Digitizing VHS with the Hauppauge Colossus
So my primary reason for purchasing the Hauppauge Colossus was to digitize a small VCR library. Some purchased movie titles others non-professional and non-purchasable. It seems my wife’s Dad bought almost every Disney movie on VCR during the limited release cycle. Since my 4yr old isn’t going to complain about simulated surround vs TrueHD, I figured capturing the upscaled image after it’s piped through my receiver’s video processor would be good enough for her. Of course, little did I know I’d end up spending more money than the recently released BDs would cost me through the Disney Movie Club, but that’s beside the point right?!
I started out with a Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro thinking I was simply going to run the HDMI out from my SC-07 into the capture card and be done. Blackmagic clearly states that it does not decode HDCP and can only handle an unencrypted video stream. But I convinced myself: why should that matter for VHS output. Much to my chagrin, I discovered that the SC-07 was indeed encrypting everything coming out so the capture card puked on the HDMI input. No worries: The Blackmagic card came with a crazy 11 input/output breakout cable. But still after much painful testing using component, composite and svideo connections, it simply wouldn’t sync on the output from the SC-O7. I even purchased a DiMax Grex on the off chance that the whole problem was Macrovision copy protection.
So I finally when the Colossus was released I sold the Blackmagic card on Amazon and was able to purchase the Colossus with the proceeds! For digitizing commercial VHS, the Colossus is a much better way to go since the MPEG-4 encoding is pretty much what I want. That said, I still ran into a number of headaches.
First off, I still wanted to take advantage of the SC-07 Faroudja video processor. To do that, I needed to capture the HDMI output which is HDCP encrypted. So I started eyeing the HDFury on Amazon to convert the HDMI back to component video. Literally, during the week I was trying to decide whether I needed to spend $200 on this device, Amazon pulled it off the site. It seems there are some legal issues surrounding this device. But for some reason, you can still purchase this no name version for less than $50. Well, it doesn’t have all the slick features of the HDFury, but I figured for $43, I could give it a try and return it if it didn’t work.
So I have to say, I’m quite happy with the purchase. Not only does it convert the video to component, but it also splits the HDMI audio off into optical S/PDIF, which feeds right into the Colossus. I have yet to test if the SC-07 audio enhancements will be passed through as well, but that seems kinda of silly, since I’d rather choose those at playback time and keep the original stereo track in the digitized recording. Note this device does have some quirks. The video is shifted to the left by about 16 pixels. Clipping this off during post processing is pretty trivial and it doesn’t appear to happen in all cases. For HD quality, it’s probably worth investing in the HDFury.
My other score during this process was finding a barely used JVC HR-S9500U on Craigslist for $100. (Currently going for $399 on EBay with NO remote) This old maid actually has an internal 4MB framebuffer on to which the video is digitized before being sent out the S-Video port, futher reducing jitter and interlace artifacts. Once it’s sent through the Faroudja, you have a pretty decent 720p picture when you consider the original source is 333×480.
So the connection sequence is s-video and stereo outputs from the VCR into the receiver, HDMI (zone 2) output from the receiver to the HDMI converter and then component + optical S/PDIF from the converter to the Colossus.
Unfortunately, even with the latest Colossus driver version 29263 I’m still seeing audio synchronization problems if I attempt to record in the mp4 container, but the TS and M2TS containers don’t experience this problem, so I ended up using M2TS via a recommendation on AVSForum. Unfortunately, I found the ShowBiz software itself unusable for editing purposes and all the containers created by the ArcSoft ShowBiz/Colossus combination were unreadable in Avidemux and Handbrake. One solution I found to this was WinFF, which is simply a GUI wrapper around a stable version ffmpeg. But the pain here was I had to decode and re-encode the entire video stream, just so I could edit it. Not only is that time consuming, but it defeats the whole purpose of having a hardware MP4 encoder.
Finally, after some more digging around AVS and Avidemux forums, I found that there was a known problem in the h.264 (mpeg 4) processing in the 2.5 version of Avidemux and that 2.6 beta builds were available. Your mileage may vary with the latest 32 vs 64 bit builds. I ended up using a 32 bit build from 9/22 since the 64 bit version was crashing on me, but much newer builds are available now. This solved the problem allowing me to edit the M2TS output created by the ancient version of ShowBiz that comes with the Colossus.
Just a note, I also tried to used VirtualDub to capture with the Colossus, but it seems that VirtualDub doesn’t see the mp4 processing done on the card, and doesn’t give you the option to capture in that format. There seems to be some discussion on who is and isn’t implementing DirectShow drivers correctly, but all I can tell you is it doesn’t work.
For my next post, I’ll explain how I was able to use the same setup to record Flash video via the Colossus and why you would want to do such a thing.