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  #1  
06-20-2010, 04:15 AM
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Originally Posted by william
The basic goal is to preserve (and enhance as much as possible with reasonable effort) the video on the original SVHS (maybe a few VHS) tapes, family videos.
To preserve as much details as possible, from S-VHS format tapes (shot in SP mode), you'll usually want to capture at 720x480 Full D1 standard resolution. VHS can be either way, 352x480 or 720x480, but I'd err to 720, when it's family memories instead of simple TV recordings.

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There is no plan for editing/production, so my thought is to digitize in the most basic format, which I understand is dv, which will save all the signal info and can be input to any production process in the future. So, first question, are these assumptions correct and reasonable?
Well, yes and no. DV is a multi-compressed format, not much different than DVDs (MPEG-2) when you get right down to it. It's about 5:1 compression (13GB/hour) and uses 4:1:1 colorspace, while DVD is maybe 10:1 (7GB/hour) to 20:1 (4GB/hour) using 4:2:0 colorspace. Uncompressed 4:2:2 video is about 75GB/hour.

If you want to archive the S-VHS tapes to another format that won't require bundles of space, but is least compressed, DV is an okay compromise. Personally, I'd just assume run with high bitrate MPEG-2 (9Mbps DVD-Video, or 12-15Mbps non-DVD), and store on a mix of discs and hard drives. DV is still a tape -- and I don't like tapes. Tapes get eaten too easily, and are simply not as precise as optical or magnetic platter media.

I know, that's a slightly techie answer. If you don't understand it, we can re-hash it until you do.

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My main issue then, is to get the best, cleanest info available from the tapes into the computer files. I have a JVC HR-S5200U VCR and a Sony DCR-TRV730 Digital 8 camera, which does direct signal conversion, and would be willing to spend $300-400 for whatever would add to the quality of the capture.
That specific JVC S-VHS VCR is one of the low/mid-range units, not one of the high-end units often suggested. There's a list of the best VHS/S-VHS VCRs here: http://www.digitalFAQ.com/forum/show...uide-1567.html

The VCR you have may provide a decent signal, but the VCRs on that list might be better. Your Sony camera should play back 8mm, Hi8 and D8 tapes quite nicely as analog-out. The internal recording of the camera -- it's analog-to-digital (D/A or D>A) conversion -- is also just DV. The camera natively does DV on 8mm tape, hence D8.

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So, my next question is what do I have and what would you suggest? I was planning to use the VCR, but your site raises questions as it's not a model you recommend.
Yep, just mentioned that a few sentences back. Ideally, for capturing precious home memories, I suggest the following equipment:
  1. Good S-VHS VCR with all the features (TBC, filters, etc)
  2. External TBC. More info at http://www.digitalfaq.com/forum/show...base-2251.html
  3. Proc amp. These adjust and tweak the contrast, temperature, brightness and color quality of video. Different models offer different features. Some are basic with just 2-3 options, while the high end units (like my Elite Video BVP-4 Plus) can have almost a dozen.
Quote:
There are suggestions that digital video cameras can capture well, because they can include TBC and various filters, but I don't know if that's true in general or with mine specifically (e.g. can mine use all the info in an SVHS signal, is it one with TBC, and does it do anything else useful). Then there are capture cards and software--you like the All in Wonder,
Some of them can transfer to DV admirably, yes. For example, there's no reason to buy/use a DV converter box (like the Canopus ADVC series you mention in the next sentence) when the DV/D8 camera already does it. In fact, many of the cameras can have TBCs or TBC-like devices that may help, while the Canopus boxes are very suspect and debated. (Observations are the Canopus boxes do nothing.)

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I have seen praises (and a few condemnations) of the ADVC 110 and 300, and someone at VMI (a pro video supply co in CA) suggested I look at products from AJA, For-A, Diamond Multimedia, TV-ONE and Black Magic--but I have not been able to decipher the specs and descriptions.
Aja and Blackmagic make great cards. But for what you want to do, let's run this analogy: "It's like using an atomic bomb simply to kill a bed of ants." It's a powerful tool, but you may not need it. I generally only suggest those to higher-end video enthusiasts and various pros. Only in odd circumstances, where your computer is limited in what can be used, would I suggest those.

Quote:
Finally, once the dv files are in place, I would like to simply encode discs for for viewing on an HDTV. With a Apple computer, I assume will be rather straightforward with iMovie. It would be ideal, if, while copying the dv files I could rig something to simultaneously make the discs.
Can't wait to hear your thoughts,
William
You had to go and use the "M" word: Mac. I have nothing against Apple, but it doesn't always have the right workflow for video -- especially not analog>digital transfers (VHS to DVD or VHS to DVD, for example). The was a similar post about Mac capturing workflows mere hours ago: http://www.digitalFAQ.com/forum/show...sfer-2252.html

You may well need to look at a Blackmagic, Aja or El Gato card, if you don't want to run the DV route with your current camera.

