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Panasonic fans: VHS conversion, LSI vs. inhouse, ES10 passthru, DMR-EH50 vs. others

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
A friend of mine owns a Panasonic DMR-EH50 and has used it for numerous VHS and Betamax conversions. Its recordings in that category have always impressed me, and after auditioning two non-Panasonic DVD recorders that were recommended highly on other forums for VHS conversions, I have decided that the DMR-EH50 comes closest to suiting my personal tastes.

To quote a regular on another forum, "there must be a clear distinction between archiving videotape sources and restoration. Archiving involves transferring the original source to a suitable storage format without any alteration of the signal, while restoration is the process of creating viewable copies of the source that are 'cleaned up', enhanced, color corrected, etc." As it goes, I fall squarely into the "archivist" camp. My requirements: a machine that maintains a rock-solid lock on imperfect VHS signals, including multi-generational dubs and recordings of distant reception; and a machine that employs minimal to zero noise/sharpness/clean-up processing, my goal not being "restoration" but "archival" -- keeping things as verbatim as possible with the lowest possible degradation caused by the transfer process itself. The DMR-EH50 (or perhaps I should say, the models of its era) seem to come closest to this goal of those I've seen.

So ... some questions for anyone willing to answer.

Which currently-available models are considered to perform as well as the DMR-EH50 in the picture and encoding quality department, if not better? Have the posterization and macroblocking levels from that era's recorders gotten worse or better, or have they remained the same?

I've also learned that the DMR-EH50 used Panasonic's inhouse chipset and that the newer models are all using LSI silicon. How has that affected things? All I've been able to gather so far is that LSI's chipset means 720x480 instead of 704x480 (though I'm confused about whether that applies to SP and XP in addition to LP); and that LSI's chipset apparently employs some degree of chroma NR. (Chroma noise reduction, especially if it targets primarily reds and blues, is the one form of NR I find unobjectionable; provided it doesn't go beyond the pale and make things synthetic looking, like you're seeing luma at one frame rate and chroma at another, lower frame rate. Otherwise, luma NR generally upsets my stomach. Depending on the implementation, you're left with temporal smear, lost detail, or worst of all, noise whose high frequency components are removed, leaving just the lower ones, turning the video into an abyss of "blotchy muck.")

Last item. I've read that the Panasonic ES10 was the only DVD recorder model ever whose timebase filters actually affected its passthrough output. And that it had an uncanny ability (more so than other Panasonic models in fact) to deal with some of the worst tapes out there. Many out there actually appear to be using the ES10 exclusively as a VHS TBC. So, out of curiosity, does anyone here have experience using an ES10 as a pre-processor for digital capture devices that normally can't handle unstable VHS at all? I'm interested in whether this model's output might fully satisfy something like an HD PVR 1212, allowing me to avoid the world of MPEG-2 (which is only barely adequate at 9.8 mbit/s for noisy video anyway), and dump VHS directly to high bitrate MPEG-4 AVC without any dropped frames or cuts-to-black. And, if this would work, whether there might be any drawbacks -- like whether the ES10's output suffers from the customary Panasonic posterization effect.

Thanks!
post #2 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by pishposhx View Post

Last item. I've read that the Panasonic ES10 was the only DVD recorder model ever whose timebase filters actually affected its passthrough output. And that it had an uncanny ability (more so than other Panasonic models in fact) to deal with some of the worst tapes out there. Many out there actually appear to be using the ES10 exclusively as a VHS TBC. So, out of curiosity, does anyone here have experience using an ES10 as a pre-processor for digital capture devices that normally can't handle unstable VHS at all? I'm interested in whether this model's output might fully satisfy something like an HD PVR 1212, allowing me to avoid the world of MPEG-2 (which is only barely adequate at 9.8 mbit/s for noisy video anyway), and dump VHS directly to high bitrate MPEG-4 AVC without any dropped frames or cuts-to-black. And, if this would work, whether there might be any drawbacks -- like whether the ES10's output suffers from the customary Panasonic posterization effect.

Thanks!

