Trouble with darkness & color (Funai and Sony units) - AVS Forum
DVD Recorders (Standard Def) > Trouble with darkness & color (Funai and Sony units)
DaisukeJigen's Avatar DaisukeJigen 11:25 PM 08-10-2012
Hi all, long-time lurker, first-time poster. I'm going crazy trying to figure this out and I'm hoping some experts here might be able to shed some light.

I'll try to keep this short. I want to transfer VHS and Video8 to DVD. I have an old Sony unit - RDR-GX315. Not very good, image is too bright, but I just used it casually. Then recently I bought a cheap USB device to capture to my PC. It wasn't great either (macroblocking). I read through a bunch of stuff about all the heavy-duty restoration work you can do with better PC equipment/software, but I don't really have the time or resources right now, so I decided at present to look for something that would simply preserve the VHS source, no better, no worse. I finally decided to get a Toshiba DR430 (Funai), basically the only recorder still widely available. After doing a few burns I think I'm going to return it. Basically:

DR430/Funai: Way too dark. Details are lost, colors dingy/muted
GX315: Too bright, but colors are better than Funai

I read on an old VideoHelp thread that the GX315 is set up for IRE=0 sources, and so NTSC VHS / IRE=7.5 source would mean lighter/washed out look. Is there anything I can do to correct the IRE in between recorder and VCR? Also, that perhaps explains the overly bright GX315, but why is the Toshiba/Funai so dark and dreary?

Any thoughts or suggestions are very much appreciated.

CitiBear's Avatar CitiBear 01:04 PM 08-11-2012
The Sony 315, like many early DVD recorders, may not have the slight redesign necessary to accommodate North American IRE levels, which are different from all other countries. Since you already researched and discovered this for yourself, there's nothing anyone can add that will help: the Sony will always make recordings that look "too light". Your only workaround would be to buy a good-quality "Proc Amp" by a brand like Sign Video, which would let you darken the signal slightly before it gets into the Sony 315. Unfortunately good proc amps are not cheap: you're talking a couple hundred bucks minimum.

The Funai/Magnavox/Toshiba recorders seem to exhibit some apparent IRE inconsistency from unit to unit, and IRE appearance can vary depending on connection used (standard video, component, or HDMI). Most of the "too dark" complaints against the Funais are traceable to the tuner, I have not seen anyone unhappy with the line inputs you would use when connecting a VCR. I have two Magnavox recorders myself, a 513 and a 2160, and via line input I notice no difference in IRE from my totally neutral Pioneer recorders. So the darker recordings you're getting with the Toshiba might be specific to that unit or that model? Have you tried using different connections to the TV- this often "fixes" Funai output when people report issues. Another test would be to take a DVD you made on the Toshiba, and bring it to a friend's house to play on their TV. If it looks normal using another DVD player, then you can use the Toshiba just to dub your tapes and then later play those discs using a different DVD player.

There aren't really any other choices left in DVD recorders: its down to Funai-based Magnavox/Toshibas, or the Panasonic EH59 import model. The Panasonic has the same IRE 0 problem as your Sony GX315, so you won't like that, and you don't seem to be happy with the Toshiba. You could look into a second-hand American-IRE combo unit made by Panasonic, such as DMR-ES30v or DMR-EZ38V (but avoid the new EZ47V, 48V, and 485VK: these are trouble prone). Another popular combo was the JVC/LG DRM100 and DRM150. Avoid recent combos made by Sony: they tend to refuse dubbing half the tapes out there.

Most casual users are not extremely bothered by the "brighter" recordings made by old Sonys, etc: they just turn the brightness down on their TV, if they notice at all. But if you are a perfectionist, as are many of us on AVS, this will not do. To get things dubbed exactly as you prefer, you may need to wait until you can invest in a top-quality PC capture solution like Hauppauge or Black Magic Intensity.
profhat's Avatar profhat 04:20 PM 08-11-2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaisukeJigen View Post

Any thoughts or suggestions are very much appreciated.

Maybe you can wait until the Magnavoxes 533, 535 or 537 hit the market next fall. confused.gif
DaisukeJigen's Avatar DaisukeJigen 04:24 PM 08-11-2012
Thanks for the reply. Hm, well, I already sank $100 into the Funai. If I returned it and got a refund, I might consider spending more to get a ProcAmp or something else, if it would enable decent copies once and for all. I'm willing to not be a perfectionist about it, in the sense that I'll live with tears, noise, etc. But if there is a noticeable degradation (Funai dark, Sony light) from the VHS source, I feel like I'm just wasting time. I'm not out to improve on the originals or perfect them, but the copy has to be at least equal to the original source. Especially for less-important tapes (stuff recorded from TV, etc.) I don't mind the noise/etc. As for the really treasured stuff, I'll hold onto them of course in hopes of devising a better method later.

