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Solutions to the Frustrations of Video? 63

Re-Torque asks: "In our organizations, interviews with perpetrators of crime (child abuse, rape, etc), and with victims, are conducted by expert interviewers and are recorded on videotape or DVD (with back ups). These recordings are legal records. They are archival records, but they are also used in the courts and in other aspects of the legal process. We have encountered problems with newer VCRs and DVD recorders. As long as the tape or DVD is played back on the same machine, there is no degradation of audio and video quality. However, when played back on any other machine, the quality of the recording is substantially degraded. We have been told that this is to frustrate illegal copying, but in our case, it frustrates the legal process. In your experience, is the problem in fact one of design of the machines or are we doing something wrong (i.e., some settings we should change before recording)? Are there any machines available that are not crippled in this way? Or are there other strategies we might employ to resolve this problem?"
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Solutions to the Frustrations of Video?

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  • My experiences (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @09:43PM (#16004235) Homepage
    I've had this problem with VCRs in the past, recording a show on one player, and then playing it on another would usually yield poor results. Or sometimes one movie I had bought would play fine in one player, but would be very bad quality in another. I assumed it was due to differences in read head alignment or something. On the other hand, I don't know how this could happen with DVDs. Because everything is digital, the output should be the same no matter which player/recorder you use. I've never experienced this problem with DVDs, even with home movies that were recorded onto DVD, they play fine in all the players I've tried them in.
    • You need to adjust the tracking on your VCRs. This problem should not appear on DVDs.
      • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @09:58PM (#16004308) Homepage Journal
        This problem should not appear on DVDs.

        In progressive JPEG, first the low frequencies are stored, and then the high frequencies are stored. This way, you get a blurred preview image before the rest of the data fills in the detail. The consumer electronics-Hollywood complex could make DVD recorders work the same way: encrypt the high frequencies so that any other player model won't be able to play the copy at full quality, discouraging people from using DVD video recorders to record TV and make counterfeit season box sets.

        • Hunh?

          How would this be in any way superior, from the "consumer electronics-Hollywood complex" perspective, than simply encrypting all of the content on the disc?

          If you encrypt the high frequencies, they still have to be decrypted by 'approved' playback devices ... meaning somewhere, there is a decrypted stream, or analog output, just waiting for some person with too much free time and a fast enough oscilloscope* to poke around inside and break out, feed into a generic DAC, and record. You can't let people w
        • by Mr2001 ( 90979 )
          The consumer electronics-Hollywood complex could [...] encrypt the high frequencies so that any other player model won't be able to play the copy at full quality

          Damnit, don't give them any more ideas!
    • by mrzaph0d ( 25646 )
      I actually had a DVD that skipped quite a bit in my DVD player, which happened to be my PS2. I did some searches, found a guide to adjusting something within the player itself. Worked on one DVD i had, I was able to adjust it enough that it wouldn't skip.
  • by artifex2004 ( 766107 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @09:55PM (#16004290) Journal
    as far as videotape recorders go, have you had the read and write heads properly aligned? Are you using real, professional recorder models, or crappy consumer models?
    With proper alignment, professional and even decent quality consumer video recorders should make tapes that are interchangeable without real degradation.
    If you're serious about archiving, a professional or at least digital format is probably what you want, also, not VHS.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gravis777 ( 123605 )
      I agree. Use professional SVHS recorders and players. Don't use consumer grade, they are crap. You may even want to try some Prosumer models. I have had VERY good luck recording with $200 SVHS VCRs recording with one recorder and playing back on another. If you are trying to record on cheap tapes using cheap $40 recorders, yeah, playback from one machine to another is going to look like crap. Use SVHS, export to your destination source via the SVHS cable and output rather than composet or coax, and it shoul
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Visit your local Salvation Army, or some other thrift store. You can often find old VCRs there, from before all of the DRM/copy protection nonsense. You may want to check them with a test tape first, to ensure they don't have some mechanical issue that damages tapes.

