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VHStoDVD w/ ConvertX M402U

Discussion in 'User submitted guides' started by pfh, Feb 14, 2005.

  1. pfh

    pfh Guest

    I wrote this guide to help one newbie to another. I am not an expert by any stretch. I’m a person like the thousands of others who has invested a considerable amount of money in a VHS collection and is watching it’s slow demise into the technology graveyard. Once the price of DVD RW drives dropped you’re probably like me and saw an opportunity to finally do something with those VHS tapes. You might also remember a time when you didn’t “do anything” with that LP collection but that’s another ball game!
    So then, this is just a basic guide of my transfer method and what I found to work for my set up. Even though you may use different equipment the principles applied here should work for you.
    For my method I chose to use the Plextor PX-M402U ConvertX as my capture device giving me an external hardware based encoding solution for Mpeg 1/2/4 and Divx. Installation was easy as installing included software and plugging in the ConvertX to a USB port. I would recommend using a "primary" usb port- those that are nearest to your keyboard and mouse ports. This gives you the best I/O and less chance of I/O errors. My VCR is a basic JVC model no. HR-VP673U. [bold]I have since purcahsed a new JVC 9911 vcr- it has s-video and line TBC[/bold] The PC I’m using is one I built. Basic specs are: WinXP Home w/ sp2, Athlon 2500 (Barton core), 1gig Corsair value ram, Gigabyte 7VT600 main board, ATI 9800 pro video card, Sound Blaster Audigy, 2 internal 40 gig HD’s and 1 external 40 gig HD. My DVD RW is a NEC 2510a and the only DVD medium I’ve used are DVD-R by Fujifilm. No coasters except thru my own errors. This is good media.
    As you may or may not have figured out by now, once you get into this video stuff you better have lots of free hard drive space. I have a 40 gig slave drive that’s dedicated to the process, however, 40 gigs of hard drive goes pretty quick once you throw 2-3 mpeg transfers and editing projects on there. At some point I’ll get bigger drives but for now my budget’s tight.
    The Plextor ConvetX is a nice unit and can be had for under $150. The one draw back is the bundled WinDVD Creator/Player [bold]Update- Units now ship with Ulead Viseo Studeo 8, a big improvement.[/bold] software. I say this because at the time I purchased it was the only software that would capture with the ConvertX other than GoCap. I believe that Nero support has since been added. Never the less it is adequate software for simple basic editing/authoring/burning and if you don’t feel the need to spend more money than you don’t have to. You might find, as I did, after using Intervideo WinDvd Creator for a while it is too basic.
    So for my guide I chose to use software that can edit Mpeg files without the need for re-encoding and allows more advanced authoring.
    Software tools used:
    GoCap – Free download from Plextor
    Womble Mpeg-Vcr – Free 30 day trial ($50 purchase)
    Dvd Lab – Free 30 day trial ($100 purchase)
    Burning app of your choosing (Dvd Lab may support burning on your setup)
    Bit rate calculator of your choice.

    Here is a screen shot of GoCap interface:
    [​IMG]

    Using GoCap, customize your settings to the desired capture, name the file and destination folder, and set the time to end recording. Click apply and you are ready to start capturing. I use a bit-rate calculator to set bit rates that don’t leave me with a file size too big to fit on a single layer dvd. For those extra long 2 tape movies or those that far exceed 120 minutes you have options. One- use two discs and keep the movie as a 2 disc set. Two- lower the resolution and bit rate to fit. Three- capture at normal 120-minute settings or 60 minute high quality then use DVD Shrink to compress the compiled DVD structure saved on your HD. Four- capture using vcd or svcd modes and compile these for burning to DVD. These, however, require a different method for compiling to dvd. Check the guides on svcd-to-dvd.
    If you’re faced with making a choice it’s a good idea to do some testing on your own with various settings to determine quality. Once you start lowering bit rates below 3000000 b/s you’ll begin to notice loss especially during motion scenes. Picture quality suffers from this loss and manifests itself differently depending on resolution. The best thing to do is self-testing using 1-2 minute clips and decide for your self. Play around a bit and have some fun experimenting. You'll see the difference thru Windows Media Player.

    Here's a sample screen shot of GoCap settings:
    [​IMG]

    Once you’re done capturing you can test the mpeg file with Windows Media Player to make sure the file is all right. At this point is where I use Womble mpeg-vcr for cutting and joining if necessary. Once I have my mpeg file edited to my needs I use DVD Lab for authoring and compiling the mpeg into DVD format. After compiling you can test before burning with software player straight from your HD. When you’re ready to burn just load the compiled dvd folder into your burning software and go.
    I won’t go into detail on using Womble or DVD Lab, they have good help menus and there are plenty of guides on their use. Dvd Lab is a bit overwhelming at first for a novice but once you’ve done a basic compile job you’ll get the hang of it. I must say it is a very nice program and will give your transferred vhs tapes a much more finished and professional look. I highly recommend both Womble and DVD Lab.
    Will your transfers look as good as DVD? No. They will, however, look as good as the tapes they came from. Plus, they’ll have a menu and scene selections- something we never had with vhs!

