Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

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John Atkins

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Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostFri Feb 03, 2017 12:35 am

I want to convert some old Betacam SP tapes over to digital using my Sony UVW-1200 Betacam SP dock. These tapes have both Ch 1 and Ch 2 audio. What would be the best way to capture the video and the two audio channels at once?
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Colin Barrett

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostMon Feb 06, 2017 3:01 pm

It depends on how the recorded audio is configured. If it's mixed stereo, then simply take Ch1 (Left) and Ch2 (Right) outputs to their respective inputs on the capture hardware. This also applies if the recording is in split mono. However, if audio is only on one of the channels I'd recommend putting the audio through a sound mixer and panning the solo channel to the centre - i.e.: across both input channels of the capture device.

Bear in mind, also, that Betacam-SP allows for 4 channels of audio recording - two linear channels (LNR) and two embedded audio channels. For master tapes mixed to stereo you'll be OK though because tracks 1 and 3, and 2 and 4 will have the same content. Your machine will only read the LNR tracks (I think).

It's a good idea to use a sound mixer anyhow because often sound levels need to be optimised for digital conversion, especially when levels are too high. Avoid clipping at all costs!

I'm currently undertaking the digital conversion of 9,000 UMatic-SP, Beta-SP and DigiBeta tapes for a European broadcast TV client where every tape's audio seems to be configured differently!!
Blackmagic Teranex 2D, Ultrastudio Express, Intensity Shuttle (Thunderbolt), H.264 Pro Recorder (all Mac OSX) & lots of old VTRs used for digital archiving of legacy video formats for major libraries, broadcasters, universities and public archives.
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Denny Smith

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostMon Feb 06, 2017 6:13 pm

I agree Colin, a audio mixer, even a simple one like the Audio Devices MixPre is the way to go, and is what I do for tape transfers. I have an analog 16-in/8-out mastering console mixer I use.

A 9,000 tape job Colin. That sounds like a 1-year project! Good luck with that mate.
Cheers
Denny Smith
SHA Productions
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John Atkins

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostMon Feb 06, 2017 9:14 pm

Thank you for your replies! I'm not quite sure I completely understand though. I'm helping out my employer transferring old tapes, but I have never done this before or have much experience with audio/video equipment.

On all of the tapes, there's commentary on Ch 1 and no commentary on Ch 2. He explains that he wants to do "one-to-one, two-to-two" from our Sony UVW-1200 Betacam SP dock to a computer.

So even if the tapes are premixed for broadcast, is there still a need for adjustments to digital via a sound mixer?

The only capture device I currently have is an Elgato video Capture device (used for VHS transfers) and I had asked them if I could use something like a dual XLR female to dual RCA male cable connected to the capture device to capture both channel 1 and channel 2 at the same time. I was told that it would be one stereo track, 2 separate channels, not double mono. Then the track could be edited with an audio editor like audacity, which the stereo track would be split to two single mono tracks, which still isn't want my employer wants.

I was just wondering if there was some specific equipment recommendations for my task because Elgato doesn't seem right for the job.
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Colin Barrett

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostFri Feb 10, 2017 4:29 pm

Denny Smith wrote:A 9,000 tape job Colin. That sounds like a 1-year project! Good luck with that mate.


It's likely to be a 3-4 year job because there's no way of automating the transfer of early 1970s/80s 3/4" U-Matic and U-Matic-SP tapes so I have to stand by ready to modify video and audio levels on the fly. Still - it will pay the bills for a good while!

John Atkins wrote:On all of the tapes, there's commentary on Ch 1 and no commentary on Ch 2. He explains that he wants to do "one-to-one, two-to-two" from our Sony UVW-1200 Betacam SP dock to a computer.

So even if the tapes are premixed for broadcast, is there still a need for adjustments to digital via a sound mixer?


I would say yes because audio levels will vary not only from tape to tape but even within tapes - unless they were edited and mastered in a professional facility where operators work to industry standards. It's always useful to have master faders within reach that you can pull back if levels start to peak. Connect the mixer via XLR outputs and inputs where possible, although good-quality RCA Phono connectors and cable will be perfectly OK on short runs.

If your boss wants 1-1 and 2-2 audio transfers then he's anticipating mixed stereo sources, so that's how the two channels should be passed. However, there may be occasions when - say - Ch1 will contain M&E (Music & Effects only) and the other channel, CH2, will carry a V/O (voice-over, commentary) track only. Alternatively, sometimes a tape master might have M&E only on 1 but a full mixed M&E+V/O on Ch2 where the editor has done what's called a bounce-mix (which would be the "final" output mix and the only channel to be used). In this case you should probably just keep the tracks separate as with Stereo.

