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Old 2013.08.13, 07:05 PM   #1
karateexplosion
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Default Japanese Karaoke Tracks

So, kind of an off-the-wall request. As I may have mentioned before, I currently work as a host at a local karaoke dive bar. It's a cool place, smack dab in the middle of the International District, and was actually the first karaoke bar in Seattle, around since the late '50s.

Anyway, I'm always looking for new music to add to our rotation and, while we do have a number of Japanese laserdiscs, they're pretty much exclusively enka and all of it is pre-1985 or so. What I'd really like is some more recent stuff to throw in the queue, be it Ringo, Mr. Children, Akai Tori, whatever. Anything from the last 20 years, really.

Does anyone know of a good resource for finding contemporary karaoke tracks? I've searched all around myself, but have only found truly abominable MIDI versions and companies that want me to purchase their preloaded 30000-track karaoke systems for exorbitant amounts of money. Obviously free would be preferable, but I'm more than happy to pay for stuff assuming the price is right and it's what I'm looking for.

Any ideas? Thanks.
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Old 2013.08.13, 08:12 PM   #2
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First of all, what constitutes a "karaoke" track?
The obvious answer would be: a non-default version of a recording, specifically without lead vocals which would otherwise be there, and without any of the other roles in the recording compensating to fill that void.

But for all I know, you could be talking about something more complicated than that. I'm vaguely aware of concepts such as synchronized lyric captions, and I have absolutely no idea where/how to find material in such a format.

If we're talking about just the audio itself, that's easy. Most Japanese artists (except Shiina Ringo) tend to release karaoke versions of their hit songs, as B-Sides.

For Shiina Ringo, there's a legitimate online-only release of the whole HF album without vocals, while everything else about those recordings remains the same (it's actually kinda neat to listen to without vocals). The Cappuccino single under Tomosaka Rie's name, also has karaoke B-Sides. Beyond that, there's nothing else from EMI.

I wouldn't be surprised if the karaoke industry took matters into their own hands and somehow fabricated their own versions of hit songs like Honnou, but I don't know how legitimate any of that would be.
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Old 2013.08.13, 08:38 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Glathannus View Post
I wouldn't be surprised if the karaoke industry took matters into their own hands and somehow fabricated their own versions of hit songs like Honnou, but I don't know how legitimate any of that would be.
It's completely legitimate. There are a number of companies that produce re-creations of various songs by first licensing the rights to them and then hiring studio musicians or an audio engineer to put them together, depending on the quality. It's actually the only reason there is a karaoke bar scene, access to these produced tracks. Interesting you should bring up Honnou, I sung that once a random karaoke bar that happened to have it.

So, by "karaoke version", I do mean something more complete than just an instrumental version, one with synchronized lyrics. Either video files, VCDs, CD+Gs, MP3+G files, whatever. It is possible to create MP3+G files and add a lyric overlay manually (though extremely time-consuming), but even at that, it's pretty much only the more poppy artists like idols and such that include instrumental versions in their singles; not really the kind of stuff I'm looking for. Removing vocals is another option, though I've experimented with that pretty extensively and the results are never really acceptable.
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Old 2013.08.13, 08:47 PM   #4
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I have a Yapoos (Jun Togawa) Karaoke Laser Disc... but like it says on the case it's "not for retail sale" :-p

Recently, it's been showing up pretty frequently on Y!A for about 1,500 yen or so.

Nor do I actually have a way to rip it (or even PLAY it... the LD player I have had access to unfortunately only supports PAL... Japan is NTSC *I think*) but I can at least look at it haha. I'm not sure it will be worth buying an LD player just for a few discs, and I'd need to buy an NTSC one too. Hmm.

Anyway, I know this is going off topic but has anyone had much experience in ripping VHS to computer format? Any suggestions on best method? Are them USB VHS players as cheap and nasty as the USB turntables?
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Old 2013.08.14, 02:08 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by deadgrandma View Post
Anyway, I know this is going off topic but has anyone had much experience in ripping VHS to computer format? Any suggestions on best method? Are them USB VHS players as cheap and nasty as the USB turntables?
USB VHS players can be (and usually are) much worse than USB turntables. USB itself doesn't stop the turntables from offering you 96kHz/24bit PCM, but decent quality video needs a lot more bandwidth.