    Screen shot of Womble:
    [​IMG]

    I didn't include a shot of DVD Lab but I really recommend trying it out. It is an excellant program and actually pretty easy to use with good help to get you started. ScubaPete has some great guides on it's use. Try it, you won't be dissapointed. Also check out reboot's guides over at www.videohelp.com These are excellant guides that show what you can do with DVD LAB.

    Well, that's it for now. I may add more as my experience grows. Private messages are welcome if you have some specific questions.
    [bold]EDIT[/bold]
    Updated version of WinDVD Creator (download thru Plextor.com)now has much better qualtiy control "sliders" in the device settings window. When setting up a capture click on the wrench icon to open this window. I've played with these settings during a running capture and found them to be a benefit on an older "washed out" looking vhs. The end product was a much improved product. Play with these during capture, get it where you want, then stop capture and start over with new settings.
    Also, just found out a possible way to turn off de-interlacing! This was after I realized that users of the ConvertX are getting a de-interlaced conversion un-nescesarily! (by default) HUGH! Not good! The Wis chip in the ConvertX is capable of either-or so the hardware is not the problem.
    Will append this guide after further testing.

    As of now, the m402u captures material as progressive only. This is not really much of a problem as I've since come to learn that, for me, my commercial hollywood vhs tapes are processed using telecine. Telecine is not a totally interlaced product. What we have are vhs tapes that are part interlace and part progressive. For every 3 frames there are 2 frames interlaced thus giving us 5 frames. The added interlaced frames give us the extra frames needed to make up the difference going from 24fps film to 30 fps tape. I've overly simplifyed explaining the telecine process but it's how I understand it. When I run my caps thru Womble frame by frame I can see the 2 interlaced frames as well as the 3 progressive frames. Properly deinterlacing these types requires a proper inverse telecine process that is beyond my present expertise. However, the progressive caps. with the M402U come out looking good due to the fact that most dvd players using 3:2 pull down display on tv with no problem.
    Like I said, this is my understanding of a complicated process.

    Update: 4/12/05
    Here is some recent info quoted from Plextor Dirk over @ Divx.com

    " received more information from my engineers which clears things up for me. I gave everyone some bad info previously in this thread.

    The Philips decoder chip we have in the 402U always captures interlaced video. This video is passed to the WIS encoder chip we use. This encoder chip and driver only supports de-interlaced video at this point so the video is converted from interlaced to de-interlaced video before it is encoded.

    For MPEG-2 video, we support three types of conversion; Blending, Direct Waving and Interpolating. We use the Blending method by default which gives good results on still images and slow moving images. For fast moving images, the Interpolation method provides best results but this method is not great for still images. The Direct Waving method is great for still images but bad for slow and fast moving images. We will release a new driver in the next week or so and it will be set to Blending by default and will allow the user to change to any of the other methods depending on what type of video they normally capture. From the beta drivers we have sent out, about 50% of people have had their problems cleared up and they are very happy with the quality so we are making some progress.

    Unfortunately, these three methods are only available for MPEG-2, not DivX and MPEG-4. For DivX and MPEG-4, only the Blending option is supported and so there is no way to change the default setting to get better video."

    The following are Womble screen snags of a recent VHS capture just to give you an idea of quality. Kind of hard to represent actual TV playback quality though so keep this in mind. Actual playback on TV is not worse but usually better.

    VHS cap @ vbr- 6000kbs mpeg2 passed thru JVC 9911 vcr, Sima CC Pro, then the M402U:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 29, 2005
  2. rjessa

    rjessa Regular member

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    I recently got an interesting message from someone in here, and he told me that he bought a DVD-+RW/VHS combo player, which allowed him to copy onto DVD any of his VHS tapes and also has the capability to do the same from your Digicam. This he says was the best method for him, and obviously a lot less time consuming and cheaper. He goes on to say the quality was great and the player took care of all the coding etc. The player was a Sharp DVDRW340.

    What do you think of this idea? I thought it was rather brilliant, and it costs no more the $300.

    Let me know what you think.

    Riyaz
     
  3. pfh

    pfh Guest

    From what I understand, the stand-alone dvd recorders are a good alternative. However, there are a couple of draw backs. For one, some of them just perform a straight up copy and don't allow editing and adding menus. There is still Macrovision copy right issues that may prevent copying of commercial tapes. Therefore the vhs signal must be passed thru a macrovision defeater of some kind before it enters the dvd copy process. The last thing is, I'm not sure how well you can control the quality of the captured material. If one finds that he/she needs a high bit rate to get good qualtiy then chances are it may not fit on one single layer dvd. I'm assuming you tell the dvd recorder how long your tape is and then it adjusts bit rate to fit. This would eliminate user control of capture settings. If I have a tape that is ~130 minutes long I can capture at high enough bit rate to retain good quality then Dvd Shrink it by 10% to fit on single layer. The Dvd Shrink transcoder doesn't affect image quality at that rate to make a difference.

    The advantages of stand-alone units is the ease and time savings. Also, it doesn't tie up your computer. If the quality of the end product meets your needs then all the better. I guess it comes down to deciding how much effort you want to put into archiving your tapes. How much of a hobby you want to turn this into? For home made tapes that may require a lot of editing then I'd say capture to computer but for commercial Hollywood tapes then a stand-alone is a viable option.
     
