...... :)
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Re: Tape-Based Capture: In AVI vs. MP4?

Postby HSA » Sat Feb 16, 2019 6:19 pm

Sid, thank you. Your advice is well taken. But my situation is even more primitive than you are suggesting. My tapes are VHS tapes, not DV.

A few years ago I purchased a very good second-hand JVC "pro-sumer" quality S-VHS/S-video VHS recorder/player and a Canopus 110 converter. I also purchased Premier Elements 11. Then I had to put my intended project aside. Now, about eight or ten years later, I am picking it up again. I still have the equipment and software purchased years ago. I have the old Windows XP computer with Firewire, so I could still use that computer and the Canopus 110 to capture the VHS signal.

Notwithstanding the above, Steve and others have pointed out that AVI is essentially obsolete (along with Firewire). Steve has an excellent short video on YouTube about using the Easy-Link 2.0 USB capture/converter (only $29); he therein used a Sony DV camcorder and the Easy-Link 2.0 converter to capture ---- to MP4/H.264.

The reason I have not yet purchased that $29 Easy-Link USB converter is that when I went to Amazon to look at the product, in the customer question and answer section, the manufacturer of that USB converter explicitly stated that that device captures the VHS signal only to MPEG-2 (not to AVI, MP4 or anything else).

In Steve’s tutorial, he captured from a Sony DV camcorder, not a VHS machine, which is perhaps why the software he used in the tutorial provided so many options to save the captured file (he chose MP4). I don’t know.

Since I plan to edit the video file in Premier Elements and I am told that MPEG-2 is not an ideal format with which to begin an editing project, I don’t know what to do ---- perhaps revert to the original intent of capturing to AVI format via the Canopus 110 and the old Windows computer having a Firewire port.

Now, Sid, back to your primary matter. Clearly my situation is a perfect example of changing formats over time. And yes, there are many reports of homemade DVDs that disintegrate with age. So no doubt I will keep my post-edited “master file” on a hard drive. The question is “in what format?” I have no personal experience at all; I certainly accept Steve’s statement that capturing in the MP4 format will be as good as AVI (and the USB-converter route a much simpler process) since my starting point is low-resolution VHS video. But as mentioned, the manufacturer of the Easy-Link 2.0 has stated that their converter captures VHS only to MPEG-2, while I intend to edit the captured file.

So, again Sid, thanks for your input. I guess I should be looking for a USB-based converter (much simpler than the Canopus/Firewire route), that will allow a VHS signal to be captured to other than MPEG-2 . . . . or simply bite the bullet and use the old Windows XP computer and Canopus 110 converter and save the resulting AVI as my post-edit master file.

As an aside, you noted AVI being about 13 GB/hr. There is a service available that will capture true lossless, Huffyuv. It’s about 35GB/hour! In light of my tapes being old VHS, however, I don’t know what extra benefit that true lossless format would provide (for 35 GB/hr).

Thanks again,

Howard
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Re: Tape-Based Capture: In AVI vs. MP4?

Postby Bob » Sun Feb 17, 2019 2:47 am

when I went to Amazon to look at the product, in the customer question and answer section, the manufacturer of that USB converter explicitly stated that that device captures the VHS signal only to MPEG-2 (not to AVI, MP4 or anything else)


That doesn't sound right. Per Steve's video, the device is using the Potplayer application to capture the stream from the device and encode it to a file. Potplayer is a general use application. It's not written specifically for this capture device. If Potplayer can capture the stream, I know of no reason why it couldn't it export to MP4. Follow Steve's directions in the video.

However, I do want to emphasize that, assuming everything is in working order, you already have everything you need to capture to DV-AVI using your old computer and the Canopus device. You don't have to buy anything. If you want to try the USB capture device you certainly can. But, you really don't need to. DV-AVI is perfectly compatible with all versions of Premiere Elements and you can export your video to whatever format you want to use for saving and distribution. MP4 is fine.
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Re: Tape-Based Capture: In AVI vs. MP4?

Postby HSA » Sun Feb 17, 2019 2:52 pm

Thank you, Bob.

I certainly wondered about capturing VHS with the USB-based Easy-Link 2.0 converter, as it would be easier and more “future friendly” than capturing using my old Windows XP/Firewire computer and my Canopus 110 converter. (And after all, my old Windows XP/Firewire computer and Canopus 110 will not be around forever.)

So, based on Steve’s fine tutorial, I went to Amazon to look at, and likely purchase, the Easy-Link product (it’s only $29!). In the Amazon Q&A section for the product were a few questions as to the file format(s) produced when capturing with the Easy-Link 2.0. The answers from users were various. Thus the manufacturer stepped in. The manufacturer explicitly stated that the unit captures only to MPEG-2. (By the way, this manufacturer (though with a strong Chinese accent) was particularly courteous and helpful, replying to all kinds of user problems and potential-user inquiries. Not only did he/she answer questions in the Amazon Q&A section, he/she also provided an e-mail for technical support and encouraged anyone to write.) So I asked the following question through the Q&A forum and sent a direct e-mail:

If beginning with VHS tapes and player, and capturing using the Easy-Link 2.0 device, what are the file-format capture options (AVI, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, MP4, other)?


