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Best video format for the future (archiving)

by lsl / February 13, 2007 3:33 AM PST

Over the years I have painstakingly digitizing my whole collection of home movies that had previously been stored on VHS and VHS-C tapes. I did this by capturing the video using ADS Technologies Pyro A/V Link and Pinnacle Studio Plus. I?m currently using version 10 of Studio.

By default, Studio would capture in a DV format. The file would have an .avi extension. At the time I was under storage space constraints and so experimented a little with various formats so that I could permanently keep a copy of the file on the hard drive while keeping within reasonable storage constraints and at the same time having a format that would maintain a reasonable resolution when I would extract sceans for my home movie projects. Also, at the time, I was not really doing much of any video editing. I was just focused on converting my tapes over to digital.

So I settled on the MPEG-2 format. I would capture in DV and turn around make a file in the MPEG-2 format with no editing. (I used the DVD Quality default setting in Studio ? 720x480, 29.97 frames, sec.). Even today, I perform the same task when I transfer video from my Panasonic mini DV camcorder (although I don?t use the ADS box) I think I?m right in saying I did loose some quality when I converted to MPEG-2, but I could barely tell the difference.

Now I?m doing a little more (actually a lot more) with video editing and DVD creations and again have been experimenting with various formats. Not so much for storage space as for questioning myself if I?m using a format that is stable and has some legs to it in this ever changing environment. Basically, a format that I can confidently use 10 years from now.

Here my current dilemma and situation: Without getting into my hardware setup. I currently maintain a copy of the file on a hard drive. I backup a copy to a second hard drive and I burn a copy to a DVD data disk for offsite storage. An additional part of my problem here is that some of my MPEG-2 files will not fit on a 4.7GB DVD. Splitting the file is not an option.

A new twist is that I?m keeping an image file of the DVD also on the hard drive as well as a backup and a second DVD. I?ve found that I can play the vob file in WM.

So my question is? What is the best video format for achieving?

Thanks in advance


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You could burn the DV file to miniDV tape. That would max
by Kiddpeat / February 13, 2007 11:40 AM PST

the quality, and provide long term storage.

BTW, dual layer media is available with twice the 4.7 gig capacity of single sided.

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Changes in technology has been bitter-sweet
by lsl / February 13, 2007 9:02 PM PST

Thanks for your reply.

Unfortunately tape is out of the question. This is the type of media I?m trying to get away from. My objective is to have all of my video available for viewing on-demand or to capture parts for my home movie projects. How I got into the mini DV in the first place is because my VHS-C video cam went on the blink and I replaced with the latest technology. In addition, how do you play Mini-DV tapes without a camcorder (trying to look forward when my camcorder breaks and I replace it again with different technology).

The DVD burner I use is a dual-layer, but I haven?t tried it yet. I think it is because of the cost of those little coasters. When I first started using DVD?s, I must have gone through 50 of them before I got it right.

In the last view years I?ve been on a quest to digitize my life. Anything and everything that can be record digitally has been. As an avid history buff of family ancestry and sentimental fool, the changes in technology have been bitter-sweet. I?ve watched myself as well as others attempt to capture the moment ? to solidify history. Now we have stacks of real-to-real?s, betamax tapes, 88?s, LP?s, slides, photographs, cassette tapes, 8-tracks, VHS, VHS-C that we have used to record or that have contributed to our existence. Soon this vast amount of information will be lost ? forever.

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All I can tell you is to move it along as media and
by Kiddpeat / February 13, 2007 10:43 PM PST

technology progress. MiniDV will store the large sizes involved in a digital format, and it is robust storage. Playback capability will be around for many years. Short of that, I see only two choices right now;

External hard drives. This is expensive, but can store the sizes that you want. Regular refreshing of the content is a good idea.

Compress it, and put it on, for the moment, DVDs. That is what you have been doing. It has its obvious shortcomings, and will need to be moved along to new media.

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Format, not storage is my main concern
by lsl / February 14, 2007 5:50 AM PST

I don?t see how MiniDV is a robust storage. You may be right as the preferred method for permanent archiving, but I don?t want to purchase a special player when my camcorder dies on me again. And who?s to say that MiniDV is going to be the preferred standard five years from now?

And I would disagree. Hard drive storage is cheep. I recently paid $0.30/GB for a 500GB Maxtor drive SATA. I was paying $0.30/CD-R about 3-4 years ago.

But storage isn?t my issue. My concerns are ?what is the best digital format?

Thanks again for your reply.

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The best digital format today for standard definition video
by Kiddpeat / February 14, 2007 10:42 AM PST

is DV. You will need lots of hard drive space.