  4. ronnies

    ronnies Regular member

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    Relative to the Plextor PX-M402U unit. I receive a message ocasionally stating "not enough disk space in the temporary directory". I am very new to the VHS to DVD so bear with me. The movie I am attempting to cope is 1Hr-59min long and have 10gigs remaining on my harddrive. Why is this message coming up? I have cleaned every possible (that I am aware) area of prior movie remnants. I use "DVD 2 hrs" in the "Make movie" area. Where is the "Temporary Directory" located? Can I bring this up and purge it? Would appreciate any help you can give me. Thanks Ron
     
  5. ronnies

    ronnies Regular member

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    Relative to the Plextor PX-M402U unit. I receive a message ocasionally stating "not enough disk space in the temporary directory". I am very new to the VHS to DVD so bear with me. The movie I am attempting to cope is 1Hr-59min long and have 10gigs remaining on my harddrive. Why is this message coming up? I have cleaned every possible (that I am aware) area of prior movie remnants. I use "DVD 2 hrs" in the "Make movie" area. Where is the "Temporary Directory" located? Can I bring this up and purge it? Would appreciate any help you can give me. Thanks Ron
     
  6. pfh

    pfh Guest

    You might have 10 gigs free, however, one has to keep in mind the space that Windows reserves for misc. things like it's swap file and restore features.
    2 hour movies will use ~4 gigs for the capped mpeg2 file then realize another 4 gigs will be used for the compiled dvd structure. Thus you'd have ~8 gigs for one movie project. Realizing this would leave you with 2 gigs left from the original 10, it may not be enough space for Windows reserved areas and you'd get the error message.
    Welcome to video- A separate drive added to your system will greatly benefit your situation. An 80 or so gig drive can be had for low cost. I know it's not what you may want to hear but if you have a sizable vhs transfer operation it's worth it.
    Also, having WinXP or 2000 with NTFS formated drives will allow unlimited file sizes. Win98 or fat32 drives have 4 gig file size limitations. If you do install a new drive and are using WinXP you'll be prompted to format the new drive. Select NTFS for format and you should be good to go.
    On a side note: NTFS drives can read and use fat32 info but fat32 drives can not read and use NTFS info.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 25, 2005
  7. ronnies

    ronnies Regular member

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    Hello
    Thank you for your valuable information. I think I'm going to get aother 40 gig hard drive and have it as a second hard drive. I don't want to replace the 40 gig drive that I currently have with an 80 gig drive. The transfer, to me, would be massive.
    Thanks again for the prompt response and solution.
    Ron "rschoepf@comcast.net".
     
  8. pfh

    pfh Guest

    Excellant idea. You'll be glad you've got that 40 gigs to do all your video work on and the fact that it'll be so much easier to delete, empty trash and defrag.
    I know there are those that say usb connections aren't good for video capture but I beg to disagree. Granted I've tweaked my system to the best of my ability but I've done no overclocking. The main things I now consider to be of most importance for usb capture is free contiguous HD space and minimizing startup and running applications thru the msconfig utility. For example, in my task bar I have a Quicktime icon, WinCinema icon, EZAnti Virus, network icon, sound control, and MS Antispyware. That's all the apps I have in taskbar.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 25, 2005
  9. pfh

    pfh Guest

    I've updated my guide to include some additional info about the 402 hardware and I added a couple screen shots.
     
  10. ronnies

    ronnies Regular member

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    Hello "PFH" You were "right on" by saying that 10 gigs of storage was not enough to run a two hr. video. I went out and purchased an 80 gig Hard drive and all seems well with the acceptance of a 2hour plus a little Vdeo. Thanks for your excellent advice. I am currently running a 1gig processor and am going to upgrade to a three gig system with associated necessities. I trust this may fix a lot of things. Thanks tons - Ron
     
  11. pfh

    pfh Guest

    Cool- Glad to help.

    Just saw Best Buy has WD 80 gig drive $30 after rebates of $30 & $30-Intial price $90. Not bad. I just finished a transfer that required 4 mpeg splices/cuts with Womble. My mistake- incorrect capture timeing then Gocap locked up in middle of capture! Then I had a theatrical trailer to separate out of the tape. I ended up with ~20 gigs of mpeg 2 files in my video folder just for one project. This was a 2 hour movie.

    That CPU upgrade will help a great deal in your overall video work- edits, compiling dvd, further encoding, etc.. If you'er getting along with a 1ghz now wait to till you step up to 3! Nice! I wish I had an Athlon64 but.....next upgrade.

    Happy capturing- let us know your progress.
     
  12. ronnies

    ronnies Regular member

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    Hello PFH
    I appreciate your concurrence on the upgrade to a 3.2 gig system. I am doing pretty good with my "plextor" ( being a bonafide newbie ). I do get a blue screen that wants to crash, I put the blame on my 1 gig system. I am hoping that the aforementioned upgrade may put a stop or at least, diminish the occurence. Thanks again for your advice and concern. Ron
     

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