HINTS & TIPS
TV, VCR & SATELLITE QUERIES
QUERY OF THE MONTH
TAKEN FOR A WIDE?
Name Daniel Lewis,
Kit Philips 28PW662B widescreen TV, JVC
spent a considerable amount of money on a widescreen TV and a VCR with
widescreen replay Daniel is a bit miffed that widescreen movies play as though
they’re on normal 4:3 equipment. Daniels asks what he has to do to make the VCR
play videos in full widescreen mode on the TV?
Expert Reply VCRs with so-called ‘16:9 replay’ facilities
are designed to send a switching signal to widescreen TVs, to put them in the
special widescreen mode, that stretches the 4:3 picture, so that it fills the
width of the screen. This is not the same as the ‘zoom’ mode, whereby the whole
4:3 picture is electronically enlarged, lopping off the tops of peoples heads
in the process. In order for this horizontal stretching process to work, the
original widescreen recording has to be stretched vertically, as it were, to
fit it into the space of a 4:3 recording, so that by pulling it sideways,
everything is returned to its original proportions. It’s an electronic version
of the optical anamorphic process, that squeezes a widescreen movie into the
confines of a 35mm movie frame. The reason it doesn’t work is that there are no
anmorphically compressed movies on tape, nor are there ever likely to be, at
least not in the UK. Once or twice we’ve come across compressed movies on the
satellite channel TNT, but as far as we’re aware there’s no way for
broadcasters to activate the auto switching facility.
HOOK UP HOO-HAH
Name Richard Poole,
Kit Sony KV-X2582U TV, Panasonic
NV-HD660, Pace MS1000 DPL satellite receiver, Aiwa NSX-D939 DPL mini system
Problem ‘How do I hook all them all
together’ asks Richard Poole, and ‘get to rid the lounge of four of the current
nine speakers’, he adds. Richard also tells he is on the verge of buying a
Yamaha DSP-A592 AV amp and Mission speakers, and wonders if there’s a way of
getting everything working together?
Expert Reply Hang on, let’s get this straight.
Richard says he wants to reduce the number of speakers in his lounge, then he
says he is thinking of buying some more... The whole business is a bit
confusing, but at least we can help him to connect the system together. The
optimal configuration would be to loop the aerial cable can through the VCR to
the TV, by-passing the satellite tuner. Use SCART to SCART leads to connect the
VCR to the satellite receiver, and TV to the satellite receiver. A stereo phono
to phono cable links the audio output sockets on the back panel to the
auxiliary input on the DPL mini system. The only redundant speakers in this
kind of set-up are the ones in the TV, or, at a pinch, the centre dialogue
channel. All the others are needed, if Richard wants proper surround sound. If
not, why did he buy a DPL mini system in the first place?
Name Julian Si, email@example.com
Kit Sony KV-21X4S TV, Aiwa HV-FX2500
Problem Julian’s living room is only 14 feet
by 10 feet, by 8 feet high and as a keen TV, music and movie fan he want’s to
put in a good home entertainment system. He has around £1000 to spend and would
like some advice on some shortlisted components, which include the Yamaha
DSP-A592, B&W speakers front and centre, and Yamaha or Celestion MP1
Expert Reply A small space can be a problem. Sounds, especially big dramatic ones
generated by home cinema equipment, need room to breath. All of the equipment
Julian mentions will work well together, even in a small room, but the
difficulty will be to sort out the layout, and seating arrangements, to achieve
an evenly dispersed soundfield. This will probably involve much trial and error
and box shifting. He should aim to put as much distance between the seating
position and speakers as possible. This will probably mean completely
re-organising the furniture and it will help to clear as much clutter from the
room as possible. The alternative is to get a bigger room, or house...
Name M. L. Connors, Dorking, Surrey
Kit Echostar SR-550 satellite receiver
Connors -- at least we think he’s a he... -- recently brought an Echostar
LT-8700 satellite receiver and 80 cm dish from a bloke at car boot sale, for
£50. Unfortunately it didn’t come with any instructions, and being a bit of a
novice he’s not sure what all the extra sockets and speaker terminals on the
back are for.
