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A question about early VHS home video releases

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#1 of 12 OFFLINE   Michael Rogers

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Posted June 17 2007 - 03:29 PM

I've been checking out some really early VHS home videos. The 20'th Century Fox ones from Magnetic Video, Warner Bros, etc. Including titles that seemed to have dropped off the home video radar like "Visit To A Small Planet" and "The African Queen" These videos were released late 70's, early 80's. Most of them play fine, but some exhibit a slow picture roll. When fast forward picture search is engaged, the picture is in it's proper place. When it's in normal playback, the picture starts to creep upward, exposing the vertical blanking bar and the picture undernieth the moviement continues in normal playback. Is this a result of tape aging or some sort of early copy protection attempt. I bet those that have been into home video from the beggining might have an answer. Is there a way to fix it?

#2 of 12 OFFLINE   walter o

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Posted June 17 2007 - 06:18 PM

Sounds like the early copy protection that was used mostly with Magnetic videos (they dropped this when they became CBS/Fox), early Warner (when they had the big black book style box), VidAmerica, Fotomat and the very rare Allied Artist tapes. Bascially it screwed up your vertical hold signal, so it made the images flip when you try to copy it. edited to add: It was pretty much dropped around 1981 when it was revealed it was kind of easy to defeat. Also in modern VCR's, especially Allied Artist and VidAmerica will not play these tapes, as there is no manual tracking in the VCR's (something to do with the automatic gain control).

#3 of 12 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted June 17 2007 - 09:56 PM

Yeah, I agree with Walter on the copy protection. WoW! Those tapes bring back memories. I remember Magnetic Video very well. In fact, most of those tapes were originally introduced through the Columbia House Video Club.


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#4 of 12 OFFLINE   Chuck Pennington

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Posted June 18 2007 - 06:33 AM

Disney used this copy protection as well. I remember there being a weird jagged line that scrolled through the image on the VHS copy I made when I was in grade school from the rental cassette. I also had to adjust the vertical hold on my old TV to view it - lol

#5 of 12 OFFLINE   William Miller

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Posted June 18 2007 - 11:26 AM

The first prerecorded tapes were released in the Fall of 1977 from Magnetic Video under license from 20th Century-Fox. The price was a very steep $49.95 each. What does that correspond to in today's dollars? A lot of the first releases were in Cinemascope and needless to say, they were not letterboxed. And they were in mono, of course. And they were very grainy and faded. And the tapes were loaded with dropouts. And they were hard to track. And the packaging was very skimpy. But just the idea that you could start collecting movies was very exciting. Also among the first prerecorded releases were RKO titles issued by Nostalgia Merchant and by Allied Artists in their last months as a company. Most of the AA titles have never been issued again on home video some 30 years later. As someone who bought a Betamax in September, 1977 for $1,099, I can also tell the younger crowd that blank tapes started out at $15.95 for Beta and $24.95 for VHS and they were in short supply and were also loaded with dropouts and streaks. The DVD collectors of today who did not experience the early video tape days do not realize how wonderful the state of home video is now.

#6 of 12 OFFLINE   Joe Lugoff

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Posted June 18 2007 - 12:46 PM

Here's an inflation calculator:


According to that, $49.95 in 1977 equals $170.89 now.

#7 of 12 OFFLINE   John Kilduff

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Posted June 18 2007 - 01:14 PM

I'm still buying VHS tapes to this day, but the ones I buy are of rare titles that may never make it to DVD. I don't know what the chances are of movies like the 80s thriller "Lies" or miscellaneous videos like the "Solid Gold" work-out tape coming to DVD, so I'm buying them now. In time, these titles may fade away into non-existence, so someone has to keep the retro flame burning, and who better than yours' truly to make sure it keeps lit? Sincerely, John Kilduff... As a matter of fact, my mom will be driving me to a local mom-and-pop video store this week. I'm on a mission to get some 80s titles, and hopefully get them cheap.
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#8 of 12 OFFLINE   Michael Rogers

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Posted June 18 2007 - 03:22 PM