The job I'm doing requires only the mix that would have been transmitted by the TV station, so in the case of the latter I would select only Ch2 and, through the mixer, use the Pan pot on the mixer input channel to spread the sound across both channels equally as a "split mono" output. However, this depends very much on the end requirement; if the capture file is to be imported into an NLE package it could be that the editor/producer requires only one aspect of the audio or wishes to mix each of the two separate tracks differently. If in doubt - ask first!!

John Atkins wrote:The only capture device I currently have is an Elgato video Capture device (used for VHS transfers) and I had asked them if I could use something like a dual XLR female to dual RCA male cable connected to the capture device to capture both channel 1 and channel 2 at the same time. I was told that it would be one stereo track, 2 separate channels, not double mono. Then the track could be edited with an audio editor like audacity, which the stereo track would be split to two single mono tracks, which still isn't want my employer wants.

I was just wondering if there was some specific equipment recommendations for my task because Elgato doesn't seem right for the job.


No, I wouldn't use Elgato products for this purpose - even though they're very good at what they're designed for. Stick to Blackmagic gear - they seem to have the physical tasks involved with A-D capture covered better and you're usually dealing with broadcast standard specs. Personally, I wouldn't rely on software audio post work for archiving unless there's only a small number of tapes to be captured. As you can tell from the 9,000-tape job I'm currently doing, it's out of the question!! :-)
Blackmagic Teranex 2D, Ultrastudio Express, Intensity Shuttle (Thunderbolt), H.264 Pro Recorder (all Mac OSX) & lots of old VTRs used for digital archiving of legacy video formats for major libraries, broadcasters, universities and public archives.
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John Atkins

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostFri Feb 10, 2017 7:59 pm

Colin Barrett wrote:
No, I wouldn't use Elgato products for this purpose - even though they're very good at what they're designed for. Stick to Blackmagic gear - they seem to have the physical tasks involved with A-D capture covered better and you're usually dealing with broadcast standard specs. Personally, I wouldn't rely on software audio post work for archiving unless there's only a small number of tapes to be captured. As you can tell from the 9,000-tape job I'm currently doing, it's out of the question!! :-)


Thanks, that was very informative! What specific Blackmagic equipment (and perhaps sound mixer) would you recommend for this project? Preferably, I'd like to do these transfers with an equipment budget of $500 or less, but I'm not sure if that's likely or not.
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Colin Barrett

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostWed Feb 15, 2017 2:55 pm

John Atkins wrote:What specific Blackmagic equipment (and perhaps sound mixer) would you recommend for this project? Preferably, I'd like to do these transfers with an equipment budget of $500 or less, but I'm not sure if that's likely or not.


You might be able to do it, depending on where you source your gear. eBay is the best bet for used gear. Look for a For-A Timebase corrector (you should get one for around US$100) and something like a Soundcraft, Behringer, Mackie etc for a small, simple sound mixer. Depending on what video file format you wish to end up with, I'd suggest archiving to high(it) bitrate MPEG-4/H.264, which the Blackmagic H264 Pro Recorder produces. The 20Mbps output is very good indeed and good enough to edit in all main packages. H.264 is now so common it's found everywhere and might be the safest bet.

I'm not sure if this lot fits with your budget but it will be close!
Blackmagic Teranex 2D, Ultrastudio Express, Intensity Shuttle (Thunderbolt), H.264 Pro Recorder (all Mac OSX) & lots of old VTRs used for digital archiving of legacy video formats for major libraries, broadcasters, universities and public archives.
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Denny Smith

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostWed Feb 15, 2017 9:53 pm

So Colin, a good basic setup would be a good tape deck, to broadcast quality TBC, via SVideo (VHS) or component, then take the TBC output (analog) to the h.264 Pro Recorder, insert audio from tape deck, via a audio mixer to control audio level, to the H.264 recorder audio inputs, then connect the h.264 recorder via its USB output to the computer, and record signal with the included BM Media Express software.

