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Copyright protection follies

Situation: I have pre-1997 widescreen releases of the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS. These are "THX" enhanced but do not have any of the post-1997 fixes. The tapes are obviously old. I want to convert these to DVD. The only way I can basically do it is by copying the movie to miniDV, then to the computer, then burn to DVD.

Problem: That damned copyright protection signal. That ticked me off. When I hooked up the Canon ZR-200 to the VCR and started playback, the unit instantly gave me a nasty beep, told me it was a copyrighted signal and ceased recording.

Before I continue - bear in mind I am strictly doing this for preservation for my own private collection. In other words, I have absolutely no intention of selling copies whatsoever. Lucas and his company never released the orignal untouched versions of the Star Wars movies on DVD. The only DVD releases of episodes IV, V and VI available are post-1997 "fixed" versions only. Now while it's true I was able to snag laserdisc-to-DVD copies ("DC", a.k.a. "Definitive Collection") of the original trilogy from eBay, these VHS versions have Lucas interviews that aren't on the laserdisc versions.

Solution: The "Videographer". This is a device (about 100 bucks) that will strip the copyright signal output from a VHS videocassette (or DVD for that matter). I can tell you right now that this thing is not worth the price tag. It's probably worth 30 bucks at best. You can tell just by looking at it that the unit is cheesy, but it probably works.

I have to debate whether it's worth it to get one of these. Probably not. I'm sure there must be another way to do this. As a matter of fact, a technology of this type literally could be made into a small adapter rather than a separate console unit.

The whole thing that positively sucks about this is that there are many of us out there who have mountains of old VHS tapes that want to do the DVD conversion. Because of this copyright signal we can't convert the old tapes. I am 100% sure that the vast majority of us (yours truly included) are not going to start some sort of black market where we're all selling crappy quality conversions. Seriously, who would want them? No one, that's who. All we want to do is preserve what we got, and I don't think that's too much to ask.

I may entertain the idea of capturing direct to the PC. This can be done via television-to-firewire. The problem is that it costs even more than the unit I mentioned above.

Sometimes you just can't win. I will eventually do the conversion, but let's just say it's not too high on my to-do list. 😉


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