Read over everything I mentioned, and then get back to me with your thoughts. Right now these questions linger in my mind:
  1. What are the specs of your Mac, exactly?
  2. Do you want to buy the TBC, new VCR, and maybe a proc amp? If so, where does that leave the budget?
  3. Can you add a new card internal, or must it be external? Will those cards break the budget?
Some links for you to browse:

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  #2  
06-22-2010, 02:22 PM
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Very helpful, you're showing me how the pieces relate that I've found randomly scattered all over the internet.

I'm reviewing all the info you provided, but have these questions now:

DV format--My dv format discussion seems to have implied I intend to store on tape, which I do not (I don't know the standard interpretations of the terms I'm using); I mean to use hard drives and DVDs. My understanding is that if the video information is in dv format, it will be in "container" files, avi on PCs and Quicktime on Macs, which I intended to imply by saying "dv". So, I understand the choices for digitally archiving are: uncompressed data, dv in a container, and high bitrate MPEG2? How much is lost in the dv or MPEG formats, and if I wanted the uncompressed data, how would I get it? Which are easiest to work with in the future, when the urge to edit strikes?

VCR--I saw the list, and did a quick search for the JVC HR-9800U, without any luck. In my earlier forays, the Panasonic AG-1980 was praised to the heavens, and sounded like a single source solution, but I couldn't find it either. And then there's the problem of knowing if a used machine has problems, particularly (I understand) with the heads. How does an outsider go about a successful search, know the thing will work, and what are reasonable costs?

Camcorder (Sony DCR-TRV730)--I was confused by your reference to my camcorder playing back tapes "quite nicely as analog-out". According to its manual, it has a "signal convert function"; input from a VCR (RCA or SVideo connections) and output directly (no tape) to the computer (with iLink=firewire) which I assume produces the same files as if from a tape, i.e. avi. So, I was thinking, IF I have a good VCR an option would be to use the camcorder for capture. Am I missing something?
It will obviously output an analog signal, for playing tapes on a TV, but would I want to use that?
For comparison to other options, I would like to know exactly what processing it does, TBC and anything else, but that's not something the manual specifies and I don't know how to find out.

Mac--The Mac is a G5, 2.16Ghz Intel Core 2 duo processor with 4 MB of L2 cache per processor and 1GB of memory. Won't take internal cards, although the "genius" did suggest an El Gato with a USB connection. It does have a FireWire bus, which, I hope, means the camcorder could do the capture and would produce Quicktime files. Background: The Mac is my brother's (will die for Jobs), and this project is to preserve his video and let him work on it when he can. I'm not disinterested, as I have D8 and VHS-C tapes that need the same treatment, but have PCs at home.

I will be reading the references you mentioned, and need more time to absorb them, but thought I could cover the above in the meantime.

Thanks,
William

Last edited by william; 06-22-2010 at 02:36 PM.
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06-26-2010, 12:48 AM
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Read the references:

TBC article: Makes it seem even more important to know exactly what the Sony DCR-TRV730 camcorder does.

VHS to Mac transfer: Reinforced usefulness of a good VCR. If I'm understanding correctly, the Haupage HD-PVR goes right to H264 (which is also an MPEG 4), which is not good for capture for later editing. I didn't understand why bbartley9 seemed to want SD analogue conversion, but, in any case, the HW seems irrelevant to my project. Elgato EyeTV 250 seems like the only card candidate as it does not require an AGP slot and outputs MPEG2.

Cards:
Elgato--Bot the EyeTV Hybrid and EyeTV 250 output MPEG2. Is there any advantage to the 250, costs a bit more but does HW encoding?
BlackMagic Intensity--From the site, the only digital output mentioned was HDMI, although it did mention Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premier Pro internal effects in "DV, DVCPRO HD, MJPEG and uncompressed edit formats". Does this mean it will output in those formats?
Aja Kona--stopped reading at $990.

So, to me, determining what the camcorder can do is key to determining what options to consider, and I hope you can help with an answer or how to find it.