That's strange about the Funai tuner issue, because this Toshiba DR430 Funai is tunerless. Just a straight composite line-in from my VCR, also a Toshiba. Then line-out to TV via component cables. I've tried playing the Funai copies on two monitors - flat screen TV, flat screen computer monitor. Both of them have the crushed blacks. Just as one example, I noticed a stronger purple color was dark brown, nearly black. Oh also, just to see I plugged the VCR directly into the TV, color/brightness looks normal. I'll fiddle with the inputs and cable-types some more, but if I can't get it to lighten I'm going to return it.

I was gravitating toward the stand-alone recorders for ease, but it seems difficult since the market has shrunk so and also these color issues. I'll poke around for those models you referenced. Just out of curiosity, are there any PC capture solutions that wouldn't break the bank, so to speak? I mentioned my Diamond VC500. I saw that there is a Happauge USB device as well. Would there be much difference, or are the USB capture devices mostly about the same?
DaisukeJigen's Avatar DaisukeJigen 04:27 PM 08-11-2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by profhat View Post

Maybe you can wait until the Magnavoxes 533, 535 or 537 hit the market next fall. confused.gif


I thought about that actually, but aren't they Funai? I'm sure not all Funais are made equal, but I'm a little wary of them since I'm having issues with the black levels on the Toshiba-Funai I bought.
Kelson's Avatar Kelson 05:07 PM 08-11-2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaisukeJigen View Post

Just out of curiosity, are there any PC capture solutions that wouldn't break the bank, so to speak? I mentioned my Diamond VC500. I saw that there is a Happauge USB device as well. Would there be much difference, or are the USB capture devices mostly about the same?
Hauppauge HD PVR 01212 is one of the best.

You can get them for under $200.

DaisukeJigen's Avatar DaisukeJigen 06:04 PM 08-11-2012
Wow, that does look pretty great. And your signature makes it more tempting wink.gif However, I have a concern; it seems largely geared to authoring Blu-Ray compatible DVDs. Since I want to author standard DVDs, I wonder if this would involve a lot of conversions, long re-encoding, searching for software, etc. rather than being able to simply burn the captured files straight away to a (standard, non-Blu) DVD. Capturing from my PS3 might be neat, but I'd be using it almost exclusively for VHS/Video8/other analogue sources
Kelson's Avatar Kelson 07:48 PM 08-11-2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaisukeJigen View Post

Wow, that does look pretty great. And your signature makes it more tempting wink.gif However, I have a concern; it seems largely geared to authoring Blu-Ray compatible DVDs. Since I want to author standard DVDs, I wonder if this would involve a lot of conversions, long re-encoding, searching for software, etc. rather than being able to simply burn the captured files straight away to a (standard, non-Blu) DVD. Capturing from my PS3 might be neat, but I'd be using it almost exclusively for VHS/Video8/other analogue sources
Your concerns are correct. Its hardware encoder encodes all analog video as H.264/AVC and not MPEG-2 as would be required for DVD-Video. You would need an editing/authoring program like Video ReDo H.264 to convert the recordings to MPEG-2 and author the DVD. However if you have a PS3 then you already have a BluRay player and so can author AVCHD to DVD-R.

I agree it is more work if you want to strictly author DVD-Video. The world is geared to HD these days and all the better capture devices (i.e. Hauppauge, Avermedia) have H.264 hardware encoders. Unfortunately nearly all the other budget USB capture devices are pieces of crap that use software encoding and result in poor fidelity of the recording -- I think you already found that out. You don't have many choices -- If you want to stay cheap and make recordings directly to DVD, you can keep the funai and live with the PQ you consider sub-par. That seems to be what most people here do.
DaisukeJigen's Avatar DaisukeJigen 08:46 PM 08-11-2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelson View Post

Your concerns are correct. Its hardware encoder encodes all analog video as H.264/AVC and not MPEG-2 as would be required for DVD-Video. You would need an editing/authoring program like Video ReDo H.264 to convert the recordings to MPEG-2 and author the DVD. However if you have a PS3 then you already have a BluRay player and so can author AVCHD to DVD-R.
I agree it is more work if you want to strictly author DVD-Video. The world is geared to HD these days and all the better capture devices (i.e. Hauppauge, Avermedia) have H.264 hardware encoders. Unfortunately nearly all the other budget USB capture devices are pieces of crap that use software encoding and result in poor fidelity of the recording -- I think you already found that out. You don't have many choices -- If you want to stay cheap and make recordings directly to DVD, you can keep the funai and live with the PQ you consider sub-par. That seems to be what most people here do.