Hmmmmm. I have a panny ES10, but had no idea it was so special I haven't tried using it this way, but now you're making me glad I didn't relegate it to the recycle bin this past weekend when I was doing a purge. It needs a good cleaning, so it hasn't been used at all recently. Previously I had been using it as an alternative input for OTA signals via a CECB, but... that was no longer necessary due to a reconfiguration of my equipment and changes in the cable feed. You want to know how it performs when feeding a vhs signal THROUGH it to another recorder? I have a lot of bad tapes (currently feeding them through either a sony or a JVC to record to the 2160A), so as soon as I have a chance to reconfigure things, I'll give it a try . At the moment, I'm using a Panny EA38 for VHS playback and dubbing, but ran into copy protection when trying to dub a "christmas" VHS to DVD using the combo play/record.... wanted to watch an old tape that I got on ebay with someone who didn't have a VHS player anymore. No joy. So I dubbed it to my computer instead, using EyeTV(that was fine, no problems recording), then burned to a DVD. Mostly I'm re-recording VHS to DVD, not the computer, these days, but in this case, the two step process solved the viewing problem.
post #3 of 11
Anubisrocks has (or had) an ES10 that needs a new home:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...0#post18624730
post #4 of 11
Regarding the ES10 passthrough, its usefulness varies. You have to weigh the benefits of its corrective abilities against the drawbacks of its potentially-worse impact on overall image quality. The ES10 does not provide an uncolored, corrective-only pass-through signal like a traditional TBC box: the signal it "passes through" to its outputs is actually its own completely MPEG2-encoded signal, same as it would record to a DVD. Since the ES10 was not one of Panasonic's best efforts in terms of PQ, if you're very picky you may not like the combination of the kinda-lame ES10 analog>digital >analog outputs re-encoded analog>digital by your final device (recorder or PC card). Some describe the results as "nice stable mud".

The primary corrections the ES10 excels with (and other devices seem unable to cope with) generally apply only to multi-generational dub tapes or certain types of weirdly-recorded camcorder tapes. These can have two hard-to-fix issues: frame jitter, and/or severe bending or "flag waving" of vertical objects near the top third of the frame. The ES10 will correct the worst of these tapes to an amazing degree unmatched by even megabuck TBC hardware, but again the correction comes at a cost in overall PQ: your original tape gets converted by the ES10 not-so-great encoder, then goes thru another encoding process by your final recorder system. Multi-generation digital encoding is about as desirable as multi-gen analog dubbing: not at all. If you're fortunate enough to find an ES10 with a still-functioning burner, you could record direct to that and skip the second encoding from a pass-through setup. But you'll still end up with a so-so ES10 result, and the DVDs it produced were known to have some formatting issues with audio and frame sizing (obscure issues, but they do bother some users). Its best used as a pass-through to a more modern recorder.

Like everything video, its subjective. I've seen results from using ES10 pasthrough that were really quite good, and others that made me think perhaps the original tape should just be discarded. Depends on the specific tape, your VCR, and your final recording hardware, as well as your willingness to accept various trade-offs to get a watchable digitization of rare material.

(And to second DigaDo's suggestion: anyone who needs an ES10 please PM AnubisRocks, he has one with a dead burner hes threatening to bring to a recycle center soon: grab it from him while you can! )

The DMR-EH50 is too old at this point to be worth looking for second-hand. Also, be aware that Panasonics implementation of LSI was often completely different from its use by other mfrs, the typical benefits/drawbacks of LSI in similar models from other brands were not always duplicated in the Panasonics. Theres not much choice of new DVD/HDD recorders in North America these days: if you're in Canada, its the Pioneer-derived Sony 780 (excellent), in USA its the Magnavox H2160 (also quite good). The Magnavox uses the most current, most refined version of the LSI encoder design but does NOT include the heavy DNR filters some users objected to in the classic LSI recorders. With the Magnavox "what goes in, comes out": theres no "flavoring". The Sony uses an older-generation Pioneer-exclusive encoder: it is very stable with tape input, almost as stable as an ES10, but it tends to produce somewhat muddier results than the Magnavox. The Magnavox is sharper and clearer but can suffer unpredictable glitches with tape input that you don't see until you review the recordings. Usually insignificant glitches, but something to be aware of.