    Oh, and make a fuss about it. Make sure you speak to politicians about this, especially if it's hindering the legal process. It would be even better if you could get judges and other court officials to complain.

  • by TLouden ( 677335 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @09:57PM (#16004301)
    Let me be the first (or somewhere close) to say that it's high time the legal system finally saw some of the ill effects of 'protecting' hollywood.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by WalletBoy ( 555942 )
      Except that the legal system aren't the ones making the laws that 'protect' Hollywood, it's the legislative system that does. It's the legal systems duty to see that those laws are enforced.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 1u3hr ( 530656 )
        Except that the legal system aren't the ones making the laws that 'protect' Hollywood, it's the legislative system

        How many legislators and lobbyists are lawyers by profession? Almost all of them. If a problem affects lawyers, they've got the connections to get attention better than any other group.

      • by TLouden ( 677335 )
        Which means that it is up to the legal system to set new precident in case law. It IS at the discretion of the enforcers that certain laws are enforced at all.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Actually, "enforcement" is part of the executive branch (police, Feds, etc.)

        The "legal system" (judiciary) is responsible for interpreting the laws, which puts them in the perfect position (as in, their job, bullshit whinging about "activist judges" notwithstanding) to spank some of this crap down.
        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          My mother is a lawyer (human rights) and is undergoing surger for breast cancer. Think before you sig.
    • Of course, this just means an emergence of VHS and DVD recorders DRM-free "FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT USE ONLY"
  • Get a recorder that burns right onto a DVD. /Bad VHS quality MPeG's... a.b.m.e flashback!
  • Use a computer (Score:5, Informative)

    by delirium of disorder ( 701392 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:00PM (#16004319) Homepage Journal
    Why not display the video using a PC with a video card that has composite or S-video output? You should be able to hook up to any modern TV or projector. You could encode the video in whatever format you want: lossless DV, Ogg Theora, XviD, even WMV if you are really sadistic. You could store it on whatever medium you want: DVD, a hard disk, a NAS, CD, usb flash drives, whatever. Backups should be easy.
    • Re:Use a computer (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mandos ( 8379 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:53PM (#16004572) Homepage
      To add to the above: the digital form gives you more flexiablity in delivering the content. You don't necessarily have to be at the same physical location. I mention this, as more and more prisons are going to telepresense of inmates in courtrooms. Rather then bussing them from the prison to courthouse and back, just doing a video confernce via the courthouse and prison. No reason why the same underlying technologies can't be used to desiminate video interviews. Likewise, if you go to court, but forgot one of the videos or needed an additional one the digital form would allow you to retrieve it without leaving the courtroom.

      Lastly, newer video codecs allow for compression much greater then MPEG-2 used on DVDs. This means that your archive could use less physical space to store more videos. I believe an additional Ask Slashdot coverd this a few days ago. This also helps protect you against technology obseletion. Rather then being stuck with 10,000 VHS tapes in 2015, just do a batch convert from format A to format B as needed, and then stream the resulting video to the courtroom.
      • Well plus using Hard Drives has a serious advantage over vhs tapes and dvds; get a RAID setup and backup to another box; you're data is going to be alot safer because if you are only keeping one copy of the vhs/dvd and it becomes damaged/lost you can always recreate it from the server and storage is a lot easier keeping two servers running (in different locations ofcourse) than hundreds/thousands of tapes/dvds
        • 800 GB tape = $50 = 6 cents per GB

          300 GB drive = $800 = $2.67 per GB

          Disk space costs 44 times as much as tape space. That means they could make copies on 44 different tapes and pay the same as they would for disk space. RAID setups are for high availability (and nerds' wet dreams). If the current setup is VHS and DVD, I don't think they're looking for immediate fail-over redundancy and high speed I/O.
          • by dwater ( 72834 )
            RAID isn't only for high availability. It can be for backup too. Just use RAID1 (mirror) and when you want to take a 'backup', fail the 'backup' drive, replace it with a different drive (it'll take a while to rebuild), then take the 'failed' drive off site (or whatever - same as you would a tape).

