VHS digitisation: Theory before practice

Duplication by any means is prohibited

Ripping a bunch of VHS tapes is a most peculiar undertaking.

It’s a project I’ve been waiting to start for several years — a task which (lack of personal experience with PC-based video work aside) I’ve therefore come prepared for:

  • VCR? Check.
  • VHS tapes? Check.
  • Adequate PC? Check.
  • Video grabber? Check.
  • Digital video playback device? Check.
  • Video grabbing and editing software? Erhmm… waitaminnit!

Being late to this particular party, one could’ve expected that much of the rudimentary groundwork had already been covered by others, with the common pitfalls marked out and FAQs on the topic being widely available. Suitable software should be a pound a GB, and there must be many useful, all-in-one programs for what by now must surely be a common task. Self-proclaimed experts should’ve dished out reams of advice.

No, not quite. Continue reading

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Remembering the Inner Sleeve Record Library

HUMANISE HARMONISE

The Inner Sleeve Record Library was exactly that: not a library where one would get books, but one where you could borrow records. Vinyl records. Black gold.

It was located at No. 4, Pretoria Street, Hillbrow, Johannesburg.

Though I remember not the circumstances under which it was first discovered, what I do recall is the sheer delight when I did.

This was the mother lode! Continue reading

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A look back at 1988

View west towards the Brixton Tower

Many a moment from the past is relived while scanning and eliminating reams of old documents and photos.

Based on surviving papers and documents alone, each person’s evolution might be divided neatly into specific periods of their life, usually grouped around locality and what they did for a living at the time. It also goes without saying that most anyone can nail certain past events down to an exact year (or even the exact month) in a heartbeat or can recall the moment that led them down a certain path.

1988 was one such watershed year. Continue reading

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2014: A look ahead

Fodder for the shredder

Last year we moved house.

We transported our belongings from one abode to another.

While packing you tend to discover a shitload of forgotten items that you didn’t know you (still) had, and then you’re faced with the decision, “do I box it, or do I bin it?”

Well, in preparation for the move, we did get rid of a lot of deadweight by way of outdated media, documents and obsolete hardware. And once you’ve arrived at your destination, part and parcel of the unpacking process is the re-discovery of the things you didn’t know you packed, the junk you should’ve rather not packed, and the stuff you weren’t sure what to do with when you got there. Continue reading

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Rewind: 2013

R.I.P. Madiba

Ah, 2013! What a strange year it’s been.

Much happened. On a personal level, there was a crushing degree of uncertainty before the largest project of the year could take off: we moved house. This brought with it a new town, “a new job”, new people, new projects, and a different view of the horizon ahead.

In preparation for the move, we got rid of a lot of deadweight by way of outdated media, documents and obsolete hardware. As they get hauled off to the “Elektroschrott Wertstoffhof”, memories of certain items are being kept alive via digital eulogies, which, surprisingly, have visitors from primarily Arabic countries, India/Pakistan, Poland, but mostly Russia/Ukraine coming by to pay their final respects. Ironically, the vacuum left behind soon got filled by other electronica literally falling from the sky such that I now have more old laptops than I know what to do with. So I nuked one of them.

What also fell from the sky in February and was spectacularly documented by Russian dashcams was the meteorite over Chelyabinsk. Other disasters of the year include supertyphoon Haiyan which wreaked havoc across the Philippines, floods which caused untold damage in southern Germany and Austria, and the Rana Plaza building’s collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 1,100 factory workers. Oklahoma got hit by another tornado. Continue reading

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Takedown: Three strikes

Das Leben der Anderen

Anyone who runs a blog stands to fall foul of some form of “censorship”.

Anyone who operates a website that covers recent history may easily tread on the toes of the living whose names may be mentioned in old documents. And the offended toes are usually attached to the foot of a real, breathing human being who’d like to extend his leg to kick your arse because between those legs dangles… well, let’s just say it’s always men, and it’s always about something of a sexual nature.

This has now happened three times. Continue reading

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Happy Birthday, Cassette!

Trash or treasue?

The venerable cassette tape is 50 years old.

According to sources, it was on Friday the 30th of August 1963 when Mr. Lou Ottens of Dutch consumer electronics giant Philips introduced the EL-3300 “Pocket-Recorder” and a new magnetic tape format at the IFA (Internationale Funkausstellung) in West Berlin.

The “Compact Cassette” would eventually go on to revolutionise the way we experienced and shared music. Continue reading

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Inactivity Blog?

Akai CS-F12 Cassette Deck

Although it could easily be said that there’s been a marked level of inactivity on this blog recently re-titled to, ironically, “Activity Log”, such a statement wouldn’t exactly be true.

There has been activity. Lots of it. A change in personal circumstances meant that certain external profiles and approaches were refreshed. I’m cleaning out some trash. Even this blog and its launchpad were revised and optimised, and there will be even more changes coming over the next few months. Some stuff has been killed off and buried while other data by way of more old documents, data and hardware was unearthed. All of it will get processed in due course; most of it will get digitized, much of it will get published.

Sure, the least amount of it will shake the Earth’s foundations — this ain’t the kind of stuff that the NSA (hi, guys) will find particularly interesting. Some of it has found its way onto the Internet Archive and elsewhere but most of it is personal and therefore of minor historical relevance only although (and this needs to be said) some of it has ruffled a few feathers. More on that next time.

Watch this space for details.

Photo by hmvh DOT net

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