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  #1  
04-02-2011, 09:52 PM
vtak4 vtak4 is offline
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I have captured a section of the 1988 VHS CBS Fox release of License to Drive. The write protect tab is neatly broken, rather than being smooth. Whether or not it is a clever bootleg, in this case, is a moot point.

I am startled to find is that the AG-1980 cap has a considerably softer image compared to the consumer deck, which is sharper. Now, there is a possiblity that consumer deck compensates with sharpness filters, but the difference is, well, you be the judge:

Capture device: Plextor PX-TV402U NTSC/USA
Capture deck #1: Panasonic PV-8662 4-Head Omnivision (Japan)
Composite Out

Capture deck #2: Panasonic AG-1980 Pro Deck
S-Video Out
Detail/Picture @ Defeat/Norm, not Wide/TBC ON/
Capture codec: Divx 5 (native), CBR 6Mb/s

Before lordsmurf chimes in, I want to make clear that I do capture uncompressed huffyuv and audio in through a pro M-Audio card and leave things interlaced and etc. BUT for quick uploads to youtube and friend's video requests, being able to natively capture divx without any postprocessing is a major convenience. The quality is excellent for VHS, but laserdisc is a dog. So this workflow is purely for quick tapecap jobs.

So, why the big difference here? Is my Ag-1980 in need of service, or maybe some settings are wrong. Or is it just the consumer deck is overcompensating. Looks like the devil's in the details.


Attached Images
File Type: jpg PV-8662.jpg (89.4 KB, 115 downloads)
File Type: jpg AG-1980.jpg (84.4 KB, 101 downloads)

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  #2  
04-02-2011, 11:02 PM
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I've seen quite a few tapes that simply used cheap grade consumer tape stock, and safety tabs ranged from broken to machined off to left intact. Yes, retail VHS tapes that could be -- and often were, due to user error -- recorded over with no extra effort. (It's amazing how few people know what those tabs are for.)

The PV-8662 image has significant "ringing" -- the technical term for the artifacts cased from edge sharpening. It's easy to see on the left side of the interior of the collar on the boy. Same for the interior right lens (our left side) of the glasses of the man.

Fake sharpening is achieved by creating contrast, which is done by causing a slight ghosting in the signal, and then pumping up the gain. Note how a lot of the subtle shadows have been cored to black in the 8662. (It's easy to see in my calibrated IPS monitor, and not as obvious in standard consumer LCDs.) This method of false sharpening is similar, although not the same, as "Unsharp mask" in Photoshop.

Some of this strikes me as irony, as the AG-1980 is well known for already artificially sharpening the signal. I almost wonder if your sharpness slide is tuned completely into "soft". Is it? There does appear to be some smearing in that image that's not normal. If the slider is not at soft, than I'd suspect the heads of being dirty. Or, though unlikely, a broken sharpness adjuster.

Consumer VCRs, and even a number of end-of-life consumer CRT TVs, had a bad habit of over-sharpening the image -- often at the cost of simply enhancing video/signal noise. Most TVs, and many of the VCRs (such as Sharp models), could easily have the fake sharpening reduced or entirely turned off. Panasonic consumer VCRs were not as friendly on some models. Those low-end Panasonics also had the obnoxous "blue screen" issues.

Even if this is for quick direct captures -- which as you've already noted, I don't suggest (as MPEG-4 variants are long-GOP delivery formats, not capture/intermediary working formats) -- I would look to use a more elegant deinterlace. Never blended frames. The available methods will mostly depends on the capture hardware and software. I've not tried VirtualDub 1.9.x with an active Yadif deinterlace, but it's worth a test!

You can pump up the sharpness slide on the AG-1980, though I would suggest against it. Accuracy should trump "sharpness". Somewhere between those two images is what I would consider an optimal sharpness from a VHS tape.

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  #3  
04-03-2011, 01:10 AM
vtak4 vtak4 is offline
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Decks:
As for the PV-8662, on my calibrated NEC FP2141SB CRT I did notice the ringing while capturing, and the crushed blacks were the most obvious detriment to PQ for me. I always make sure all sharpness and filters are set to "defeat" when I can.

Same goes for the AG-1980, all settings were as close to neutral as possible, as noted in my first post, it was on ... oops I said detail, it was actually on "edit", defeat mode for dubs. The Sharpness slider is functional, and in the middle.

See? This is what got me. I expected the AG to retrieve the signal better by transport alone.

Here's a thought, if you haven't already done it: Download those two images, open both in Photoshop and toggle back and forth between them quickly. Isolate the Blue Channel.

