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04-06-2022, 03:30 AM
vikinagy97 vikinagy97 is offline
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On Videohelp, I've read that they should be cleaned very often, after every 20 hours of playback. Is it true? My VCRs weren't cleaned so often, maybe only once. (These are non-professional, non-TBC.) They still record and playback well. But, as they were cleaned very rarely, is it possible that now their picture quality is far from the best/the maximum they can provide?

I've also read that video head cleaning cassettes are dangerous; they can ruin the heads. Then how can it be legal to sell them? VCRs are no longer manufactured, not really reparable (no parts available), and, with those cleaning cassettes, non-technician people are misled that they can clean VCRs, and the VCR goes out of order irreparably. It's outrageous, I think. (Fortunately, I haven't used one.)

However, heads can also be ruined by manual cleaning. I would like to learn it, but I'm afraid I would be unsuccessful. What should I pay attention to when I try to clean heads? I have opened up VCRs, just to look inside, but I didn't touch anything.

Thank you for the answers.
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  #2  
04-06-2022, 06:53 AM
dpalomaki dpalomaki is offline
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For typical home use clean when the output signal indicates cleaning is in order.

Cleaning on a schedule, like every 20 yours, was preventive for applications where dirty head symptoms could not be tolerated such as live broadcast, or live shoots such as a wedding where there is no redo option. For most home viewing/playback applications one can clean and try again if dirty head symptoms arise.

The one exception may have been with Video8/Hi8 during the era of Sony tape lub problems in the early 1990s.

Head cleaning cassettes usually are slightly abrasive (they grind the deposits off causing wear) and may also just cause deposits to move about. Proper head cleaning requires skills (and supplies) not common to most households. VCR makers quickly figured out head cleaning cassettes were safer (in terms of user caused damage and warranty returns) than allowing home users to fumble into a VCR with their improvised cleaning methods. Also, cleaning cassettes usually come with warnings about limiting their use.

VCR heads are a wear items, Head (cylinder actually) replacement is typically recommended every 2000 to 4000 or so hours. Part of the recommended maintenance/service schedule for industrial machines. Home machines were typically replaced rather than repaired starting in the 1990s based on their cost vs. the cost of bench time. (Keep in mind that an AG-1980 sold for $2000, while a basic home VCR for $79 - big difference in the economics of repair vs replace. As I recall the end of the VHS era saw VCRs selling for $39 at PriceClub/COSTCO/SAMS Club)

VCRs are a legacy consumer product and technology, just like 8-track tapes, 78 RPM records, 8" floppy discs, 300 baud modems, and B&W CRT-based TV sets. A result of technology advancement. The key is to migrate the data to new formats/media before it no longer can be read or viewed.

Last edited by dpalomaki; 04-06-2022 at 07:24 AM.
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  #3  
04-06-2022, 07:03 AM
vikinagy97 vikinagy97 is offline
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I would like to digitize VHS tapes (more than 100). Should I clean the heads of a JVC/Panasonic S-VHS VCR after playing back 20 hours of recording? Or their line TBC will filter out the noise caused by some dirt on heads?
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  #4  
04-06-2022, 07:28 AM
dpalomaki dpalomaki is offline
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I believe there are threads on how to clean VCR heads elsewhere on this site.

Beware of what you may see on youtube and other places on the web. There is a mix of good, bad and so-so advice out there.
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  #5  
04-06-2022, 07:29 AM
latreche34 latreche34 is offline
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Line TBC has nothing to do with head noise, DOC can mask some noise by repeating the last good scan line, but you don't want any noise in the video, If you start noticing noise the heads are completely dirty.

https://www.youtube.com/user/latoak34/videos
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  #6  
04-06-2022, 07:34 AM
vikinagy97 vikinagy97 is offline
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What is DOC?
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  #7  
04-06-2022, 07:40 AM
dpalomaki dpalomaki is offline
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TBCs correct video signal timing. They do not fix the results of dirty heads.

For purposes of capturing tapes, clean heads only when the output signal indicates head cleaning is in order.

(Most consumes had a VCR for years and never cleaned the heads.)

In general a detailed service and cleaning may be in order as well when you first acquire a used machine from a random owner. Machines from reputable resellers may have been serviced before sale.

Note that beyond cleaning VCR service can involve lubrication, checking/replacing belts and friction material, tape path alignment, tension adjustments, and electronic adjustments.
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04-06-2022, 07:41 AM
dpalomaki dpalomaki is offline
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Drop Out Correction
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  #9  
04-06-2022, 08:10 AM
vikinagy97 vikinagy97 is offline
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How does the picture look like when the heads are to be cleaned? Can you attach a picture/video?

