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Television Media Hardware Hacking

DVHS on a Budget 184

Kerhop writes "ecoustics.com has an article on how to convert SVHS tapes to work in DVHS recorders which is similar to modifying a floppy drive (like we did years ago) to double the storage. There's two holes on a DVHS cassette and a single hole on the SVHS tape. The hole common to both permits DVHS tapes to handle SVHS signals; the hole unique to DVHS is what we want to focus on. Just cut off the top four to five millimeters of the pin within the recorder itself."
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DVHS on a Budget

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  • by fembots ( 753724 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @04:58PM (#11860440) Homepage
    After reading several mods which are simply a case of bypassing feature restrictions, I wonder if these mods will force manufacturers to forgo the quick-and-dirty upgrade (i.e. same model with features disabled/enabled) and go for the more expensive redesign route?

    So the question is, will you be forced to upgrade if you can't mod your current hardware?
  • by busonerd ( 534486 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @04:59PM (#11860445)
    One might assume that there is a reason for these holes.. Perhaps SVHS media is not as high quality as DVHS?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:11PM (#11860525)
      I'd actually guess the opposite could be true.
      With a digital signal there's less reason to worry about noise, and thus less reason to use the highest quality media than there would be with an analog signal.
      If they're smart, they might just be taking their cheapest-to-produce tapes and selling them at a premium as DVHS.
      • Er quite opposite: With analog media, you get slightly less fidelity if there in an error on the band.

        With digital (especially REALLY compressed digital) data, you get drop out till the next resync, shit frames, ect...
    • If you read the article you'd know that you're right, and that the author of the article tested several SVHS tapes and they worked fine.
    • Well, maybe so. Actually, I bet so. Just like the story of floppy disks (single sided vs. double sided vs. high density), the actual industrial process might be exactly identical, but the testing phase will allow different grades of quality.

      I've read some people suggest that SVHS and DVHS might be exactly the same media, just sold as different to make potentially more money. Well, that would be actually counter-productive; products need to pass some tests before being ready to get sold. That wouldn't make

      • Unless factories can afford to throw away a lot of material, there is absolutely no incentive to sell identical quality products as differents grades. I just don't see how that could be.

        Let's say there are multiple grades for a given product which are only necessitated by marketing reasons. Let's also say that having one manufacturing line is cheaper than multiple, and that manufacturing to the highest grade isn't necessarily more expensive than manufacturing to the lower grade. In that case you would
      • Unless factories can afford to throw away a lot of material, there is absolutely no incentive to sell identical quality products as differents grades. I just don't see how that could be.

        This is just bogus. Its much cheaper to produce one widget then it is two differnet widgets. Why do you assume they aren't doing the same level of testing on both? Film is film, they just throw it into a different casing. All the film is the same quality...they just wanted to say DVHS is better and thus justifies more
        • I did talk about the usual case, where indeed the manufacturing process is the exact same (so, no extra cost here), but the final products are graded through some kind of final testing before shipping. The testing can be the exact same too and just lead different results as to classify the end product. This is very often how the industrial process works. In that scenario, there is no extra cost; the different grades are just determined at the end of the fabrication process. Of course, there is also a batch

          • Nothing you said here changes the fact that the SVHS tapes are likely only labeled different, and should be expected to perform fine as a DVHS.

            Why would they bother categorizing lower grade items as SVHS? That would take time and cost more money. More likely they'll throw out anything that doesn't meet the DVHS standards?

            Besides, if they are only manufactoring DVHS, how could they possibly expect to meet SVHS quotas? They'd have to adjust thier lines to garentee a certain failure rate (one that would p
      • Finally, some people would raise the question of "overclocking", which has become pretty "mainstream" amongst PC users. When you overclock, you know you're playing with the safety margins that have been validated in the factory. It's your choice, but it's pushing your luck...

        In most situations it is not economical to produce multiple products. There's actually no difference in VHS and SVHS tapes, I learned around 93-94 that a simple mod was all it took. However the general concept at the time was that S

      • Unless factories can afford to throw away a lot of material, there is absolutely no incentive to sell identical quality products as differents grades. I just don't see how that could be.

