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Name              Daniel Lewis, dlewis@salestrac.demon.co.uk                               

Kit                   Philips 28PW662B widescreen TV, JVC HR-J935 VCR      

Problem            Having 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.



Name                          Richard Poole, rmpoole@netcomuk.co.uk              

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, julian@durian.demon.co.uk             

Kit                               Sony KV-21X4S TV, Aiwa HV-FX2500 NICAM VCR

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 surrounds.


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         

Problem            Mr 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 546 815122



Name              Helen Morrison, Edinburgh                              

Kit                   Scotch E-180 cassette...      

Problem            An 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 it?  


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   

Problem            Satellite 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.       




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.






Name              William Taylor, Little Eaton, Derbyshire                            

Kit                   Waiting for DVD      

Problem            William 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 revealed shortly.



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!



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 through.



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 

Problem             Bill want to know what ‘CX’ means, whether he has got it, and if it’s a good thing or not?


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. 



Name              David L. Stannard, Norbury, S.London                               

Kit                   Thinking about a LaserDisc player 

Problem            David 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.          




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.



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