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Single layer dvd media is still the most economical.
by ahtoi / February 14, 2007 12:56 AM PST

However you do need a file splitter for those file over 4GB.

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H.264/AVC has been my answer
by omatzyo / March 18, 2007 2:28 PM PDT

I am in the exact same boat. I have vast amounts of media content that I have set out to digitize. I also use the ADS A/V Link. Once the video is in DV-AVI I cut up the clips and then set out on a series of compressive tasks... The final result is H.264/AVC (advanced video codec/compression), read about it here (

Here are the steps I use, please ask me more questions if you would like to get more detailed information...

First, I create an Avisynth script. Avisynth is a great piece of software which can process video very effectively. It seems complicated at first because it has no GUI, only script interface... worth learning. The script does the following:
1)tells avisynth to open the video using directshow, include audio in the stream, and play it at 29.xx frames per second

2)deinterlace the fields (dv media is interlaced and playback on a computer screen will appear with lines as the two fields move past each other)

3)apply some level adjustments so the picture looks a bit better

4)change the colorspace from YUV to YV12 which is required by x264 (the opensource codec I use)

5)crop the picture (there is lots of fuzz on all sides of the picture, as I'm sure you've noticed and this gets rid of all of that)... additionally, the pixel ratio is going to be changed from 720x480 to 320x240 in the next step, so you need to crop 18 more pixels from the left and right than top and bottom (for example, if you crop no pixels on the top and bottom, then you need to crop 9 on the right and 9 on the left) This whole cropping and resizing is a bit complicated and has to do with the aspect ratio and making sure that it remains correct.

6)resize to 320x240... i use a filter called spline36

the next steps are taken care of by a great piece of software called MeGUI. You feed this your Avisynth script, give it some compression parameters (such as the bitrate, mine is 2500 bps, and the different types of options that you'll want the x264 codec to use, the more you use the more processing power it takes to compress and decompress the video) and then allow it to compress. The audio is simultaneously compressed to some format (I use Nero's AAC codec) and then the two streams, video and audio, are remultiplexed (muxed) back together into an mp4 container.

It generally achieves 30x compression from the DV-AVI, and looks identical to the original VHS. An hour will be less than a gb, which in my opinion is perfect for on demand storage. Hard drive space is cheap, just stick it on the network/share it/and watch it anywhere.

I hope my personal solution is of some help to you.

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Archiving your family history
by jet21x / January 4, 2010 1:07 AM PST

"Now we have stacks of real-to-real?s, betamax tapes, 88?s, LP?s, slides, photographs, cassette tapes, 8-tracks, VHS, VHS-C."

We can archive all those formates to any type of digital content, we have been doing so since 1989.

Thank You

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Geat question
by mif3485 / April 9, 2007 12:14 AM PDT

I am in the same boat. I have a bunch of 8mm video tape and when my camera died, i played heck fiding a new camera that could play the old tapes. So i am also wary of any tape as an archival format. I bought a DVD+R recorder and copied my tapes directly to the DVD (no computer involved). But now i want to store all of my videos on a hard drive. I can copy the files from the DVD's to my hard drive but it seems to me the better option is to go back to the tapes and hook up my computer to my video camera, but I am not sure what file format is the best to save the files in? I'm not interested in data compression since I'm concerned that it will degrade the quality of my videos (even if only slightly). But I can not find out the best format to save the files in. Is it WMV, AVI, MPEG4, etc? Do you have any recommendations?
Thanks in advance.

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Raw, non-compressed DV-AVI
by timwerx / April 9, 2007 11:17 PM PDT
In reply to: Geat question

Raw DV-AVI at 0% compression is the best to my knowledge, but, as already mentioned above, you need lots of space -- 12 to 13 GB per hour. It's a space vs. quality problem. For me, I go with the "high-quality happy medium" of high quality MPEG (high bitrate/low compression) burned to DVD. Ultimately (to me, anyway), the content is most important. If the content/entertainment value is high enough, you can sit back and enjoy it without noticing video glitches, or even worrying about them.

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DV-AVI makes sense
by mif3485 / April 10, 2007 10:57 AM PDT

Thanks for the feedback. These are precious (to me) family videos so quality is most important. If I was saving commercial movies I would opt for your second suggestion. Do you know of a way to split an AVI file? At 10GB per hour it sounds like I'm going to need a huge har drive or a lot of DVD's.
Thanks again,

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Use backup software. Backups don't split files, but they do
by Kiddpeat / April 10, 2007 12:31 PM PDT
In reply to: DV-AVI makes sense

span disks.

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