As with analog audio, the analog-to-digital converter (which you've gotta have somewhere) doesn't need to be an internal component of the player itself. There are intermediary devices you can connect between your computer and whichever player you want to record the analog content from. There's a whole quality spectrum of such devices. I can't find the official page for the exact product, but I've had good experiences with something a lot like this.

I wouldn't say that Firewire itself is the #1 most important thing about a product like that, but you should nevertheless beware of video recorders based on USB 2.0. Since uncompressed video would be pushing the bandwidth limits of that interface, USB 2.0-based recorders tend to pre-encode the video into some form of lossy akin to the video quality we've come to expect from most webcams.

The Canopus devices I've used, could get through Macrovision. I don't know if the one I linked to, can. It tends to be a non-advertised feature on any of the recorders which do it, so this is something you have to independently research before committing to buy a particular device.

This also ought to go without saying, but there's a whole quality spectrum for VCRs, too. It's been my experience that the multi-format players (which do PAL and NTSC) don't yield NTSC as nicely as an NTSC-only player, but I can't speak for PAL-only players, or for any professional-grade multi-format players released more recently. Maybe you already have a player which is awesome at one or both, and the only thing missing from it is you can't already hook it up to your computer - so you might not need to buy a whole new player just to get that recording-to-computer capability.
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Old 2013.08.14, 03:29 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by deadgrandma View Post
I have a Yapoos (Jun Togawa) Karaoke Laser Disc... but like it says on the case it's "not for retail sale" :-p
That is fantastic.
Your level of devotion to collecting inspires me to be a better person.

Originally Posted by Glathannus View Post
I wouldn't say that Firewire itself is the #1 most important thing about a product like that, but you should nevertheless beware of video recorders based on USB 2.0. Since uncompressed video would be pushing the bandwidth limits of that interface, USB 2.0-based recorders tend to pre-encode the video into some form of lossy akin to the video quality we've come to expect from most webcams.
From my days editing video semi-professionally, I would certainly recommend this as the way to go. A firewire-based analog converter is going to yield you the best results by far. USB converters tend to be terribly unreliable unless you're willing to shell out a hefty amount for one and firewire will be much less of a hassle for less investment. Even something as simple as a cheap digital camcorder (most likely Mini DV) with a composite input would suffice and get the job done quite adequately. The only real pain in the ass comes from capture software, which can sometimes by finicky, but it's nothing insurmountable.

Take my advice with a grain a salt, though. This is based on my personal experience capturing and editing analog video and I've been out of the game for a good five years or so. There may be better options nowadays since I haven't kept up on the tech.
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Old 2013.08.14, 09:04 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by karateexplosion View Post
Even something as simple as a cheap digital camcorder (most likely Mini DV) with a composite input would suffice and get the job done quite adequately.
I wouldn't be surprised if the quality were acceptable, but I also wouldn't be surprised if Macrovision content appeared mostly black with hints of red.

Originally Posted by karateexplosion View Post
The only real pain in the ass comes from capture software
I've been out of the game for 4 years, but my experiences with WinDV were quite painless, and it's a free app people still seem to be using nowadays. My only quirky experiences with it were occasionally when I was capturing MiniDV tapes which didn't originate from the device I was playing them in, but that's not WinDV's fault.

For me, the only significant pain was in encoding the video sometime after the capturing, and before burning it to DVD. It took a 130 nm 2.0GHz single-core CPU roughly 6 real life hours to process a 2-hour video, but the wait was totally worthwhile. A modern CPU could get the job done a lot faster (even if you were only using one "2.0 GHz" core) because a 32 nm CPU (like the one in my recent laptop) could run circles around an older 130 nm CPU (like what my workplace had) of the same GHz, even if you decided not to take advantage of multiple cores on the newer CPU.

The point I'm trying to make here, is that if you do the encoding after the capturing instead of during, the content is more salvageable if anything goes wrong (especially if you set WinDV to split the recorded AVIs into short increments like 15 minutes), you lose nothing for editing the content, and you get much nicer results in the end.
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Old 2013.08.14, 09:59 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Glathannus View Post
I wouldn't be surprised if the quality were acceptable, but I also wouldn't be surprised if Macrovision content appeared mostly black with hints of red.
Ah, good point. Never really worked with commercially-produced VHS tapes, so I don't even know how prevalent Macrovision is. I'm sure there are workarounds though.

I might be conflating the two issues (capturing/encoding) and their quirks, to be honest. Anyway you look at it, it's still a tricky industry.



Way to hijack my thread, by the way, y'guys (not to say isn't my fault as well, haha).
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