Using Alcohol to Clean Video Heads

Q. In Videomaker’s June 1995 issue, the article “Every Few Thousand Miles” warned against
using alcohol as a cleaning fluid for cleaning video heads. I have twice over the years read in your
publication that one should use 99% Isopropyl alcohol because it’s pure. What’s the difference
between 99% Isopropyl and cleaning fluid?

Robert E. Barber
Hillsboro, Oregon

A. Good question. You shouldn’t use 99% Isopropyl alcohol for cleaning heads, because it
contains some water and oils. These will leave behind residue, which can have a negative effect on the tape
oxide, or cause build-up on the video heads to attract dirt and dust. Cleaning fluids made specifically for
cleaning video heads are your best bet, because they leave behind little or no residue.
Denatured alcohol is also a good product for cleaning video heads; you can find it at
most hardware stores in the paint department. It contains no water, which makes it great for video heads
and very caustic for skin. Remember to wear gloves when using denatured alcohol.

Q. I have read your “Video Protection” article (February, 1995) again and again, and find it very
helpful in getting me started in video production and insurance documentation. I could use some additional
suggestions from you on two items: what should I charge, and should I charge by the item or by the

Paul M. Fennessy, Jr.
Loveland, Colorado

A. Unfortunately, I can’t answer your questions directly, since every type of video
production has different factors that affect pricing. You need to do some homework on your own. First, you
need to determine your local market’s needs. Second, check out the competition in and around your
location, and even check out production businesses in other states to obtain average fees and pricing
consideration. There is a lot of opportunity in this area of video production, but you need to determine the
particulars of your market.

Q. In the August 1995 issue, the “Video Q+A” page contains this statement regarding
copying a VHS tape to Hi8:
“In this case, the Hi8 will just record a high-quality version of the further degraded signal.” What does “a
high-quality version” mean? Does it mean that the signal is degraded, but not as much as it would be if
copied to VHS?

Jim Stofa

A. You got it! Any time you dub an analog original, you lose some image quality. If you
dub your original VHS master to another standard VHS format tape, your 2nd generation VHS tape will
have poorer resolution and more noise. If you record the same original tape onto the Hi8 format, you will
better maintain the picture resolution of the original. The signal will still degrade slightly, though less
noticeably than when dubbing to a lesser-quality format.

Q. In your July, 1995 issue of Videomaker, in the Edit Points article by Michael Loehr, he
discusses time code. I would like some more information on the post-production striping of time code. I
have a Sony SLV-R1000 S-VHS VCR and Sony EV-C100 Hi8 VCR, and need some way to include time
code for use with my Videonics Edit Suite. Where can I find time code generators that plug into line-level
audio inputs, and would this help?

David Asbury
Internet: UA.EDU

A. The only way to add time code to your current VCR setup is by purchasing a time code
generator, and modifying your SLV-R1000 deck. Using a time code generator and your SLV-R1000, you
could lay SMPTE time code onto the linear audio track on your S-VHS source tape using the left or right
audio inputs.

The program audio contained on your source tape must be on the stereo hi-fi tracks for
this to work. If it’s only on the linear audio track, dubbing time code onto the S-VHS master would destroy
your only program audio. Time code generators capable of laying SMPTE time code onto your dedicated
linear audio track are available from such manufacturers as Horita (Mission Viejo, CA) and Future Video
(Laguna Niguel, CA).

Now for the SLV-R1000 upgrade. Because of the way hi-fi VCRs blend stereo and linear
audio at their outputs, there is no way for the Videonics’ Edit Suite to read the newly-laid time code without
a dedicated output. Carlson-Strand, of San Clemente, California will upgrade your SLV-R1000 deck to
include dedicated longitudinal audio inputs and outputs for time code. The Edit Suite would then control
the EV-C100 Hi8 as the recorder for frame-accurate editing.

If you wish to use Hi8 as your source, the only way to integrate time code into your
system would involve purchasing an RCTC-capable deck. Good luck!

Q. I recently bought a Sony CCD-TR600 Hi8 camcorder, and am taking pictures of my new baby
with it. I’m afraid I may have lost some of the directions, because I can’t find anything that talks about the
white balance. Do these newer cameras not require white balance? My camera takes good pictures in
indoor lighting, but with sunlight I get a bit of a blue hue. Isn’t this a sign that the white balance is off?
How can I adjust it if it needs it?

Charlie (no last name given)

A. Your camcorder offers automatic white balance. Sometimes, however, it may need some
help. Try aiming your camcorder at something white for about ten seconds to let the camera know that
what it’s seeing is truly white. Then begin recording, and the camera should have better luck adjusting for
the light in that locale. If your camcorder had a true manual white balance adjustment, you would aim
your camera at a white background and manually set the white balance for proper color adjustment when
recording. So long blue hue.

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