Not only did the manufacturer post an answer in the Amazon Q&A section, but, to my surprise, I received a personal e-mail the very next day. True, the response had a strong Chinese accent, but the answer was clear (as was his/her desire to assist). The device captures to MPEG-2 only.

Because in Steve’s online tutorial for the Easy-Link 2.0 he was capturing from a Sony DV camcorder, I wondered if that perhaps was the reason that he had so many capture options, and chose MP4 (H.264), whereas the manufacturer explicitly stated MPEG-2 only. I suppose it’s possible also that, notwithstanding a sincere desire to be helpful, both through Amazon Q&As and direct e-mail questions such as mine, the manufacturer’s representative did not him/herself really know about the various capture options provided in the software.

And quite frankly (and obvious), I don’t know much about this either. But in my recent research I believe I understood that MPEG-2 is an appropriate format for the final product, but not for capture if editing is intended (and my tapes will be edited). Then again, this Easy-Link 2.0 is so inexpensive, I just might purchase it, select a specific VHS tape, and run the capture twice: using the Easy-Link USB converter and using the Canopus.

The beginner’s blues,

Howard
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Re: Tape-Based Capture: In AVI vs. MP4?

Postby sidd finch » Sun Feb 17, 2019 3:50 pm

certainly wondered about capturing VHS with the USB-based Easy-Link 2.0 converter, as it would be easier and more “future friendly” than capturing using my old Windows XP/Firewire computer and my Canopus 110 converter. (And after all, my old Windows XP/Firewire computer and Canopus 110 will not be around forever.)


I think your first hurdle is to capture the footage and get it into your computer. Once in your computer (hard drive) your options open up from there. As Bob said AVI is an acceptable format to store the files. Once digitized (copied to computer) you can output to many different formats.

I hope it goes well for you.

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Re: Tape-Based Capture: In AVI vs. MP4?

Postby Bob » Sun Feb 17, 2019 4:33 pm

It's also possible that the Easy-Link 2.0 outputs MPEG-2 and Potplayer is capturing that from the device and converting to the specified MP4 format when saving to a file. Either way, you should be OK.
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Re: Tape-Based Capture: In AVI vs. MP4?

Postby HSA » Mon Feb 18, 2019 12:57 am

News Regarding The Easy-Link 2.0 and How it Captures from VHS Tape

For those who helped with this thread, recall that in the Amazon customer reviews and Q&As the manufacturer’s representative stated that the device and it’s software capture to MPEG-2 ONLY. And I received a personal e-mail from the manufacturer’s rep to the same effect.

Yet, Steve has a tutorial showing capture in MP4 and h.264 codec. I was confused.

Tonight, 12:30 A.M. eastern time, I just received an e-mail from China. This must have come from a more knowledgeable person at the firm that sells the Easy-Link 2.0. With applicable images of the “Pot Player” dialogs, he demonstrated capture to MP4 . . . etc. etc.

It’s now quite obvious that the user is NOT locked-in to capture to MPEG-2 only, as the Amazon Q&As and the previous manufacturer’s rep had stated.

So, Steve Grisetti’s tutorial was/is absolutely correct.

One more thing: What incredible customer service from the people who sell the Easy-Link 2.0. ------ Personal e-mails from China to help me understand their product and clarify the error stated in the Amazon Q&A about the product. No wonder Steve stated in his tutorial that this was his preferred USB-based VHS converter.

Thanks Steve, Bob and Sidd.

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Re: Tape-Based Capture: In AVI vs. MP4?

Postby Steve Grisetti » Mon Feb 18, 2019 7:57 am

Glad you got it all up and running, Howard.

And the lesson from all of this? You can always trust your friends at Muvipix!

(Also, Amazon reviews should always be taken with a grain of salt. Not every reviewer knows what he or she is doing, and they often blame the product, IMHO.)
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Re: Tape-Based Capture: In AVI vs. MP4?

Postby HSA » Tue Feb 19, 2019 2:20 pm

CAVEAT EMPTOR

On Amazon, I tried to purchase the Easy-Link 2.0 device that has been the subject of this thread. I discovered TWO problems, one of which may be the source of the confusion discussed all along.

1. The product is “currently unavailable,” with no information if it will be available in the future. It may well be our herein discussion of the Easy-Link 2.0 and, more likely, Steve Grisetti’s fine product tutorials on YouTube that it is sold out.

2. There is a SEPARATE Easy-Link 2.0 listed, but the product package is not the same as has been discussed in this thread and is not the same as the one Steve Grisetti demonstrated in his tutorials.

The hardware device appears to be exactly the same, but the software is not. The accompanying software is ArcSoft (something or other), whereas Steve reviewed and demonstrated the product with the accompanying “PotPlayer” ---- which is what made the capture function so useful.

Also worth noting is that the seller on this “other” Easy-Link 2.0 appears to be different than the one that comes with the PotPlayer.

For anyone following this thread, caveat emptor.

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Re: Tape-Based Capture: In AVI vs. MP4?

Postby Steve Grisetti » Tue Feb 19, 2019 4:49 pm

Thanks for reporting this, Howard. The challenge with working with Chinese technology is that it's not terribly consistent.

As an alternative, the Diamond DV500 is similar in cost and function and more consistently produced.
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