I’m not a super expert but, until some of them would chime in, I could write down something that may turn useful.
VCR: if possible, go with S-VHS. Stay with JVC or Panasonic. An industrial model would be better, but head life could be too high, so keep this in mind. If you are lucky, you could find one from a school, so * probably * not heavily used. Don’t forget TBC!
I can add also that you could get a more than decent TBC using a DVD recorder as pass-through; there is a nice thread on the lddb forum.
Interesting…I wasn’t even aware of TBC before and had to look that one up. I just watched some clips on YouTube of TBC vs. non-TBC capturing, and the difference is notable, especially with damaged tapes. But how/where do you get a TBC unit, and what should I look for there?
Capture card: before getting mine, I did my homework, and found some interesting models; the one I get are the Sweetspot (aka PDI Deluxe) and the Aja Kona/Xena; the latter were top of the line, high end product worth thousand $$$, but you can find them used, often in pristine state, for few bucks. Also Blackmagic made great cards; I’d go with the internal versions, if possible.
So I’m guessing the Diamond cards I have are probably consumer-grade piles of crap in comparison (which is to be expected). I’ve also heard a lot of people using Hauppage cards in the past for serious capturing.
Last thing: a nice bit-perfect audio card will be the icing on the cake; maybe not so important to grab VHS audio, if your current one is good enough, but essential to capture PCM, AC3 and DTS from laserdisc!
I have yet to make any forays into laserdisc capturing, but there are a few titles (mostly music titles: ABC’s “Mantrap”, Kate Bush (anything), Tom Waits “Big Time”) that don’t exist on digital that I would love to have great captures of. The trouble is I don’t own the LD or a player, and the discs are crazy rare and expensive as well. So at this time at least I’m not looking to capture from LD.
Alternately, are there any serious services out there that do high-end captures from VHS that already have the equipment needed? I know there’s plenty of mom-and-pop video transfer services, but 99% of those are just doing family stuff and are not going to be high quality results. I’d certainly be willing to pay a premium to get someone that could do a far better transfer than I could ever do, so that I could have my digital backup in archival quality.