            It's instant (no waiting for a tape to copy stuff), can be done at *any* time, and the backup drives are completely bootable (assuming it's the boot drive you've backedup).

            In any case, is a 300GB drive really the s
            • RAID-1 costs even more money than RAID-5. RAID-5 is n-1, RAID-1 is n/2.

              There is the consideration of size, weight, and durability with drives that you don't have with tapes. If you drop a tape, big deal. If you drop a drive, goodbye drive.

              Speed's already been covered. We're talking about data they don't even keep on nearline storage. It's on VHS (reading/writing speed: 1x) and DVD. A single tape (that holds 186 DVDs) on a shelf is a much better solution for this situation than three hard drives (140 D
              • by dwater ( 72834 )
                Well, yes. I agree with your 'negatives', particularly when applied to this instance. I wasn't trying to say it was suitable to this use, just that it isn't true to say that RAID isn't any good for backup. It is, and has some advantages to tape too.

                I also accept that SCSI it the chosen i/f for businesses, but I would suggest that in may cases, SATA would be just fine - I know businesses that use SATA for RAID.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This would also make editting very simple, modify facial features change voice,etc. ;)
    • It won't work in a court of law, or even a boardroom. Trying to teach someone to insert the dvd, click on this, click on that, where's the button, oh shit, it crashed, 10 minutes later, it works ... (you know it WILL happen more frequently than you want).

      You need to keep it simple. Perhaps the dvd or vhs recorder has macrovision or other copy protection that it automatically adds to the tape? If so, it must be disabled, OR, a product that has good compatibility must be purchased. I can see vhs tapes not be

    • You could encode the video in whatever format you want: lossless DV
      DV is not a lossless format. It uses 4:1:1 chroma subsampling. []
    • Why not display the video using a PC with a video card that has composite or S-video output? You should be able to hook up to any modern TV or projector. You could encode the video in whatever format you want: lossless DV, Ogg Theora, XviD, even WMV if you are really sadistic.

      Yes, there are many benefits to digital media, but only if it's free. DVDs should have all of the benefits but don't, because the media companies are afraid and they have crippled the hardware. The same companies will provide the

  • a couple solutions (Score:5, Informative)

    by blackcoot ( 124938 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:03PM (#16004337)
    yes, there are uncrippled machines that can do what you want (and then some). you probably have one sitting on your desk

    if you're running under linux, you've got a couple options. kino ( [] will allow you to capture live raw video (plus sound) from a standard dv camera with an ilink (aka 1394a) connection. it takes a little effort to get setup, but it's worth it. you'll then want to use ffmpeg to re-encode the files so that they're less huge and then save the encoded version.

    if you have analog cameras, a $50 capture card (we use ati's all-in-wonder) can act as a frame grabber --- it may take a little finagling to get the sound working, but once it's all hooked up you should be good to go. use xawtv to preview and make sure that everything is behaving as expected, then use ffmpeg to capture the video. make sure you encode at fairly high bit rate and be careful about what combinations of codec and containers you choose (in particular, you probably want to stick to msmpeg4v2 encoded .wmv files if you intend the video to be played back on windows machines). if you've installed something like VLC on the playback machines, you can use more interesting codecs like h264 and still achieve quite impressive playback quality at much lower bitrates.

    there are ways to do similar things in windows, although i have much less experience doing so and tend to use developers tools (like graphedit) to put together the directshow filters that will capture video and sound from some source, encode, mux, and then output the file. i'm sure that there are pieces of software out there that can do this. if you have access to some it people, writing your own should be fairly easy (there's a handy book on the subject here: 5618216/sr=8-1/qid=1156903037/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-273 5593-2181510?ie=UTF8 [])

    if you're not inclined to build your own solution, virtualdub [] may be able to help you. i haven't used it myself, but it's a pretty widely used app.

