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silentwinter

no picture, only sound...

Hi!
A few months ago I bought an old VHS (a 1986 film new and still sealed though) on Amazon.com. (I'm Italian, but I'm used to buy films in english and my VCR has the NTSC playback system too).
I finally found the time to watch it a few days ago, but when I put it into my VCR, I couldn't see anything! After a minute or something, an automatic message from this LG VCR (not expansive, but a new one) shows up: HEAD STATUS = PLEASE CLEAN.
I used 2 different types of head-cleaning tapes, and the film looked fine.. for a couple of minutes!!!
Tried to play other tapes (both PAL and NTSC) with different results:
Sometimes the pictures disappeared, other times they didn't.
After many cleanings, ONLY the other tapes played fine!
I'm starting to think that the first tape that gave me problems, caused this momentary defect to the VCR!
Is that possibile?

If anyone has an advice...
Thanx,
Dario.
TravisE

Every once in a while a tape can cause the video heads to become clogged, which often results in no picture at all, and although this is a temporary condition, it can be a real pain to get rid of. Sometimes the only way to fix it seems to be to play an ordinary tape for several hours or so. It can take quite a while at times, but with patience it should clear up eventually.

A lot of times only one or two of the heads in a four-head VCR will get clogged; this is the how the picture can be totally clear in certain operating modes and not others (different heads are used for different functions and/or tape speeds).
TravisE

Another thing I thought about when I read your post again: if the problem comes back every time you play the first tape, the first tape may be badly shedding its oxide particles for some reason. Possibly fast-winding the tape to the end and back to the beginning may shake the particles loose and improve the situation, but I don't know how likely that is to work (I haven't come across this problem often enough to try it). Otherwise, the tape may be physically deteriorating (from age, perhaps?) and perhaps may not be fixable.
silentwinter

Yeah...

I think "Truth or Dare?" (the movie "the first tape" contains) is the problem. Even if it was still sealed, it could have been exposed to some excessively warm temperature or something in years... (the VHS is supposed to be more than 20 years old, anyway)
Hey, thank you for answering me, TravisE!

P.S.
do you know if there's a way to fix the tape or, maybe to transfer it on a digital device, recovering the picture?
Thanx again,
Dario.
TravisE

If you can manage to get the tape to play at all for long enough periods at a time (again, perhaps  fast-forwarding and rewinding the entire tape a few times first may help), it would probably be best to transfer it yourself this way and then play only the copy from that point on. If the tape is in such bad shape that it just will not play without clogging the heads no matter what you do, then the only recourse might be those recovery procedures that I've read about in various places on the Web.
silentwinter

ok..

Thanx again, I'll try this way as soon as I got time to.

ciao!
JoeV

One way to tell if it's just the 2-hour heads that are clogged is to find a prerecorded 6-hour (i.e. SLP or EP speed) tape; if it plays fine, then one or both of the standard speed heads are clogged.

If a head-cleaning tape doesn't fix the problem, you can try removing the lid to the machine and use a piece of clean laser printer paper.

The lids usually come off with screws on the sides and/or rear of the lid. And there's sometimes a shield covering the tape transport section, where you'll find the rotary video drum. Make sure the power cord to the VCR is unplugged from the AC power, and no tape is in the machine.

Gently place the paper against the surface of the rotary drum; the heads are located in the gap between the upper rotary drum and the fixed lower portion. Don't press too hard, and don't move the paper at all, just rotate the upper head drum. The heads are usually located 180 degrees from each other, so slowly rotate the upper drum several revolutions. You can then look at the piece of paper and you'll usually see a series of thin, black streaks of tape oxide and other debris from the drum. This often fixes clogged heads when a cleaning tape doesn't. The important thing is to absolutely apply no up or downward motion to the paper, because this would break the fragile ferrite video heads. And make sure you do this with the VCR UNPLUGGED from the AC power.

Sometimes these problems happen because the tape in question has been "eaten" by another machine, causing the tape to have wrinkles which will then delaminate the oxide onto a subsequent machine's tape transport. It's also possible for an eaten tape to get grease or other lubricants on it from the machine's transport; this grease can then clog your heads. If you try the above mentioned cleaning procedure and you find evidence of grease on the rotating head drum, you can use a bit of 91% isopropyl alcohol (NOT the 78% rubbing alcohol) on the piece of paper. Just make sure you let the alcohol dry completely before playing a tape, because if the rotary drum is wet, it'll disrupt the boundary air layer and eat the tape due to stiction.

~Joe
silentwinter

hi...

Hi, JoeV! My VCR got better and better after some cleanings, or simply playing other tapes into it.
Since then, I just didn't play anymore the corrupted VHS: I really think it was the cause of that temporary damage...
I'd really like to recover that tape somehow, but I won't try to play it in my VCR again... probably I should try someone who can transfer it on a CD-R (if he can play it in the first place).

Thanx for your full answer.
Dario.

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