Archive for the ‘Trouble-Shooting’ Category

AAKK! My master tape snapped! How to deal with very old videotapes

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Here’s an important tip about playing back very old videotapes, be they BetaSP, BetaMax, 3/4″ U-Matic, digibeta, BetaSX, DVCAM, etc.

For whatever reason, some people don’t rewind their master tapes after working with them. Perhaps they are worried about additional tape wear. Or maybe they just got distracted or… are just plain lazy. If you are worried about tape wear, then at least fast-forward the videotape to the very end so that it is spooled tightly on the take-up reel in side the cassette shell.

If a tape has slack and is set on a shelf for 5-10 years,  the loose part of the tape will harden and become brittle in the air. Then then next time it is played, the tape will snap in two upon insert into the video deck. People often come to us with this problem.

The leaders on the tape at the head and tail are made of a sturdier plastic that can stand up to air, gravity, and the distress of time. But the actual oxide-covered videotape is much more sensitive and can deteriorate rapidly in the wrong conditions.

So if you do come upon an old tape, NEVER pop it right into the machine. Instead, first hand-wind the tape all the way to the end, even if it takes you forever and you have to sit down to watch the big game with the cassette in your hand.  (Just don’t eat Doritos until you’re done because salt and grease from your hands isn’t the best for the tape either.)  Once the tape is rewound, pop it in the deck and DON’T HIT PLAY. Instead, shuttle the tape all the way to the end using fast-forward and then rewind it to the very top. Now eject the tape and reinsert it so it gets a fresh spooling in the system.

Now, you’re all set to play the tape for duplication, digitizing or plain old entertainment.

Trouble-shooting 101 – Break this mutha down!

Monday, October 8th, 2007

This post may seem really lame or rudimentary, but I gotta tell ya… some people just don’t know how to trouble-shoot. Over my years in post production I’ve seen so many editors and other crafts people who can’t seem to trouble-shoot even the most basic problems.

When computer tech support facilities get a call from a consumer having a computer, the first question the tech wants to know is: “Is your computer plugged in?”

Some people are insulted by this elementary question, but 20 percent of the time, that is the ACTUAL problem!! Can you believe it?

But it’s a great illustration of how so many people don’t do even the most basic trouble-shooting.

So whether you are having computer problems, video equipment issues, or whatever, here are the big questions to ask in order to locate the trouble:

1) Has the unit ever worked before?
2) Does the unit function as a result of some other process?
3) Is that “other process” functioning?
4) If the unit is swapped out, does the replacement unit work?

Okay, now let’s take this into a practical situation.

The lamp in my living room doesn’t seem to work. Time to trouble-shoot it.

1) Has this lamp ever worked before? YES

2) Is there another lamp that is currently working and available to swap it out for a test? YES

3) When the lamp is swapped out, does the replacement work? NO

4) Ah ha! This tells us the outlet is dead, right? MAYBE

6) Are there any wall switches associate with this outlet? YES

7) When you flip the switch(s), does the replacement light work in the “bad” outlet? NO

8) Hmm. Must be the circuit breaker. Has the cicuit breaker been tripped? YES

9) After re-setting the circuit breaker, does the replacement light work? YES

10) Cool, now we’re getting somewhere! Now we swap back to the “bad” lamp. Does it work in that outlet now? NO

11) Okay, now we know either the lightbulb is dead or the lamp is broken. So when we switch the lightbulb over to the working lamp, does it light up? YES

12) Bingo! The original lamp must be broken. When we put the good lightbulb in the bad lamp, does it light up? YES

13) Yes?? What the heck is going on here? Both bulbs work in both lamps.

CONCLUSION… The original bulb wasn’t screwed in all the way. Good thing you didn’t throw that bulb or lamp in the trash! Good thing you didn’t call an electrician either!