Expert Reply Mr
Connors went on to say that it works fine with his old Astra dish, so we reckon
he’s has got a bit of a bargain. The LT-8700 was only launched around three
years ago and was one of the first receivers to have both VideoCrypt and
MAC/Eurocrypt decoders built-in. It can pick up a huge range of transmissions
-- with the right viewing cards -- and is highly prized by enthusiasts. It may
surprise him to know that it cost almost £950 new! Where did he say that boot
sale was... Another reason that it is so expensive is because it has a built-in
dish positioner, for a motorised dish, that’s what the ‘speaker terminals’ are
for. It can do a lot more besides but it’s not really the kind of receiver you
can fully get to grips with, without an instruction manual. Unfortunately
Echostar are one of the less accessible manufacturers in the UK; the quickest
and often the easiest way to get in touch with them -- to obtain a manual -- is
to give their Dutch HQ a call on: 0031
Name Helen Morrison, Edinburgh
Kit Scotch E-180 cassette...
ageing Ferguson VCR has taken to chewing Helen’s tapes, it finally got its
marching orders when it tangled her treasured wedding video. The tape caught on
something inside the machine and in the end the only way to release it was to
cut it free. Henlen wants to know f it can be repaired, and if so, can she do
Expert Reply Good
and bad news. The bit that got caught in the machine, and whatever is left
hanging out of the cassette has had it. VHS has a linear tape speed of just
under one inch per second, so you’ve probably lost about 15 seconds, hopefully
it’s not an important bit. Video tape can be mechanically spliced, it’s not
something you should try yourself, though there used to be some very good DIY
kits on the market. You should be able to find someone locally to do it for
you, check your Yellow pages for specialist video firms in your area.
However there will be significant picture disturbance at the
join, that’s because the magnetic tracks are laid diagonally across the width
of the tape, a vertical join will cut across several second’s worth of tracks.
The only thing you can do to get rid of it is to re-record the tape --editing
out the join -- and put up with a drop in picture quality, or insert a new
sequence over the cut (only a few top-end edit VCRs can do this). Depending on
who is doing it, and the equipment they have to hand, the gap can be quite
effectively disguised, with a title, still image or special effect.
Name Clive Taylor, Barking, Essex
Kit Pace MS1000 satellite receiver,
Mitsubishi CT25A5 TV, Toshiba V857 VCR
channel idents and gobbledegook keep appearing on recordings made from the Pace
receiver, Clive says that otherwise it works perfectly well and he is pleased
with the whole set-up.
Expert Reply The
number one suspect has to be the character generator chip inside the Pace
receiver. It’s worth doing a system reset, unplugging the receiver from the
mains for ten minutes might do the trick, and Clive should check to make sure
the SCART connectors for the VCR and TV are going to the right sockets. If that
doesn’t fix it then it needs expert attention.
BOX COPY 1
BEGINNERS GUIDE -- SNOW JOKE
Poor quality TV pictures are almost always due to problems
with the aerial, the aerial cable, or local signal strength. Most problems fall
into one of three basic categories: noise or ‘snow’, ghosting and interference.
If the aerial is okay, and the signal is just weak, an aerial amplifier or
booster might help. Simple plug-in models can be brought from TV and electrical
dealers and high-street multiples for around £15. Ghosting will only be made
worse by a booster, it is usually caused by aerial mis-alignment and is best
left to the experts to tackle. Tracking down a source of household electrical
interference can be difficult. Sparkly dots or lines on the screen, that come
and go, possibly at regular timess are often caused by poorly suppressed
household appliances. Central heating boilers, refrigerators, freezers etc.,
are all prime suspects. External sources of interference should be reported to
the Radio Investigation Branch of the DTI, local contact numbers are available
from Post Offices.
LASERDISC AND DVD QUERIES
QUERY OF THE MONTH
Name William Taylor, Little Eaton,
Kit Waiting for DVD
has been following the progress of DVD with great interest, and say’s he thinks
he has a handle on most of what’s going on, but still can’t figure out the
different sound systems, and what they will mean to him.
Expert Reply Join
the club! The basic facts are these. The DVD format supports several audio
standards, including linear PCM with sampling rates of 48kHz or 96kHz. However,
we expect that most movie discs sold in the US and other NTSC ‘Territory 1’
countries, including Japan, will have either AC-3/Dolby Digital or possibly DTS
soundtracks. Here in Europe we’ll be using MPEG-2/Musicam audio. Both systems
will be used for what’s become known as 5.1 sound, that means five discrete
full bandwidth (CD quality or better) audio channels, and one narrow-band
channel, used for bass information. It is possible some discs will have both
types of soundtrack, and we’re expecting some players to have multi-mode (i.e.
AC-3, Musicam and possibly DTS) processing circuitry. The bottom line is that
it is unwise to anticipate what DVD will have to offer, hopefully all will be
Name Nigel Bulford, Clapham, London South
Kit Philips CDi 470
Problem It seems that every time Nigel opens
a newspaper or magazine he sees ads or reviews for the new Philips CD recorder.