Quickly back and forth, there's too much lost detail it seems, like the AG has a horizontal motion blur or bias towards that effect. The $64,000 question is: If that was what the source REALLY looked like, and the PV did artifical sharpening, wouldn't it actually lose detail if using some primitive comb filter?

Workflow:
I have essentially 2 workflows:
Purist: To elaborate, I have a dedicated 9600XT AIW box that captures 704x480 huffys (huffyuv since '01, can't go wrong). Never deinterlace. Never edit in MPEG4 derivitives. I capture the audio at 24/96khz, sweeten, and downsample. If it goes to MPEG2, I use 4-5 pass VBR CCE encode. If I have to deinterlace, I avisynth with TGMC etc. Neat video for laserdisc noise reduction. Sometimes out to the more modern h.264 to minimize block noise. This whole thing takes hours or days but I can eventually end up with something like this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gmk6NXFlSb0 (not mine)

Good enough for gov't work: Source -> DIVX5 640x480 for youtube -> upload. Done.
Because youtube's optimal codec is mpeg4 based. Until there's a VBR mpeg4 encoder I can get, it's the fast way. This whole process takes minutes, almost 1:1. End up with this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdyeFesQimM (meh...)

I would take the first method any day. It's a matter of time.



So about those decks. If my AG settings are baseline, what else, in your experience could it be?

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04-03-2011, 01:28 AM
vtak4 vtak4 is offline
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In hindsight, I retract the usage of "primitive comb filter" on the PV. It probably wouldn't have anything to do with this situation. A primitive image processing implementation (if any) would be a more accurate concept.
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04-03-2011, 01:35 AM
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Quote:
wouldn't it actually lose detail
No, it would just "enhance" it. It could however, get lost in the sea of noise that was also "enhanced" with that slipshod method or detail enhancement.

Quote:
it was actually on "edit",
Given how even consumer VCRs run some degree of filtering over videos, and the format itself is pretty shoddy, I think it's always a mistake to use the "edit" modes on a Panasonic or JVC S-VHS deck. Put it to normal mode. Otherwise you end up with a lot of frequency noise that could have just as easily been rolled off.

Quote:
If it goes to MPEG2, I use 4-5 pass VBR CCE encode.
CCE is a noise-adder, too. You should look at MainConcept Reference for a modern high-quality encoder. It's quite nice. All of the benefits of an older encode like CinemaCraft, but none of the drawbacks.

Otherwise a very thorough method!

Megazone 23 Part 2 -- nice.

Quote:
Source -> DIVX5 640x480 for youtube -> upload. Done.
Is that with the ATI card, using ATI MMC? If so, I don't think it's using blended deinterlace, but a mixture method, like bob/weave. It does the same with MPEG-1 and 352x240 MPEG-2 captures.

Quote:
If my AG settings are baseline, what else, in your experience could it be?
It's almost hard to tell, without further tests to create a baseline "control" group for an experiment. I'd also guess it was a possible head issue (dirty heads), if not simply a blurry tape. I'd almost like to see it with the sharpness boost, both at a half distances between 0 and max, and again at max sharpness on the slider.

What's the history of this 1980 you have? These machines can vary from mint (like mine) to beat-to-hell from a studio or college broadcasting program. Most eBay-sold copes tend to be from the latter category: used and abused.

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04-03-2011, 02:14 AM
vtak4 vtak4 is offline
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No, it would just "enhance" it. It could however, get lost in the sea of noise that was also "enhanced" with that slipshod method or detail enhancement.
Thanks, yeah, that's what I meant to say, but I was doubtful that the PV's consumer-grade filtering could make the blurry source (if the AG is the true representation) as clean and stable as it did.

On edit, I do get some light horizontal line "static" in the black areas. Not obvious in my caps, because they are blend deinterlaced. On a Sony 4:3 32" HD CRT, it's noticeable. Maybe this is the beginning of herringbone patterns? Bad caps?

When I switch it to normal setting, the noise reduction is unbearable as it creates some faint blur trails on motion. I tend not to like real-time noise reduction.

I will re-try Mainconcept at some point. I did a long time ago, was indifferent towards it. Before CCE it was TMPGEnc. I'll see about Reference.

The purist workflow is on the ATI 9600 AIW in 704x480 native.

The fast work is captured through a Plextor PX-TV402U 640x480 realtime. A response from a Plextor employee said DIVX mode is blend only, whereas the MPEG-2 (yeah, right) has interp, blend, and bob/weave. Even vdub can't alter the capture pins. Actually, the MPEG-2 isn't that bad...

It was on halfway between 0 and max. I'm a little too tired to cap right now >_< Maybe tomorrow evening I can.

