My friend, Peter Chan, heard that I know how to convert VHS tapes to DVD using my VCR and DVD recorder and so he asked me to do him a “small favour”. Oh no! I thought to myself. This is going to take hours because I haven’t used my VCR for ages and the RP (Record-Playback) head was probably covered with fungus. Likewise his old video tape. I tried to stall, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. And so here is my report.
This is my VCR. I bought it a few years ago from a small shop in Boon Lay Shopping Centre after trying in vain at the big departmental stores like Courts and Harvey Norman. I used it to convert my collection of VHS tapes to DVD. When my children were young, I shot many hours of video of them using a video camera that recorded the video onto small VHS tapes. To play the tape on a normal VCR, you need to use a special adapter. I also have some expensive training videos from my work.
Just as I had expected, Peter’s video turned up a blue screen when I inserted it into my machine. Either his video was dirty with fungus, or my video head was dirty – probably both.
Next I searched for my tape cleaner. This machine cleans the mouldy VHS tape by spinning it at high speed both forward and reverse. Keeping my fingers crossed, I inserted Peter’s precious video tape into the machine and pressed the Forward button. Hallelujah, it works.
After spinning the tape a few times, each cycle taking several minutes, I tested it again on the VCR. Just as I had feared, it still produced a blue screen, but at least this time, there was some audio. And so came the tedious part of cleaning the video head. Without a cleaning tape, (what nut keeps a VCR cleaning tape in 2013) I had no choice but to do it the old fashioned way; by unscrewing the cover (just finding the Philips head screwdriver was a challenge) and cleaning the head manually with cleaning fluid and cotton buds.
After another frantic search I managed to find my bottle of video head cleaning fluid, only to discover that all the alcohol had evaporated. But thank God for a super-efficient wife who brought out a PC cleaning kit complete with alcohol, cotton buds and even an air brush; courtesy of a colleague from her school’s IT department.
After painstakingly cleaning the video head several times, I was confident that that Peter’s video could finally be played. After so much trouble, it’d better be good, I told myself as I inserted his precious video one more time into the VCR. I was expecting to see some romantic footages from his courtship days, but what eventually played was an episode of Money Mind featuring Martin Soong and a panel of business honchos. What can possibly be more boring, I ask you.
Anyway, the rest of the exercise should be relatively straightforward. Connect the VCR to the DVD recorder, record the programme on the hard disk, and then burn it onto a DVD by a process called dubbing. That’s what I thought, at least. But, for an oldie like me, with 老花眼 (presbyopia), just connecting the audio-video cables to the Audio and Video Out ports was a hassle; requiring the aid of a torchlight. But that’s not all. There is still the tidying up; and I discovered that the wires at the back of my AV equipment were covered with a thick layer of dust.
By now you must be wondering why our friend was so ‘kan cheong’ (excited) about this boring tv programme from decades ago. Well; here’s the answer.