Thanks,
William
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06-27-2010, 12:59 AM
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Quote:
My dv format discussion seems to have implied I intend to store on tape, which I do not (I don't know the standard interpretations of the terms I'm using); I mean to use hard drives and DVDs. My understanding is that if the video information is in dv format, it will be in "container" files, avi on PCs and Quicktime on Macs, which I intended to imply by saying "dv".
Oops... yeah, thanks for catching that. Indeed, DV is a format, and it will be stored in a container when it exists on a computer. Or rather, it needs to be, it should be. (Some people store raw DV as .dv files, and those can be hard to work with.) For Windows, the file is usually an .avi, while on Mac it's a Quicktime file (with or without a .qt extension).

Quote:
the choices for digitally archiving are: uncompressed data, dv in a container, and high bitrate MPEG2
Those are the three most common options, yes. There are more, but that's going to make the conversation a lot more complex. (Needlessly so, I'd imagine.)

Quote:
How much is lost in the dv or MPEG formats, and if I wanted the uncompressed data, how would I get it? Which are easiest to work with in the future, when the urge to edit strikes?
Loss is largely based on the complexity of the content. For MPEG-2, the bitrate is important, as is the degree of temporal compression used (IPB frames vs I-frames only). A cartoon or TV news broadcast can withstand higher compression without visual quality loss, while a handheld home movie will not. If your home movies were shot from a tripod and don't have lots of motion and detail, it can be compressed more. If you're hand holding a camera while videotaping somebody on a jet ski on a lake, there's tons of detail and motion that will go to blocks at the slightest bit of compression -- even DV.

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I saw the list, and did a quick search for the JVC HR-9800U, without any luck. In my earlier forays, the Panasonic AG-1980 was praised to the heavens, and sounded like a single source solution, but I couldn't find it either.
Just keep looking at the marketplace on this site, on eBay, and on craigslist. It will take a little time to find one, but they poop up. Be sure to spend a reasonable amount, too -- good VCRs in good condition start at about $200, and can end in the $400-500 range, easily. (New, many of these machines were $500 to $2,000.)

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And then there's the problem of knowing if a used machine has problems, particularly (I understand) with the heads. How does an outsider go about a successful search, know the thing will work, and what are reasonable costs?
See how many hours the deck was in use. If it's pulled from a college or cable company, it's generally had the hell beat out of it. Not always, but usually. You'd want a deck that was in the hands of a private hobbyist, or maybe a small-time studio. Wedding videographers, for example.

Anything "as is" (without any testing) should be avoided. It may as well say "broken VCR for sale". Do note that I sell everything of mine "as is" (because I don't want it back), but I sure as heck test it before even putting it up for sale. Any problems are noted on the sales page or auction, if any exist.

Quote:
-I was confused by your reference to my camcorder playing back tapes "quite nicely as analog-out". According to its manual, it has a "signal convert function"; input from a VCR (RCA or SVideo connections) and output directly (no tape) to the computer (with iLink=firewire) which I assume produces the same files as if from a tape, i.e. avi. So, I was thinking, IF I have a good VCR an option would be to use the camcorder for capture. Am I missing something?
Do you have any Video8 or Hi8 tapes? If not, then just disregard what I said.

What I was getting at is this: Video8 (basic analog 8mm videos) are grainy. Hi8 is grainy, although not as bad. Neither format looks all that great as DV. It's best to capture them losslessly or uncompressed, and then do noise reduction, then slow encode them to whatever archival format you want. That might be DVD, it might be DV (either as files, or even back to DV tapse).

But I don't know that it matters for you. Looking back, it doesn't seem you have anything other than VHS or S-VHS. I just got off on a late-night tangent, it seems. Seeing how it's almost 1 a.m. tonight, I hope I'm not doing it again.

Quote:
The Mac is a G5, 2.16Ghz Intel Core 2 duo processor with 4 MB of L2 cache per processor and 1GB of memory. Won't take internal cards, although the "genius" did suggest an El Gato with a USB connection. It does have a FireWire bus, which, I hope, means the camcorder could do the capture and would produce Quicktime files. Background: The Mac is my brother's (will die for Jobs), and this project is to preserve his video and let him work on it when he can. I'm not disinterested, as I have D8 and VHS-C tapes that need the same treatment, but have PCs at home.
It sounds like a system that can capture DV just fine, from Firewire input, with the camera as the converter device. An El Gato could work, too. As would the Blackmagic cards.

In fact, there might even be an ATI option, with an ATI 650 card, using the OS X version of AVI Demux to capture lossless HuffYUV. I don't have any further information on this. Another forum member posted about this recently.

If I could get more members to upgrade to Premium, then hopefully we could raise some funds for a Mac mini, to do a lot of Mac-based video software/hardware testing.

Quote:
Elgato--Bot the EyeTV Hybrid and EyeTV 250 output MPEG2. Is there any advantage to the 250, costs a bit more but does HW encoding?
I don't really think so, no.

