Problems capturing analog footage

Posted by gpsking 
Problems capturing analog footage
June 11, 2014 11:27AM
Hi Folks,

I am working on a documentary feature using footage shot over 20 years. The earliest video is H-8. I have located a camera that will play back the tapes. My setup is as follows: Sony VX3 camera to Sony DVCAM deck via SVHS cable and separate audio, then via Firwire to Mac Pro running FCP7. Essentially using the DVCAM deck as an analog to digital converter. I succeeded in capturing 30 minutes or so perfectly, then the picture 'corrupted' -- major color distortion -- like an Andy Warhol print. At first I thought 'dirty heads' so I put in head cleaner, but...

A couple of days later I can still see a clean image in the camera's viewfinder in playback, but the image appearing on the small monitor on the DVCAM deck is unstable with that same color distortion. I have tried swapping cables, rebooting the system, etc without success. It looks like it needs time base correction or something similar, but I can't understand why it worked that first time! Any suggestions gratefully received.

George King
Atlanta, GA
Re: Problems capturing analog footage
June 11, 2014 12:25PM
It's very possible, given the age of the technology involved that either deck is toast. The fact that you can see good picture in the viewfinder means that the Hi8 heads are probably OK but everything after that in the chain is suspect (jacks, cables, etc). Swap all cables and try again till you find what is malfunctioning.

My suggestion would be to get ahold of a Digital8 camera or deck. It was a hybrid format from the early days of DV that played Hi8 tapes but had a FireWire DV out and was controllable from FCP.

However, neither of these methods (yours or mine) give you timecoded recapturable media, which would be necessary in the case that you lose your data. If you have tons of Hi8 and DV you might best be served by dubbing the Hi8 to DV and then capturing from that with it's somewhat useable timecode that can be logged/captured and if need be, recaptured.

You could just capture all your SD NTSC tapes in, whole or in more manageable 10 minute chunks, and back them up in many places and make those your new masters. A rough estimate of space required for storing SD ProRes (NTSC 720x480/2ch 48kHz 16bit) is about 20GB/hr.

Sleeplings, AWAKE!
Re: Problems capturing analog footage
June 11, 2014 01:54PM
Your signal path is pretty convoluted, so if possible, I'd reduce the number of variables. Try to use the Hi-8 camera's composite outputs to go straight into an I/O converter. You can find those for pretty cheap now at Apple Stores. If the camera's own outputs are faulty, as Andrew suggested, then you're kind of screwed, but I'd try to reduce the number of elements in your chain first.

Have you cleaned the camera's playheads?
Re: Problems capturing analog footage
June 11, 2014 04:23PM
I would second Andrew's suggestion of a Digital8 camera and good backups.

Only thing you need to be aware of is that not all D8 cameras will actually play Hi8. I found that out the hard way !

There's a partial list here:

And a more comprehensive one here:

Good luck !
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