        NVIDIA GeForceFX cards can be converted into use as professional Quadro cards [nvworld.ru].
        Identical chips, but graded according to maximum clock speed and control circuitry on the circuit board.
  • BE CAREFUL (Score:5, Informative)

    by brownblaket ( 865425 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @04:59PM (#11860449) Homepage
    Be very careful doing this. I read about this on a blog a couple of days ago and tried it with some of the tapes we have an the archive here at work (i work for a local news station on boston). Out of the 5 tapes I tried 3 broke, 1 worked and 1 kind of worked. This is a neat idea but it needs a little more thought before it should be tried with anything that really matters to you.
    • This article is about modifying the tape recorder, not the tapes. Surely you didn't break the DVHS pin off of the TV stations recorder, did you?
    • Re:BE CAREFUL (Score:5, Interesting)

      by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:19PM (#11860573)
      It sounds exactly like the thing we used to do to 720 floppies back in the days by drilling a hole in the corner. A majority of them worked well -- but some did not.

      But well, floppies back in the days used to be made with a decent quality margin over what was needed for their labelled format, and such "upgraded" old ones were a lot more trustworthy than the full-sized floppies you could buy a few years later.
    • it with some of the tapes we have an the archive here at work (i work for a local news station on boston). Out of the 5 tapes I tried 3 broke, 1 worked and 1 kind of worked.

      What do you mean by "broke"? How in the hell would removing a pin in a player BREAK a tape?

      I think you were reckless in the process of making a hole in the casing, and damaged the tape. Of course, this article explicitly tells you that making a hole in the tape doesn't really work, hence the modification of the player itself.

  • Good plan (Score:5, Funny)

    by DavidRawling ( 864446 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:01PM (#11860462)
    Ha! Now I've got you. Instead of purchasing $10 media validated to work in DVHS mode, I'll modify my $500 player! Let's ignore any fundamental quality, design or implementation differences while we're at it ...
    • Re:Good plan (Score:3, Informative)

      by bani ( 467531 )
      there arent any. there are even dvhs units which have the ability to record dvhs onto plain svhs tapes.
    • Sounds funny, but that's pretty much what I had done with my floppy drives back then: instead of punching all floppies one per one, I put some switches on the drives, problem solved :)
  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:03PM (#11860472)
    Just cut off the top four to five millimeters of the pin within the recorder itself.

    This makes lots of sense, just cut of a metal pin (in a video recorder that will not react well to any stray metal filings) rather than bypass the switch that the pin connects to.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      good point about bypassing the switch
      to bad you didn't RTFA and see it was a plastic pin
      still, good point about bypassing the switch.
      • I did read the article. I missed that it was a plastic pin. Do you believe that all decks will use a small plastic pin as a sensing pin, or do you think that some decks might end up using a metal pin for this function? Are small scraps of plastic a good thing to have inside an expensive video recorder? Personally, I would rather make a simple change that can be undone than one that cannot.
  • This is dumb... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dirkin ( 177494 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:07PM (#11860499)
    There is a reason for the two holes.. it's to tell the deck that there is a quality tape in there...

    When your crappy svhs tapes don't work and have dropouts when recording in DVHS mode... don't complain to the company.. you bought sh*tty tape!

    it was the same with floppies... I never trusted any floppy that some moron punched a hole in.

    This is not feature restriction, the manufacturer is not trying to screw you... They put an extra hole in the tape to tell the player that this tape will actually work with the deck properly!

    Cheers,
    -ben
    • Re:This is dumb... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This is not feature restriction, the manufacturer is not trying to screw you...

      I am not sure you understand Capitalism.
    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:29PM (#11860623)
      When your crappy svhs tapes don't work and have dropouts when recording in DVHS mode... don't complain to the company.. you bought sh*tty tape!

      it was the same with floppies... I never trusted any floppy that some moron punched a hole in.