I found both decks at a thrift store. (Yeah, yeah I know "kick me" sign on my back) But it's where I get my deck and they are wholly stable. The best decks I ever had were from there. But I'm guessing the AG-1980 ($9) has seen better days...

The worst decks I ever used was a barely used Mitsubishi that ate a tape like a bastard and a college Panasonic AG pro-deck with the meters and BNC and other now useless stuff. A good JVC prosumer would outperform that boat anchor.

3am! I must be getting tired and cranky. Thank you for all your input lordsmurf and admin!

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04-03-2011, 02:26 AM
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Maybe this is the beginning of herringbone patterns? Bad caps?
Possibly. But don't go tearing the VCR apart just yet. It may simply be dirty power, meaning you need a UPS with AVR. In other cases, it's simply a composite or s-video cable that's gone bad. I just finished throwing about 5 s-video cables in the trash, along with a couple of RCA audio cables. Time for new ones.

Quote:
When I switch it to normal setting, the noise reduction is unbearable as it creates some faint blur trails on motion.
That's odd. Normal picture mode should be intraframe BR, not interframe temporal NR.

Quote:
I will re-try Mainconcept at some point. I did a long time ago, was indifferent towards it. Before CCE it was TMPGEnc. I'll see about Reference
I remember the CCE vs TMPGEnc conversations from years long gone. (Given how TMPGEnc was $50 or under, and CCE was $1,000+, it was usually involving pirated copies, which were known for various defects, since the pirate copies were cracked demos and not the full versions.)

MainConcept "got good" after Reference came out. Reference is now the defacto industry standard for both MPEG and H.264 encoding, used in professional NLEs and consumer software alike.

Quote:
I found both decks at a thrift store.
PM the forum member "deter" and get the name of his repairman. Deter has bought, fixed and flipped a number of AG-1980 units. Most of these old decks need repair before they're usable.

I know several people who would given you long sad tales of learning that the hard way. I recently bought an AG-1980 used from a video-smart user, and am currently testing it. So far, I think it's actually okay! The difference between a random buy, and buying from a fellow videographer, video pro or video enthusiast.

Yeah, it is early. Oops. Time for bed.

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  #8  
04-03-2011, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by admin View Post
I know several people who would given you long sad tales of learning that the hard way. I recently bought an AG-1980 used from a video-smart user, and am currently testing it. So far, I think it's actually okay! The difference between a random buy, and buying from a fellow videographer, video pro or video enthusiast.
This is one reason why I don't have an AG-1980 yet. Gotta find a good one with a complete service history. They are kinda like those cheap old BMWs or Benzs at the local used car lots. Well maintained they are a dream, while neglected gives you headaches and becomes a money pit.
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04-06-2011, 05:35 PM
Jpass992 Jpass992 is offline
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Since alot of these AG 1980's on ebay are mostly abused by video professionals, and if one had the money, would it be wise to purchase a new Panasonic AG 1980 instead of buying used VCRs? I have gone through countless used VCRs on ebay where the machines have so many problems and now I'm just wondering if although it may be expensive, buying a new AG 1980 may be the route to go.
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04-06-2011, 08:19 PM
jbd5010 jbd5010 is offline
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We were discussing this (sort of) over on VideoHelp... if you're going to look for a new one, Southern Advantage seems pretty reputable and they offer extended warranties.

You'd almost certainly avoid any headaches going that route. I chose to gamble, though, and got a great machine for $90. One of the FEW VCR gambles I HAVEN'T regretted, though!
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04-06-2011, 08:24 PM
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Specifically, this new AG-1980P from SA: http://www.soadv.com/Merchant2/merch...Category_Code=

Not that I would give up on used decks. I just bought a good one from a member at this site, for $100+ shipping, and it came with the original box, packing materials, and manuals. Even the warranty cards! So far, it seems fine -- still putting it through stringent testing before committing it to a production project.

Remember that the AG-1980 is not necessarily the "best" VCR either -- it has quirks, and has optimal working conditions. For example, it's better at SLP or EP recordings (6-hour modes) with imperfect tracking, than it is at SP mode tapes. For SP or LP, the JVC decks are arguably better performers.