VHS picture contains some noise even with clear heads, doesn't it? What kind of noise means dirty heads? And how to differentiate it from tape noise/tape dropouts, or from tracking error?

I had a tape section in the past (then cut it out) which, when played for only 1 or 2 seconds, made the entire picture white. By playing some normal tapes, the picture cleared by itself. So the head can also clear by itself? Those recordings on which the picture gradually cleared, are still playable, didn't remain in white noise.

I have some damaged tape-parts that does not cause white picture; after they passed, the picture remains good. So, these tapes don't do harm for heads? If I cut them out, then I need to splice tapes together. I want to practice how to do it perfectly. I'd rather do splices as precisely as possible than putting some of the tape into a new case. (If a splice is perfect, it won't damage the heads, will it?) On eBay, Amazon etc. I saw kits for repairing tapes. Which kit do you recommend?
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04-06-2022, 08:56 AM
dpalomaki dpalomaki is offline
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The attached dirty had symptoms is from a Sony VCR manual.

Splicing of VCR video tape is generally to be avoided. The joint, if not absolutely perfect, puts heads at risk. One less than perfect spot on a splice will do it. It is better to capture the tape and then electronically cut out bad portions in the editing/restoration process. Or do the capture in chunks; e.g., before and after the bad portion. If a tape breaks it is generally safer to put the two halves in separate cassettes and just forget about the bit of tape lost to leaders.

VHS noise is a bit like grain in film or a slightly snowy TV image. It is most most often found in home video shot with consumer camcorders especially in poor light. Commercial VHS tapes should have very little noise in the image. Noise artifacts is a primary reason compressed video formats are disliked; noise does not compress well and robs bits from the image you want.

To some extent a good, clean video tape might clear some clogged head issues because the coatings on the tape might move the deposits - a temporary fix at best. This is not something to rely on.

The fact that something is sold on Amazon, ebay, or the corner store does not mean it is a good solution to a problem. I do not recommend video tape splicing. (For 1/4" reel-to-reel analog audio tape I would recommend using proper splicing tape and using a proper splicing block.)


Attached Images
File Type: jpg DirtyHeads.JPG (61.1 KB, 24 downloads)
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  #11  
04-06-2022, 09:16 AM
vikinagy97 vikinagy97 is offline
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I have done some not so precise tape-splicings and they did not ruin VCRs. They played them and the picture didn't become unclear after passing them. I would like to try it even more precisely. I know that the splicing tape cannot be on the side which is played. There should be no space between half-tapes. They should be cut diagonally (I also cut some of them vertically; it did not ruin heads.) I cannot avoid splicing even when using new cases: I have to splice to the leader tape.
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  #12  
04-06-2022, 02:07 PM
dpalomaki dpalomaki is offline
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The objective is to keep the splice from passing over the spinning cylinder/heads.

Clogging or damaging a head is not assured, but it is much more likely with a splices. The issue is RISK and with long out of production and manufacturer support machines with limited to no parts availability and access to qualified service it becomes a matter of individual choice.
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  #13  
04-15-2022, 01:25 AM
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If you over-clean heads, you will ruin them, reduce the life left in the heads. When that happens, you're screwed/SOL, time to find another VCR. The early signs of bad heads is inability to track as well, and audio issues on the audio heads.

Anybody that claims that heads should be cleaned after only 20 tapes is a moron. Do not listen to them. For anything, ever.

Noting that frequent cleanings are required when handling dirty tapes. And I mean dirty as in post-bake oxide shedders, mold (removed mold, but it's never 100% perfectly gone), etc. In those cases, you may have to clean after every play of a tape. But you do so understanding the deck lifetime is finite. That's not normal use. It's abuse. But necessary abuse, exceptional cases.

Tape splicing is almost always done badly, and does indeed destroy heads. The angle alone created problems. People on Youtube are idiots, where that method is often "taught" (uneducated teaching), using Scotch tape and whatnot. Incompetent. Those are seriously the same sort of people that drink bleach to get rid of COVID.

"Tape repair kits" are one of those things that exists only because people are stupid enough to buy that snake oil. See also, "DVD safe markers" (unscientific nonsense).

You entirely avoid splicing with reshelling a tape. You don't splice, you create a new lead.

Preventative head cleaning is only after many tapes, hundreds at minimum, about 2000 at most.

VCR "head cleaners" are dangerous for longterm survival of a VCR. But those were also made for cheap disposable VCRs used by families. Not the sort of gear we all use for video transfer in the 2020s.

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