I was a kid who loved movies and some TV shows in the 1970's and early 80's and when I heard there were machines that recorded TV, I really wanted one. Of course, my parents priorities were elsewhere and we didn't get a VCR until about 1988, when it was more of a normal household item. Before then, I did manage to get the poor kid's movie delivery machine, The RCA Selectavision CED videodisc player. It didn't record, but at least I could buy and rent movies. The mom and pop video store did have CED discs to rent. But it was painfully obvious who much more was available on Beta and VHS. So I guess that's why even though I welcome and embrace the advancing and sophisticated state of home video, I have a romance with retro video and enjoy looking at these ancient relics. So, I rent them from that same mom and pop video place that has a video inventory going all the way back to Magnetic video. I get a kick out of comapring the Magnetic video Planet Of The Apes with the latest DVD just to see what people that had the same passion I did (but were older and richer) got for being early adopters. Also, the Magnetic Video version of, say, POTA, reminds me of how it looked when I would catch it on the afternoon movie. Looking at these tapes that was probabaly recorded in 1978 or 79, it is amazing that they did hold up okay. I don't notice many drop out problems. I bet they are there but modern VCR's have better drop out hiding circuitry. Anyway, it's true, there is a whole generation that doesn't comprehend that there was a time before the average person could go out and buy a copy of a movie.

#9 of 12 OFFLINE   Stephen_J_H


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Posted June 18 2007 - 03:33 PM

Yep, Copyguard (which was the name for the early technology) was not very reliable and caused more problems than it solved. Early Macrovision suffered from the same problems and was reasonably easily defeated until Macrovision went and bought all the patents for Macrovision-defeating technology. My family didn't have a VCR until 1985, but I very clearly remember the problems with Magnetic Video titles. Man, this takes me back!
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#10 of 12 OFFLINE   walter o

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Posted June 18 2007 - 05:25 PM

But then Magnetic raised their price to $59.98 around 1979, when they released a batch of Avco Embassy, Brut, and concert videos, like you said about the Allied Artist tapes, was never issed again on video. The reason they looked awful were I was under the impression they were using 16mm prints, thus why sometimes TV prints were used (CC & COMPANY, for example). I always had tracking issues with Allied Artist tapes more. As for drop outs, if you have a magnetic Video tape with the light brown flap, those lasted longer, less prone to drop outs, and in fact still plays (over many blank tapes I purchased in the last five years!) Since blank tapes wewre expensive, I never kept alot of old programs I time taped, and of course, looking back at it, how many rare programming I erased due to the cost of a blank tape!

#11 of 12 OFFLINE   MielR


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Posted June 18 2007 - 07:31 PM

My first copy of Star Wars was $80.00! This was about 1984 or so. It had a brown flap, as did my copy of The Muppet Movie (the first 2 VHS tapes I ever owned). The 3rd tape I ever bought was Raiders of the Lost Ark for a mere $40.00. Posted Image My first VCR was a top-loading RCA, which I still prefer over the front-loaders (I liked that you could actually tell how much tape you had left during a recording). I don't remember exactly how much it cost (a few hundred dollars, at least), but I begged my Mom to get it for me for Christmas. It had a WIRED remote, which people were always tripping over (!)

I remember having to adjust the tracking of all of my tapes, but it was never that much of a hassle. I guess the worst type of copy-protection was gone by then.

Pretty much all of my old VHS tapes (pre-recorded and home-recorded) still play fine. Unfortunately, I'm already starting to have problems with some recently-recorded DVD-Rs.


#12 of 12 OFFLINE   Steve Schaffer

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Posted June 19 2007 - 07:35 AM

That RCA SelectaVision top loader with the wired pause button was also my first VCR, purchased spring of 1980 for $750. It survived for another 6 years until one of my stepkids tried to load a tape upside down. I do remember having to twiddle the tracking knob occasionally when loading a new tape but once I got it dialed in the movie played thru just fine, and having to save up for a week to get a blank tape at $19.95. Shortly after getting it I also got cable tv for the first time and used to record lots of movies (first was Raging Bull) from HBO--a $20 blank tape was a lot cheaper than the average $119 price of a pre-recorded movie in 1980. I remember the first time I rented a movie for it, shortly after buying the vcr. In early 1980 in Fresno there were no video rental stores at all, one could purchase the few pre-recorded movies at outrageous prices from a few record stores but the primary purpose of the machines was perceived as being time-shifting of network tv shows. One day I was in the store where I'd bought the vcr and in one small corner a guy had set up a booth. He'd come up with the brilliant idea of purchasing a few pre-recorded movies and renting them out to folks who were purchasing the new-fangled machines at the store. Within 6 months he'd moved to a tiny storefront and within another couple of years owned a regional chain of video rental stores. He sold out to Hollywood Video sometime in the 90s and retired a millionnaire. His was one of the few rental stores that also carried laserdiscs, and I soon noticed that many times when all the tape copies of a new release were rented out the LD would still be in stock, which prompted me to buy my first LaserDisc player. I'd often copy a rented laserdisc to VHS if I really liked the movie (blank tape was down to about $5 by then) so I could watch it any time I wanted to--only Tower Records sold the discs and at $50 or so each they were too rich for my blood except for a very few titles.
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