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04-06-2011, 08:28 PM
jbd5010 jbd5010 is offline
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Yup, definitely quirky. Also I should add that SA has decks that they've refurbished for around $350. I'll email Ed over there and ask if they completely re-cap their refurb 1980's, I believe they do. Their refurbs are probably a safe bet, too, and not so much sticker shock ($1200, ouch!)
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04-07-2011, 05:31 PM
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In what ways is the Panasonic AG 1980 not the best VCR? I have been considering a couple machines. I've considered the JVC HR S8000U, the JVC BR S378U, and of course the Panasonic AG 1980. I'm tired of dealing with used VCRs.
Just a few weeks ago I purchased a JVC HR S9400U off of ebay which had tracking issues and after I aligned the machine, it broke down again. Also, it had JVC's dreaded white streaks which really annoyed me.
Hey, I just wanted to advice some people on here who like the JVC's to stay away from the 4900U/6900U series up until the 9400U. All those machines I've gotten have been plagued with the white streak problem, which are little white comets that shoot across the picture in both VHS and SVHS mode.
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04-07-2011, 05:43 PM
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Quote:
abused by video professionals
Going back a few posts to this comment, a good professional takes care of his/her gear. Only idiots abuse the decks, because they have minimal knowledge, or are an office intern/grunt of some kind that gets to put their grubby hands on this high dollar gear. Gear from colleges/universities tends to be in the worst condition, because students have no idea what they're doing early on in their programs. By the time they learn better, it's really too late for the VCR.

Quote:
Also, it had JVC's dreaded white streaks which really annoyed me. ....... All those machines I've gotten have been plagued with the white streak problem, which are little white comets that shoot across the picture in both VHS and SVHS mode.
That's really nothing more than damaged heads. You can get that on newer model VCRs, too, if they've been overused, abused or simply poorly serviced in their lifetime. There's a slight chance they're just dirty, and need a proper cleaning. Note the keyword there: PROPER (i.e., NOT a "cleaning tape", not cotton Q-tips). Search this forum for detailed instructions on how to clean a VCR. There is a post on that topic.

Quote:
I'm tired of dealing with used VCRs.
The real issue is simply connecting with a reliable person, who knows enough about video to be able to state that "Yes, this machine works" without overlooking major problems. For example, many non-video people would put in a tape, hit play, and if they see ANY kind of picture, to them it "works". So you have to connect with owners who are selling their gear -- be it for lack of need (they have too much gear), forced to raise money, or simply done with VHS projects.

Quote:
In what ways is the Panasonic AG 1980 not the best VCR?
The signal is noisier than the JVC. Many people falsely assume the Panasonic has more "detail" because of this, coupled with the fact that the sharpening slider at middle default is not transparent to the tape. Noise creates false idea of detail, and the oversharpening is easy to see (edge contrast noise).

There's also issues with noise, caused by a rather crappy power supply engineering design. You almost have to isolate the deck on its own UPS, to get noise-free signals. These are also known to go out (though many people fail to notice the fuse box inside, so I've seen "broken" AG-1980s that simply needed a new $5 Japanese fuse -- note that comparable American fuses add more signal noise, and fail to provide enough power for the LED display to show brightly).

And then the LED poops out over time, almost completely disappearing. So you're flying blind.

But the transport is better, and the heads tend to work better with longer-play tapes, hence the reason many people own both a JVC deck, and this particular Panasonic deck. To truly play most tapes (or if you're lucky, ALL tapes in your possession), you'll need several different kinds of high end VCRs on hand.

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04-07-2011, 05:43 PM
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Well I just sold a 9400U in great condition, sorry you missed it! I'm guessing you bought the $129 one with a pic of it sitting on a sidewalk or something.. Anyway, I have a 378U over on marketplace. I have to say, when I took the top off to clean it, it reminded me of a 1980. Built like a tank. It has a nice built in proc amp. It doesn't have a TBC, although it handles tapes with time base errors better than average. The one I'm selling won't play tapes with just liner audio, though.
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04-07-2011, 07:44 PM
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Yeah....... unfortunately I am the one who bought the 9400. It had tracking issues on it. I aligned it once and it got out of alignment again. I'm sending it back. The problem with the 9400 is that it has the white streak problem. It would be an annoyance to capture video tapes with white streaks going across the picture. Would you ever have another 9400 up for sale anytime soon? I'd be interested if the machine didn't have a white streak problem.

I saw your 378U on ebay, my question is what is the problem with the machine not accepting any video inputs? I got that machine off ebay a few months ago, but it was a tape eater, so I returned it for a full refund. The machine seemed pretty nice, however, it did have a slow rewind and fast forward on it compared to the JVC HR S6900U and other SVHS models ive used.

What other machines would you have up for sale btw?
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04-07-2011, 07:53 PM
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There's still a chance the 9400U only needs another alignment, and some detailed head maintenance. I'd almost have to see a sample image of how severe those streaks are.

Slow fast forward is actually a good thing -- it's by design. It's less harmful to the tape. Any time a tape is wrapped around VCR gears, it's at its most vulnerable state. Lots of professional gear purposely slows down performance -- some go so far as to prevent FF/REW while playing, as that can be even more abusive. The best decks will re-insert the tape into the cassette, and do the REW/FF while the tape is fully inside the clamshell. This way, the machine cannot possibly "eat" the tape.