      This is not feature restriction, the manufacturer is not trying to screw you... They put an extra hole in the tape to tell the player that this tape will actually work with the deck properly!
      Do you actually know the differences between SVHS and DVHS tape media? Do you know anything about SVHS tape at all even?

      I pose these questions because people are increasingly finding that for marketing purposes companies are rebranding and ever-so-slightly modifying things, like casings in this instance, so that they can create different price points while using materials with no particular difference.

      Smart people in this community have found out that they can change how their DVD drives work by reflashing the firmware, and some have figured out how to make their low-line burner drives work as the high-end product by similar means. I wouldn't be surprised if someone reflashed the firmware on a hard disk drive, low-level-formatted it, and found that the part was otherwise identical to the model with a quarter more capacity.

      There is every reason to assume that "tape is tape" in this instance would apply, and that for the sake of manufacturing ease they've gone to using the same media for both SVHS and DVHS, simply using a different package for the newer, "better" standard.
      • by PhotoGuy ( 189467 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @06:22PM (#11860902) Homepage
        I seem to remember a contact lense maker (who I shall refer to simply as B&L, since I'm 100% sure it was them, nor am I sure how to spell their name), who lost a class action suit for selling the exact same product as daily disposables, and extended wear lenses. Simply different branding, packaging, use, but the ability to charge drastically different pricing, was frowned upon and judged against by the courts.

        Would this not be a precedent against branding the same tapes with different qualities?

      • But it doesnt mean its a great idea. While the signal will take if you drill the first hole (or the SVHS hole) onto a regular VHS tape, the tape after repeated play will not hold the signal nearly as well as an SVHS tape of similar plays, and recorded on the same decks. Many SVHS decks, such as the commercial Panasonic VS4820 have a feature called SVHS-ET which will override the pin trick and just put the SVHS signal on VHS tape.

        I used to work for VMS, and we used the VS4820s almost exclusivly along with b
        • I have an SVHS deck with the "ET" mode, and I've never used it.

          Something to consider is that since the SVHS market is rather small, the videotape manufacturers might have switched to making all of the physical tape as DVHS tape, and just placed it into an SVHS cartridge. This would mean that SVHS and DVHS tapes now made are identical media. If that is so, then this method would definitely work.
      • It's an interesting theory, but it may very well be wrong...

        SVHS tapes have a higher coercitivity than regular tape, which means that it takes a stronger magnetic signal to write the information to the tape. It also means that on tapes with a low coercitivity, the signal can be too strong and will not record properly.

        This was the case for drilled or modified VHS tapes. Sure, they'd record, but you'd often get artifacts and degredation after time has passed. I have some drilled VHS tapes that looked per
        • I assume that higher coercitivity helps prevent SVHS tapes from experiencing the shelf life problems that regular VHS has in a given amount of time. What is really needed to confirm the DVHS/SVHS compatibility theory is for someone to analyse the media itself to see what differences really exist in the physical tape. If they are minor to nonexistent then it would be safe to assume that it'd work.
    • This reminds me of when people used a hole punch to make their 3.5" diskette format to 1.4MB (i.e. High Density) when it was really only built for something like 744KB. Hilarity and lost data ensued.
      • .. or when you had an IBM PS/1 or PS/2 machine which had a particular floppy/bios that would let you straight out format a 720K floppy at 1.44MB without any need to punch a hole in the disk.

        Oh, and it made sense, by the way, as long as you didn't carry anything vital in those "upgraded" disks. Buying a pack of HD diskettes still cost a bit at the time so most people (like me) reused the 720K ones at 1.44 capacity until they flipped out. And according to my experience, a pack of DD disks from a good brand w
      • with floppies, lost data ensued no matter if you punched holes in them or not...
    • Re:This is dumb... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bani ( 467531 )
      hah. then why does panasonic advertise the PV-HD1000 as being able to record DVHS to bog standard SVHS tapes?

      mods: +1 insightful? should be +1 funny instead...
    • it was the same with floppies... I never trusted any floppy that some moron punched a hole in.

