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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It looks like computer-based system is the way for me to go. Anyone who has any experience with these, I would appreciate any information you have about what works and what doesn't!

Primary Goals:
  • Archiving old videotapes to DVD-R or DVD+R
  • Saving new TV shows with commercials seamlessly edited out
  • Making copies of my non-commercial DVDs on DVD-R without loss or interference from copy protection

I don't believe my current computer is up to doing this without a major overhaul, so I'm considering a new system that would be dedicated to video editing and DVD recording. I'm willing to use DVD-RW/+RW for temporary storage as needed, so I should only need enough hard drive space for one disc's worth of material.

How much of these do I need to do this?
  • CPU speed?
  • RAM?
  • Hard disc space?
  • Video card? (presumably enough to see what I'm doing for editing)
Any recommendations on...
  • Video capture?
  • DVD burners?
  • Software? (Yes, I'm reading the other thread on that.)
  • Good places to buy any of these things?

:confused:


Getting it assembled and an operating system (Windows XP home?) installed shouldn't be any problem.


Or is there anyone out there who thinks I should go the Mac route? (I've used them before; I'm not afraid of Macs.)


Thank you for your help!
 

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I think you will get better response if you post this in the HTPC forum. Lots of knowledgeable posters (on this subject) there - not that the people that hang out here are not good, of course!
 

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CPU Memory and Hard Disks are important for any video editing. Since you don't need much disk space you could invest in one of the Western Digital Raptor drives which are Serial ATA drives. You could also go with a high performance SCSI disk.


Here's what I would select:

CPU: 2.66Mhz C Pentium 4, the "C" means 800Mhz CPU. Hyperthreading may or may not improve performance depending on the application.

1GB of DDR memory

1 40GB 7200 RPM boot drive and 1 36GB WD Raptor

ATI Video card 9600 all the way up to All in Wonder 9800.

If you don't go with an all-in-wonder card, Canopus makes some nice capture cards.

Pioneer 106/A06 DVD±R drive

Any of the Pinnacle software is good, as are Ulead products

Online shop I prefer is Newegg.com


Hope this helps some.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you, Joe and Richard! This is exactly the sort of advice I needed! I'll post a copy of this on HTPC.


Joe -- why do you like using two small hard discs instead of one larger one? I'm guessing it's either to keep the operating system and software packages separate from the data, or because the Raptor (which I'm not familiar with) is faster. Thanks again!
 

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Amethyst Dancer, my purpose is similar to yours and I've found my Panny E80 to fill the basics quite well.


With a PC based solution I was concerned about Video import quality--I've heard that A/D quality on PC's is inferior (might want to look into this)


Much easier to integrate into an AV system and import from multiple sources.


The biggest downfall is backing up DVDs (commercial or personnel)...I hate CPRM!


A PC solves that (but there devices for around 100$ that get around that too). Mainly, a PC provides advanced editing/authoring capabilities, such as fade in/out, chapter marking, true video editing/stiching, building menus etc.


Check out www.dvdrhelp.com for more enlightenment...
 

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Amethyst,

I just went down the entire path that you did. My goal was primarily to transfer old Hi-8 tapes onto the computer for burning onto DVD. I'll give you the short version of what I purchased to accomplish this, along with some of the problems that I encountered. There was quite a large learning curve getting over some of the problems.


I bought a Sony DCR-TRV350. This was a rather expensive Digital 8 model selling for $500 but I needed it because I wanted to use my firewire computer input to capture the data. The TRV350 when playing analog Hi-8 tapes will automatically convert them to a digital stream that can be captured using a variety of free software packages. I was interested in maximum quality so cost was a secondary factor.


For your VHS transfer, you will probably need an external converter that converts the analog to firewire. I ended up transferring quite a bit of VHS too. I researched this thoroughly on the www.dvdrhelp.com site. I decided on getting the Canopus ADVC-100 box. This runs $300 and is a bit hard to find. On the dvdrhelp site this was the most recommended capture box as the others were cheaper but invariably had issues, mostly with dropped frames. I have been 100% plus satisfied with the Canopus as it works perfectly and now never drops frames no matter what video source I am capturing.


That covers getting either digital input (from Digital-8 camcorder) or analog (via Canopus) into the firewire port on the computer. As an aside, I also use the Canopus for capturing output from my Tivo, for stuff that I want to archive.


