A guide to video tape protection
A Guide to Video Tape Protection Release 1.0
by Shane Raistlin Monroe
Mon Dec 11, 1989 11:23pm
(C) Copyright 1989 by Majere Files. All rights reserved. This
document is restricted to distribution per the following
This document may be copied, transferred, and otherwise
reproduced if the following criteria are met:
1. When distributed, it must be copied in its entirety, including
this distribution statement and the above copyright notice.
2. No compensation can be gained, monetary or otherwise, by
distribution of this document. Compensation for expense of the
copying is authorized.
3. If you, the reader, enjoys this document or does not enjoy it,
please drop a postcard or letter with your comments (good and
bad) to the below address along with a list of the movies YOU
have the most trouble with so as to improve any later printing of
this article. Thank you.
Shane R. Monroe
USS Trepang (SSN?674) PNSY
Portsmouth, NH 03801
Table of Contents
1 ? Introduction
2 ? What is VTP?
3 ? Identifying VTP and Why to Defeat It
4 ? How to defeat VTP
5 ? A Final Note
6 ? Index of Companies
7 ? Index of Protected Videos
Chapter One ? Introduction
Though the average consumer may not know about or understand
video tape copy protection (VTP, from now on), it is necessary
for everyone who owns a Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) or who is
planning to purchase a VCR to know the facts behind one of the
nation's biggest current industry.
Almost every movie, sporting event, musical, or film is
available on video tape. Consumers can purchase or rent anything
from the Walt Disney classic Bambi to WWF Wrestling matches.
Unfortunately, there are many consumers that rent these tapes and
copy them, causing the video tape industry to lose money in
potential sales. This was the reason for VTP's creation.
Why does it concern the average consumer whose intent is
nothing more than renting or purchasing their favorite movie and
returning to their home and watching it? That is why this guide
was written: to inform you, the consumer, of the 'why' of the
above question, and how you can learn to avoid the problems and
inconvenience that VTP can create.
must make this disclaimer. The information in this guide
is NOT intended to be used illegally to violate existing
copyright laws imposed by the respective video companies. It is
'for information only' and for legit uses only as described in
later chapters. Now, on with the guide.
Chapter 2 ? What is VTP?
VTP is the film industry's response to video tape
collectors. According to the companies that make this VTP, legal
video users have nothing to fear from this protection as it
supposedly doesn't effect them.
Though effective, it is a fairly simple process, which we
will not get really into technically. There are many articles in
Popular Electronics and other popular magazines. We will scrape
the surface for just a general understanding.
When a tape is copied at the plant, it is copied on a bulk
mass?producing dual?vcr machine specially designed for industrial
use. The signal that is sent from the tape is at a certain
speed. What the factory does is, by several different means
(dependant on the company that made the protection) changes the
sync of the signal outgoing from the tape slightly. This change
is so slight that a TV (usually) will not really 'see' a
difference in the signal and show you the picture normally. (In
other words, the TV isn't very 'picky'.)
Now, when you send this signal to, say a monitor or VCR, the
signal interpretation is much more 'picky'. This signal,
slightly out of sync, causes a multitude of different effects to
a viewer. These include jitters, rolls, color fades, etc. More
about this later. This signal, if left unalter, can create
problems for us all. But, one cannot eliminate the problem
without being able to identify it. That is what chapter three is
Chapter 3 ? Identifying VTP and Why to Defeat It
If you are the average consumer with a simple video set up,
you may not even know what VTP looks like. The reason, as stated
in Chapter 2, is that VTP was not intended to interfere with a
consumer using a video tape legally, i.e. simply viewing on a
television. It can only be seen (and become an irritant) if a
few conditions are met.
VCR to VCR
Connecting two VCRs together via the VIDEO IN/OUT and AUDIO
IN/OUT can generate the distortion caused by VTP. Let's do an
Connect the two VCRs together as stated above. Now, connect
your television to the SOURCE VCR (the VCR that is playing the
protected video) via the ANTENNA OUT. Have the other VCR
recording the program. Note on the television screen that there
is no evident problem with the picture. That is because the TV
is getting the true signal from the VCR as the video company
Now, switch the line going to your TV to the ANTENNA OUT of
the DESTINATION VCR (the one recording). Note that now the video
protection is very obvious. This distortion will vary from tape
to tape, but what you will very likely see is the color going
from strong to weak and then strong again, or the contrast
appearing to increase then decrease to normal again. These are
just two of the simple irritants that VTP can cause. The reason
you see the protection now is that, as stated in the last
chapter, the sync of the picture is just a tad off, causing these
weird distortions to be recorded on the DESTINATION tape,
rendering your copy poor or illegal.
Why, if copying tapes is illegal, should that make a
difference to the 'honest consumers'? For one reason, if he/she
has a fairly permanent set up in the living room and has two VCRs
connected for the purpose of making copies of his/her home
movies, it can make that rental take a real pain to watch instead
of the pleasure it should be. Another reason, a much more valid
one, is our next topic.