Quote:
BlackMagic Intensity--From the site, the only digital output mentioned was HDMI, although it did mention Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premier Pro internal effects in "DV, DVCPRO HD, MJPEG and uncompressed edit formats". Does this mean it will output in those formats?
It internally encodes in quite a few formats. The hardware itself may only output via HDMI. Are you planning to plug it into a TV set? If not, this doesn't matter. There is a break-out "squid" that has all sorts of inputs, ranging from s-video to composite to component.

Quote:
Aja Kona--stopped reading at $990.
Yep.

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07-14-2010, 04:48 PM
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I bought a Panasonic AG 1980P vcr for a reasonable price from what seems to be a kind of goodwill store, which said it worked before shipping it. I have two weeks to return it, so would like to know how to test it to be sure it will work as needed for my project, i.e. to read the S VHS original tapes (also VHS-C later) for input to whatever the capture procedure is. If I play a tape to a TV, what should I look for, and is there any other way to check things out?
Thanks,
William
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07-15-2010, 07:13 AM
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First, open it up. Look at it. Are the heads smooth and clean? No visible damage? Are all the internals clean and in good shape? Nothing rotted (dry rot included), broken, brittle, sludgy, etc?

Second, play some tapes. Preferably something that can be "eaten," like a commercial VHS release. I keep old copies of tapes like Liar Liar, Batman Returns and TMNT -- something that is both easy to replace, and already exists in better quality on DVD. Does the tape play perfectly?

Third, try an EP mode tape. Again, preferably a commercial release. Find one of those cheapo budget releases, like public domain cartoons. I would hesitate to use personal recordings, unless it's (again) something easy to replace. I have recordings of the Dukes of Hazzard from about 1998 on VHS. I've long since bought the DVDs, don't need the tapes. These are not original recordings, so no value to commercials either. See if those tapes play rather clear and perfect. No tracking problems. (Or minimal problems, depending on crappiness of the tape.)

Next, test the switches. Does the sharpen slider actually blur/sharpen? Does the "audio out" button put it to mono? Does the B&W slider dump the chroma (color)? Detail/nor/edit? TBC works?

Finally, tests the inputs and outputs. Can you get signals in and out of the deck?

The one thing NOT on the VCR deck itself is the counter reset. I could never do advanced editing projects, with all their timecodes, without the ability to reset the timer easily. For this, you'll need the remote. Or possibly a programmable remote.

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  #7  
07-22-2010, 04:55 PM
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Did as you suggested with the Panasonic AG-1980P; it works, but has evidence of use which I don't know how to evaluate, so am considering spending $50 for a cleaning and check out at a professional video repair place, and, again, would like your thought before doing so.

Looking inside, I saw no problems except for one very worn gear. I am attaching photos of the inside (Overview), head (Head) and worn gear (WornGear) in case you can tell anything from them; in the overview and worn gear I cut out a paper pointer to show the gear, and, with Picasa can zoom in and clearly see the gear wear which involves just 3-4 teeth but looks nearly through.

The head didn't have any obvious (to me) defects and looks smooth, but shining a flashlight on it produced a band across the head with slight lines at its edges, if that means anything.

I played two commercial tapes (one on hummingbirds, the other on the Grand Canyon) and one of Cub Scout summer camp 11 years ago. For comparison, I also played them in my current VCR (rarely used), a Toshiba SD-V391 machine, through a 42" HDTV (probably a low baseline, but I don't know what "clear and perfect" should look like, especially when the HD makes any tape look grainy). I rewound the Cub tape to remove any physical tape effects from such a long period of inactivity.

I couldn't say there was any difference between the pictures produced, except sometimes the Cub tape picture was wobbly in the Toshiba (inconsistently, a section would wobble, then be ok, then wobble), which did not occur in the Panasonic. On one "snapshot" scene (i.e. despite the still image the tape kept moving) the Panasonic picture reminded me of a second generation photograph, less gradation of color, more contrasty, but I didn't notice it other places.

The sharpen slider sharpened and blurred, the black and white switch removed color. I didn't see any effect from the Detail/nor/edit or TBC switches, except the TBC switch produced a slight halt, but don't know what they are supposed to do or what I should look for in the tape that they could improve. I didn't try inputting to the VCR for time reasons (and I will be using it as the tape player for the conversion), I need to get your opinion and whatever else within the decision window.

The Pause and Rewind buttons have most of their white labels worn off, and there is a bit of creaking when the tape plays, but the tape transport functions worked. For what it was worth I showed it to the video technician, who said the pinch roller looked dirty, but nothing is obvious to me although I don't know where to look; should have asked him, but thought I could see it.