      This is why I put a switch on my drive so I could switch between HD and DD. This was circa 1989 when local stores within walking distance simply did not sell HD discs. The only one who did wanted $40+ a 10 pack. It was true that the DD media was sub par to HD media at the time, it was good enough to exchange files. I think I may have used as many as 30 floppies in this way. Later on we believed that they use
    • Granted I didn't have critical data, it was always games and puzzles or school papers that had already been printed out- but I never had any problems with any... for years. The maunfacturers are trying to screw us, they are trying to maximize profit after all. The extra holes are generally help insure proper function -within certain parameters! It would be more useful to implement a more sophisticated mechanism for adjusting for tape quality- but that's not economically advantageous
  • I bought some Data-8 tapes from used computer store cheap and was able to use them as 8mm video tapes with no apparent quality difference. I would have tried using them as Hi-8 but I didn't have any devices capable of recording Hi-8. The idea was similar, there are little holes in the bottom of the tape. It appears 1 hole for 8, 2 for hi-8 and 3 for data. (I may be wrong, but that's what I could remember)
  • by geekboy642 ( 799087 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:11PM (#11860522) Journal
    A hacker in New York uploads new firmware to his 40GB harddrive, and all of the sudden, it's a 400GB!

    The quality of the media is what limits the tape, not a pin. A pin just tells the recorder what quality the media is, so it doesn't try to write more complicated data than the medium can store.
  • Who has a DVHS? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by voidstin ( 51561 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:18PM (#11860567)
    This is a great hack for all 17 people who have a DVHS recorder, have the time to do the hack, the willingness to modify their expensive gear, the money to replace it once it breaks, AND are too cheap to buy the recommended tape stock.
    • Re:Who has a DVHS? (Score:3, Informative)

      by bani ( 467531 )
      they're still the only consumer devices capable of recording full bandwidth HDTV in realtime to removable media.
    • I work at a TV newtwork. A couple of the other engineers/techs there have purchased a few of these for home usage. They wanted a cheap way of recording HDTV currently. When the HD-DVD recorders come out, they may buy one of them. But in the mean time, they are using one of these.

      I just saw them friday. The HD tapes video quality looks wonderful on an HD screen. "End of Days" looked great. Plus, you can record up to 35 hours of SD video to it (analog or digital SD) for those of us still on analog.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:19PM (#11860574)
    Upgrade your Betamax tapes to D-Betamax with a toothbrush!
  • Old Floppy Disks (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jpiggot ( 800494 )
    This reminds me of the old days of 3.5" floppy disks, when you'd cut a notch to make it double sided. Everyone would laugh and joke at how they'd stick it to the man, and then save their "Wizardry" games or word processing documents on disks that would eventually crap out on them.

    • by ViXX0r ( 188100 )
      All floppy disks eventually crap out, regardless of modifications. It was and is a poor medium in which to assume any amount of storage stability exists.
    • notching them doesnt make them die any faster.

      i've got 20 year old cheap-ass no-name-brand notched discs which still work fine. and "true double sided" from maxell, 3m and fuji which went bad in less than 3 days.
      • i've got 20 year old cheap-ass no-name-brand notched discs which still work fine. and "true double sided" from maxell, 3m and fuji which went bad in less than 3 days.

        Yeah; but when did you buy the Maxells, 3Ms and Fujis? If it was recently, then they're unlikely to have the same quality as the older ones (see this comment [slashdot.org]).

