I realise this maybe a stupid question. I have some stuff recorded on S-VHS from when I was at collage, unfortunately I only have a standard VHS VCR. Now the tapes play and are nearly watchable but the picture is slightly distorted. I wondered if there was any and hardware/software I could get that would convert this. Other than spending money on a S-VHS player of course.
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Have you considered that there might be a video shop in your town or one nearby that is capable of doing this for you? It might be cheaper than buying an S-VHS recorder.
Most transfer services charge at least $15US per tape, you should be able to find a suitable VCR for less.
I'm not sure what the situation is in England, but in USA we have thrift shops, pawn shops and local "Craigs List" web listings that offer used VCRs very inexpensively. If you have sources like these in your area, or can reach out to family/friends/acquaintances/coworkers, you should be able to find something affordable. eBay is a possibility as well.
If you don't need to reproduce these tapes with "full SVHS quality", you don't actually need a true SVHS vcr. In the waning years of the VCR, almost all brands offered something called the "Quasi SVHS" feature: many ordinary VCRs made from the late 1990s thru today will play an SVHS tape just fine, but at the lower resolution of standard VHS tape (not quite as sharp as a true SVHS vcr would play them, but good enough if the videos aren't priceless). Its almost certain someone you know has such a VCR you could borrow, ask everyone to look at the front panel and see if they have a "Quasi-SVHS" insignia somewhere on their VCR.
Note however this does not work with the oddball "SVHS-ET" tapes: these are a giant pain today because you can't identify them just by looking at the cassette. SVHS-ET was an ill-advised JVC feature allowing their SVHS vcrs to force SVHS signals onto ordinary non-SVHS tapes. These tapes will only play properly in a full SVHS vcr that has the ET feature. Playing them on a normal VCR, even one with "Quasi SVHS" compatibility, would result in picture distortions. There are workarounds that sometimes overcome this, such as removing the tape from its regular VHS shell and putting it into an SVHS shell, triggering the "Quasi SVHS" feature in the VCRs that have it. But compatibility varies, as SVHS-ET was kind of a kludge.
Last edited by orsetto; 6th Feb 2012 at 16:30.
I have a s-vhs with ET, I don't find any problems with it, it plays on several vcr's, even if they don't advertise QSVHS. In the worst case you get heavy black lines in some scenes.
The only different in the tape shell is an extra hole, that can easily be punched out (melt with soldering iron, drill, etc.)
The real s-vhs tape is better quality (like metal compared to normal cassettes), however several brands of normal VHS work quite well in s-vhs ET mode.
almost all brands offered something called the "Quasi SVHS" feature: many ordinary VCRs made from the late 1990s thru today will play an SVHS tape just fine, but at the lower resolution of standard VHS tape (not quite as sharp as a true SVHS vcr would play them, but good enough if the videos aren't priceless)
SVHS-ET was an ill-advised JVC feature allowing their SVHS vcrs to force SVHS signals onto ordinary non-SVHS tapes.
Playing them on a normal VCR, even one with "Quasi SVHS" compatibility, would result in picture distortions. There are workarounds that sometimes overcome this, such as removing the tape from its regular VHS shell and putting it into an SVHS shell, triggering the "Quasi SVHS" feature in the VCRs that have it.
I usually agree with orsetto, but I guess it was inevitable that we'd disagree someday.
The opinion I gave DJ Kris was based on the way the question was posted. I get the impression these tapes are not precious and DJ Kris *really* does not want to sink any money to speak of to get them digitized, just wants them watchably digitized. Where we may all disagree with each other, is where the line draws between "crappy" and "watchable."
I referenced $15 per tape as the minimum most hack shops will charge to do it, for results probably no better than DJ Kris is already getting. I can't see paying someone $50 to get worse results than you can get yourself for free, or a $20-50 investment in a compatible VCR. I totally agree with LS that a real pro service with skills will do a great job, but will charge $90+ for three tapes. If I placed high personal value on those tapes, I would happily pay a reputable service upwards of $100 to do the work for me (if I didn't already have suitable hardware). But for tapes I consider near-disposable, I wouldn't pay a dime.
