Tuesday, May 17, 2005

In the continuing saga of my attempts to reduce my VHS tapes to digital format, I have made enough progress to know that there is a LOT more to this than meets the eye. It sounds simple enough: play a tape, capture it in digital form, and then freeze that for later consumption.


It appears that The Industry in general try to keep things from being that simple [paranoid interpretation] in order to reduce copyright infringement. Also, despite looking like the really simple little objects we treat them as, CDs and DVDs are actually incredibly complicated wads of numbers and calculations and so forth [technical interpretation].

I have managed to capture various items such as an episode of Monarch of the Glen, my Yoga for Du mmies tape, and Nanny 911, etc., and burn them to CVD for later (somewhat blurry) viewing. I've been able to play these in both VCD and SVCD format on TheLimey's DVD player. (This bodes well for the future, when this will be the thing I play my movies on.) I have also been able to play them on my computer.

I have had a crash course in the basic characteristics of MPEGs (-1, -2, and even -4) as well as some issues regarding the differences between VCDs, SVCDs, CDs, DVDs, and even weird things like XCVDs. Not to mention a beginning understanding about some coding issues regarding MPEGs, and some of the grey-market applications with which a person might modify their characteristics.

The reason all this information is even necessary is that I don't have a DVD burner, so I must burn the MPEGs as a CVD. Now, it turns out that a 1-hour program fits snugly on a standard 650-700 MB disk if you're using cruddy MPEG-1 format. This means that a standard 2-hour movie requires two CDs.

I also tried capturing a standard 2-hour show in the much nicer MPEG-2. This format would have taken 4 CDs to record!

This would all not be that big a deal (except for the whole "changing the disk in the middle of the program"--remember laser disks of the '80s? Heh) -- except that I think I probably have about 300 VHS tapes to transfer. Even at 50c a pop this would mean $300 in disks alone. For that price, I might as well buy a dang DVD burner.


It looks as though there are some ways for an intrepid person to get into the MPEG files and fiddle about with them before burning them, in order to burn a 2-hour file onto a single disk. Possibly even MPEG-2s.

I think I have found some ways to do this, but all of them involve manipulating the guts of files whose surfaces I have barely even seen before. I am not sure if this is easier or harder than one of you programming types attempting self-taught psychoanalysis. At least my MPEGs are unlikely to harm anyone but me if I miscalculate. (That's what I'm telling myself.)

I think I will probably use the instructions I found for altering MPEGs with Gordian Knot (after killing off that clean-removing DAE spyware/adware, of course). While Gordian Knot is meant for those with DVD burners, it looks like one can use it just for editing MPEG files.

I like the PCTV USB2 for capturing MPEGS, but for burning them---eah. It seems to create files that make my computer hang up permanently instead of playing, although they play fine in the standalone. Also, the files burned thusly all lose exactly 30 seconds, for some reason, AND the PCTV burner renames them unimaginatively as "Track 1, Track 2", and so forth.

I have found that if I capture them with the PCTV and then burn them to disk with plain ol' Sonic media burner (bundled with computer), the disk works as it should in the computer, and the tracks remain their original length, as well as retaining the names I gave them when capturing, such as "DrWho_Dalek_1".

However, I have not yet had a chance to try these Sonic-burned disks in the standalone. Hopefully it will accept them as it did the previous ones.


Andrew said...

I remember a time when technology's aim was to make our lives easier. Now technology's aim apparently is to turn us all into self-taught systems analysts and engineers in order to do mundane tasks. I blame it all on Bill Gates and Microsoft, which started the trend that regular folks had to learn to type stuff like c:>root/chdir/srtcompter.exe to do the simplest tasks. I also blame the media blamers.

Tim said...

Geez, my head hurts just reading that.

argotnaut said...

And sometimes I think of you as The Non-Technical One...

liz said...

All a matter of where I point my attention, I guess. [shrugs]

(I have a limited quantity of that. So if *you've* already learned something, it's easier for me to simply access your database.)

Eric...forgot my blog pw and am feeling lazy about it. said...

You should try quicktime pro. It's $9 or $19.95...something like that. I have it on my mac and it converts files to various formats with user controls for audio and video quality.
It's pretty great, just not free.