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04-07-2011, 08:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jpass992 View Post
I saw your 378U on ebay, my question is what is the problem with the machine not accepting any video inputs? I got that machine off ebay a few months ago, but it was a tape eater, so I returned it for a full refund. The machine seemed pretty nice, however, it did have a slow rewind and fast forward on it compared to the JVC HR S6900U and other SVHS models ive used.
What other machines would you have up for sale btw?
My particular 378U simply won't accept signals on the A/V inputs. I can plug a working video source (say, a DVD player) into ANY of the s-video or composite inputs, and switch the input to the one currently connected, but nothing happens on the screen. The label in the corner changes to "S1", "V1", etc for the corresponding input, but the blue screen just stays there and no audio/video is passed through.

Like I said, though, this unit plays back hi-fi tapes just fine. It won't play sound on tapes with a linear (mono) audio track, it just plays the video silently.

Both of these seem kind of odd... I'm almost wondering if there's some setting I'm missing. This unit definitely has a slight learning curve; it was stuck blinking "timer" for a while and I couldn't get it to turn on until I figured out how to get it out of "timer" mode. No one seems to have the instruction manual either.

As far as other decks, nothing too stellar. What I have listed over on marketplace is what I've got. In addition to those, I have three broken AG-1970's, and a broken AG-1980. I haven't listed the 1980 yet because I'm still tracking down all the little parts and screws for it, since I had tried to repair it and gave up halfway through. It needs mechanical re-timing (I failed miserably), and I also broke a little white plastic part that goes over the pinch roller assembly.
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04-09-2011, 04:31 PM
Jpass992 Jpass992 is offline
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If I were to buy a Panasonic AG 1980 new in box from Southern Advantage, would it exhibit these problems. I am just curious as most people on here have bought these machines off of ebay. From my experiences, I've had bad luck with people from ebay. Not to mention that most of the Panasonic AG 1980's are virtually all beat up and most likely, some are as old as 1996, which is a long time ago. I just figured that by buying a brand new unit, I would be bypassing the problems that most people on this forum have to deal with by buying a used Panasonic AG 1980.

I also wanted to say for your comment about the white streak problem in the 9400U, there was a service bulletin dating back to 1994 about the JVC HR S4900U/6900U that had stated that there was a static discharge problem from the video head, and that is why there were white streaks in the picture. I have properly cleaned the video heads on these machines before, but sometimes, the problems come back as something in the video drum isn't properly grounded. According to people from posts dating back to about 1994 - 1999, the fix requires you sending the VCR into JVC and having them replace a grounding strap that is located ontop of or in the video drum.
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04-09-2011, 07:54 PM
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Quote:
a static discharge problem from the video head, and that is why there were white streaks in the picture
I think you just solved one of my longest-running unknown issues. I have a Samsung SV-5000W VCR that exhibits this same problem, though it will go away after using a cleaning tape. (Yes, a cleaning tape -- something nobody should use for the purpose of actually cleaning a VCR.)

I never could figure out why a cleaning tape would remove the white streaks. There were dozens of them on screen at any given moment.
After the cleaning tape: none.

This is a dry-clean (not wet clean) tape, and it's not made of standard "tape material". However, I've also used a wet clean tape (without the "wet" applied), and it had the same effect.

I wonder if the material in the cleaning tapes is causing a discharge of static, thereby allowing the normal tape to play fine afterwards?

That would make sense -- though due to (1) my lack of knowledge on precisely what materials make up the cleaning tape, (2) an uncertainty that the deck is indeed having a static issue, and (3) a desire to not make false conclusions, I will not explicitly state "a cleaning tape discharges static".

However, it does seem to be a forerunner explanation.

I would say that this problem was not present for the first 7 years I had the Samsung VCR. It only appeared a few years ago, and coincided with an environmental change. With that comes a reduction in humidity and native air moisture, which is what allows for static to build up in the air. So there is at least some science to be considered here! (This comes from my knowledge on archival environments.)

THANKS!

So you might want to try that? Sounds feasible.

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Using the Panasonic 1980 sharpen cyber-junkie Capture, Record, Transfer 13 03-25-2010 06:37 PM
Do you need the remote to correctly work the Panasonic AG-1980 cyber-junkie Project Planning, Workflows 9 02-19-2010 11:46 AM
Panasonic AG-1980 as good as JVC S-VHS VCR ? ramrod Restore, Filter, Improve Quality 1 11-13-2009 07:33 PM

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