Twelve years ago I was keen to digitize my home video tapes - on a 400 MHz Celeron system.
Eight years ago I wrote "The thought of losing the kids' taped videos is not comforting. I need to do this sooner rather than later.". At that time I experiment with transcoding through a Canon digital camera using iMovie and a G3 iMac. I figured my G5 would do the job in 2005, maybe with its capacious 40GB drive and a stack of DVDs.
Now I have a slightly aged 2.7GHz i5, 8GB RAM, and several TB drives -- and my analog tapes are 8 years older. Maybe I'll do it this year, even though I hate digital video .
I'm trying to warm to the idea. The big difference over 8 years ago isn't processing power , it's cost/MB and the gradual emergence of H.264/MPEG-4 Part 10 (AVC) as a relatively standard format for video. The National Archives recognizes there's no real AV standard, but their list of formats they work with includes MPEG4.
If I do finally walk though this, I don't want to bother with DVDs. My current plan is:
- Purchase two 1TB drives. Digitize everything we have to one of the drives as MPEG4 video and MPEG4 audio.
- Clone that drive and keep one drive on site and one drive offsite, repeat every few years.
- Use my old Canon digital camera with passthrough to digitize my analog tapes, then compress on my iMac and store with a file naming convention to reflect date and time information. (I'll consider the Canopus though.)
- Convert my collection of digital tapes (DV) to H.264 as well
I don't know what software I'll need. Can I do what I need to do with iMovie/QuickTime Pro, or should I buy Final Cut Pro X? I'm not planning to edit, but if I were I'm pretty sure the current fork of iMovie won't do the job.
Update: Apple offers a free download for FCP/X. So I will probably try it out.
- Good advice on digitizing video (Tidbits) 12/2004
- Home Video Editing started 6/2000! (Pass through with a Canon ZR 60 in 2003)
- Digitizing Video: Tapes - extensive Macintouch archives
- BYTE Media Lab 2004 Imaging Awards: Analog to Digital Converters 4/2004
- Why I hate video: Format, codecs, DRM and m4v vs mp4 7/2011
- Amazon.com: Canopus 77010150100 ADVC110 Converter: Electronics (old tech, good reviews, $218) 2/2012
- REC.VIDEO Google groups/usenet posting: Video degradation with S-Video analog transfer vs. A/V mini-jack connection 3/2005
 In Jan of 2010 I discovered a 12 yo WMV formatted video was unplayable; I was able to use Windows Movie Maker to convert the 23MB WMV file to a 311MB DV AVI file. Digital image formats are a friggin' mess, but video is at least ten times worse. No metadata standards, crazy patents, non-standard containers, audio codecs, video codecs - yech.
 Yeah, the machines are a hundred times faster. But compression can run overnight.
 By 2020 I assume we'll have 100TB main system and backup drives, so storing my old video with my routine data will be trivial. By then a single snapshot will be a GB.
Update 12/14/2012: Emily picked this project for her Valentine gift, so we're off. I found a 300GB drive and LaCie firewire enclosure I'd forgotten about. So far video capture seems to be proceeding well from a 12 yo Hi8 analog tape; there's a thin sliver of artifact at base; I think capture frame is bit taller than the image frame. Setup at the moment:
- SONY Hi-8 TRV65 with S-video and RCA audio out to ...
- Canon Optura 50 with firewire out via secondary port on LaCie to ...
- iMac i5 2.7GHz, 8GB RAM
- Final Cut Pro X (trial version. There's no more academic pricing for Apple products distributed through app store. I expect I'll buy full version. So far this is the big expense) saving project to ...
- External firewire LaCie drive (300GB)
Both cameras are on external power. I needed my old manuals, had the SONY and found the Optura online. Getting passthrough working was balky, FCPX only gave me about 10 seconds to start then it turned off import due to lack of a signal. It can't operate the Optura 50 in pass-through mode, I haven't tried yet with a tape installed. Once I hit the play button fast enough I was ok.
I'll have data on file size tomorrow. FCPX imports using its default Apple ProRes format.
Operating the old SONY feels primeval. It's 15 years old, feels 50. It is weird to see the kid video. Plan is to put a library of MP4 versions (no editing really) on iTunes on a an old G5 with a largely unused drive. We can browse, play from iTunes.
Update 2/15/2012: Not so good. Nothing captured! Looks like I need to read the manual, or perhaps FCPX won't work at all. It certainly showed the video, but it didn't save the event. It also didn't stop recording when the input ended.
Update 2/15/2012b: QuickTime Pro is not an option. I was able to create a @2 hour 25GB .dv file using iMovie 11, but then iMovie 11 got stuck 'generating thumbnails'. I think that bug, however, was triggered by connecting an iPhone to my iMovie machine. Disconnecting the iPhone did not clear iMovie, I had to kill it. On restart my video appears to have been captured and iMovie seems to have stopped input about 2 minutes after the end of tape. Thumbnails are fine - all 1.5GB of them. More on the results and process in a follow-up post. I'd like to take a look at Adobe Premiere Elements.
Update 2/17/2012: I experimented with QT 10 movie capture. The trick with passthrough conversion is to first start the video stream, the click record. Otherwise QT exits. I captured 30 min of video at 9 GB; QT Inspector says the codec inside the saved .mov file is dv.
I've read that this will import into FCPX, so I may try that again. My next experiment will be to see if I can record over 10 GB (1 hour of video). There are many reports of QT recording stopping with a 'size limit' message at varying file sizes, in my case that's what displayed after I stopped the video stream.