        BTW, are we discussing 3.5" or 5.25" disks?
        • the maxells, 3ms and fujis were not recent. something like 10-15 years ago.

          i remember buying packs of 100 no-name (random colored, no manufacturer label) and they would all work fine notched forever. also buying a 10-pack of "1337" "supar" "extreme quality" vendor-branded maxell/3m/fuji/etc around the same time and they would go bad within a few months of light use.

          and we are discussing 3.5" disks.

          i still have the old no-name colored notched disks. they still work fine. i ended up throwing most of the ma
    • Re:Old Floppy Disks (Score:2, Informative)

      by operagost ( 62405 )
      I think you have two different mods mixed up. As mentioned above, you could add a notch on a 3.5" 1MB floppy to make it HD 2MB (unformatted). The other mod was to add a second write-protect notch to a 5.25" double-sided floppy. This wasn't to increase its capacity, but so that its full capacity could be used in a single-sided drive like the Commodore 1541. Without the notch, if you flipped over the floppy the drive would think it was write protected. Why all floppies didn't just include this notch, I d
    • This reminds me of the old days of 3.5" floppy disks, when you'd cut a notch to make it double sided. Everyone would laugh and joke at how they'd stick it to the man, and then save their "Wizardry" games or word processing documents on disks that would eventually crap out on them.

      How would you be sticking it to the man? Those were 5.25 (not 3.5) inch disks and were sold as DD (double sided double density). Drives that didn't need to use the index hole could be nibbled and you could right to the other si
    • Re:Old Floppy Disks (Score:2, Interesting)

      by 3vi1 ( 544505 )
      I remember that too, except the crapping out part. Out of well over 1000 that I double-notched, I think I only ran across maybe four that had any sort of problems (and I think all with problems were evident at the time of format). All these floppies were the absolute bottom-dollar ones, bought in bulk.

      When the floppies were created, both sides went through the exact same manufacturing process. The only difference between the two sides is that the manufacturer tested one side successfully and never tried
  • by gearmonger ( 672422 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:33PM (#11860643)
    ...they are both lame, outdated technologies.

    Seriously, why bother with this when there are so many better, faster, more capable storage media available today?

    --
    One if by troll, two if by redundant...

    • er, dvhs has 1080i HDTV NOW, blue ray and hd-dvd are not here yet.
      • blue ray and hd-dvd are not here yet.

        No, but dirt-cheap hard drives are...

        There are also dual-layer DVD burners as well, and with a modern codec, you can fit a couple hours of HDTV on it...

        HD-Tivos are available... HDTV-PCI cards are available... HDTV recievers come with Firewire outputs... etc.

        I tried recording TV shows to VHS tapes, and I can tell you, it's infinitely more hassle than a fully-digital system, that allows you to instantly seek, erase, overwrite, rewind, etc.

        With VHS tapes, I usually

  • crazy simple hacks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fox_1 ( 128616 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:52PM (#11860758)
    I love it when simple hacks add value or allow us to do things we would normally have to pay for - and would make the designers sh*t bricks.
    IE:
    -using pencil to overclock processors
    -clipping the floppy to double capacity
    wiring a usb end to an xbox controller
    -that firmware upgrade to the camera (Canon?) that made it as good as the super expensive model

    I'm sure there are more cool hacks like that out there
    • that firmware upgrade to the camera (Canon?) that made it as good as the super expensive model

      It actually did no such thing. It activated a couple of modes which weren't normally available, but considerable differences remained between the two.
  • by unithom ( 544624 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @06:02PM (#11860804)
    I got tired of shuttling around on cassette tapes, way back when (either to listen to music or to load programs!); the CD and floppy were both improvements on these storage media, because they gave direct access to the information you wanted.

    Along the same lines, we hardly use the VCR anymore, we just record stuff on the computer; once we got a HDTV, we just got another tuner capable of pulling in HD over-the-air programming. Considered getting a hardware appliance like a T*Vo but balked at the idea of paying a monthly subscription fee for something we could get for free (e.g. a two-week listings / scheduling service like TitanTV.com and the devices/programs it supports.)

    So, given the choice between buying a DVHS recorder, a T*Vo, and a HTPC, I'll go with a HTPC. Disk space and burnable media are cheap enough (and take up less physical space to store.)

    The up-front cost of a HTPC setup vs. a DVHS recorder may indeed be higher, and the cost of media is still higher, but it seems pretty competitive right now. (My thinking is, say a buck per gig on a hard drive, typical 1-hour program is ~8 GB. DL discs (8.5 GB, $6-$10?) here compete with the price of DVHS tapes, but only store half as much as a tape right now. But costs of DL discs will fall quickly (remember how much 4.7 GB DVD-R media USED to cost?) and Blu-ray or DVD-HD will even this out quite a bit more, soon enough.