    the one thing to bear in mind with all these proposed solutions is that you're going to want to make sure you've got fairly big and fast disks and quite a lot of space free. you're also going to want to make sure you've got a reliable backup strategy in place since you no longer have the luxury of the original tapes. if you have any other questions, feel free to email me: (my slashdot user name) 'at' yahoo(dot com).
    • Or, use a PVR card, which does compression on-the-fly. I've used the Hauppauge(sp??) PVR-250 (with Linux) for a long time, without issue.
      • my experience has been that even tho there's a mild processor hit (20% of a P4 mobile 2GHz) it's a perfectly reasonable hit when you consider that you get far more control over the encoding (i personally favor h264 encoded avis @ about 1mb/s which ends up being far higher quality than an mpeg2 of comparable size).
        • What I do is to re-encode the files in the background. So, I grab stuff in real time, compressed to MPEG 2 by the PVR card; then I have a script which continuously looks for uncompressed files and compresses them to some MPEG 4 format (Xvid is what I currently use). If it's a file I won't be wanting to save (e.g. the reams of Olympics footage, which I skip thru later in the day looking for beach volleyball), then I flag the file as "don't compress" by way of the file name.

          I use mostly relatively old compu
    • That was very informative. I wonder if I could ask you a different question as you seem to know the issues here?

      I am actually looking for a program that will let me capture video from a webcam onto a laptop. I need to set it to come on automatically at a predetermined time, record for a period of time (like maybe an hour or two) and then shut off at another predetermined time. It must work through USB or USB2. I do not need unusual file formats, nor extremely high quality video (it's a webcam, after all
      • mplayer can capture for a pre-determined period of time. Once you have that, it's only a matter of using 'at' or something like sleep 20m; mplayer some-options (RTFM).

        The good thing is you'll have to install Linux.
      • i've never tried doing what you're suggesting under windows. under linux, however, is a different story. all the ingredients you need exist: you'll need a video4linux compliant usb webcam (philips makes a chipset that's in some).

        to capture for one hour:

        ffmpeg -vd /dev/correct_video_device -t HH:MM:SS.MS -vcodec YOUR_CODEC your_file.ext

        you can put something similar into a cron job to run when you need it, using some clever shell trickery to generate the filenames for you, eg:

        ffmpeg -vd /dev/video0 -t 1:00:00
        • Well, I downloaded the files from sourceforge, but they seem to be assuming a lot of programming knowledge that I just don't have. There's a bunch of files there, but I have no idea what to do with them.

          Likewise several solution suggestions from the Internet. I even installed Vis Basic Express on the off chance there was some simple way to add a video control to a form and manipulate it from there. I'm stumped. You would think this was a common enough task that there would be a million applications o

  • Copying tape to tape, or DVD to DVD can be an issue if a player introduces macrovision, but you shouldn't have that problem if the video is as you described.

    Unless there is something special about the VCR or DVD players in question that you haven't specified the fact is you should not have a problem playing the videos on other equipment. VCR's, particularly older ones can be temperamental if the tracking is off.

    You should have absolutely no difficulties with the DVDs.

  • by B5_geek ( 638928 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:04PM (#16004346)
    Step #1 eliminate ALL of the analogue equipment, there are hundreds of experts that can claim the same footage is real & fake. (UFO recordings anyone?)
    Step #2 Use digital equipment connected to a PC recording the feed in real-time. A Md5sum/hash will be your (CoverYourAss) proof that the video has not been faked.

    Backups then become simple.
    Burn it to a DVD and it becomes portable.
    • What difference does analog or digital make in regards to the content?
      • Silly, it's because whoever has access to the video file to edit it will not also have access to the md5 hash taken at the time of the recording, and/or will not ever be able to generate ANOTHER md5 hash and/or claim the original hash was altered, and the new hash was the real one.

        Oh, wait, now that doesn't make any sense at all.

  • Maybe a PC? (Score:2, Informative)

    Maybe you could try using a PC with a video capture device - you know, hook the camera to a TV tuner or something and record it that way. Then you could burn the video files to DVD, upload them to a server, put them on a backup drive, etc. It's also possible to record from the computer to the tape if you want a tape backup.
  • Honeywell DVR (Score:3, Interesting)

    by clifyt ( 11768 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:40PM (#16004507)
    I'd done some recent work with a friends department store to verify video hasn't been tampered with and all that jazz -- and it turned out the job had already been done for me.