VCR TO MONITOR
If you are a computer enthusiast like myself, you probably
already know they joys of using a computer monitor for a very
nice color TV when not using your computer system. For the most
part, a monitor will interface quite nicely with the VCR and
produces a very nice picture...until you drop in a rental tape
that has been encoded with VTP. Now, on your monitor, instead of
that nice picture in graphic living color you get screen jitters,
color fades, pulsations, and in some extreme cases, a total loss
of any watchable picture. Again, the reason for this is that you
are connecting your monitor with the VCR which is now putting out
an unsynchronized signal which the monitor will display very
accurately. Unfortunately this accuracy also engages the VTP
also. So now, even the 'honest consumer' is being hurt by VTP.
VCR TO TV
Very rarely does a VTP scheme go so far as to distort a
standard TV signal into distracting effects, though there are
some out there that throw the signal so far off sync that even
the tolerable TV will show signs of distortion. It should be
noted, however, that only one in a hundred tapes or so will be
this severe. In fact, the only tape I have seen so severe is
THORN EMI's film THE HITCHER, and even it is only visible on a
normal TV by a trained eye.
Now that we have seen why VTP hurts everyone, not just the
'video pirate' and the 'midnight mauraders', let's take a look
at how the average consumer can fight it.
Chapter 4 ? How to Defeat VTP
We know why VTP needs to be removed, but how do we ordinary
consumers get around it? There are three ways that I know of to
remove this protection from your set up.
If you are picking this guide up as a prelude to purchasing
a new VCR, then this section will give you something new to think
about when looking for a particular brand. Those who already own
VCRs and wondered why VTP has never been a problem for you may
also find this section interesting.
The newer, fancier models of VCRs now boast what is known as
'digital effects'. This effects can do a number of fantastic
things including the adorned 'picture in a picture' display;
smooth, clear slow motion; and even 'zoom?in' features. These
VCRs also have another great feature: they will remove VTP.
How does this work? Simply put, the VCR inputs each frame
of the film into a 'digital' memory where it breaks the image up
into small 'pixels' (small dots of information) and stores it
inside a computer memory. This process allows the 'effects' we
discussed above to be possible. It also synchronizes the frame,
hence removing the VTP from playback.
So, if you are shopping for a VCR, keep in mind the
advantages of purchasing one with 'digital' effects. A sales
representative can point you in the right direction, or you can
see on the machines themselves as they usually sport the word
"DIGITAL" in big letters somewhere on the front.
Well, suppose you already have two VCRs and you don't want
to spend the extra $500 to get a digital one. There is another
possibility, though it is not guaranteed by any means. This
procedure involves using a camcorder to stabilize the signal.
If you have a camcorder, you can test it with the following
procedure. Connect the VIDEO IN and AUDIO IN of the camcorder to
the VIDEO OUT and AUDIO OUT of the SOURCE VCR. Then, connect the
VIDEO OUT and AUDIO OUT of the camcorder to the VIDEO IN and
AUDIO IN of the DESTINATION VCR. (This will require an extra set
of cables available at any video store or Radio Shack). Insure
that the camcorder is switched to the VTR position or it
equivalent (see your owner's guide for assistance. See the
section under 'RECORDING FROM A VCR OR AN OUTSIDE SOURCE').
Again, insure that the TV is connected through the ANTENNA OUT of
the DESTINATION VCR so that you can see if the VTP is still
On some models (I have no specifics to offer... My
apologies) it will stabilize the picture and give you a clean
Well, now we've seen how rich 'honest consumers' can protect
themselves from VTP, how about us poor consumers? Or those of us
who just plain aren't interested in financing some big name
company's newest electronic VCR? Thanks to some electronic
technician, we penny pinchers can still avoid the nasty effects
that VTP would put us through.
video STABILIZER can be connected between your VCRs or the
VCR and monitor the same way as a camcorder was above. It simply
takes the input video signal and returns the sync to normal
standards, thus eliminating the VTP.
Stabilizers come in many shapes, sizes, and prices, and
sport a number of different features. As a general rule, the
price is directly proportional to the features. These features
include manual stabilization, video/audio enhancers/boosters,
special effects (i.e. fades or screen wipes, like used in
professional studio). Let's look at some of these features more
closely so you can make a more educated choice when going to
Manual Stabilization: This simply means that you, the user,
can adjust the sync speed manually. Though this seems like a
good feature, it can also cause trouble when watching a not?protected movie
channeled through it. It can cause almost as
much mischief as the original VTP. One way around it is to rig
up a bypass line around the stabilizer and to bypass it when you
are not watching a VTP tape. Some models do have an off/on
switch to bypass the signal on the box itself. However, most
stabilizers have automatic stabilization so you won't have to
worry about this feature.
