Video and VHS Restoration Techniques
Before the advent of digital media and DVDs, we were limited to analog recording onto video tapes. Millions of families have countless hours of footage stored on types of media like this. In todays age, it’s now easier than ever to restore those older tapes and transfer or convert them to a digital format. Using a variety of techniques, we can now impose a series of filters on video to achieve the desired restoration results.
When restoring older media such as VHS video tapes, it’s important to get the best possible signal you can. This starts at the signal source, which in this case, is the VCR you’re planning to use. If you’re serious about a quality restoration job, you’ll need to start with a quality deck. The VCR is the most important piece of equipment for VHS restoration. Most experts recommend a JVC, Panasonic, or Sony made VCR. Believe it or not, most experts would encourage you to use an older VCR (circa 1990s), as these were actually built of much higher quality. Video restoration is actually directly proportional to the quality of the VCR, or source signal.
Finding a VCR that’s capable of providing you with a strong, clean signal can be tough to find. I would suggest by first searching ebay, or local classifieds such as Craigslist. Cheap-o consumer VCRs you’d find at the local department stores will not get the job done, and can often leave your videos looking worse off than before. For this step, expect to spend $300-400 for a VCR that can provide you with any sort of positive results. A VCR with a built-in time-based corrector would be the best bet for restoring old VHS tapes back to their original glory. Many large companies who transfer VHS to DVD in Los Angeles use these same types of VCRs.
The next step is to get your hands on a high-quality video capture card for your computer. Do some research and make sure you invest in one that can deliver quality results, and one that is compatible with your current hardware setup. It’s best to steer clear of the USB type of video capture, and stick to an actual video capture card, or an advanced firewire unit such as a Canopus.
If you’re concerned about quality, you should also invest in a standalone TBC. A standalone TBC will help remove much of the tracking issues that are common with older tapes, and help stabilize the picture on the screen. TBC units aren’t cheap, but is necessary to achieve professional quality results.
Once the video has been transferred to you computer, it’s now ready to be manipulated. Most video editing programs have at least some basic video restoration tools available, it usually just depends on what you’re used to, or comfortable with. I recommend using Virtualdub for video restoration work. The learning curve is kind of steep, but there is great documentation throughout the web. Restoring your old videos is great for archiving, or if you plan to convert your video to DVD at some point.