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  1. Member
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    My VHS VCR plays SP mode tapes fine, but when I play an LP or EP mode tape, there is static in my way and I can see what's on the tape a little bit but not much. I tried cleaning my video heads and adjusting the tracking but it didn't do anything. I need help.
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    Sounds like your VCR is reading the video info from an adjacent track. Get a 4 or 6 head VCR with the extra heads designed for playback of LP and EP recordings, ideally one from lordsmurf's recommended VCR buying guide: http://www.digitalfaq.com/forum/video-restore/1567-vcr-buying-guide.html.

    Note that some professional machines play SP only.

    Edit: Be sure that the extra heads are for LP/EP playback. Check the specs before buying. The manufacturer could be counting the extra heads used for VHS Hi-Fi, trick play or flying erase.
    Last edited by lingyi; 11th Dec 2019 at 10:54.
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  3. Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
    Sounds like your VCR is reading the video info from an adjacent track. Get a 4 or 6 head VCR with the extra heads designed for playback of LP and EP recordings, ideally one from lordsmurf's recommended VCR buying guide: http://www.digitalfaq.com/forum/video-restore/1567-vcr-buying-guide.html.

    Note that some professional machines play SP only.

    Edit: Be sure that the extra heads are for LP/EP playback. Check the specs before buying. The manufacturer could be counting the extra heads used for VHS Hi-Fi, trick play or flying erase.
    It's been a long time since I looked into this, but my fuzzy memory says that the extra heads were there to provide a better picture in EP and LP modes, not during normal playback, but during slow play, fast forward, and freeze frame (they didn't have frame buffers in early VCRs).

    I could be wrong about that.

    Bad playback in slower modes can sometimes be cured by using the manual tracking control.
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    I'm a little fuzzy on the exact details myself, being a former Betaphile, but I believe the sequence of events was this:
    • The first RCA machine had 4 heads, two for SP, two for LP
    • LP track width is 24.5 microns and EP is 19 microns. This is combined with the 1/2 and 1/3 speed slowdown.
    • When JVC first introduced EP, it was a 4 head machine, not being able to play LP, which they never officially recognized as a recording format, though they did allow playback
    • 6 head machines either for optimized playback/recording or the two extra heads used for special effects or counting the two extra heads required for VHS Hi-FI
    • With the addition of a flying erase head or heads, 8,9 and I think 10 head machines appeared mainly for marketing hype
      This thread discusses the Sharp 8 head VCR: https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/383021-Sharp-8-Head-VCR

    Bottom line is the only way to be sure what the extra heads are for is to check the specs.
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  5. Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
    I'm a little fuzzy on the exact details myself, being a former Betaphile, but I believe the sequence of events was this:
    • The first RCA machine had 4 heads, two for SP, two for LP
    • LP track width is 24.5 microns and EP is 19 microns. This is combined with the 1/2 and 1/3 speed slowdown.
    • When JVC first introduced EP, it was a 4 head machine, not being able to play LP, which they never officially recognized as a recording format, though they did allow playback
    • 6 head machines either for optimized playback/recording or the two extra heads used for special effects or counting the two extra heads required for VHS Hi-FI
    • With the addition of a flying erase head or heads, 8,9 and I think 10 head machines appeared mainly for marketing hype
      This thread discusses the Sharp 8 head VCR: https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/383021-Sharp-8-Head-VCR

    Bottom line is the only way to be sure what the extra heads are for is to check the specs.
    Sounds like you are right. From the Wikipedia article:
    "The original VHS specification had only two video heads. Later models implemented at least one more pair of heads, which were used at (and optimized for) the EP tape speed. In machines supporting VHS HiFi (described later), yet another pair of heads was added to handle the VHS HiFi signal."
    However, in researching to provide that answer, I did find a LOT of sites which stated the same thing I did above, namely that the extra heads give better fast- and slow-motion playback. I suspect that both ideas may be true and that the main reason for four heads is to provide better playback of LP material, and that as a side-benefit, these heads (which have the gap and tilt optimized for the slower speed) also give you better quality special effects.
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    As I recall what you've stated is correct, though on some low end models the effects were only for EP recorded tapes and rarely available on LP tapes which became the bastard child of VHS. Especially on VCRs without a pair of heads optimized for it, EP quality could actually be better than LP.
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  7. I always get confused by the SP, EP, LP nomenclature, but I think the real bastard child was the 4-hour speed. I don't think it was ever used for commercial releases. It only existed for a few months, as a way to extend the 2-hour SP mode, before the LP (6-hour speed) started showing up. When I transfer VHS tapes, I seldom encounter it, and when I do, it often plays worse than the LP tapes, probably because none of my VCRs are optimized for it.
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    It's SP (2 hour - Standard Play), LP (4 hour - Long Play), SLP/EP (6 hour - Super Long Play/Extended Play).