My reason for wanting standard DVDs is the flexibility of being able to watch on my computer in addition to TV, or basically anywhere else. I know things are geared toward HD, but I'm not entirely convinced BD will become as commonplace as DVD (lower sales of physical media, streaming content, economy, etc). Nevertheless, I'll keep your suggestion in mind. The Funai won't do, unless there's just some glitch making it dark that I can figure out. Even the brightness of the Sony is preferable, simply because the color is more vibrant.
Super Eye's Avatar Super Eye 09:34 PM 08-11-2012
Hello DaisukeJigen,
When you say the Sony is to bright, do you mean
1)) All discs that playback on the Sony are too bright
2)) Discs recorded on the Sony playback too bright on all other DVD players

I’m asking because the Sony does have O IRE / 7.5 IRE black level setup but not for recording, only for playback. Since Sony went to this trouble for playback, I would think that because this a NTSC model, they would of made the IRE rec-input match North American standards. Assuming you are in North America and you bought a US/Canada NTSC model.

Any way the black level IRE set up (for playback) is found under Video Settings, Black Level on page 76, 77.
http://www.docs.sony.com/release/RDRGX315.pdf



DaisukeJigen's Avatar DaisukeJigen 09:28 PM 08-12-2012
I messed around a bit with the Funai today and my findings are pretty much the same. I changed composite cables, ran them into the front of the Funai instead of the back, and swapped the component cable to TV with composite. I also recorded 1 hour instead of 2 hours. I played this in several different DVD players. I also opened up Sony & Funai discs on my computer with VHS on the TV and played all 3 at the same time. In every arrangement I find:

Funai: Perhaps black not as severe as before, but colors are off. Bright colors, warm tones like skin, these all have a dingy/dark look to them.
Sony: Colors are better, but still washed out.
Original VHS: Bright and warm colors are vibrant yet there is also good contrast. (obviously normal noise/tears as well)

However, I also tried Super Eye’s suggestion and something interesting happened:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Super Eye View Post

Hello DaisukeJigen,
When you say the Sony is to bright, do you mean
1)) All discs that playback on the Sony are too bright
2)) Discs recorded on the Sony playback too bright on all other DVD players

Hello Super Eye, thanks for the reply. #2. After reading your post I tried this:

VCR composite out-> Sony line-in 1 -> Sony line-out 1 composite -> TV

Then I went to a dark scene on my VHS tape, paused it, and switched the dark level on the Sony. Guess what? When dark level is ON, I get the bright/washed out look - same as the Sony captures. When dark level is OFF, it looks good! Just like VCR straight to TV.

I had a crazy idea of feeding the Sony line-out 1 into Sony line-in 2 and trying to capture from line-in 2 input, but I guess it would just switch it back to IRE 0 again. Ugh why didn't they include a switch like that for line-in!
profhat's Avatar profhat 09:22 PM 08-16-2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelson View Post

Hauppauge HD PVR 01212 is one of the best.
You can get them for under $200.

Sadly but true, even without a real digital video/audio input.

Of couse, I don't know if the DaisukeJigen's VHS have component video outputs. But I'd like to buy a VCR like that.
Kelson's Avatar Kelson 01:19 PM 08-17-2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by profhat View Post

Sadly but true, even without a real digital video/audio input.
It has optical digital audio input and pass-through.
Digital video input, aka. HDMI input, would be worthless because just about all cable boxes have their HDMI outputs protected with HDCP. If you really want HDMI input, you can get the Hauppauge Colossus -- which only works with non-HDCP source.
DaisukeJigen's Avatar DaisukeJigen 11:17 AM 09-16-2012
Hello again, been a bit busy with other things lately but I ended up returning the Funai/Toshiba. Just not worth doing all these tapes if the quality isn't going to match the original =\

About the HDPVR, I've read that it is highly sensitive to a VCR input signal and frequently crashes if you stop, rewind, fast-forward, the tape changes from one recording session to another, etc. Is it really that touchy? If so, is there any similar device more friendly to analogue signals? Also, if it crashes, do you lose the data and need to start over?

Thanks again for all the informative replies.
profhat's Avatar profhat 06:44 PM 09-16-2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaisukeJigen View Post

About the HDPVR, I've read that it is highly sensitive to a VCR input signal and frequently crashes if you stop, rewind, fast-forward, the tape changes from one recording session to another, etc. Is it really that touchy?

If your PC is above this requirements, I don't see why the Hauppauge will be touchy:
Code:
System Requirements

    * Processor Requirements (minimum): Dual core CPU 2.0GHz or faster
    * Windows 7 (32 and 64-bit), Windows Vista or Windows XP service pack 2 (32-bit)
    * Graphics with 256MB memory (or greater)
    * Sound card
    * CD-ROM drive for installing the HD PVR software

Note: when playing back video recordings made with the HD PVR, a fast CPU
and at least 256MB of graphics memory are needed.

In any case, I also like to know more about this issue.
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