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 Post subject: Re: Technology Connections
Posted: 04 Jan 2020, 00:03 

Part 4

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Posted: 06 Jan 2020, 00:52 

I am again interested in how to tell the difference between PDO UK and Sonopress West Germany pressings.

I asked about this during my last period of interest in LaserDiscs, and came to what I thought was a satisfactory conclusion. My takeaway based on the discs I had examined was that PDO UK discs were rounder on the edge and Sonopress ones much more sharp/tapered. PDO discs also had their outer ring of dashed markings substantially further from the edge than Sonopress ones, such that with Sonopress ones you can actually see the outer dashed markings through the edge of the disc itself.

However, with more than a bit of annoyance I've just noticed my copy of 4064-70 The Onion Field (both discs of it) exhibits all the hallmarks of a Sonopress disc as mentioned above, and yet has "Made in England" featured prominently on both the outer cover and the inner sleeves.

Is this actually a Sonopress disc despite claiming to be "made in England"? If not, what exactly is going on here? Is it simply impossible to reliably identify Sonopress vs PDO UK discs? Surely there must be some way of telling!

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Posted: 06 Jan 2020, 10:10 

Sadly both PDO and Sonopress lack mint marks besides the two rings of dashes. Unless they're under the label, that is. I'll post some photos this evening.

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Posted: 06 Jan 2020, 22:07 

"Made in England" (likely PDO)
"Made in England" (likely PDO)
"Made in West Germany" (likely Sonopress)
All three in the above order, from top to bottom

Based on this I really don't see any reasonable way of telling the difference between these two factories...

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Posted: 06 Jan 2020, 23:39 

I did ask on the forum before but it was in a thread that was kind of half-related, and I didn't really receive a response. I must have been confident at the time that I'd found a way of telling but reading it back now it really doesn't seem to work based on the discs I've looked at, so I think I must have just managed to kid myself into believing it did work at the time...

Even more intriguingly I've just found multiple clear pictures of a Sonopress disc online , and not only does it have a mint mark (albeit one that would be hidden under the label on my Princess Bride disc), I have noticed that the dash pattern is slightly different (mine, and all the PDO ones, have one part where it goes .-., whereas this one I've found goes -..-). Maybe this doesn't mean anything, but I'm not going to discount the possibility that my "Sonopress" disc is in fact a PDO one with incorrect labels applied!

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Posted: 07 Jan 2020, 21:35 

I'm pretty sure all of these examples are actually PDO. Which PDO facility is unknown. All of the Sonopress titles I have have stamped mint markings, going all the way back to the "Elton John: Live in Central Park" disc issued in 1982.
Interesting. Did PDO have any facilities besides Blackburn (in England)? Perhaps The Princess Bride does indeed come from PDO and the "Made in West Germany" markings on the sticker, sleeve, and cover are from a previous pressing which they never bothered to change?

If your Sonopress titles had a label as large as The Princess Bride's would they cover up the mint marks? Would there be any other way of telling the difference?

If you could perhaps post some photos, especially of the centres of the discs, perhaps we can come up with some surefire way of telling the difference even in the event of labels covering the mint marks...

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Posted: 23 Jan 2020, 16:50 

Teletext, I don't know what support is like with brand new TVs but I'm somewhat surprised because they've had that feature since forever. Try looking in odd places - if the "text" button doesn't work try looking in the subtitles menu. Make sure you are actively playing a LaserDisc with Teletext subtitles (eg the PAL UK CAV boxset of Jurassic Park) - very few discs have them, and your TV might hide the option if it doesn't detect a teletext signal. As for external Teletext decoders, well, they were a thing in the 70s and 80s but I don't think they've been a thing since then. Looking on eBay I don't see anyone selling any, unless I'm just using the wrong keywords.

North American Closed Captions there are a bunch of different decoders you can buy; few TVs in Europe will support these so this is probably the best way. You'll probably need to get them shipped from the States but I didn't find it to be ridiculously unaffordable as they are quite small devices. See this thread for my experiences buying and using one: (and feel free to ask me any more questions!)

LD-G subtitles I don't know about. I've been tempted to buy an LG-1 but when I've searched in the past I've tended to find them rather pricey. And once I bought the CC decoder I discovered most of my Japanese LDs (which realistically are also the only ones with LD-G subtitles) also come with North American Closed Captions.

The vast majority of PAL discs don't have *any* subtitles. North American discs only have Closed Captions. So the Closed Captions decoder combined with imported American LDs is by far the most fruitful way to get subtitles on LaserDiscs in Europe.

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Posted: 23 Jan 2020, 17:15 

Very interesting! I've just looked a few of these things up (sorry if Americans already knew all this). PSA (Pacific Southwest Airlines) was a budget airline which operated from 1949 until 1988, when it merged into USAir (which in turn renamed to US Airways and then merged with American Airlines in 2013). Their Expressway brand was used for flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and their automated ticket machines were introduced on this route in autumn 1978. I imagine this must have been the disc for the one in LA since they mention SF as the destination. However, the brand was not introduced until 1985 so this must postdate that but predate the 1988 USAir merger.