    From Wikipedia: "The United States received its first VHS-based VCR the RCA VBT200 on August 23, 1977.[24] The RCA unit was designed by Matsushita, and was the first VHS-based VCR manufactured by a company other than JVC. It was also capable of recording four hours in LP (long play)."

    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VHS

    This VCR had four heads, with the extra pair required for LP. Later machines allowed LP recording with the wider width SP heads. The LP mode wasn't sanctioned by VHS developer JVC and to my knowledge no JVC machine could record in LP, though they allowed playback. Reportedly, RCA asked Matsushita for the extended play mode to record the Super Bowl (from Fast Forward: Hollywood, the Japanese, and the Onslaught of the Vcr ) which I read, but may not have anymore.

    JVC later introduced SLP (later EP) in 1978? according to this post from the tapeheads.net forum: http://www.tapeheads.net/archive/index.php/t-44541.html

    Edit: Prerecorded LP tapes are extremely rare with SLP/EP mode used primarily for cheap compilations of low budget/public domain movies and cartoons.

    "nitroengine
    11-05-2015, 04:42 PM

    I have 1978 down in my notes for when EP/SLP was released but actually searching for the model seems to come up with JVC's Vidstar HR-6700U that was introduced in June of 1979. It looks like Sharp's VC-6800 came out at about that same time.

    I'll try to locate some sources for the info in my notes.

    What I have down is that JVC created EP mode in response to Panasonic's LP mode (which was an unapproved modification to JVC's VHS specs) and to compete with Sony's Betamax BIII. First VCR with EP mode was released in 1978 with a 4 head drum. SLP was Panasonic's name for EP mode. EP mode runs at a speed of 0.437ips (1/3 the speed of SP) -- 6 hours of recording time on a T-120, 4 hours 18 minutes of recording time on an E-120 cassette."

    This is an interesting post from the same thread:

    "braxus
    11-05-2015, 07:46 PM

    Panasonic was well known for going their own way when it came to VHS standards. They stayed from JVC's specs often. When JVC introduced EP mode, they set the standard for heads at that speed to 19 micron. But when Panasonic copied JVC's speed and called it SLP, they did not use the 19 micron head, but a larger spec head instead. This often caused some incompatibility between the two brands of decks. 19 micron heads were around for a long time. JVC just tooted it in the 90s to make it sound like their EP performance had improved.

    That said Panasonic ended up making the better decks between the two brands through out VHS's history."

    Hopefully lordsmurf will jump in to give more accurate info, but AFAIK, JVC made few if any rebadged VCRs and didn't allow LP mode recording in any VCR directly licensed through them. Which is why LP mode reportedly wasn't popular in Europe. On the other hand, Matsushita rebadged VCRs (significantly RCA and Quasar, household names) made up the majority of the U.S. market, including those under their Panasonic brand and many did have LP mode recording capability.

    As a professional or quality conscious consumer, I'm guessing you worked with JVC or Panasonic VCRs and that's why you rarely encountered LP. As a Betaphile, I owned only two VHS machines, a mid range JVC and a Panasonic. I played with recording at all three speeds on the Panasonic and found the LP mode severely lacking. Other than those test recordings, I used them only for playback, preferring my Betamax(s) for recording, especially when SuperBeta (no requiring special tapes) was introduced.

    Edit: Prerecorded LP tapes are extremely rare, probably only found on low budget/public domain releases multi-movie/cartoon releases, the majority of which are recorded at SLP/EP.
    Last edited by lingyi; 12th Dec 2019 at 10:18.
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  9. Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
    It's SP (2 hour - Standard Play), LP (4 hour - Long Play), SLP/EP (6 hour - Super Long Play/Extended Play).
    Like I said in my post, I've always gotten confused about LP vs. EP. The SLP/EP thing just made it worse for me.

