Updating my 3d “Digital 8” Video Tapes for viewing in Virtual Reality

So I have around 30 old tapes and an old Sony Digital 8 Camcorder that I want to utilise to save / preserve old family videos to watch on a 3d Theatre setup and in VR on my HP Reverb. So I set about doing the following:

  1. Cataloguing tapes according to date and format (ie 2d or 3d content)
  2. Capturing each tape to digital files using Sony iLink (firewire) interface
  3. Optimising the quality of the resultant video in software.

My starting point:

A circa 1990s Sony TRV520e (I used this in conjunction with a stereoscopic “Beam Splitter” attachment for 3D)
  • Happily most of my tapes have a start and end date on each label so it was relatively straightforward to sort them by date and begin the digitising process.
  • After purchasing an iLink card from Amazon I set about the task of digitising the tapes. I hit a stumbling block as although the card was recognised in Windows (see below) it simply refused to recognise the camcorder as a valid capture device. To cut a long story short I retrieved an old Sony PC from my loft which has a built in 32 bit iLink port and attempted to utilise that – after going through the upgrade process to the latest version of Windows 10 I plugged in the camcorder and fired up the Sony Vegas software and everything started working!
Windows 10 recognised the Firewire card and automatically installed drivers for it ….

After much experimentation with various bits of software on trial I ended up with “Sony Vegas Pro” which captured the tapes easily while maintaining the left and right interleaved sections necessary to create the separate left and right video. It also has rudimentary generic editing options for 3D aimed primarily at Sony’s own 3d Cameras (The “Bloggie 3D” and more sophisticated TRV 3d Camcorder both of which I have used in the past).

I asked Vegas Pro to capture separate sections for each session within the tape (ie a separate video files for each time I recorded something with the Camcorder rather than one large capture for the whole tape). My thinking here is that this would enable me to more easily make changes to the stereoscopic sections of video dependent on the conditions in play at the time – considering the basic 3D capture method used for most of these early videos I knew that I would want to have control over the relative depth and also horizontal offset of the left and right images (I found that this could be a little hit and miss and was dependent on both the depth of the main subject within the composition as well as their positioning within the overall frame)

Because the interleave process uses separate horizontal lines for each left and righ image the actual height, in terms of resolution, is halved for a stereo 3d image so with this in mind I decided to use half height top and bottom images for the final processed video file as shown below:

That said, in order to more easily facilitate the editing process (specifically the relative depth of the 3d image as well as syncing the height of the left and right images to reflect the main subject matter) I swithced the project mode temporarily to anaglyph as in the following image:

I then used the built in stereo adjustment filter (seen on the right hand side in the above images) to optimise the image for “easy 3d viewing”.

The above represents the images captured from one tape (the individual scenes shown in the box toward the left hand side in the above images) and, although occasionally it made sense to link multiple scenes together for the most part I decided to name each clip using the Date and Tape reference number along with a brief description of the contents – so in the above example the resultant video is named

“2001 04 Tape 28 Emily and The Cows.mp4”.

Although initially I wanted to view these clips using my HP Reverb headset my decision on format and codec was also made on the likely longevity of the format as I am that, although an absolutely splendid device at this point in time, individual VR headsets (and other viewing methods) will come and go relatively quickly over the years!

The HEVC format is a very efficient compression method that produced small files which I knew would make streaming over wifi easier. The final screen capture shows the rendering options that I have settled on:

(click the image to enlarge)

The resultant videos look fabulous in VR – as projected onto a large virtual screen in a suitably darkened (virtual) room!

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