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Media Hardware Technology

Ask Slashdot: Which VHS Player To Buy? 201

stkpogo (799773) writes "I have several old VHS tapes that I'd like to digitize but my old VHS machine died years ago. What's a good VHS player to get so I can make nice clean digital videos from my old tapes before they're gone? I have a few TV -> USB adapters." How would you go about this, especially with tapes (like old home movies) you might be worried about sticking into a low-end VCR? And with what number of tapes does it make sense to outsource the digitizing?
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Ask Slashdot: Which VHS Player To Buy?

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  • Panasonic AG1980P (Score:4, Informative)

    by tetatdo ( 1924764 ) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @02:27PM (#46908983)
    I am working on a similar project with old VHS movie, if you can pick up a SVHS deck, that will help. Anything prosumer is good too. I just picked up 2 Panasonic AG1980P and that is supposed to be one of the better decks for such a purpose. I found them on goodwill's website! Hopefully they work. These have TBCs (time based correctors) which are supposed to correct issues with the picture due to damaged or old tapes, etc.
  • by Velociraptor101 ( 2746841 ) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @02:31PM (#46909015) [] "Toshiba DVR620 DVD/VHS Recorder" Highly recommend it. Read reviews and follow fellow buyers recommendations and its fantastic. Non-tech users can be taught to use it as well.
  • by HTMLSpinnr ( 531389 ) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @02:46PM (#46909119) Homepage
    The number of heads only matters if the content was recorded at SLP/EP speed. On a 4-head VCR, 2 wider heads are optimized for SP playback, and the other two narrower heads are optimized for SLP/EP.
  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @02:46PM (#46909121)
    I've converted several old family VHS (and Beta/Hi8) tapes to digital. In my experience, s-video output makes a much bigger quality difference than the type or quality of player. Composite video (the yellow plug in the yellow, red, white RCA triplet) combines both luminosity (brightness) and chroma (color) into one signal, resulting in a lot of crosstalk (the shimmering "marching ants" when you display high-contrast lines and borders). S-video keeps these signals separate so there is no cross-talk. Makes for a much cleaner transfer to digital.

    Of course if the original tape was recorded using a composite signal, then there's nothing you can do.
  • by Talinom ( 243100 ) * on Saturday May 03, 2014 @02:55PM (#46909171) Homepage Journal
    2 head VCRs are SP only. 4 head VCRs add two heads for EP. If all of your content is SP then a 2 head VCR should suffice. Depending upon the quality of the audio you want to present you might consider either stereo or Hi-Fi. Whatever VCR you choose should have manual tracking adjustment.

    For capturing content on a Windows box I cannot recommend the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 [] highly enough. That capture card should also be compatible with MythTV [].

    The output from my current consumer grade 4 head Panasonic Omnivision (mono audio) VCR was friggin amazing. My wife had a selection of out of print VHS tapes and I captured them with that card. She was missing one tape and while searching for it I found a three pack of DVDs, one of which matched what she was missing and two of which matched what she had. I had to look at the output frame by frame to see if there was any perceptible difference between the Hauppauge output and the DVD. There was none.

    Even with normal recordings from home there can be issues with the picture quality. If you have problems with the video becoming lighter and darker that my not be a copy protection issue (obviously as you are working with home movies). Consider purchasing a Digital video stabilizer. The guys at the electronics repair shop nearby recommend ones by MCM Electronics [] to help mitigate transfer issues.

    Tossing your MPEG-2 output from the Hauppauge through the NLE of your choice might help with noise reduction (I use NeatVideo> [] and color skew. YMMV.
  • Send them out (Score:3, Informative)

    by JaneTheIgnorantSlut ( 1265300 ) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @03:01PM (#46909223)
    I had some VHS tapes converted to DVD at Walmart. Cost was about $20 for 2 tapes. Took about a week. Results are quite good, considering the VHS tapes were made from old 8mm movies going back to the late 40's. At the time I looked at doing it myself, but decided my time was worth more than $20.
  • by Air-conditioned cowh ( 552882 ) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @03:13PM (#46909305)
    Also, on top of S-Video output, make sure it has all the latest VHS quality enhancements such as S-VHS (probaby has if it has a S-VIDEO output -duh!) and FM sound. Although it won't help with tapes that were never recorded in these formats, it will certainly bring out the best of the tapes that were.

    For old analogue audio recordings, being able to tweak the audio head azimuth will help bring out the best of the recording. I also consider this essential for archiving cassette and open reel recordings. You have to hear how much difference being able to tweak aziumuth makes to believe it. It is a critical adjustment and the playback azimuth has to match that of the recorder otherwise all your top end goes down the plug-hole and it sounds washed out.
  • Re:Panasonic AG1980P (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bitmanhome ( 254112 ) <bitman.pobox@com> on Saturday May 03, 2014 @03:15PM (#46909321)

    Be sure to test every tape with the TBC on and off. I've noticed a hint of pixelation with it on, and the dynamic range seems to be a bit narrower too. I believe you should leave TBC off as much as possible as long as your capture device likes the signal.

  • Re:Panasonic AG1980P (Score:5, Informative)

    by microcars ( 708223 ) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @03:32PM (#46909381) Homepage

    These are excellent machines that will play back just about any VHS tape you can throw at them.
    I am looking at 5 of them across the room from me right now. 3 are in excellent condition, one needs some audio work and one needs all the capacitors changed.
    I also leave the screws off the covers so I can slide them back and manually clean the heads when I run into some bad tapes (tapes that were crinkled or damaged or have iron oxide flaking off).

    The capacitors is the big issue with these. Every.Single.One needs to be replaced at some point.
    I used to send my machines out to a place in Texas to have them changed for around $300 after I bought them on eBay.
    Then there was a guy selling them on eBay with the caps changed out for around $300 and they were running like new.
    I think he is still there.

    These machines are excellent at playing back difficult to track tapes, or ones recorded in SLP/EP mode.
    don't buy one of those all-in-one VHS to DVD machines unless your tapes are all in good condition and recorded in SP mode.

  • Re:Bees knees (Score:3, Informative)

    by RecycledElectrons ( 695206 ) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @07:20PM (#46910347)

    Yes, rewinding (is a player that rewinds softly, not in one that just maxes the voltage to the motor) then playing, then rewinding again is a VERY GOOD IDEA.

    Also, not all players are created equal. With some tapes, you want a high-end player, with others, you want a player that can follow the tape's errant tracking WAY OUT OF BOUNDS.

    I go to a GoodWill store, buy 4-5 decent looking VCRs, exchange the 2 that don't work, and try the same tape in all of them. You will find different tapes work better in different VCRs.

  • by beltsbear ( 2489652 ) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @09:28PM (#46910817)

    Not always. Heads are used for many things. The first 4 head units were done for better pause action not for better EP mode.

    If you are playing back a regular 2 hour mode tape and don't care about the sound almost anything that was good quality will work. If you need good sound and the original was done in HIFI you should make sure the new deck you get is HIFI as well.

    My last good VCR was an 8 head unit. 2 for SP, 2 for SLP/EP, 2 for better pause and 2 for HIFI sound.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.