    Thanks for the excellent history lesson.
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    What's really funny is that I only know about VHS history because of my love of Beta!
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    Just realized, the post about SLP/EP developed to compete with Beta III is incorrect. Beta III was introduced in 1980 with the release of the SL-5400 which had Beta II and Beta III, but no Beta I recording or playback. The higher end models, SL-5600 and SL-5800 were introduced later that year and L-750 (3 hours @ BII, 4.5 hours @ BIII) tapes were available at the same time. The SL-5800 (which I owned) already allowed clear special effects such as freeze frame and slow motion, forward and back at both BII and BIII.

    Sony later introduced the L-830, 5 hours at Beta III, but because of the thinner tape required, it was extremely prone to jamming.
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  12. Originally Posted by Etcetera View Post
    My VHS VCR plays SP mode tapes fine, but when I play an LP or EP mode tape, there is static in my way and I can see what's on the tape a little bit but not much. I tried cleaning my video heads and adjusting the tracking but it didn't do anything. I need help.
    Getting back to this original question...

    You probably need to try another VCR, Etcetera. LP and EP recordings vary much MUCH more than SP: often they only really play well on the VCR that originally made them, and even then there's no guarantee. "Extended recording" was a crappy feature that never really worked all that great. Years later, most people have gone thru several VCRs, so end up with playback problems on slower-speed tapes that were made on long-gone decks. It is very helpful to have two or three brands of VCR available for playing slow-speed tapes: one will always be better than the other two for any given tape.

    Fortunately, good basic second hand VCRs are dirt cheap today. With LP and SLP/EP, the key playback factor is the VCR having compatible tracking specs and transport mechanics. This is far more important for EP/LP than fancier features like TBC/DNR, stabilizer, and so on: if the tape isn't tracking properly and is shot thru with static lines, those video enhancement features will be useless anyway. When I said "three brands", they really need to be separate brands (and not the same brand under three different badges). JVC and Mitsubishi are always distinct from other brands, so that is two options right there. Sharp is usually distinct as well. And of course Panasonic, which operated under a dozen or more brand names (Quasar, Magnavox, Curtis Mathes, Canon, etc). Each will have a different "flavor" of tracking, which will be more (or less) compatible with any particular EP/LP tape.

    The best units for playing stubborn LP and EP tapes are older pre-1990 2-head VCRs under the Panasonic, Magnavox or Quasar names. These can be hard to find, because they went out of fashion in the late 1980s when 4-head VCRs became much less expensive than they were previously (and completely took over the market). Next best would be four head VCRs from the same three brands, along with Sharp and Mitsubishi. As example, the relatively recent (circa 1998-2001) Mitsubishi HS-U440 and 441 have greater-than-average tracking range which makes them good LP/EP players.

    Note some 4-hr and 6-hr tapes are almost impossible to play back cleanly with any VCR. Often, the original VCR that made them had drifted way off spec to the point no other VCR can match them (unless deliberately tampered with by a professional). Also, it can be incredibly difficult to get perfect simultaneous playback tracking of both the video and HiFi audio: generally you'll need to prioritize one or the other (the backup monophonic linear audio can be a lifesaver in such cases).

    Re the endless variety and quantity of VCR head counts over the years: it doesn't hugely impact the ability of any particular model to play stubborn LP or EP tapes today. The Gorgon-esque models with countless extra heads garnered way more publicity than they did sales: 90% of the VHS decks that still survive today are bog-standard 6-head units (2 SP video heads, 2 LP/EP video heads, 2 HiFi audio heads). A small subgroup of higher-end models had one or two more "flying erase" heads for editing (not used in playback). A very very small subgroup of those added two or three more heads for noiseless speed-search or slow motion (again, of no use for standard LP/EP playback).

