Friday, March 28, 2008

Unbreakable Comb(filters)

My effort to restore VHS tapes to near-watchability has just increased in scope.

The biggest part of the VHS capture chain is always what VCR you're using: start with a crap deck, and you'll get crap results. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Go Video VCR, which in turn is actually a re-badged high quality JVC 9000 series deck, complete with S-VHS capabilities and a Time Base Corrector/Digital Noise Reduction feature. This was always hooked up via S-Video on my old Sanyo recorder. It just seemed natural: there's an empty S-Video port! Stuff it like the anus of a porn star, quickly and without thinking about the natural consequences that sticking a penis inside of an anus could bring*!

(*No, that's not a lame gay joke. I'm just saying A) there could be doodies in there, and B) you rail that thing too hard and somebody's gonna' wear adult diapers by the age of 35. Of course by that point they've been regulated to "Milf" or "Granny" status by then, so... wait, where am I going with all this?)

My new Lite-On lacks S-video inputs. This at once is and is not a problem, because while VHS is a component format in structure and thus the chroma (C) and luma/grayscale (Y) should be kept separate where possible, it's never actually had component material released on it or hardware built to make it happen. Ever. One can argue that S-Video (by which I mean the connection, not S-VHS) gives you mathematically better picture because you're separating the chroma and luma, but for this to inherently be true we have to assume that the original signal separated the two and that using a comb filter at some point isn't going to do any favors. Again, every single VHS - "digitally processed" and otherwise - was pumped out with the chroma and luma signals crossed, which leads to that old chestnut dot crawl. It's literally on every VHS and LD on the planet, and typically you'd only want to use S-Video if your player has a built-in comb filter, as most TVs and other display devices have their own which will only kick in when you use that flimsy yellow cable. I've actually suggested running a second composite cable for dot-crawl infected DVDs... didn't go over too well with some videophiles who have Oppo players kicking around which can kick in a comb filter over HDMI, but I stand by it for certain crap-sources as an easy way to smear composite artifacts into oblivion.

With this in mind, why would I care if there's an S-Video in?

This is why.

This is, quite literally, a 6 pound block of comb filter which would help get rid of crawling dots and sparkling rainbows in the olden days of digital TVs. It was released back in 2000 as HDTVs started filtering into the homes of the rich and/or completely obsessed, and was built to separate the Y/C signals and eliminate dot-crawl and rainbows as best was possible by offering a new S-Video (and in some cases, component) connection. It cost about a thousand dollars back when. Nowadays - if you can find one, that is - they're said to go for under a hundred bucks. This is worthless when it comes to hooking it all up to my DVD recorder, but still may be useful if I make good on that threat to start capturing video to my PC. Unfortunately, while I've had some rather good luck encoding heavily filtered DVD material (see Vampire Hunter D's last test), excessively noisy source [VHS] + excessively noisy MPEG encoder [ CCE SP] =
excessively noisy transfer. It's rather simple, really, so while I could always soften the video out to cut down on further artifacts, I'm not convinced that's really helping me in the long run when I'm softening something that already has only a tiny bit of detail (and a lot of noise).

There's also the fact that if I really need a comb filter I can always exploit those that are available in AVISynth. The trouble is once I've recorded it and introduced new and exciting artifacts into the signal, the comb filtering is much less effective, though honestly, AVISynth comb filters aren't very effective in the first place. I think Dscaler's was slightly better, but... not by enough. I actually removed a host of them from the Vampire Hunter D restoration since they added ghosting, despite a positive influence on the transfer otherwise. For interlaced tapes that feature ghosting anyway this isn't such a big deal, but as the comb filters have done very little for my first squirming guineapig, Dead Heat, I'm simply not convinced that AVISynth is the answer.

I could also just buy a second DVD recorder that supports S-Video... but now, everyone who's read the first half of this sentence is already laughing their balls off.

In effect, this entry is me going "Hmmmm..." like a John K. cartoon without actually doing anything, which isn't much like a John K. cartoon. Ah, hell. Take this as a consolation prize.

Bet you didn't see Geno-tan coming from a mile away. Next time I'll try to wax poetic about ロッキ・ザ・アニメ‼ in the near future. You'll be "glad" I did.

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