    They have a Honeywell DVR -- theirs is a 16 Camera unit, but I'm sure there are others -- that records multiple cameras, and ensures that this isn't altered. The video is encrypted and you can ask for chunks of it to be recorded out to CD or DVD, but it records to its own little Windows application that can detect if anything has been altered and shows all the encryption up front and verifies that it is intact.

    Don't get me wrong, its annoying that its a Windows Only application (especially as from all accounts, this machine looks to be running on some sort of *NIX) -- but then again, what DA is running OS X or Ubantu (I had to pull up Parallels to see if it worked on my Mac).

    From what I understand, the unit has been certified by the gov't for this sort of work...look into it if you need to archive stuff that needs to stay in the digital domain AND be uneditable / verifyable. I don't have much more info than that, but it was a pretty slick machine.
  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:46PM (#16004538) Journal
    Any DVD recorder that can't write stuff that can be played back well with normal working players is faulty.

    Whatever they tell you, it is faulty. Send it back and get a refund or working replacement.

    Given you are likely to know many friendly lawyers, maybe you could hint that various sorts of unpleasant legal action might be taken if they don't do the right thing...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
      some older (not sure if they still do this) Sony DVD players will NOT read any CD-R or DVD-R discs, however CDRW and DVD+R seem to work fine
    • Each and every DVD burner on the market is faulty, then. I've had four, and not a single one of them has ever been able to burn anything that could be played back in a DVD player. The one in my laptop can't even read what it just wrote, on some supports.
      • by TheLink ( 130905 )
        I've managed to burn a few DVDs that could be played back on a crappy philips DVD player that couldn't even read CD-RWs (and some CD-Rs?) - it does play CDs, but strangely can't play any CD-R I've tried.

        And I was using a el-cheapo Benq DVD burner that died after about 1.5 years (wow such quality ;) ). The higher end Plextor DVD burners are apparently pretty good - but I can't afford those. Currently using LG.
  • Professional recording devices generally don't have that sort of copy protection. They are generally more reliable than consumer decks anyway.

    That said, I've never seen anything like that. Have you contacted the manufacturer?
  • a $350 dv camera will do what you need. the tape can easily be captured onto a hard drive, and from there you can produce as many copies as you need.

    Why on earth are you still using vhs tapes? if these are legal documents i would think you'd want them to last, and vhs tapes... don't. DV isn't exactly know for long life either but its easy to operate in real time, then the tech folks can make a dvd archive, tape backup, or whatever (ie digital dv file on a dvd, not a dvd player dvd).
  • by Wylfing ( 144940 ) <> on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @11:33PM (#16004751) Homepage Journal

    Unauthorized footage is prohibited. Think of the goddam starving grips, script writers, and boom operators who you are putting out into the street because you are undercutting their livelihood with your "recordings" for "legal purposes." What a crock. If you really are "law enforcement" you should do things the right way and hire a Hollywood studio to record these things for you. Anything else is the same as shoplifting.

    Seriously, you are SOL. There are definitely ways to beat this kind of thing, but you will be breaking the law and/or causing others to break the law simply by inquiring. The operators of Slashdot may even get a nice visit from the FBI if anyone posts methods for how to defeat these copy protection measures.

    Welcome to the future, where due process is no obstacle to protecting media companies' profits.

  • by scdeimos ( 632778 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @12:02AM (#16004866)

    You really shouldn't be seeing issues like this with user-created DVDs.

