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Old June 12th, 2002, 10:27 PM   #1
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VCR for duplication

I'd like some advice on which VHS VCR to buy. I'm going to be doing VHS duplication with one, then five, then maybe ten VCRs.

Pro quality stuff is out of my price range. I'm looking to spend less than $200 each, preferably $100 or so.

Should I use the same type of VCR for my player? Or should I purchase a S-VHS VCR ($150 brand new now!) so I have at least one more generation with higher quality. Or what about buying a miniDV camcorder with DV-in and using it as a player deck? Granted its a lot more $$ but I wouldn't mind a second camera.

Dumb question but can a S-VHS record a regular VHS tape, and if so, will it be a higher quality picture than a regular tape when played back on a normal VCR? I don't think so, just asking.

For now all I'm doing is going to be copying miniDV from my XL1 to VHS (or SVHS, miniDV decks are still too much $$), then making some duplicates. Eventually, I'll be outputing from my computer to miniDV, then duplicating off that, but it's still a ways off.

When I want to use 5 VCRs I guess I'll need a signal booster of some sorts, any reccomendations for that would be appreciated too.

Thanks!
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Old June 12th, 2002, 10:42 PM   #2
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I'm confused about your plans, but no matter. I'm also not sure that your budget is realistic, or that you really want to get into tape duplication; it's not quite as simple as it may seem. But also no matter.

Take a look at http://www.elitevideo.com/ . They feature several duplication equipment configurations.
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Old June 12th, 2002, 11:21 PM   #3
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I'm just basically looking for which consummer VCR will give me the best picture and sound quality when recording from another VCR. I need to make 5-10 copies of a few small events I am shooting. Eventually I will need between 20-100.

There's not a lot of money in it for me, so having them professionaly copied is not an option.

I've been to elitevideo.com before and tried to find out what model of Panasonic VCR they used (which for $129 is well under my budget), but gave up on them because their e-mail page wouldn't load. It works now, I just e-mailed them. Their 8 deck system looks appealing, but I just need one for now.

Oh, you are right, I DON'T want to get into duplication. :)
But, it's my only choice compared to getting it professionaly done and giving up 30% of my profits. I know there is a lot more to it when getting into larger duplication jobs, but I am trying to learn as much as possible before I need to make any more than a copy at a time.
So far, a turnkey system looks pretty appealing.
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Old June 13th, 2002, 05:15 AM   #4
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If you plan to duplicate VHS from VHS, get 2 cheap VCRs with good warranties. Then use them like crazy, and if 1 or both of them break, get them fixed or replaced via the warranty. If it's a cheap VCR, the store will usually replace the unit rather than sending it out for service.

Get 4 head VCRs not 2 head.

If you want to dupicate, the better way is to have 1 S-video VCR for playing, and 1 VHS VCR for recording.

If you had a deck, you could copy from it straight to the VCR. That would be best, though the deck will cost you lots of bucks.
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Old June 13th, 2002, 10:27 PM   #5
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A SVHS deck might provide a better VHS recording due to higher quality circuitry, but it's probably not worth buying one just for that purpose. If you use a SVHS deck (or better) for your master, you'll get better dupes. Don't daisy chain VHS decks, though. After a couple of decks, the quality falls off rapidly. Best to use a distribution amp (might look into borrowing/renting one).

It doesn't take many dupes to pay for a VHS deck. Any in the $100 range will work fine. They won't last as long as a commercial unit, but they're cheap to replace.

When doing projects, I frequently make the dubs directly from the computer through a DV deck feeding the DA. Then I archive onto either SVHS or full size DV tapes, depending on future use.

There are lots of options for doing this -- hope I covered some of them that you can use. Just remember, VHS at its best is still lousy!
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Old June 14th, 2002, 09:48 PM   #6
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Hi,

If you start making more than a copy or two consider getting a Time Base Corrector (TBC). A full frame TBC will do more for improving your picture quality than any other accesory, or type of VCR. You can probably get one fairly cheap on ebay.