My computer is a 2.5GHz P4. The capture software that I use is I believe called WinDV, which was available as a free download off the dvdrhelp site. I had problems with capturing for a long time because of dropped frame problems. I am sort of a perfectionist, and ended up spending on the order of a couple very long days tracking the source down. The 2 most important things that I found were 1) I needed to use a 7,200 RPM drive that was not the frive that the OS was on, and 2) I needed to shut down all unnecessary software on the computer. The last culprit was the sneakiest and was my wireless network. That was causing about 1 dropped frame a minute, and once I disabled that I can capture video for hours with no problem. The WinDV program also has a real time display of the video so that you can see it during capture.


The resulting captured files are in .AVI format. To edit these and get them onto a DVD requires two more software programs. An MPEG conversion program to convert the .AVI files to .MPG and then an authoring program to create the DVD menus, andd pull all the .MPG files in for authoring. I downloaded, for free again, TMPGenc for the MPEG conversion and TMPGDVDAuthor for the authoring. The trial version ended at the end of December and I paid the $100 price for getting both. Well worth the price.


The TMPGenc conversion software is a very powerful means of compressing the .AVI files to .MPG. I should warn you that depending on your settings, the video can take 10x what the real running time is. A 1 hour show can take 10 hours to encode! That is using the highest quality setting though. I did a lot of experimenting with this too. It also includes basic video editing capability. I cut .MPG files into several pieces and then rearranged them into other .MPG files. This works pretty quickly and I had no issues with sound being out of synch with the video. Which is often a common complaint with cheap/free conversion/editing software.


The DVD authoring program was pretty simple to use, and it even had motion menus! You can have anywhere from a 3 to 30 second video clip running in each of the 6 chapters that display on each screen. If you have more than 6 chapters they follow on subsequent pages. Each chapter also has a name that you can enter in any font/color/size that you want. You can also have a background picture behind all this, and there are maybe 6-10 styles of menus to choose from. I found this to be more than adequate. The authoring software also allows you to pick any .MPG files that you have and add them to your project. Different clips can be combined into a single chapter, and the motion menu can show any portion of the chapter that you want. Looks very cool. I'm sure there are better authoring packages available too, if you want Hollywood quality menus and backgrounds.


After the authoring program runs it asks if you would like to burn the completed project to DVD. It then burns the DVD if you want, without requiring any additional software (i.e. Nero Ultra 6). I bought a TDK-Indi 4x multi format burner for $150 after rebates about 2 months ago. They are more like 8x and $130 now I believe. I burned my first few projects to DVD+RW to verify it all played as I wanted on my DVD player prior to committing them to DVD+R.


I found the editing to be a time consuming process. The stuff that I was transferring though made it worth the effort. The 10 hour conversion time was not a big deal either. I would start it up at night, and then it would be done typically early AM and I would work on authoring and such the next evening after which I kicked off another overnight encoding run. Even now for my Tivo transfers I still use the highest quality setting for the MPG encoding.


I have read many good things about direct commercial DVD recorders that one would hook up to the VCR recorder for example, or the Tivo. These can do real time encoding and capture. I wasn't convinced that the quality would be as good as getting it on the computer and running software encoding so I opted for the computer solution. Also, having the material on the computer allows for much better editing than the standalone DVD recorders allow. They have minimal authoring capability, chapter insertion points, and no moving menus.


I also have to say that it made me realize more than anything that eventually all video in the home will converge and reside on a hard drive, probably attached to a server that will distribute it to wherever it needs to be displayed (multiple TV's). These exist now but are pretty pricey. A 250GB hard drive runs $149 on sale, or about $0.60 per GB. The recordable DVD-R prices are about $1.50 for a 4.7GB disk that equates to $0.32 per GB. So, hard drives are almost as cheap as blank DVD-R's, though prices are falling for both. The hard drive is much smaller than the 53 burned DVD's though, not to mention trying to label and keep track of them.


Let me know if you have any questions. I would be happy to answer them.


Robert
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
23tex -- Thank you!


Robert -- Wow! Thank you! That's an amazing amount of information! I'm going to read it over again tomorrow and reply to it, probably with some questions. :)


This is a little info about what I've been doing, and why I decided to go to a computer-based system.