Sounds like a good, inexpensive setup for someone wanting to do a few tape transfers. The h.264 Pro Recorder seems to have some good analog video/audio inputs and SDI p/HDMI inputs with impeded audio.
From a previous post, you said the analog audio inputs could not be used with the SDI/HDMI inputs.
Cheers
Denny Smith
SHA Productions
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John Atkins

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostThu Feb 16, 2017 12:11 am

So since I already have a Sony UVW-1200 Betacam SP tape dock, is the following equipment good enough to do the transfers with the two channels of audio (minus any cables)? I just did a quick search on eBay for the cheapest equipment so I'm not sure if they're good enough.

Blackmagic H264 Pro Recorder
FOR-A FA-350RU
Soundcraft Spirit Folio RW5353

Also if I get a Blackmagic H264 Pro Recorder (used) on eBay, will I be able to get BM Media Express for free somewhere on BM's site or is it only included with new equipment?
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Massimiliano Celindano

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostThu Feb 16, 2017 2:51 am

Yes, you'll be able to get Media Express here (it's included in Desktop Video) https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/suppor ... d-playback
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Colin Barrett

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostThu Feb 16, 2017 10:57 am

Denny Smith wrote:From a previous post, you said the analog audio inputs could not be used with the SDI/HDMI inputs.


Yes, that's right. It's an either/or in the set-up panel.

John Atkins wrote:...I just did a quick search on eBay for the cheapest equipment so I'm not sure if they're good enough.

Blackmagic H264 Pro Recorder
FOR-A FA-350RU
Soundcraft Spirit Folio RW5353


Yes, that combination will do the job for you. The For-A are good, solid workhorses that will stabilize just about anything you throw at it and the Soundcraft Folio is a classic series of "enthusiasts" sound mixer (made not far from me here in the UK!)
Blackmagic Teranex 2D, Ultrastudio Express, Intensity Shuttle (Thunderbolt), H.264 Pro Recorder (all Mac OSX) & lots of old VTRs used for digital archiving of legacy video formats for major libraries, broadcasters, universities and public archives.
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Gary Adams

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostThu Feb 16, 2017 2:30 pm

Hello John. The FOR-A FA-350RU is a Remote control unit for a time base corrector. Not a time base corrector.

Regards, Gary
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Colin Barrett

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostThu Feb 16, 2017 2:38 pm

You're right. I should have picked that up. It might still be possible to pick up a For-A TBC at relatively low cost though.
Blackmagic Teranex 2D, Ultrastudio Express, Intensity Shuttle (Thunderbolt), H.264 Pro Recorder (all Mac OSX) & lots of old VTRs used for digital archiving of legacy video formats for major libraries, broadcasters, universities and public archives.
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John Atkins

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostThu Feb 16, 2017 11:06 pm

The only other For-A TBCs that are for sale (used) on eBay are:

FA-200 (~$100 USD)
FA-210 (~$75 USD)
FA-400 (~$100 USD)

Are any of them suitable for my purposes?

If not, there are also some Microtime TBCs on eBay and B&H is selling a used AV Toolbox AVT-8710 for $170 USD, which seems pretty popular. I'm just not sure which is the best option.
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Howard Roll

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostFri Feb 17, 2017 4:57 am

It's a Beta SP deck, you don't need a TBC because it already has one. If it was a Goldstar VHS then yes.

Plug the super out into a composite monitor and press some buttons, you might be amazed at what you find. Super is short for superimposed, not superspecial or supersauce.

Good Luck.
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Massimiliano Celindano

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostFri Feb 17, 2017 2:52 pm

Sony UVW-1200 deck has TBS (Time Base Stabilizer) which is not exactly the same as TBC, and locks SYNC and SC to the external reference signal
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Colin Barrett

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Re: Converting Betacam SP Tapes To Digital

PostSun Feb 19, 2017 6:03 pm

Howard Roll wrote:It's a Beta SP deck, you don't need a TBC because it already has one.


Not true. I've been using all flavours of Betacam since the day the original Betcam Oxide format was introduced and even professional edit recorders like the BVW-75 had TBCs only if an optional TBC card was added. I have several Beta-SP and DigiBeta machines and not all of them have TBC built-in.

Massimiliano Celindano wrote:Sony UVW-1200 deck has TBS (Time Base Stabilizer) which is not exactly the same as TBC, and locks SYNC and SC to the external reference signal


This effectively Genlock, which isn't the same as timebase correction.
Blackmagic Teranex 2D, Ultrastudio Express, Intensity Shuttle (Thunderbolt), H.264 Pro Recorder (all Mac OSX) & lots of old VTRs used for digital archiving of legacy video formats for major libraries, broadcasters, universities and public archives.

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