There is a modern airline owned by AA called PSA Airlines, but this is not the same airline - it was renamed from Jetstream International Airlines to protect the former PSA trademark.

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Posted: 28 Jan 2020, 16:51 

Well this is going to be a bit longer so let´s do it step by step.

First of all, why do I bought the PAL player. It was from a move sealing and cost me only 15 euro, I would bought it even if it was broken. Unexpectedly it works great but it doesn't have digital audio, which suck a bit but in the other hand it reads CDV too. That came really handful actually because i really want to stop using my dreamcast and saturn to play cd video (you know, that lens are really fragile).

In second place let's talk about the sony player I've found, well after a lot of guessing checking out the almost erase label of the front i think that it's a MDP-650D. The price would be 80€ (88$), the store claim that the price is high cause the player have RGB output, but as far as i know the signal recorded on laserdiscs was a composite one, so I don't know if they're lying to me or what, cause it doesn't make a lot of sense.

On third place, about the French market. It's a lot easier and cheaper than the spanish, but i would like to stay local because of high shipping extra costs. The problem it's that find anything on any kind of local retailer it has been hard as hell, no one know anything about laserdisc here, even "profesional" retro stores are really lost.

Maybe the next time i have a little trip to the uk i should buy something there and ship it back by myself.

Btw, you guys are being really helpful, the spanish forums are not as near as active as this one, even when it's about trending topics.

Unfortunately CDV (CD Video) is not the same as VCD (Video CD). CDV is analogue picture and is in effect just a LaserDisc with CD form factor. VCD is just digital video stored on a CD encoded with MPEG-1. It would surprise me if a player without digital audio will read a VCD. Some DVD players can read VCDs though so perhaps you should look at finding a cheap one if you want to stop using your Saturn/Dreamcast for it?

Here is information about the MDP-650D written when it came out:

As you correctly said, LaserDiscs only store composite picture. However, having a TV in Europe that supported NTSC in the 1990s was still quite rare, so the player had a feature where it could decode the NTSC using an internal decoder and output it over RGB SCART. However, the comb filter in a modern TV is *likely* better than the one in a LaserDisc player from the early 1990s, so this feature is not likely to be useful today. It's not a lie, but it's also not amazingly useful today.

As for that price - well, it's not the cheapest price I've seen, but if the player works, I would say go for it. Anything you get over the internet when you include shipping or travel costs to collect it is likely to cost that much.

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Posted: 07 Feb 2020, 15:04 

Thanks everyone!

The thing you want doesn’t exist; that is an anamorphic Squeeze version of Jaws. Laserdisc is an NTSC/PAL format so it only makes 4:3 video, period. You can matte things off (letter box) or you can optically compress it (Squeeze) but it is always 4:3 latently. This is because wide TVs barely existed before the early 90s and only in Japan.

If there is a full frame version of Jaws (I know very little about this movie) then you could get that and Zoom it, matte it to 16:9, that’s what is normally done. If it’s a letter box version then when you Zoom it you should be left with very little to no black bars. You have to have a decent TV though, a lot of the crap ones don’t have decent zoom modes. (Guideline: if it was over 40” and you payed less than $600 it’s probably crap).

So you are saying any wide-screen or letterboxed versions of LD(unless squeezed) means I will have black bars all around on a modern wide screen tv, and hence I will be losing image area/space since its basically a 16:9 image implemented WITHIN a 4:3 box?
Unfortunately, zooming doesn't work, as zooming means that picture quality will degrade.

As for which version of "Jaws" to get, the "Signature Collection" versions are the best. There "limited edition" version has the film in CAV and includes a paperback book and CD soundtrack. The standard "Signature Collection" replaces Discs 1 & 2 from the CAV version with a single CLV disc and drops the CD and book.

Hey, are you the owner of website? I was reading an article on Signature Collection releases on there yesterday what a coincidence :lol:
I thought the website is a relic from early 2000 that has just stayed up forgotten by the owner.
Frankly if you want to maximise image quality this isn't the hobby for you, just buy it on Blu-ray. There is a reason why nobody makes new LaserDiscs any more after all! Most of us are here because we are interested in the format in some way, either due to the rare content, or the impressive special edition sets, or simply for the interest of seeing an old format in action.

For most films on LD you had two options. Either a pan and scan (or open matte if you're lucky) version that displays the film in 4:3 by cutting off part of the picture (or adding additional picture for open matte) compared to the cinematic version, or a letterbox version that has hard-coded black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. On a modern TV you can zoom in on the latter. Anamorphic LDs were rare simply because most people had 4:3 screens and there was no way to display the image correctly on the vast majority of 4:3 tellies (the most notable exception being certain Sony models which could add letterboxing for you). DVD players fixed this by having the ability to add letterboxing in the DVD player itself but Laserdisc players weren't designed for this as nobody foresaw widescreen TV in 1978.

