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August 2005, Week 2

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Subject:
From:
Leo Enticknap <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Tue, 9 Aug 2005 19:37:48 +0100
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Jeremy Butler writes:

>(my favorite player:  Cyberlink's PowerDVD, for Windows;

It's certainly not mine!  It's a dreadful memory 
hog, saps processor time and makes Windows 
unstable, in my experience.  More importantly (as 
I have a AMD XP+3400 64-bit processor, 5gb of RAM 
and 4 250gb HDDs in my PC, system resources 
aren't really an issue for me), its 'colour 
profile' feature seriously distorts the original 
transfer, especially as it's set to a mode which 
is euphemistically called 'vivid' by 
default.  Try watching a '30s 3-strip feature in 
'vivid' mode and you practically need 
sunglasses!  Windows Media Player with a system 
MPEG-2 codec installed (if you Google 'MPEG-2 
codec', you'll find lots of free ones for 
download), is just as good a player, it doesn't 
bugger about with the luminance and chrominance 
properties of the original transfer (well, not 
any more than your graphics card and monitor 
already have done), and it's free.  If grabbing 
frames is your main use for PC DVD playback 
software, Intervideo WinDVD offers a far more 
versatile interface than Power DVD, pasting the 
frames to a visible clipboard interface rather 
than leaving you to hunt for them using Windows 
Explorer and then automatically giving them a meaningless filename.

Power DVD is also a ripoff: even the basic 
version costs around 20, and if you want the 
plug-ins for Dolby 5.1 or DTS playback, you're 
looking at shelling out even more.  If it hadn't 
come bundled with a burner, I certainly wouldn't 
be willing to buy it at anything like that 
price.  WinDVD is about half the price, and 
includes Dolby 5.1 functionality out of the box.

Darryl Wiggers writes:

>An earlier recommendation to convert to dvd 
>first is not recommended as dvd is a compression 
>format and you want to maintain a high-quality file throughout.

Unless you're starting from DVCAM or Digibeta, 
the lossy compression of the DVD standard won't 
make the slightest bit of difference to the 
quality of an image which started life on 
VHS.  You're still going to get 720 x 576 
pixels.  Just as long as you encode at no less 
than an average of 4-5mbps (on a set-top 
recorder, that's the option which gives you 120 
minutes on a 4.7gb disc), that's as much 
definition as you're ever going to get out of 
bogstandard VHS.  The only other thing to note is 
that it's always preferable to connect your VHS 
VCR to your DVD recorder or video capture card 
using an s-video cable or Euroconnector which is 
wired for y/c, NOT composite.  If your VHS VCR 
only has a composite output, then the best you're 
going to get out of it is roughly equivalent to 
23mbps on a DVD, which equates to the 'four 
hours' setting for a 4.7gb disc using a set-top recorder.

Adobe Photoshop has a deinterlace function which 
cleans up video frame grabs a little bit, but you 
might decide that it's not paying 300ish just 
for that.  The bottom line is that VHS is a very 
low quality format, from which any frame grab 
enlarged to more than about 5cm square is going 
to look fuzzy and nasty, however you capture it and manipulate it afterwards.

Leo

Leo Enticknap
Curator, Northern Region Film & Television Archive
Middlesbrough, UK
www.nrfta.org.uk 

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