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The best way to copy a videotape

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

The best way to copy a videotape

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1990, The Syracuse Newspapers

What's the best way to copy a videotape?

Readers have been asking that question, in one form or another, for years.

It's time to share the answer with everyone.

Copying from one video recorder to another is easy. But, believe it or not, the best way of doing it may not be obvious.

Let's start with the basics. You don't need to have two VCRs to make a copy. You can use one VCR and one camcorder, or one VCR and one VCP (videocassette player).

The two machines don't have to use the same format. That means you can play an 8mm tape on your camcorder and make a copy on your VHS recorder, for example.

If you are using two VCRs, the next thing to do is to decide which one should be the playing machine and which should do the recording. Experts give conflicting advice on this: Some say the better VCR should play the original tape, and others say the better one should make the copy.

But I say you should ignore that kind of advice. Instead, find out for yourself which way works better. Make some test copies (using the method below) with your VCRs hooked up both ways-copying from the first one to the second one and then the other way around. Play the tapes you made back on both VCRs.

When you've decided which combination works best, put a piece of masking tape on the back of each VCR and use it to label each one. Write "master" on the back of the VCR that works best as the playing machine and "slave" on the one that works best as the recording machine.

(Or if that's too spicy, write "play" and "record" instead.)

Now to the good stuff. When you hook one VCR (or camcorder) up to another one, you should use the direct connections. They have round metal bands around them with a small opening in the center. They are the same type as the connectors on the back of a cassette deck or hi-fi receiver, so if you're not sure what I am talking about, look at a cassette deck or receiver.

These connectors are called "RCA" jacks or "phono" jacks. Two of them will be marked "video" and will be labeled "in" and "out" or "video in" and "video out." (Sometimes the "in" connector is called "record" and the "out" connector is called "play.")

Plug an RCA-type cable into the "video out" jack of the playing VCR. Plug the other end of this cable into the "video in" jack of the recording VCR.

Then find the audio RCA-type jacks. If you have standard, monaural VCRs, you'll have one pair of audio jacks. They'll be marked "audio in" and "audio out." (As with the video connections, sometimes "in" is called "record" and "out" is called "play."

If you have stereo VCRs, you have "left" and "right" jacks for the input and the output. (Note, however, that often these jacks are simply color-coded instead of labeled; red always means right, and the other color- whatever it is-always means left.)

Plug an RCA-type cable into the "audio out" jack of the playing VCR. The other end of that cable must be plugged into the "audio in" jack of the recording VCR. Plug in left and right cables if you have stereo VCRs.

You may have a problem if only one of your VCRs has stereo sound. In that case, use a Y-connector to combine the left and right cables of the stereo VCR into a single cable. You can buy Y-connectors or any of the other cables mentioned here at any Radio Shack store.

It's also possible that one of your VCRs may not have the RCA-type connections. Some old VCRs didn't have them. If that's the case, you'll have to run a video cable (of the same type used for cable TV) from one VCR to the other. Plug the cable into the screw-in connectors on the back of the VCR, using the "out" jack of the playing VCR and the "in" jack of the recording VCR.

Now you're ready to record. Make sure you adjust the tracking control of the playing VCR, and be sure to set the proper audio level if you have a VHS Hi-Fi deck as the recording VCR.

Use good tape in the recording machine, and clean the heads if you haven't done it lately.

That's all there is to it.

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