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Digitizing videotapes

March 16th, 2009 (09:27 am)
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dsrtao's post about ripping all his CDs and DVDs reminded me of What I Did This Weekend. We've got a couple of shelves of videotapes, and recently the VCR motor is started to make nasty noises from time to time. Buying a new one is an option, but it won't be for much longer; I'd like to get those tapes into a more sensible format.

The catch, of course, is copy protection. Most commercial VHS tapes have data tags in the vertical blanking interval (similar to closed captioning) which say "don't copy me". I don't think there's any law requiring a recorder to respect those tags, but most mass-market devices do. So, for example, I can't just buy a commercial DVD recorder, or copy onto my camcorder; they'll Just Say No.

So, this weekend, I pulled out the Neuros OSD I bought a couple of years back, in their gamma-testing program; it doesn't respect copy protection, but it also produces low-quality output. And I mean really low; the image quality is almost acceptable, but the CPU apparently just couldn't keep up, and stuttered a couple of times, producing jerky motion and blips in the audio. I went looking for new firmware, but there's nothing out there old enough to work on my preproduction device. (Actually, I suppose the problem could've been a slow CompactFlash card instead. The OSD has an SD slot and a USB port, but it didn't recognize either of those.)

So, I guess I'll have to buy a capture card if I want to do this. <dig, dig>...here's one for $50, that's known to work with Linux. Hmm. Cheaper than a new VCR, at least.


Posted by: C. Virtue (cvirtue)
Posted at: March 16th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)

So when was it that whatever source thought VCRs would cease production?

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: March 16th, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)
Don't really know

I haven't seen any real prediction on that. (I just went digging, and didn't find anything.)

I did read that many manufacturers have dropped VCRs because the FCC now requires that, if a VCR has a tuner, it has to have a digital tuner. Skimming through 7 current models of VCR on Amazon, I see that 6 of them have no tuners; the one that does is a $200 DVD recorder plus VCR.

Posted by: dsrtao (dsrtao)
Posted at: March 16th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)

I can loan you a Hauppuage PVR-500 PCI card for a month or two. Known to work under Linux -- in recent kernels, IVTV drivers are built in. Takes composite video + RCA audio in, also analog cable TV and broadcast analog TV.

Does hardware compression to MPEG-2.

Posted by: dsrtao (dsrtao)
Posted at: March 16th, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC)

Oh, and we probably have a spare VHS VCR to loan as well.

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: March 16th, 2009 03:48 pm (UTC)

Thanks; I'll keep that in mind. Say, if our current VCR dies before I finish digitizing.

Posted by: dsrtao (dsrtao)
Posted at: March 16th, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC)

I was thinking that you could set up the extra VCR near the computer so you
didn't have to unplug it and move it when you wanted to digitize some tapes. After all, that chunk has to go at realtime speed.

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: March 16th, 2009 03:51 pm (UTC)

Ah! Yes, that would be useful, please.

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: March 16th, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC)

Ooh! Yes, please!

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