    More importantly -- what's your time and physical storage space worth? (I realize that a HTPC could end up being pretty large, and could also become quite the time-sink, but: in my case, I'm talking about a Mac mini and a ready-made eyeTV hardware/software package from ElGato.)

    The one downside to my argument is the 5C flag nonsense. I'd just as soon *not* support yet another copy protection scheme by paying for a DVHS player made by one of those five companies. But the tradeoff is, I have no way of saving anything that is 5C flagged, ie for 'copy once' use. Though there are software based 'virtual' DVHS apps for streaming transport streams over firewire, I haven't seen any 'cracks' for them that disable 5C (yet.)

  • Summary is Wrong (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 06, 2005 @06:18PM (#11860891)
    Uh, this isn't a way to "convert SVHS tapes to work in DVHS recorders." It's a way to convert your DVHS recorder to work with SVHS tapes.
  • by NitroWolf ( 72977 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @06:25PM (#11860931)
    I've been doing this for 7 years now on my JVC DVHS recorder. Never had a problem, and the tapes are readily available and cheaper.

    I wonder how this is news, though, since this technique has been around since DVHS first came out.

    • Have you tried playing tapes from 7 years ago? A few years ago, I went through a box of 1.44 floppies from when I was in high school looking for some old DOS progrmas I wrote. Most (but not all) of the "real" 1.44 HD floppies worked fine. None of the 720K punched and formatted to 1.44MB worked at all.

      Good thing nothing I did back then was that important.

      • I don't have any "archived" material on those tapes. I used them to record over regularly... so I don't know if they'd hold up sitting on a shelf for 7 years.

        The tapes do wear out of after a time, like any tape (DVHS or SVHS) so who knows. It's not like tapes are (or should be) archival quality anyway. Anything that has one material sliding over another is going to wear out and be useless in the long run anyway.

        DVR 4 l1f3, y0!
  • DAT and Tape (Score:2, Informative)

    by lxt ( 724570 )
    I'm pretty sure I read ages and ages ago when I was using DAT to record things, that you could do a similar trick with normal tape and a DAT recorder...
    • Re:DAT and Tape (Score:2, Insightful)

      by demon ( 1039 )
      That's a pretty interesting trick... seeing as DAT cartridges aren't even the same dimensions as a conventional audiocassette. Maybe you're thinking of DCC (Digital Compact Cassette), a competing digital-audio-on-cassette standard from some years back?
  • by bwooster0 ( 850274 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @07:19PM (#11861327)
    You don't need to modify the DVHS deck. When you put in an SVHS tape you can just press the "DVHS" button on the front of the JVC DVHS decks. Then it will treat the SVHS tape as a DVHS tape and let you record HD onto it. I have been done this onto more than 250 tapes. You DON'T have to modify the player and therefore you DON'T have to void your warranty.
  • What's wrong with drilling a hole in the SVHS tape? Why is this guy damaging expensive hardware instead of hacking the tape?

    And why the hell is he not using DVD-R for his digital video needs?
    • The clue that you,
      so badly need,
      is in TFA,
      you didn't read.

      The article does not answer the question "what should I use" the article tells you how to save on tapes if you have a DVHS machine.
    • And why the hell is he not using DVD-R for his digital video needs?
      Duh: Because S-VHS tape is the ultimate in digital video!
  • This is an old hack (Score:3, Informative)

    by DaveJay ( 133437 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:36AM (#11863563)
    Actually, a similar trick can be used (and has been used for a long time) to use standard VHS tape in SVHS recording mode on SVHS VCRs.

    The end result is a picture that's better than typical VHS, although whether or not you get the quality of a "real" SVHS tape depends solely on how good the quality of your VHS tape is.

    The hack, IIRC, involved drilling an extra hole in the video tape. Easy peasy.

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