    So far as VCR's go, there's a lot of moving parts in there even for "simple" consumer-level devices. Regular maintenance is essential, especially on high-use equipment. The most common cause of recording/playback/portability problems is due to the back-tension rollers. These are rubber-coated wheels which help to hold the video tape against the head drum to ensure proper reading/writing from/to the oxide layer. These eventually get a smooth sheen on them due to wear and oxide stripping from the tape and thus cause slippage and irregular transport of the tape and glitches in the signal. They can usually be fixed-up on the cheap by removing them, putting them on a machined screw on a dril and using fine-grade sandpaper just enough to remove the sheen. Clean them with alcohol to remove debris and reinsert in VCR. There may also need to be adjustment to the back tension spring on the arm which holds the back tension wheel, but this is usually better left alone. Other maintenance activites also involve cleaning the audio/tracking head and head drums (the heads themselves, actually) to remove oxide and other gunk buildups to ensure proper contact with the tape, and also occasionaly replacing the rubber drive and loading belts - particularly if the unit has been sitting idle for a while. Dai-ichi make a large range of belts for many models, which we get from WES Electronics - far cheaper than "brand" name belts.

    If your budgets are anything like police budgets in Aus then you're probably limited to consumer-level devices. You can't go past Samsung VCR's, especially get ones with the "Dub" or "Edit mode" switches as these tend to avoid the Macrovision-style copy corruption (err, protection) techniques employed in a lot of other VCRs. The seems to be getting even more prevalent, even with everyone allegedly using DVDs now or pirating movies from the net.

  • I have sympathy for you because you create your own content, and are having trouble recording it in a permanent way. This is refreshing to hear. As a software engineer, I have only recently started cutting my own DVDs. And that is because Microsoft publishes some of its content in the form of ISO files that must be placed on DVDs to access. For many years, the capacity of the CDRom has exceeded my needs for software publishing because I write compact code. My code barely fills up a floppy (What's that?). Th
  • With DVD the quality degrdation isn't so huge given if you can't read the data you just can't read it (however DVDs do not age as well as they were once thought to). However VHS which I'm SURE almost anything pre circa 2000 and still allot of what comes in (from say convinience stores) are on that craptastic format. The best solution personaly is to buy professional gear. Anything that plays VHS that can be bought by the consumer is prety pathetic given the parts keep getting made cheaper and cheaper. Howe
  • Errrm, I don't get it.
    All of my friends are buying DVD Burners. I know exactly 1 (one!) case where DVDRs/RWs/+/-/whatever make sense: If you do lot's of video production and have to send the data around alot with the mail to various clients. I can't even think why anyone who records on a regular basis would even use VCRs.
    In you case it appears that you're moving evidence around that could be important to your clients and that other people shouldn't be able to see without you sanctioning that.
    DVDs are a wast
  • )Are there any machines available that are not crippled in this way?

    The PRV-LX1 [] is a profesional level DVD recorder that should not suffer these problems you speak of. There is also the associated DVD players they offer as well.

    The short of it is, the companies are doing something extra to bork over the customers with the stuff. A proper DVD recorder/player and VCR should have no problems playing back something from another machine so long as they both are following the standard.
  • You're probably encountering Macrovision [] copy protection. Do a lot of reading, or call a professional A/V consultant.
  • Have you considered using Mini DV?

    Tapes are small (for archiving). A simple camera can be had for ~$300 (with microphone input if you need it). The video can be easily digitized (Windows Movie Maker is more then sufficient and easy to use if you're using Microsoft) and transfered to whatever media you need (or you can just play it over your network if that's possible.
  • "network video recorders" are becoming pretty standard fair these days. if you pick up a copy of "security technology and design" you'll find it brimming with companies selling various nvr solutions. the plus is that the captured data is all digital and easy for you to use as you see fit. there are several companies which sell solutions built on top of windows (which i'm guessing is what you use). you can make arbitrarily many bitwise copies with zero degradation.
  • As a law enforcement officer working in a forensic audio/video lab, I have to give my "why analog is greatly preferred over digital recordings" speech five times a day. In a nutshell, almost all digital recording schemes use lossy compression. I know this discussion is about recordings like interviews where identification is not an issue, but we still prefer the trusty VHS format anyway. Have you ever tried importing digital video (especially DVDs) into an Avid system []? On analog

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.