Jeff
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Old June 15th, 2002, 02:15 AM   #7
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I do a lot of video duplication. Like anywhere from 5 to 50 per week. I make one master from cam to S-video. Then I make VHS copies from the S-video VCR. I also find that you can skip the S-video VCR, and just use 2 cheap VCRs with results not much worse than from using a S-video VCR. Of course, you can spend a whole lot more for a slight improvement, but is it worth it? I say, no---unless you're going to make 1000s of copies each month. If this is the case, go with a duplication lab.
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Old June 15th, 2002, 03:29 PM   #8
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Frank, do you mean that you can skip using the S-video VCR as a master and a cheap VHS master will give the same results?

A&B Sound has a SVHS VCR for $199cdn, about $60 more than I was going to spend on a regular VCR.

I'd like to find a unit that doesn't go to blue if the signal gets weak.

Also, how man VCRs can I use as recorders (off a signal splitter) at the same time without a drop in noticable signal/picture quality, or without having to buy a TBC or signal amplifier?
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Old June 15th, 2002, 03:57 PM   #9
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I can't answer your second question.

Regarding your 1st, I know you can get a cheap S-video VCR at places like A&B Sound. What I said, however, is that if you dupicate off of a VHS copy (made via a good digital cam) to VHS, the results will not be that much worse than from a S-video VCR to a VHS VCR. I do both, but if this fellow is concerned with $$$, like I am---I've had no complaints since I've copied this way---the content and style of shooting is more important than a slight loss of quality. But then again, this all depends the market you are targeting.
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Old June 15th, 2002, 08:24 PM   #10
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The quality of the playback VCR is not that big a deal, unless your talking about mastering to S-VHS. You need to sort out how you are going to do your duplication. Are you mastering to DV, S-VHS or VHS? If your are going to master to S-VHS for better quality, then of course, you'll need an S-VHS deck to play back from. If you master to VHS, then you do not need an S-VHS deck just to play back your VHS masters. The quality improvement would be very slight.

A TBC would be your best investment for yourself and your clients. Without a TBC and a Distribution Amp (DA) I would not loop the signal through more than 2 or 3 VCRs. Do you really want to risk your reputation and your clients on lousy dupes?

I used to own a Production, Post Production, Duplication and Fullfilment company in Cincinnati. I had 350 duplicators and did jobs from 15,000 copies on down. Let me know what your going to master to and I'll help you sort your system out as best i can.

Jeff
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Old June 16th, 2002, 01:12 AM   #11
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Thanks everyone for all the advice so far!

I'm going to be taping sports events for a friend (who is paying me, which makes him a client, but still gives me some leeway).

He's going to need at least 10 copies per event, maybe up to 50.
I can do this with 2 VCRs but eventually, I'd like to have 5-10 VCRs so I can get it done in an afternoon.

SVHS VCRs are almost as cheap as VHS VCRs so either one works. I figured I'd make the master on the SVHS VCR from my XL1, then use the SVHS VCR as a player deck to the VHS recording decks.

I checked Ebay, there are some time base correctors in the $75-$150 range, and distribution amplifiers from $50-$500. What should I reasonably be looking to pay?
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Old June 16th, 2002, 01:41 AM   #12
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I used to do this pretty seriously several years back, so here's some tips I can pass along to you.

Ideally you should be playing direct from a DV source (either your computer or a DV camera or DV deck). If this is not a possibility, then consider mastering to S-VHS. However this is going through an unnecessary generation and your tapes mastered on DV, copied to S-VHS and then duped to VHS will not look as good as a tape mastered on DV and copied straight to VHS.

You can get away with just about one "daisy chaining" wiring. That is outputting from the playback VCR into the first recording VCR, then taking that unit's outputs and inputting them into the second recording VCR. Generally if you try and daisy chain more than 2 units together you will have some fairly serious video degredation going on, not to mention unacceptable audio compression due to the built in AGC circuits. The preferred method would be to get yourself a digital time base corrector and a distribution amp. That way you can line up a dozen machines, each with it's separate feed from the distribution amp and have equal quality copies.

If you are going to choose to play back straight from a DV source, DO get a separate tape and record the computer's output as a secondary "master", then make your VHS dupes from that. You don't want to put a lot of wear on a tape that is only going to be used temporarily for duping.

