Down the Rabbit Hole

Recently Metamorphoses/Winds of Change has caught my interest again, and I’ve gone… a bit crazy with it. For two months starting in late January, circumstances prevented me from focusing on much else, creatively, so I ended up fixating on this film.

At first, I was merely doing as I had done before – matching the American and French versions of the film to the Japanese DVD, frame by frame. But it began to bother me that the only sources for the American & French versions, were off of Youtube. I remedied this by purchasing a copy of the American VHS off of Ebay.

Since quality is my biggest concern, and VHS not being the best in that regard, I ended up capturing the tape at least 10 times. The idea was to use AviSynth’s Median plugin to combine all of these captures, in order to reduce the color noise as much as possible. It worked well near the start of the film, but near the end, all of the recordings would start to lose sync with one another.

To get the best possible capture from that tape, I’d probably need to purchase a Domesday Duplicator. I’d been thinking about that already, for my laserdiscs, but had gone back and forth on whether it would be worth it. Now I was more determined to take that plunge, but first I needed to research whether either of the VCRs I had access to would be suitable for RF capturing.

The American VHS was only the start of this renewed obsession. The extremely poor quality of the Youtube version bothered me, so I decided to track down a copy of it on VHS as well. I’d found two, but the sellers in both cases wouldn’t ship outside of France. I wasn’t going to let that stop me. After signing up with BetweenBox to get a French address, I ordered both tapes. Finding a compatible VCR to play them on would be a problem for another day!

If I’d known what the shipping from BetweenBox would cost, I might’ve thought twice. It more than doubled the cost of the tapes…
And once the tapes arrived, opening the cases didn’t instill me with confidence. I was immediately reminded of the bootleg anime tapes I used to buy at comic conventions, in the 1990s.

After ordering the tapes, finding a VCR to play them on became my next priority. Finding a working on with SECAM support – and at a fair price – was particularly difficult. I’d settled on a Sony SLV_ED40PS, which the seller described as working, but that it would occasionally turn off and eject the tape. At the price he was selling it at, I was willing to take a chance on it working well enough.

Another advantage to buying a Sony – typically they have easily-accessible test pins on their main boards, to connect a Domesday Duplicator to without any additional soldering.

It was only after I’d ordered that VCR, that I started to realize that the tapes may not play on it. Or if they do, they won’t play in color. The VCR supports MESECAM, not SECAM. I’m told that this won’t matter, that even if the VCR only supported PAL, the Domesday Duplicator would be able to capture the RF signal, because the VCR’s drum is spinning at the correct speed.

Unfortunately, the software for decoding the captured RF signal currently has very limited & experimental SECAM/MESECAM support. Until that changes, if I want a color capture, I’d have to find another VCR that does support SECAM. So I did – a Samsung SV-S97.

Unlike the Sony, the Samsung VCR was not sold as working. The interior motors don’t work, but I’d seen enough repair videos on Youtube to make me think that perhaps I could fix it.

The Sony arrived a day after the Samsung, and broke after only a few minutes of use. So now I have two VCRs to fix.

The Samsung’s problems appear to be due to a faulty voltage regulator. It will be nice if that’s all, but I won’t know until after the replacement arrives.

The Sony, meanwhile, I’ve at least managed to restore to some functionality to. It will accept and play a tape, but has trouble ejecting and rewinding. I don’t think I’ll be trusting it with either of the French tapes, unless I absolutely need to.

Where this obsession took (another) particularly stupid turn, was with the Japanese laserdisc(s). I’d merely wondered if the laserdisc or other DVD releases used different transfers than the DVD I already had. Looking at two entries on the Laserdisc Database, I’d noticed that one had the same runtime as my DVD, while the other’s matched that of the American cut of the film. Did Japan really receive two different cuts of the film? There was only way for me to find out, and fortunately that laserdisc wasn’t expensive…

While I was at it, I’d also scored a cheap copy of one of the later DVD re-releases, and another film I’d been looking for.

When the package from Japan arrived… the laserdisc and DVD are the exact same cut and transfer as my prior DVD. This second DVD might even be the same encoding!

Separately, I’d also found a later re-release of the American VHS for a reasonable price, on the off-chance that it’s in better condition than the previous one. I think I now officially own too many copies of this one obscure film…

Or just enough.