I want to capture some old VHS tapes using a ADVC55 and Final Cut 6 or maybe 7. The VCR I have does not have S Video.
1. Will using S Video make any difference with visual quality?
2. Are there any settings in FCP that I can make that will improve visual capture quality?
3. Any other general tips?
1. S-Video will help a bit, but it may not be noticeable with VHS footage.
2. Not really.
3. If you want the best quality, use the AVDC300, which has a built-in time base corrector ... or other TBC in-line between the VCR and the digital converter. A TBC is about the best thing you can do for analog, tape-based footage.
A TBC will correct timing errors that are inherent in analog tape playback. You'd probably recognize timing errors visually as wavy-ness (i.e.; not straight) in vertical objects in the image. Most of the stand-alone TBCs also have proc amp controls that would allows for phase, contrast, luma and chroma adjustments.
Thinking about it more, using an S-Video cable will help eliminate Y/C delay, which has the affect of shifting chroma slightly to the right of where it should be. S-Video (aka Y/C) transmits the luminance and chroma portions of the signal separately instead of together like a composite signal would do.
Using a different or newer NLE won't make any difference. It's the capture codec you choose that can make a difference. Most people would use DV NTSC (or PAL, depending on your country) since VHS resolution is only about 240 lines.