If you want to split the difference, and get sharp encoding with stable tape input, the best option is one of the final Pioneer-labeled recorders which had upgraded 12-bit encoders (the Sony uses 10-bit). The Pioneer 460, 560 and 660 are superb with tape input but are now scarce unless you hit eBay. You might find "global market" NTSC/PAL Pioneers (also named 560 or 660) at importers like 220electronics or B&H. There is also the latest evolution of the DMR-EH50, known as the DMR-EH69 (or -EH65): this is another "global" model available only thru importers. Those who prefer Panasonic recorders say its as good as Panasonic gets, since I don't have direct experience with one I can't comment, but members like ChurchAVGuy have posted extensively here about the "global" Panasonics. I can say the Pioneers have worked great for me and allowed me to ditch all external processors when dubbing VHS (with a huge tape collection to digitize, the less hardware I have to manage the better).
post #5 of 11
I can't directly answer your question but I can say that my ES10 has done a very good job of "cleaning up" old VHS tapes that I have transferred. as far as PQ, there is not a huge difference between the ES 10 and my ES 15. My advice would be to use the 10 only for "problem" tapes.
BTW, other than the front display fading to near-uselessness, my ES 10 is still going strong
post #6 of 11
I don't have a '05 ES-10 but I do have a EH-50 and ES-30v of the same year and they do make quality DVDs from VHS, DVD or other source.
I also have many '06 model Panasonics(ES-15, ES-25 and EH-55) and they also make very good DVDs.
All of those Panasonics contain Panasonic Silicon although the '05 models have 704x480 LP and below resolution while the '06 and newer Panasonics use 720x480 for LP and below.
I have noticed no difference in resolution or filtering between the two model years so I use them very interchangeably.

The '07 and newer US Panasonics have the LSI silicon which I've had in the past and again other than the numerous bugs I haven't noticed any PQ difference(better or worse) from the Panasonic silicon.
AFAIK all international Panasonics(even current ones) use Panasonic silicon and have no bugs or quirks like the US EZ/EA series.

I believe all Panasonics have the ability to turn OFF or ON line-in NR and adjust transfer to Video or auto 1 or auto 2. On all my Panasonics I have NR ON and use Video for transfer. They also have a black level adjustment for line input which I have set to DARKER.

I have not noticed a difference in macroblocking between the '05-'08 model years. The more you push 4hrs the more you'll see macroblocking. I rarely go over 3hrs anymore and really like to stick between 2-3hrs for VHS or noisy sources.

I really haven't needed to play with TBCs but when I was doing more conversions I used a Proc Amp to correct color, tint and brightness/contrast.

If you're happy with the EH-50 I'd think any of the mentioned Panasonics would work good for you. The international Panasonics are the only way to get a new Panasonic w/hdd and Panasonic silicon but you may be able to track down a used EH-50 or even the more expensive and newer EH-55.
I believe ChurchAVguy mentioned in the past that he was thinking about selling a EH-50, I'm not sure if that offer is still available. I'm quite happy with my EH-50 and EH-55 and really have no interest in selling them.
Click my sig. for a list of the various Panasonics over the years.
post #7 of 11
When considering an ES10 to be used as a tape "TBC", it should be understood that it was a one-off, odd duck sort of model that strayed from the standard design of other Panasonic recorders of the same year. All recorder mfrs, including Panasonic, had an annoying tendency toward inconsistent performance among similar models in a lineup. While the DMR-EH50 was a decent machine for its time, the ES10 was really pretty bad aside from its special tape-fixing circuits. For whatever reason, Panasonic only put this legendary, industrial-strength tape fixer in the ES10, and while its a nice feature you pay for it with otherwise crummy video quality. The more expensive EH50 of that same lineup was much better at ordinary recording, the reason I don't recommend a second-hand one is they usually need a pricey burner repair and often a new hard drive by now (for that sort of money you're better off with a brand new international DMR-EH69). The DNR filters that jjeff mentions are of Panasonics own more-subtle design, they have nothing to do with the hyperactive overdose filters other mfrs fitted to LSI-based recorders of that era (which is probably why pishposhx finds the EH50 preferable). Panasonic forged its own path with LSI while other mfrs nostly copied each others LSI implementations: some users prefer the "standard" LSI encode while others like the Panasonic interpretation better- at least in those days we actually had a choice.

The special tape correction feature is only available full-tilt in the ES10, if you have seriously bad tapes thats the model you want to use as a pass-through. Panasonic did include the feature in the ES15 and ES20 as well, but it isn't quite as strong in these other units. For pass-through use its OK to buy any of these used at $30-60, because you only need the electronics to work: a dead burner isn't the dealbreaker it would be in a $300-500 DVD/HDD model you expect to be your primary recorder.
post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the responses, everyone.