Re SVHS-ET: I don't like it, never did like it, never will like it. I know many SVHS fans from way back do love it, because it provided a JVC-approved hack to use cheaper tapes in SVHS mode. I get that you guys love it and it works great for you, I really do. But please understand when I say SVHS-ET was "ill-advised and a PITA today," I'm not talking about you. I'm speaking for the poor family members and friends and forgetful unsophisticated original users who fifteen years later are sitting on or inherit these orphan SVHS-ET tapes that don't play for *&%# in anything but a true SVHS vcr, and are now faced with having to track one down that still works that they can afford. I hear this constantly in PMs and other threads/forums I follow. SVHS-ET might have been a cute hack for those slick enough to exploit it back then, and interested enough to still have the hardware today. For everyone else who ends up with random unlabeled SVHS-ET tapes and can't figure out why the hell they don't work right, SVHS-ET is a huge PITA.
I have no SVHS tapes left in my collection, I digitized them first when I started dubbing to digital, and used SVHS decks to do it, so I honestly did not remember them playing badly in Quasi-SVHS vcrs. I will take LS at his word on this, and retract my earlier advice that DJ Kris perhaps ask around and find a Quasi-SVHS vcr. Now that I think about it more closely, Quasi-SVHS has been a standard feature in regular old VCRs for so long now that DJ Kris probably *is* using a Quasi-SVHS vcr, and the crummy quality is inherent, just as LS said. If that is the case, there's nothing for it but to track down a true SVHS deck to play them in, perhaps drilling holes in the cassette shells if you can't find an "ET"-feature deck. In North America, you can swing a dead cat and knock over a half dozen cheap clean SVHS vcrs: in Europe I gather they are not so easy to find and not cheap when you do. You may need to pay a service, if so be sure the place seems to specialize (don't hand the tapes over to a drugstore). Good luck, DJ Kris, and sorry for any confusion I may have caused with my earlier suggestions.
Last edited by orsetto; 7th Feb 2012 at 15:19.
I bought a used Toshiba M-754 at a firesale price. Picture is great IMHO. But what greatly startled me is that when I play an SVHS tape in it, IT PLAYS! That is, it's not all snow and the picture is WAY more than barely discernable. Except for some what I'll can only think to call "streaking to the left", it's a very good picture! So good that I have suspected that it is a Quasi SVHS playback deck but is never stated either in the manual or on the unit. I am attaching a frame grab. Also, as the artifacting is much more visible when animated, I'll upload to Youtube. I have hunted everywhere to attempt to find out if this is secretly a Quasi-SVHS deck but to no avail. I've suggested that if this IS a Quasi machine, then maybe the hidden features of the remote control (learnable only by buying the tech manual) could be used to "adjust away" those artifacts you can see dimly in the still shot, but very blatantly in the live footage.
Could someone PLEASE help me know if this was secretly a Quasi-SVHS playback machine??
[Attachment 54016 - Click to enlarge]
Very unlikely. The black streaks is the sort of artifact you get when playing a SVHS tape on a deck that does not support it. If the video level was a bit low when recorded and/or there are few sharp transitions in the original video, it may be a bit less visible. The color signal remained the same on SVHS, so color will look mostly normal (though the distorted luma/brightness signal can mess with the color decoding on the recieving capture device/TV as well.) SQPB was mostly a feature in some late 90s/early 2000s VCRs, it's usually clearly advertised on the front and/or manual, e.g on this or this. One common use case was to be able to play back tapes recorded in SVHS camcorders.
Most VCRs (some late-model ones lack it) have fine adjustment of the filter on the RF signal coming off the tape, adjusting this can help reduce black streaks on normal VHS tape playback (typically called VHS Frequency Response in service manuals), but that won't magically let you play SVHS on decks that don't support it. On certain VCRs SQPB/SVHS playback has to be turned on manually as well.
In any case, if you have SVHS recordings you value, you really want to play them on a proper SVHS VCR, SQPB playback has drastically reduced quality.
Thanks SO much, Oln! I think I AM going to buy the tech manual. Assuming you are correct (that this is not SQPB aka Quasi-SVHS playback), then do you think there may be adjustments that the tech manual will allow me to do that could (1) "improve the streaking (fine adjustment of the filter on the RF signal coming off the tape" whether for VHS or for SVHS? (This tape is SVHS. I have not seen the streaking on VHS tapes.) Or even ANY adjustable features of the deck that would give improvement in any way?
I am hoping that at least one way the tech manual will help is in understanding the settings that are NOT clear in the regular user manual.