I have done some VHS and SVHS editing that's far beyond what my equipment is supposed to be capable of, but it was extremely difficult and time-consuming. It would be really nice to be able to do moderately advanced editing without the hassles! I'm hoping I can even clean up the major project that I spent so much time and effort creating on SVHS, enough to burn it to DVDs.


Currently, I've been archiving from TV by recording on ReplayTV, then saving to VHS. I have an amazing old editing VCR. I can pause at the beginning of a commercial break, and if I am a little late pausing, I can use the jog/shuttle dial on the remote to reposition the tape (without stopping the record function) to an exact frame. If I want to record black video and no audio on a segment, I've discovered that Replay puts out a great signal when it's in standby mode. If I really want it perfect, I can go back later and use insert editing to copy black over even a single unwanted frame.


One of the things I don't like about the Philips DVDR75 that I'm returning, is that it can't do a really good job of editing commercials out without creating a brief pause where the editing took place. I had hoped to edit on DVD+RW, then copy the edited material to DVD+R for a final archive. I've read in this forum that the Panasonic models aren't completely free from this pausing problem either, but that some software packages can do smooth transitions on a PC-based system. I've also read here that there's a problem with video quality on standalone recoders because of copy protection schemes.


I was originally hoping to go with a standalone recorder. It would certainly be easier than getting a PC system set up! But trying the Philips has made me reconsider the advantages of a PC system:
  • As far as I know, a PC burner will write my DVDs unprotected, so I can copy them later with no loss.
  • Editing should be much easier, more flexible, and smoother, on a hard disc than a DVD+RW. Typing in titles would be a lot less tedious using a keyboard, and I can make nicer disc menus.
  • Technology is always improving. For example, what if the new "blue ray" systems get into the affordable range in a few years? It would be a lot less expensive to replace a component than an entire system, if I want to upgrade.
  • DVDs can be burned from files on the hard disc at faster speeds than real time.
  • The cost of an entire PC system is not much more than a mid-level standalone recorder like the Philips, and less than the high-level ones.


If I'm wrong about any of that, please let me know, because except for my brief experience with the Philips, everything else I know about DVD recording is from reading.


Simplicity must always be sacrificed if one wants more power, and I must admit I'm more of a power user. ;)


Thanks again!
 

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Amethyst,

Here are some comments on your most recent questions and observations.

Quote:
As far as I know, a PC burner will write my DVDs unprotected, so I can copy them later with no loss
Yes, DVD's made on a computers DVD burner can be copied ad infinitum.

Quote:
Editing should be much easier, more flexible, and smoother, on a hard disc than a DVD+RW. Typing in titles would be a lot less tedious using a keyboard, and I can make nicer disc menus.
Yes, the editing is quite easy. I use TMPGEnc and edit the MPEG stream directly. The way that MPEG works is that there is a frame recorded that contains an entire rendering of the frame. The next several frames (typically 12-18, user selectable during the encodeing process) only contain differences from the initial frame. This does constrain you to "cutting" right in front of the master frame (forgot technical term) of any sequence. Since I used fade in/out on all my tapes, it was no problem finding a 1/2 second black gap between scenes where there was a master frame. As a matter of fact, TMPGEnc automatically forces you to cut right before a master frame. TV commercials also present no problem using this approach.


If you wanted to be able to edit/cut on *any* frame of video you would probably have to edit the .AVI files directly. I'm not sure about the availability of editing software for that format but I assume it exists. Those are very large files though, typically 13GB per hour.


For some editing examples, I often record TV and cut out the commercials and then save the shows to DVD. There was a PBS special on the other day, a 3 part series on Lee Harvey Oswald. I recorded all 3 shows on the Tivo, and then transferred them onto the computer via the Canopus ADVC-100. When I encoded the shows to MPG format, I chose a bitrate of 3,400kbps to allow for burning all 3 shows on a single DVD. I made each 1-hour segment a chapter. While I normally don't like compressing the video too much, in this case I did it to fit all 3 shows on a single DVD for a friend.

Quote:
Technology is always improving. For example, what if the new "blue ray" systems get into the affordable range in a few years? It would be a lot less expensive to replace a component than an entire system, if I want to upgrade.
Yes, "blue ray" computer drives will be out sooner than blue ray standalone recorders, and be less expensive, IMHO. If you have most/all of your video on your computer then you can transfer it to a blue ray drive when you get one. HD is another beast altogether, and I am assuming that a blue ray drive will store normal video MPG files even though it is primarily intended to hold HD content.

