Saturday, 11 March 2017

way back in the 1990s - VHS to mp4


Way back in the 1990s. We made our own amusement then.

A slight rework of the old Incredible String Band song, which was set even further back.

Today I find myself wiring up a 1997 Sony SLV-E920 video recorder. Back in the day they cost around £500, or about £860 in today's money. Suitably rare, they pop up on eBay for about £60, although I found this one in the garage.

The purpose? To recode a few of the equally garage-based lost treasure VHS cassettes into digital. And how things move along.

Old VHS tapes can only be recoded at playback speed. Nowadays a DVD can run at 180 frames per second for conversion to mp4 or similar. So I still need to be selective about what gets converted. In the days they were created, the tapes would also be packed with multiple items, so there's a certain amount of fast forwarding required to figure out the content.

The line resolution of old domestic VHS is also quite low. 240 lines of interlaced signal. In modern terminology I suppose it would be 480i. Somewhat less than the typical 1080p of a modern set-up. I might whack the completed digital output through Handbrake later to squish them down a bit further in terms of file size.

As for the analogue to digital converter. I've been using the elgato video capture connector. It handles all the analog to digital conversion inside a little white 'blob' in line with the USB connection cable. I can remember using fancy PC cards to unreliably achieve similar goals in the past. Remember Windows driver conflicts?

Years ago, I used various Matrox RT systems, including RT2500 and RT100x. They were designed in the time of transition from analogue to digital video and cost more than the video recorders. Ironically, in those days when disk storage was still limited, one of the ways to output a storable image was to send it back to tape in DV format.

Now, for these conversions, I'm going straight from the tape to 'iTunes playable' format, so intermediate 'high quality' formats are really not needed. As home movies, the aim is for the 'Ahhh' factor rather than someone to examine the technical quality.

Sports Day, anyone?

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