First off, if what the ES10 passes through is the result of its sync filters and MPEG encoder, then alas, it wouldn't be of any interest to me. I was thinking about HD PVR 1212 MPEG-4 encoding of VHS to get around the artifacting of 9.8 mbit/s DVD MPEG-2. If the ES10 passes video already suffering the latter's defects, there would be no point in my having it, amazing TBC or otherwise. It would only benefit me if I had tapes so far gone that merely being able to "TBC" them at all was my only concern. And I don't.

Panasonic's LSI implementation not looking different from the Panasonic inhouse chipsets (and not implementing the same "overkill DNR" other manufacturers have opted for) is very good news. Thanks for the confirmations there.

As far as jjeff's confirmation that the Panasonics only use 720x480 for LP and below (i.e. not for SP and XP), bummer. I had been thinking all along that if the ES10's output would not be satisfactory for feeding something like an HD PVR 1212 (either sync-wise or quality-wise), I'd digitize everything at 720x480 XP and re-burn to BD-R (to at least escape the 1 hour per disc inconvenience). Alas, BluRay can't do 704x480.

For the record, I will only be using the machine I buy for dumping VHS to DVD. It will not be used continuously as a DVR. That said, unless someone knows a reason to favor HDD models anyway, I'm thinkinng a simple optical disc-only model should suit me. And because I would be using XP mode for all recordings, the one hour disc barrier would exist for me in either case.

So since what I'm gathering is that any current HDD-less US model should suit me picture quality-wise as well as the DMR-EH50, my only question at this point is: what's this about EZ/EA bugs and quirks? Are they anything that would trip up a person just dumping 1 hour of video to DVD-RW at a time, perhaps doing nothing more sophisticated than pressing PAUSE now and then during each of those recordings?

Thanks again, all.
post #9 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by pishposhx View Post

For the record, I will only be using the machine I buy for dumping VHS to DVD... So since what I'm gathering is that any current HDD-less US model should suit me picture quality-wise as well as the DMR-EH50, my only question at this point is: what's this about EZ/EA bugs and quirks? Are they anything that would trip up a person just dumping 1 hour of video to DVD-RW at a time, perhaps doing nothing more sophisticated than pressing PAUSE now and then during each of those recordings?

I've repeatedly called attention to the functional problems of 2007 and newer Panasonic EZ/EA VHS/DVD combo recorders used for transferring videotaped recordings directly to DVD from the built-in VHS mechanism. Here is one example:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...8#post18206508
post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by pishposhx View Post


As far as jjeff's confirmation that the Panasonics only use 720x480 for LP and below (i.e. not for SP and XP), bummer. I had been thinking all along that if the ES10's output would not be satisfactory for feeding something like an HD PVR 1212 (either sync-wise or quality-wise), I'd digitize everything at 720x480 XP and re-burn to BD-R (to at least escape the 1 hour per disc inconvenience). Alas, BluRay can't do 704x480.


So since what I'm gathering is that any current HDD-less US model should suit me picture quality-wise as well as the DMR-EH50, my only question at this point is: what's this about EZ/EA bugs and quirks? Are they anything that would trip up a person just dumping 1 hour of video to DVD-RW at a time, perhaps doing nothing more sophisticated than pressing PAUSE now and then during each of those recordings?

Thanks again, all.

Panasonics after '05 will do 720x480 on speeds LP(4hr mode) and faster(SP, XP and FR set between 1 and 4hrs/disc). '05 Panasonics are similar but limit the resolution to 704x480. Since BR cannot do 704x480 it sounds like you should be looking for a '06 and newer model.

If all you need is a line input recorder then something like the EA-18 should work fine. The majority of the bugs with the EZ or EA series are tuner or timer related, which it sounds like won't effect you at all.
post #11 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by pishposhx View Post

I've read that the Panasonic ES10 was the only DVD recorder model ever whose timebase filters actually affected its passthrough output. And that it had an uncanny ability (more so than other Panasonic models in fact) to deal with some of the worst tapes out there. Many out there actually appear to be using the ES10 exclusively as a VHS TBC.

Very sorry to bring up an old thread, but I've been looking for a DMR-ES10, and one has finally become available locally. But, I have a question about whether the DMR-ES10 actually has a TBC.

Going by this thread, it appears the DMR-ES10 does have TBC, but the following from a Panasonic document says otherwise:



Which is correct? Is there any other documentation available that confirms the TBC in a DMR-ES10?
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