Video/audio enhancers and boosters: As the name implies,
these features boost the signal to give you a better picture and
less sound loss. Overall, these are good features to have,
although these will surely cost you the extra bucks.
Special effects: These effect generators will let you do
professional style effects such as screen wipes, fades, and the
like. Certainly fun for the home videophile enthusiasts, but
very unnecessary for the ordinary consumers, as they will jack
the price up over three digits.
A final note on stabilizers. Most of them are fully
automatic and need no user intervention once connected. These I
highly recommend. Included in the indexes is a list of
advertisers and their prices on stabilizers. Included is a
phone number or address to contact these companies.
Again, a disclaimer. These prices are completely subject to
change as are the companies. Be sure to get a guarantee with any
kind of electronic device purchase like this so you can get your
money back if it fails to live up to its promises.
One company on the list, Fordham, sells a stabilizer for
$49.95 that has manual stabilization, video and audio enhancers.
This is the one that I am partial to. However, one thing to be
careful of is to insure that the video gain is not pegged out
high. The reason for this is that after you have set the
stabilization level and video gain level at one scene, a bright
scene (i.e. an explosion or a bright flash) will cause the sync
to jump out of range as cause a roll or flicker. This can be a
real bother when duplicating a home video or watching a VTP
rental tape. Be sure to watch out for this on other models too.
Chapter Five A Final Note
Just a little final note from the author before you get to
the indexes. I wrote this guide for many reasons. One, I plain
don't like the whole idea of VTP for many of the reasons I've
told you above. Also, I am a firm believer in the 'try before
you buy' and the 'archival backup' theories. I realize that by
the magic of video rentals, you can try the movie out before
shelling out the $14.95 ? $89.95 to buy it. But, unlike computer
software, the Federal Government will not 'permit' us to make a
back up copy of your valuable tapes. My feelings are that if you
bought it, you have every right to copy it again for your own
personal use. Unfortunately, VTP makes this whole idea very much
a problem. That is the second reason I wrote this guide.
Finally, one other thing I have found in my 'travels'.
Often, a company who released an old film (Warner Brothers is
famous for this) like THE SHINING will repackage it and add VTP.
My point is that if you had no trouble with a tape once and now
find that your TV is blotted with all those nasty VTP symptoms,
you may need to go hunting around to other dealers with older,
unprotected tapes to view.
Finally, as I leave you, I just want to say welcome to the
widely unknown world and please share your knowledge as well as
this guide with anyone else who you think might find it useful.
Tue Dec 12, 1989 9:51pm
USS Trepang (SSN?674)
FPO New York
Chapter Six ? Index of Companies
SCO Electronics Inc.
Dept. CR2, 581 West Merrick Rd.
Valley Stream, NY 11580
1?800?445?9285 or 1?516?694?1240
Automatic, no extra features. Uses a standard 9?volt battery.
30 day guarantee. $49.95 + $4.00 s&h.
Dept. VR, 400 Amherst
Nashua, NH 03063
Automatic, no extra features. 30 day guarantee. $49.95 + $3.95
Dept. R. 401 SW 11th
Portland, OR 97205
Automatic, no extras. 30 day guarantee. 2 year warranty.
(Ooohh!) $69.95 + $4.00 s&h.
M.D. Electronics Co.
875 S. 72nd St.
Omaha, NE 68114
1?800?624?1150 (order or for a free catalog)
Auto. 100 % satisfaction guarantee, one yr. warranty. $59.95.
Search Technology INC.
P.O. Box 91
Pasadena, MD 21122
The Corrector: Automatic and enhances video output on old rentals
for better viewing. 14?day money back. 1 year parts/labor.
Corrector II: Same as above. Video boost control. Bypass/power
switch and LED. $219.95 (WOW!)
Video processing Center: Color processor/enhancer/amplifier.
Stabilizes automatically. $199.
333 S. State St. Suite 101
Lake Oswego, OR 97034
Black Box II. Probably the better of the list. Automatic. Auto
switch on/off. 60 unconditional money back, 3 year warranty.
$49.95 + $4.00 s&h.
Fordham Electronics 1?800?000?0000
Video stabilizer. Video/audio gain. Stabilizer control.
Chapter Seven ? A List of Protected Videos
This is a partial list of video companies and video tapes
that frequently emplore VTP. Also is a list of companies that
have never to my knowledge (or at least never used to) VTP their
VIDEO COMPANIES who Protect
MCA, TOUCHSTONE (A biggie), Warner Bros., Thorn EMI, New
Line Cinema/Media (a real dissapointment here; they never used
to), CBS Fox, and HBO. (Just to name a few.)
VIDEO COMPANIES who DON'T Protect
(No promises here...Don't blame me if they start.)
IVE, Nelson, New World, RCA, Virgin, and some Paramount.
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