Apple’s recent codec retirement announcements prompted me to check what was available locally. I found ancient web sites that were internally inconsistent, no noise reduction prior to compression, unclear codec choices … none of it gave me much confidence. (But see [1,2])
So I’m back at it again. This time I might have an accomplice — someone who needs money and would benefit from learning the tech. So maybe we’ll make a better go of it.
The delays may have let to some data loss, but on the other hand the tech is a bit better. My first attempt would have been with a 400MHz Celeron. Yes, that’s an ‘M’. In those days hard drives were measured in tens of GBs. Now the cheapest hard drive I can buy would hold all of our video.
The tech is a bit better, but choice of codec is still an issue. In 2004 I favored H.264/AAC. I ran into an amazing number of headaches with the Apple software I was using.
For the modern era I found three good references:
- DIY VHS Preservation: Planning for Video Digitization at the American University Library
- Audio Visual Digitization Hardware and Software - Marriott Library - The University of Utah
- Building a Video Preservation Rack for In-House Digitization AV CLUB | Issue 1 | Cardinal Tales
They give me a feeling of how tricky it is to do analog video capture well. Time Base Corrector? BNC terminations? Waveform monitors? CRT monitors?! Yikes.
I did like the sounds of the BlackMagic Intensity digitizer ($240 for T3, $200 for USB 3) used at AUL (Amazon reviews are not great however). It can save output as a lossless file. I want to capture the video as “uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2” then denoise it, then export as ProRes. Since my accomplice is a student I’ll probably buy the Pro Apps Bundle.
Ideally the process would be automated - capture uncompressed, denoise and incorporate metadata, save as ProRes.
What would I do with this material once it’s digitized? The tech isn’t here yet, but eventually I’d like to incorporate brief (silent) video fragments into my screensaver library. So between showing 10,000 images, show a 30sec of video from our family @ 1995. One day?
 From my 2000 page I see Walmart and Target were do video to DVD-R conversions for $35 a tape with YesVideo. They are still around! The price is now $26 for one 2hr tape.
 Pogue years ago recommended Southtree (his screenshot of a VHS tape on a modern laptop screen is remarkable — 333x480 pixels). Their site is impressive; at the moment they’re advertising $57 for up to 3 tapes on 1 thumb drive. I contacted Southtree to ask about denoise/ProRes/etc but they kindly responded that they are consumer-only, so just mp4 compressed.