The mystery is why the SVHS pic looks SO GOOD (except for the black artifacts). At times in the past when I saw SVHS on VHS hardware, it was either all snow or still a very strong snowy blizzard with only part of the image visible (generally near the top as I recall). THIS SVHS on VHS looks tons better, as you can see the image is very clear throughout. How could that be when all the other VHS decks I've seen are 3/4 to 4/4 snow? It has looked sharper than a full SVHS deck I've had where the PB from it (same SVHS content) has very bad high frequency rolloff. (Fully stable pic but very dull edges and detail.) The SVHS tape here looks tons sharper than the clean pic on the SVHS deck (which is a JVC SRV101US).
So I'm hoping the investment in the tech manual will enable some improvements to an already good VHS picture. I admit my perception may be colored by that JVC deck, which IS in the shop now. (I'm thankful I finally found a tech in town who can still do VCRs!)
Well, the tech manual appears to have no reference to the remote control having hidden features for use by technicians. Maybe the tech friend years ago who suggested that possibility was thinking of later models.
Last edited by TCmullet; 2nd Jul 2020 at 23:32.
If you live in the US getting a S-VHS deck should not be that expensive, I see them on thrift stores, online local ads and ebay all the time. The hardest part is finding one that works.
You're not really going to improve SVHS playback on the Toshiba by making adjustments (also it will mess up normal VHS playback.), those adjustments is just for fine-tuning VHS playback, but it's very rarely something one needs to mess with. If you think the JVC looks too soft, maybe look for a panasonic SVHS deck instead, though any SVHS deck should give noticeably sharper playback than playing it in a normal VHS deck, even one with SQPB. Using EDIT mode on the JVCs usually helps as well though, JVCs can be a bit soft by default. The sharper look on the toshiba may just be due to the brightest parts of the image being clipped and blown out. For normal VHS tapes the toshiba may be a nice alternative though.
The Toshiba M754 does NOT officially support SQPB: there is no indication of SVHS playback compatibility on the unit itself, and SVHS is not mentioned at all in the user manual (oddly, not even a typical warning of "do not try to play SVHS tapes in this VHS vcr").
Toshibas are rare-ish birds in many countries: between their limited chain store distribution and failure-prone designs, few have survived intact thru 2020. They have quite a cult following, esp the more advanced premium models that competed with similar JVCs and Panasonics that had "true" TBC/DNR. The Toshibas were very odd in some ways, difficult to compare directly to other brands in the same model/price range. Few to none had a TBC feature in the traditional sense, but some models had a form of advanced DNR that could also correct some issues that ordinarily require a "TBC" in a JVC or Panasonic.
Unfortunately Toshiba adopted an annoying "baffle them with BS" marketing/specification tactic that makes it difficult to decipher exactly what features truly exist in what form in any particular model. They abused the "head count game" to a degree no other mfr dared: i.e., some speculate several models counted flying erase heads and/or HiFi audio as 2 or 4 of the 6 to 9 claimed heads, meaning its often just a standard four video head configuration with a selectable-playback-head gimmick (plus a bonus slo-mo head on the top "9-head" units). Toshiba doesn't clearly say, and they weren't popular enough to accumulate the usual web forum owner-verified data trail. So making practical sense of how many video heads a specific Toshiba actually has, and what function they actually serve, can be futile.
But if you leave the featuritis nonsense aside, some of the Toshibas offer very nice playback indeed if you find one in good working condition (or can get it repaired properly). Your M754 was a midrange VHS model with better playback performance than similar decks from other brands of its era. Some of this is the result of more attention paid to the circuit engineering, some due to the user-selectable playback head configuration. Like all VCRs, much depends on the tapes you're trying to play: if they're simpatico with the M754, you'll be impressed by the performance, if not, it'll perform like any other VCR. As to why it seems to get partway towards passable SQPB performance with your SVHS tapes, I haven't a clue. Possibly it includes an undocumented SQPB circuit: that was in fact a feature of higher-numbered models in this VCR series, and Toshiba may have differentiated some upmarket features based solely on whether they acknowledged their existence with a silkscreen on the front panel (or not). Given their small market share, it would make mfrg sense to keep the same basic circuit boards for several models in a series.
Last edited by orsetto; 4th Jul 2020 at 12:21.