Quote:
DVDs can be burned from files on the hard disc at faster speeds than real time
You got that right. My burner is significantly faster burning DVD+R than DVD-R. Since my DVD player plays all formats I just burn whatever burns fastest. Only time I use DVD-R is when the people I give the disks to have players that will only play the DVD-R format. Most new players play all formats (except DVD-RAM) and with prices as low as $50 for a new player the existing body of old DVD players should turn over pretty quick.

Quote:
The cost of an entire PC system is not much more than a mid-level standalone recorder like the Philips, and less than the high-level ones.
You might be off a bit there. I already had the P4 2.5GHz so I'll exclude that from the calculation. The Canopus card was $300, the DVD burner was $150, the software was $100. I spent a lot of time learning to do it right, but we won't count that. So, I spent $550 excluding the media. Oh, and I already had a spare internal 80GB 7,200 RPM drive that I use solely for capturing and encoding. Those would only run maybe $75 for a 120GB today.


I would also add that if you do plan on doing extensive MPG encoding on the PC using software then the faster the CPU the better. Of course, since you will just be starting it up and likely letting it run overnight it might not matter if it takes 8 or 12 hours. My P4 2.5GHz I would consider the low end for this type of work.


Robert
 

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this is good info...as I journey deeper into my budget to get a PC solution, I will keep this stuff in mind...I do really like my recorder, but, have visions of going to the next level.


Really appreciate you taking the time to document your experiences Robert.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
OK, I ordered a system through eBay, and there's one upgrade option I'm not sure about yet. The video card. Will the one it comes with be enough, or should I upgrade it? I'd like to finalize the order before 5pm today so they can get started on it, and I can get it sooner. This is what's available, and the upgrade cost for each (after subtracting credit for removing the default):
  • 128MB Nvidia GeForce FX5200 8X AGP DDR DVI/TVout (default)
  • 128MB Nvidia GeForce FX5600 8X AGP DDR DVI/TVout: $60
  • 256MB Nvidia GeForce FX5600 8X AGP DDR DVI/TVout: $70
  • 128MB Nvidia GeForce FX5700 Ultra 8X AGP DDR DVI/TVout: $44
  • 128MB Nvidia GeForce FX5600 8X AGP DDR DVI/TVout: $65
  • 256MB Nvidia GeForce FX5600 8X AGP DDR DVI/TVout: $75
  • 128MB Nvidia GeForce FX5700 Ultra 8X AGP DDR DVI/TVout: $149
  • 128MB ATI Radeon 9600 DVI/TV AGP: $55
  • 128MB ATI Radeon 9600XT DVI/TV AGP: $139
  • 256MB ATI Radeon 9800XT DVI/TV AGP: $419
  • 128MB ATI All in Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro DDR DVI/TV AGP: $315


Here are the rest of the specs:
  • Intel Pentium 4 2.6Ghz CPU 800Mhz FSB
  • Hyper-Threading Technology CPU
  • ASUS P4S800 800FSB 8X AGP Motherboard
  • 5PCI/8XAGP/ 6USB 2.0 Ports
  • 120GB 7200RPM 8MB Cache ATA133 Harddrive
  • 1GB Ultra Fast PC3200 DDR400 Memory
  • LiteON 411S DVD+/-RW Retail Boxed w/Software
  • High quality 6-Channel AC97 Audio
  • 10/100 Ethernet Adapter
  • IEEE 1394 3 Port Firewire Card
  • 350watt Mid Tower Case with Front USB 2.0
  • Windows XP Home
  • 1 Year Parts and Labor Warranty


I think all that's left besides that, is video capture, software (depending on what the DVD burner comes with), and a KVM (keyboard/video/mouse) switch so I don't have to find room for another workstation.


Thank you for all your help!


Cync
 

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Cync,

System looks good. Only comment would be that video capture might require a separate hard drive from your system drive as per my above post. And, I think that one or more of those video cards that you mentioned might be able to perform the video capture that I use the Canopus external box for. My knowledge of video cards is pretty limited though so I will leave that for others to definitively comment on.


Robert
 
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