So, any thoughts on having it cleaned and checked for $50, or returning it? I could get it back from the shop in time to return it, so if I do take it in, is there any specific information I should ask for to help make that decision?

Thanks,
William


Attached Images
File Type: jpg Overview.jpg (118.1 KB, 27 downloads)
File Type: jpg Head.jpg (82.3 KB, 25 downloads)
File Type: jpg WornGear.jpg (92.6 KB, 23 downloads)
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07-24-2010, 02:32 PM
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I'd say that $50 for a pro cleaning, re-lubing and alignment check would be worth it. (Up to $75 is fair.) Be sure they do NOT use cotton swabs for cleaning -- that will ruin the equipment. Their cleaning swabs should only made of non-cotton materials, be it foam or chamois.

The alignment check is honestly the most important thing to do. It will help to ensure tapes are not eaten! And that tapes will always track just fine.

Re-lubing/re-greasing is good for any moving parts in the machine, where metal hits metal or metal hits plastic. A good shop will know that those are. You can figure out what they are, simply by loading a tape and watching what does and doesn't move around. Never self-lube. Creaking may be a sign that it needs lube/grease work.

The heads should have several radial "lines" around them. The round spinning part is not actually the head, the ferrite rings are!

The "wobbly" you see is poor time base. The Toshiba cannot fix it, while the TBC (time base corrector!) in the Panasonic does. It's a full-field (multi-line) TBC. Not to be confused with full-frame. A field is half a frame, or multiple lines. It has its benefits and its drawbacks, which you may notice as you transfer VHS or S-VHS tapes.

This forum shrinks all uploaded JPEG images to a certain size, if they're too big. We don't want the site's design to be all messed up from somebody posting images that are too big. I despise having to scroll pages left and right, because a photo is too big. Because of this, your images are now small, and I can't zoom in to see that gear. You'd need to put the full resolution JPEG inside a RAR or ZIP file, and then upload that compressed archive file.

The TBC will show a halt when turned on, because it's loading frames in a buffer. Again, it sounds like it improved the picture, based off the "wobble" issue you talked about.

Dirty pinch rollers should be cleaned, otherwise they could make the tapes dirty. Then again, tape residue is what the rollers dirty! But still, I'd clean them.

The machine looks and sounds like it's okay. Did you get a good deal on it?

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07-25-2010, 02:02 AM
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Thanks, that's progress. I think I got a good price, well under $200.

I attached an enlargement of the prior photo to show the worn gear. To the right and below my paper pointer in the picture are good teeth, to the left and above are 3-4 teeth that are nearly worn through. I would guess this gear has something to do with pausing, rewinding and playing for editing, but don't know its function, so am hoping you might have an idea of its function.

Let me try again to describe the heads' appearance under a flashlight shining across them from above. Without the flashlight the rings look shiny and smooth The flashlight light makes a band of light across the the width of the head. The edges of the band are not smooth, but show little striations, sort of just barely noticeable; I don't know if this is normal, or some sort of scratching from editing a lot of video tape.

Thanks,
William


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07-25-2010, 02:14 AM
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I'd need to open my own deck and compare. Because it's in use right now, it'll have to wait a few more days. (About a week, to be honest.)

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08-18-2010, 11:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by admin View Post
I'd need to open my own deck and compare. Because it's in use right now, it'll have to wait a few more days. (About a week, to be honest.)
I'm going to take the deck in for cleaning, etc., and, if it's not difficult to look, it would be nice to have an idea about that worn gear beforehand; if it's more than a minor inconvenience, don't bother, you are immensely helpful and it isn't fair to expect you to know everything.

I'm keeping this thread going, because it's still the same project, unless that causes some problem of which I'm unaware with your practices.
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08-19-2010, 01:58 PM
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Yeah, at some level of details, regarding the internals of a VCR (or even the signal theory), my knowledge does run out at some point. On this model, I just don't know enough about every single gear and pulley. However, I can observe and muddle through it. I know far more about JVC VCRs, having owned so many models of those for so many years now.

I pulled the AG-1980P deck from the rack, opened it, and then loaded one of my test tapes. That gear appears to only help with load/unload of tapes. Mine has one tooth missing it's very point, but the gear sinks so far into the plastic loading assembly that it doesn't really matter.


And on a slightly humorous side note...

I'm glad I opened the deck up today. A tiny spider appears to have made his home next to this gear within the last 12 hours. With minutes he and his web were stuck to a piece of tape and disposed of. (Sorry PETA members, he got squished and trashed!)

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