It has reawakened his interest in CD-i
and he wants to know if Philips have any plans to develop a CD-i recorder?
Expert Reply Interesting idea... Physically
there’s no difference between an audio CD and a CD-i disc, and we suspect that
it’s theoretically possible but the chances of Philips developing and marketing
a CD-i recorder are nil, zilch and zero!
GOOD TIME TO BUY?
Name Rodney Norman, via fax
Kit interested in Pioneer CLD-D515
Problem Rodney has been offered a brand,
spanking new Pioneer LaserDisc player and half a dozen top discs for what seems
like a knockdown price. He knows DVD is on the way but is sorely tempted
Expert Reply If the price is right, and the discs
are one’s you would buy anyway, then do it! LaserDiscs and players aren’t
suddenly going to stop working when DVD players and disc appear in the shops.
LaserDisc still has a lot going for it; the supply of new discs will continue
for a while yet and there’s still an enormous back catalogue to work your way
Name Cliff Wheelan, Canterbury, Kent
Kit Interested in the Pioneer CLD-S315
Problem Back in the early 1980’s Cliff had
one of the first Philips LaserDisc players, he brought a few discs, but the
player turned up its toes some time ago and Cliff more or less forgot all about
it, until a few weeks ago. A friend has offered to sell him his Pioneer
CLD-S315 for £100. Is this a good deal, he wants to know, and if it goes wrong,
can it still be repaired?
Expert Reply If the machine is not more than a
year or so old, still in pristine condition, and Cliff’s friend can be
persuaded to chuck in a couple of discs then £75 to £100 would be a fair price.
There shouldn’t be any problem with spares and repairs, at least not for the
foreseeable future but we can see a problem with this player and Cliff’s
collection of early discs. It’s a fair bet they will have only analogue audio
soundtracks. The S315 is one of the few players on the market that cannot
replay PAL discs with analogue-only sound. They were discontinued towards the
end of the 1980s, from then on most discs had digital soundtracks, some had
both. If Cliff wants to buy the machine to play those old discs he should think
again, otherwise it may be worth considering.
Name Bill Draper, via Email
Kit Sony MDP-8500 LaserDisc player
want to know what ‘CX’ means, whether he has got it, and if it’s a good thing
Expert Reply Bill’s
player has it, it is a good thing and it should make his older discs sound a
lot better. CX noise reduction is roughly akin to the Dolby B noise reduction
system used on audio cassette tape decks. It’s a sophisticated de-hissing
system, that juggles around with emphasis and equalisation applied to
particular bands of frequencies on an audio recording. However, CX noise
reduction only applies to first generation LaserDiscs with analogue
soundtracks, and not more recent issues, which mostly have (almost) hiss-free
digital PCM soundtracks.
KEEPING UP STANDARDS
Name David L. Stannard, Norbury, S.London
Kit Thinking about a LaserDisc player
expects to be buying mostly NTSC discs, when he buys his player but he wants to
know of it is better to get a deck that can play NTSC discs on a PAL TV, or get
a pukka NTSC machine, when he next visits the States?
Expert Reply Firstly
David should not buy an American machine, it won’t work here due to differences
in the supply voltage and frequency; even if does manage to find someone to
convert the power supply, it would more than wipe out any savings. However, the
main issue with NTSC replay is whether or not David’s television can display
pure NTSC signals, or can only handle modified or partially converted NTSC
signals. The best results will be obtained with a pure NTSC disc, player and
TV. David omitted to tell us what model he had, so he’ll have to check the
specs and instruction manual.
BOX COPY 2
BEGINNERS GUIDE -- THE RIGHT CONNECTIONS
All LaserDisc players sold in Europe have one or two SCART
AV connectors for the video and audio output/loop-through, one or two models
also have S-Video connections as well. You may have wondered why all LaserDisc
players don’t have high quality S-Video outputs? The simple answer is there’s
little point since the recording on the disc is in a composite video format,
where the brightness (luma or ‘Y’ component) and colour (chroma or ‘C’
component) information has already been mixed together. This produces a number
of effects, by far the most noticeable is ‘herringbone’ and moiré patterning,
that occurs in areas of the picture where there’s lots of fine detail or lines.
In other words the damage, caused by the interaction, has already been done.
This won’t be a problem with DVD as the video information
will be recorded and processed separately in component form (i.e. Y/C), thus
preventing any interaction from occurring in the first place.