The End, For Now?

For several weeks, now, I’ve been playing a waiting game. First for my Metamorphoses VHS tapes to arrive at the go-between, and then for them to ship them to me. The VCRs to play them took more time. The only one of the two that worked wasn’t the most trustworthy, and couldn’t play the tapes in color, so I’d hoped to be able to fix the other deck. I’d thought I’d identified the problem, ordered replacement parts… and then waited another week for those to arrive, for that VCR to still not work.

Opting to use the other VCR instead, one reason it’s not trustworthy is that rewind & fast forward would cause its gears to slip, after which it also wouldn’t be able to eject the tape. No problem, I thought – I’d order a tape rewinder. Another week of waiting.

When the rewinder arrived and worked, I finally decided to order a Domesday Duplicator (DdD), after months of obsessing about it. After another week, the DdD arrived, and I used the included components to mod my laserdisc player. Modding the VCR would have required additional components, and I had more laserdiscs to back up than tapes, so it made sense to do the LD player first.

After getting the DdD set up, it was probably another week before I got any captures that would decode without errors. The short version is that Windows simply has too many processes running in the background, that interfere with the capture process. Switching to Ubuntu solved that.

Last night – a week after the DdD arrived – the components I needed to mod the VCR – which I’d ordered right after the DdD – were delivered. Modding the VCR was quicker & easier than the laserdisc player, but by the time I was finished, I wasn’t in any rush to test it. It was getting late, and I could wait until morning.

This morning I hooked everything up, and captured the first 3 minutes of one of the Metamorphoses tapes as a test. The VHS-Decode software didn’t want to work for my in Ubuntu, so I started to copy the capture file over to my Windows machine. Since I wasn’t likely to capture any more today, I went to eject the tape… only it wouldn’t budge. The whirring sound told me the VCR’s gears had slipped again, which meant I would need to very carefully take it apart, and wind the gears manually.

While I was attempting to move the gears, the cassette try sprang up. The back flap of the cassette didn’t close completely, but it may still have slightly damaged the tape. It was around this time that I’d also heard something hit the floor. I couldn’t see it without my glasses, so whatever it was would have to wait. Once the tape was finally wound back up and ejected, it looked as though a spot of grease had gotten onto the magnetic tape. So that tape may now be ruined. Attempting to clean the grease off may just damage it further, and playing it may smear the grease on the player’s head. Fortunately, I have another copy…

Playing any tapes any time soon may be out of the question. Once I’d put my glasses on, I’d found this piece on the floor –

Under my desk, I’d found the VCR’s capstan motor. That’s what had hit the floor. That piece in the picture is its power connector. Now, MAYBE I can reattach that piece with Gorilla Glue, and use some solder to bridge the connections. For now, though, I officially have two broken VCRs.

The cherry on top of this entire mess, might the test capture. The decoder in Windows produced NOTHING. Either there was no signal, or it was too weak to be captured. Adjusting the DdD’s physical gain might’ve helped, but it’s too late for that now.

If either of these VCRs cannot be repaired, then I’ll need to find another. Preferably one that fully supports SECAM, but those aren’t inexpensive.

Next week, I’m flying up to Michigan for the summer. I was hoping to have both Metamorphoses tapes captured before then, but now I may need to wait until I get back, in September or October…