Have your old home movies stuck on VHS and showing signs of fading and age? In the second part of our restoration series, we explain how to fix video problems
Ever since home movie cameras became available we have been busy filming ourselves: weddings, births, family holidays and more.
The video boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s provided us with an easier way of making and watching homemade recordings and allowed us to capture broadcast TV programmes.
Sadly, though, homemade recordings can look ropey. Perhaps the recording itself is damaged in some way or has deteriorated over time, or maybe the equipment used to capture the original footage wasn’t up to scratch.
Whatever problems you are experiencing, a PC can help. And here, in our follow-up to last issue’s photo-restoration guide, we will show just how to capture, repair and improve old home video recordings.
Why do my videos look bad?
In the pre-digital age, video recordings were highly susceptible to degradation. VHS video tapes, for example, might look sturdy but inside that chunky plastic box is a roll of thin magnetic tape – and it’s easy for this to get dusty, twisted, scratched or worse.
Also, recordings made to analogue camcorder formats such as VHS, VHS-C, Video-8 and Hi-8 can suffer from a lot of picture imperfections. That’s to say, there will be noticeable blips, lines, fuzz, grain or general ‘noise’ – anything like this is typical.
Surprisingly, even newer digital video formats, such as MiniDV and DVD, are not immune, though the flaws are different. They can suffer from digital picture noise, dropped frames (where the image appears to freeze or skip briefly), blockiness and more.
Then, in the case of homemade movies, there are all the image problems introduced by the filming process itself. Common complaints include camera shake, wonky angles, odd colours, overly dark (or overly bright) picture and audio issues, such as hissing or howling wind.
What do I need to fix them?
Thankfully, many of these issues can be addressed using video-editing software. The main function of such programs is usually to cut sections of video together to produce a professional-looking edited movie.
But they can also be used to add effects, alter brightness and contrast, remove audio hiss, correct dodgy camerawork and perform many further restoration tasks. Most video-editing applications can also help convert footage from one format to another or output finished results to DVD.
While there are several free video-editing applications available, including Microsoft’s Windows Live Movie Maker (downloadable as part of the Live Essentials package), these tend not to have the range of tools required for fixing video problems.
Equally, nor is there any need to invest hundreds of pounds in professional video tools, such as Adobe Premiere Pro (around £500). Instead, look to the middle ground where there is a plentiful supply of affordable software with the power to improve video issues.
While designed primarily for disc burning, Roxio Creator (£50), for example, includes a useful video-editing component called Videowave. Standalone editing products include Adobe Premiere Elements (£80), Cyberlink Power Director (£60), and Magix Rescue Your Videotapes (£60).
Later on in this guide we are going to be using Pinnacle Studio HD (£60) to demonstrate our video-fixing tips. Most of the tools we’ll discuss will be available in other video-editing applications.
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