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As for the Audio, it would be difficult to tell where it is being introduced. To see if it's on the tape, play the tape in the camera with a good set of headphones attached. Is it heard there? If not, then I would definitely check the cables from the camera to the Pyro. The FW cable is not likely the cause, as it is just moving 1's and 0's from point A to point B. Also, provided that the Pyro is functioning correctly, PrE will be out of the equation, as all it is doing is writing a digital file directly from those 1's and 0's. The quality of the camera to Pyro cable will be very important.
If the noise is being introduced during the A-D conversion, and the cables and their connectors are in great shape, then it will probably be time to look into some audio cleaning. I like Magix Audio Cleaning Lab as my first step, and then use Adobe Audition as a second step, if necessary.
As for the Video noise/timebase issues, I would first Play each tape in the camera, and then Play it in reverse. This is NOT FFW, and REV, as they are quite fast, and what one wants is to tension the tape, have it aligned on the hub and to smooth out any "hub bump." Yes, this does put the heads in contact with the tape, but the slower speed will what you want. I'd spend a bit of time doing each tape, one after the other. Then, clean the heads well, before the capture. Test. If you see no improvement, then explore using a composite cable, instead of the S-Video cable. Test.
I really like Neat Video, to clean up analog tape Captures. After I run it, I usually add just a touch of Unsharp Mask. I cannot recall if that Effect is in PrE, but would be in the Blur-Sharpen section. If it is not in PrE, look into a bit of Sharpen. BTW - Neat Image is a great, and similar plug-in for Photoshop (or as a stand-alone processor).
Analog tapes usually do not produce the great images, that we have come to associate with digital, but your tapes are not THAT old, and if properly stored should be pretty good. Now, VHS tapes WILL not look all THAT good, but it the limitation of the medium, and also the years of, usually, poor storage. Still, with some Neat Video, some Color Correction, and that Unsharp Mask, I have gotten good results to DV Projects.
Do you find using the Neat Video plugin adds a lot of time to rendering? I've done a few clips only so far, but the render to DVD time seems to go up a lot.
I can't find an Unsharpen effect in Premiere Elements so I'll make do with a small amount of sharpening.
I'll give your other tips a try and I'm sure I'll be back with some more questions once I get further into this project. Thanks.
You may also want to check in with the folks on the Community forum at videomaker support site http://Muvipix.com.
There are a number of people on that site using DV bridges, and I'm sure they could offer you lots of insight.
Yes, Neat Video adds about 15% more to the Render Time. Now, cannot tell you if that is by itself, or in combo with the Unsharp Mask (Sharpening) Effect that I also do. Still, times do go up and it is noticeable.