Is there any real way to "restore"/clean up old VHS footage?

David Andrade Oct 24, 2013

  1. I know I may be going down the rabbit hole with this one, but I was just recently given old VHS footage from home movies....that were converted to a DVD format. After looking at the footage and bringing it into the Adobe suite to work on, I noticed the obvious things, overblown highlights, oversaturation, etc which I was able to adjust. (although, the more I got it within legal limits, the flatter the overall footage looked)

    Are there any other suggestions to clean up this footage more than that? I've run into some issues. It definitely is soft. I threw some sharpening on it, but that was a little tricky, as too much makes the footage literally hard to watch. I know that I cannot necessarilly add what wasnt there, but I wasnt sure if anyone had any "tricks". I was able to add some contrast to the footage which made it look nicer to my eyes, but man....those blacks are very easy to crush.

    so, avoid this altogether? different approach?
  2. Jason Myres

    Jason Myres Moderator

    I had to do the same thing on a project recently. If you or someone else, can re-capture the VHS tape over component video (or at least S-VHS) directly to ProRes/DNxHD you will have a much nicer starting point. The DVD conversion included some fairly intense compression, that you will now have to rip and transcode just so you can work with it, only to render out and possibly re-compress it again (H.264) when you're done. You will eliminate a number of conversions, and get back a lot of information if you can capture the VHS directly to a file.

    As far as restoration, a Neat Video pass with some light grading should be all you need. Old footage usually benefits from slightly balancing out some of the dominant color cast, and then setting contrast a bit. It usually has a lot of character, so the goal isn't to make it 'new' looking, as much as to keep it's flaws from being distracting as much as possible.
  3. Lots of VHS issues should best be fixed in the analog world. Digital "burns" in many of these things. A pass through a TBC and something like a Snell Prefix will address many, many issues. Things like blown highlights may be recoverable much more from the original tape than may appear to be possible. But you lock yourself in, in many ways as soon as you go into the digital realm. You should make sure you've done as much as you can in the analog world before starting digital work.
  4. Jason Myres

    Jason Myres Moderator

  5. Thanks for the information gentlemen and thanks for that link Jason. That's awesome. I'll ask if those tapes still exist. If not, it will just have to be what it is.

    Juan, it's funny that you mentioned recovering the higlights. Even with the digital copy I was given, once I pulled the highlights down past 100IRE, I saw clouds in the sky :) Didnt expect that. I had just assumed the bright sky was burned in. But anyway, yes, I agree with both of you. Theres only so much you can do with the footage in its current state.
  6. I second Jason's Neat Video pass suggestion. I've recently cleaned up some pretty noisy Beta footage and the result was amazing.

    If you are using Resolve 10 you can also use the splitter/combiner node to correct chroma offset problems.

    One last suggestion: Use DVDxDV to extract the video from the DVD is you can't obtain the original tapes. It recovers more information then other programs.
  7. Find someone with a FilmMaster equipped with DVO. They have quite well working filters for removing channel crosstalk and YUV realignment...
  8. You know what does that even better? A TBC. Good sync on a good deck.
  9. I did something like this recently, went VHS to BetaSP deck with TBC then YUV to SDI with an AJA box then through a DVNR and SDI to the Teranex for scaling to 1080i worked pretty well.

  10. I agree with Jason.

    You need to get your VHS into another digital format.
    The other issue you have is just on how well do you want your video restored: from 1% - 100%?
    The company I work for transfers 35mm film to 2k .dpx.
    The final deliverable, after restoration and color, is completed is 1080.

    Our restoration artists spend weeks cleaning the films frame by frame.
    The larger format gives our team more detail (control).
    They need to do their work before I can do mine, color restoration is the final step.

    The same process holds true with old videotaped programs.
    So, you're really looking at two processes: one is film/video restoration, the other is color restoration.
    This process requires two completely different software programs in one unified workflow.

    Even with all the talk about the new Resolve v10 (which I like very much), it still only does one thing really well: color.

    I only provide this as information about the restoration and color restoration process, and not as an effort to solicit work.
    Hope you found the information helpful.

    Best, J
  11. Very true. The best VHS deck ever made (IMHO) was the JVC BR-S822, which does have a built-in TBC. Turn off the NR and the enhancement, and you can get a very, very stable picture (even genlocked) into a capture card. If you have scopes on the capture card, you can use the proc amp within the VCR to adjust the levels a little bit. Once there, the rest boils down to fixing bad dropouts, glitches, hits, doing a little color-correction, and then some NR if necessary.
  12. That was a great deck, indeed. I wonder if there are a few units still around in great operating condition. I gave one away that was in great shape 13 years ago because I had no more use for it.
  13. I held onto one for nostalgia -- my last analog machine in the house. A buddy of mine still has a bunch of 1", Betacam, and 3/4" decks which they use on rare occasions to dub archival footage, mostly to QuickTime files. There's an art to knowing how to doing that well.
  14. Digging up an old thread I picked up a Leitch/DPS 475 which has just about every analog in and includes audio with timing sync and has NR and a TBC it delivers everything out the other end as SDI.

    I have a troublesome VHS job to try it on right away.

    DavidHildreth likes this.
  15. THe 475 was amazing piece of kit. Probably the reason DPS was bought by Glitch in the first place.

    It did everything to everything.

    All this talk of TBC make me feel one knows what they are anymore


    DIgital Vision
    Robert Houllahan likes this.
  16. What Juan says is an absolute must--run the VHS tapes through a time base corrector first. Without it you will get geometry problems that are probably next to impossible to correct digitally.

    Imagine a deck of playing cards. Each card is one line of video. If the cards are stacked but in disarray, a TBC will line them all up so the deck is all neat and straight.

    Another thing, depending on the age of the tapes, the oxide may shed from the polyester base. Don't subject the tapes to too much VCR transport until you're ready to play them back for digital capture.

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