1. Preface / Basics

For starters, since it has to be said: it is prohibited by international law to use this guide to make illegal copies of copyright protected audio and video material.

In this guide you will be able to learn how you can capture analogue video material to your computer, what kind of post processing should be done to get good quality and some links are given for the encoding and authoring of your processed video. The source will be a PAL or a NTSC system and you should end up with a DivX3/DivX5/FFVFW/XviD file for playback on a PC, or a DVD/SVCD/CVD/VCD for playback in a standalone DVD player.

The programs used for capturing are VirtualDub (VfW based) and VirtualVCR (WDM based). They allow you to achieve better results than with the mpeg2 capture software provided with your capture card. We separated the tasks of capturing and storing the video. This means that you first save the material (including commercials and all the other junk you'll later want to get rid of) in almost lossless compression to your hard drive. Afterwards you deal with the task of processing and converting it to its final format. We are going to describe two possibilities for capturing. The choice is solely up to you, since "best" is what works best for you. Nevertheless, some support for your decision making will be provided. 

Postprocessing the captured video will be explained in two different ways: an "easy" way using Virtualdub and a more advanced way using AviSynth. In the beginning AviSynth might scare you, but you should take a look into the AviSynth part ASAP to learn this simple scripting language, because it will speed up the encoding process and can give you very good results. For VirtualDub and AviSynth, the following subjects are discussed:

This guide is mainly about capturing, postprocessing and not about encoding or authoring. There exists already plenty of good guides which explain this process to you. Therefore, the encoding/authoring/burning part consists of links to the relevant guides (which can be found on Doom9's site). The emphasis will be on free tools.

The original author BaronVlad comments "This guide is merely a guideline and definitely not the only way to achieve the desired results. Nor is it by any means complete, nor does it contain all information existing on this topic. It is only one approach, and provides some tips people have found useful for capturing to their liking. When I started putting my time into this topic (which wasn't very long ago) I wasn't able to find a complete guide, probably because I didn't know where to look. I want to save everybody else having to "reinvent the wheel"."

There are two important decisions to make before you start capturing: the desired final format, and your capture codec.

1.1 Desired Final Format

What format should you choose? This depends especially on what you intend to play back the video with. If you just want to play it on your computer, we suggest to go with DivX3 (Nandub) or FFVFW. You could also use DivX5/XviD, but they don't handle noise very well (at the moment of writing this page). Although this can be reduced if you use good denoisers. These codecs will enable you to save the video in very high quality in a relatively small amount of space (CD or hard drive). Nowadays, some stand-alone players are also capable of playing back DivX files. Most people however still own standard DVD players which can play back mpeg1 (VCD) and mpeg2 (DVD, SVCD or CVD). Some players do not even support SVCD, so you may want to check this before starting.

1.2 Capture codec

Basically, your capture should be (almost) lossless. Therefore two codecs will be described, the Huffyuv codec and the PicVideo MJPEG Codec. Huffyuv produces the best quality, but when choosing a higher capture size you need relatively large amounts of disk space (typically 20-40 gigabyte per hour of full size video). On the positive side, the codec is free. The second choice is the PicVideo MJPEG codec. The PicVideo version is good because it consumes rather few resources. Other MJPEG codecs are provided by Morgan and Leadtech. The problem with their versions is that you can use the quality advantages only with a high end system. The differences between PicVideo and Huffyuv are that you can adjust the encoding quality in the MJPEG codec. Using the highest setting (20), the file size can get as large as the Huffyuv file, but if you use 18 or 19 the file size decreases significantly without harming the video quality significantly.

A small warning, the MJPEG codec produces a picture that is a little less sharp than Huffyuv, which may not fit everybody's needs. In addition, the codec is not free; you have to register and pay a fee to avoid watermarks being put onto the video (we are going to handle them later on though).

When handling such large files, both the processor and your hard disk will incur a significant work load. Therefore when choosing the codec, you should also consider your hardware. You'll need a fast processor and a fast hard disk. But since the file size also depends very much on the resolution you're choosing, you should also consider your final choice.


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English version last edited on: 06/13/2004 | First release: n/a | Authors: Wilbert | Content by Doom9.org