    The curious thing about the 7, 8, 9 head VHS decks is that most came out AFTER they were actually needed: Matsushita (Panasonic) had solved most speed search and slo-mo issues when they invented the "combo-4-head" design. A slightly smaller than optimum head for SP was placed immediately next to a slightly larger than necessary EP/LP head, creating a "combo" head (whichever pair was not used for recording at one speed added extra playback coverage at trick speeds). For all practical purposes, this negated any real need for extra "trick" heads, and most brands adopted this design. The "carnival-of-endless-heads" was primarily a feature Toshiba promoted to distinguish itself from the pack, and RCA briefly toyed with the concept when it dumped Panasonic for Hitachi as its OEM.

    JVC went its own way, which is why JVC is notorious as probably the worst choice for playing slow speed tapes (despite inventing EP/6-hr speed, JVC hated having to offer it in rebuttal to LP, and always resented RCA and Panasonic for corrupting their original SP-only standard). In North America, JVC did almost no rebranding OEM business aside from making Zenith's first VHS models. They also briefly made VHS HiFi units for TEAC, Sansui and other audio component mfrs who hoped (in vain) to crash the VCR party. Weirdly, the last re-badge JVC ever did was to make a mediocre midrange model for Panasonic to sell in the school/university market. Previously, Panasonic had sold their own unchanging successful "schools" model for several years- perhaps the fabrication machinery wore out and Panasonic didn't feel it was worth replacing (the category was dropped altogether a year after the JVC re-badge version).

    Multiple heads are comparatively rarer in Beta format, chiefly because Beta doesn't require additional heads for HiFi (which Beta multiplexes into the video signal, vs VHS embedding it magnetically "deeper" in the tape). A small handful of early Beta decks had one extra "trick play" head for smoother search and slo-mo (the first being Sony's flagship SL-5800, followed by Sony and Zenith slimline front-load models). Later Toshiba added two heads ("trick play" and flying erase) to its first premium V-S36 Beta HiFi (lovely unit that was in 1983: nicest Beta ever to grace my shelf after the SL-5800). And as Sony's own Betamax line became ever more niche in the 90s, their higher-end SuperBeta units added more heads.
    Last edited by orsetto; 12th Dec 2019 at 19:12.
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    Originally Posted by johnmeyer View Post
    my fuzzy memory says that the extra heads were there to provide a better picture in EP and LP modes, .
    The "6-head" VCRs claimed this, but it was marketing (mostly by Toshiba). I was snookered by this myself, until learning more about how VCRs works, many years ago.

    4 is better than 2, but that's really about it.

    The main jump in quality came by upgrading to a wholly better deck, such as JVC/Panasonic S-VHS VCRs.

    Originally Posted by johnmeyer View Post
    I always get confused by the SP, EP, LP nomenclature,
    I can see why.

    At first, it was SP (T120 = 2 hours), LP (doubled to 4), and SLP (tripled to 6).
    SP = standard play
    LP = long play
    SLP = slow play

    Then, one day, SLP was suddenly referred to as EP.
    EP = extended play

    EDIT: I see lingyi already got some of the from Wikipedia; mine came from memory.

    Originally Posted by Etcetera View Post
    My VHS VCR plays SP mode tapes fine, but when I play an LP or EP mode tape, there is static in my way and I can see what's on the tape a little bit but not much.
    It's likely a simple case of needing a better VCR.
    You may "think" you have a "good VCR", but it rarely is if it's not listed here: http://www.digitalFAQ.com/forum/video-restore/1567-vcr-buying-guide.html

    I tried cleaning my video heads and adjusting the tracking but it didn't do anything. I need help.
    <Sigh> That almost never helps. And worse yet, cleaning it wrong can damage the deck more.
    So ... what did you do to "clean" it?
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    We're straying off-topic from the OP's original question, but this is fun, especially now the blue guy is here!

    Going off my memory, IIRC JVC always referred to the 6 hour mode as EP (Extended Play) as they didn't recognize LP. It was Matsushita/Panasonic that coined SLP (Super Long Play) since they developed LP (Long Play).

    The details of the LP/EP/SLP battle between JVC and Matsushita is discussed in Fast Forward: Hollywood, the Japanese, and the Onslaught of the Vcr. A really good read about what happened back then. I think Sony's Akio Morita's Made In Japan discusses it too. Sadly, I either don't have the books anymore or they're buried away somewhere that I don't feel like digging out right now.
    Last edited by lingyi; 12th Dec 2019 at 22:35.
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