If you are going to master from DV to S-VHS and then dupe to VHS, make sure that the S-VHS deck that is to be the playback unit is the one that records the tape. You will have maximum compatibility (and quality) by following that rule. The same thing applies if you choose to master to VHS and then dupe that VHS tape to other VHS tapes.

Finally, get all S-VHS machines, not VHS machines. They allow you to use S-video inputs, which separate the chrominance from the luminance and your copies will be better just by that alone. A S-VHS machine can play and record either format, and it makes better VHS tapes than a regular VHS machine can.

Try and find decks that have manual audio recording level controls. The AGC circuit can really destroy a carefully crafted audio mix. Also, most decks with automatic gain control circuits tend to record one channel noticeably louder than the other, resulting in unbalanced sound and incorrect Pro Logic steering (assuming you mixed for this).

Definitely get a "4 head" machine, BUT (and it's a big but) make absolutely sure that you are getting "4 video heads" and not in all actuality a 2 video head + 2 HiFi audio head machine, or you are in essence using the narrower set of heads designed for EP/SLP recording when you make the dupes in SP mode. A deck with only 2 video heads will result in a copy with more noise in the image and the tapes will not play well on decks that truly have 4 video heads. You will probably have to get the manual and look at the spec sheet to make sure your machines actually have 4 video heads. I don't think there is such a thing as a S-VHS machine that does not have HiFi audio, and you should not even consider using a VHS machine that doesn't have it. However, just for clarification, your machine should actually have 6 heads on the drum (4 for video, 2 for HiFi audio). The spec sheet will show this.

And of course, ALWAYS record on "SP" speed, no exceptions.
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Old June 16th, 2002, 08:50 PM   #13
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Great info, thanks!

What do you think of this VCR for duplication purposes? It's used by elitevideo in their turnkey duplication systems.

http://www.elitevideo.com/online-store/scstore/p-94.html

That's what I had planned on using, but I will do some research into what 6 head SVHS VCRs are priced at.
Are SVHS decks worth double the price of a VHS deck for still only recording in VHS mode?

I will get a DV deck somewhere down the road, but it's still a while off. I think I will go with the SVHS master for now.
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Old June 17th, 2002, 02:39 AM   #14
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That looks like a run of the mill machine to me. Fortunately Panasonic (at least to my knowledge) doesn't pull the "4 head" thing while counting the HiFi heads, so that machine would probably be decent. However there are no manual audio gain controls and you can almost bet the levels will be off balance on the copies. Also except for a brief period of a couple of years, Matsushita makes their machines and makes a pretty good product.

To answer your other question, yes I do think S-VHS machines record a better VHS image than a regular VHS machine. Is it worth double the cost? Well, how important are your dupes to you? And would you be willing to run dupes say 10 times instead of 5 times by purchasing half as many decks for better quality?

More food for thought, if I had a budget to purchase 20 of these machines, I would opt for 10 S-VHS decks spending the same amount of money and just run the tape twice as many times to get the end result quantity of dupes. However, you would be better off buying say 5 S-VHS decks and one MiniDV deck and running the dupes 4 times over if quality is of utmost importance to you. If quantity must factor in there, you would still be better off buying say 10 regular VHS decks and that one MiniDV deck for playback. At least that's what I would do.
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Old June 17th, 2002, 06:06 PM   #15
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I have not seen the benefit of using S-VHS decks as duplicators for VHS tapes. I would use VHS decks as duplicators. The Panasonic decks would seem to be a good choice as long as they have HI-FI audio (which I beleive they do). Use either a miniDV deck or S-VHS deck as your source deck. The signal out of the source deck should go into a full frame TBC. The TBC will regenerate sync, fix dropouts and adjust black level etc. The signal out of the TBC should go to a DA, the DA will split the signal in 5 or maybe 10 equal signals to go to your VHS duplicators. As you add decks add more DA's. As your budget permits add audio DA's and start thinking about pro duplicators. Rebuilt units can be purchased on ebay for $250 or so.

Jeff
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