So with this newfound knowledge in mind, there are actually quite a few reasons you might be interested in getting Jaws on LD. The limited edition boxset as described above is one, and this is fairly typical for the high end of LD collector's boxsets once LD finally found its niche with cinephiles in the late 80s and through the 90s (until DVD killed it). The other interesting Jaws release is that the first ever LaserDisc (or rather, DiscoVision) release way back in the 1970s was the CAV version of Jaws. This of course is pan and scan (it predated the popularity of letterbox releases) and not a great quality transfer so you should only buy this if you are interested in the historical aspect.

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 Post subject: Re: Subtitles help
Posted: 19 Jan 2021, 23:08 

I think even modern TVs sold in Europe have Teletext decoders in them, though I haven't bought a TV in a while (I still haven't gone 4K!) so I could be wrong. To use teletext subtitles, press the "text" button on the remote (if you don't have a text button on your remote, hit the subtitle button and select teletext). If you just see a mostly black screen with coloured bars at the bottom and a few numbers dotted about it's almost certain that the disc doesn't have teletext. If you do see an index screen, you would then type the page number for the subtitles - traditionally in the UK the page was 888 but LaserDiscs may use different pages; for instance my Jurassic Park special edition UK boxset has teletext subtitles on page 168. However, very few PAL LaserDiscs bothered with teletext subtitles (which is a real shame; my suspicion is because unlike closed captions, Teletext requires more bandwidth than VHS has, so even though LaserDisc can carry it since they weren't bothering for VHS they didn't bother for LaserDisc either); so the majority of PAL releases contain no subtitle data at all. In theory you can get a Teletext decoder if your TV doesn't support it, but in practice I don't think there are all too many of them in existence so good luck finding one.

Here is a screenshot of the index screen:

And here is an example of teletext subtitles in action (note that each speaker has a different text colour; this is a common convention in areas that use Teletext subtitles. Though oddly the font size used on this disc seems to be the standard size; subtitles on TV broadcasts in the UK would typically use the double height font for extra readability so I don't quite know why they haven't done so here):

One nice thing about most European TVs having built-in Teletext decoders is that the TV will render the Teletext in the same place no matter what you do with the picture. So when I enable the zoom function on my TV this happens:

For NTSC discs, being in the UK and liking subtitles, I decided to buy a closed caption decoder. I actually was pleasantly surprised at how straightforward this was for my personal setup. I did a bit of searching on eBay and soon discovered the Contemporary Research VCC. It's a very basic closed captions decoder but it's all I really needed. The main important feature is it takes composite video in and provides composite video out (albeit with BNC connectors as often seen with professional equipment, so you'll need to have BNC to RCA adaptors). I notice there's the very similar VSCC model on eBay right now for very good prices if you want one (the only difference is in addition to the composite output the VSCC also has S-Video output; I've no idea how good its comb filter is). I wasn't really sure what to expect when I bought it but in most respects I was reasonably pleasantly surprised. I rewired my setup to go via the closed captions decoder; this also meant getting rid of the big ugly SCART cable I was previously using. At one point I connected up both at once so I could flick between the two for a side by side comparison; I could notice no difference in picture quality whatsoever going direct vs via the decoder. It also passes things like PAL signals through without alteration. However it's worth noting that when powered off it doesn't passively pass video through, so if you want it to be a permanent fixture in your system you'll need to keep it powered on all the time. It has a common barrel plug connector for DC power (12V centre positive drawing 100mA max) so you should be able to find an AC adaptor without difficulty, though I'm currently using a step-down transformer with the supplied 120V wall wart because I'm too lazy to go searching for one through my house for the right 230V power brick.

Anyway, most later American titles will have closed captions, as this was well-established in the home video world by then. Some Japanese releases have them too, but I'm not sure how prevalent this is (I don't have too many Japanese releases).

Here's a screenshot of my American copy of the Jurassic Park special edition boxset which has Closed Captions, running through my decoder:

You'll notice it looks like everyone is shouting. This is because for some unfathomable reason, the usual standard with closed captions is for all dialogue to be in ALL CAPS. Descriptions of non-speech sounds are in mixed case. I've no idea why they chose to do this as it makes dialogue (the main thing people are going to be reading) much more painful to read, but there you go... You'll also notice there's no nice colouring for who is speaking (this is simply because the Closed Captions standard does not support this, I believe), but on this disc at least they seem to be making an effort to position the captions appropriately.

One significant issue with using an external decoder is it doesn't always mix well with widescreen releases. Here's what I get if I zoom the picture on my TV:

Fortunately my TV allows me to reposition the zoomed picture. So I can shift it up a little to reveal most of the captions without putting any real picture off the screen, which is fine for titles that mostly place the captions on the bottom, but if they start getting adventurous putting them on both the bottom and top there's no way I can see all the captions besides zooming back out. Anyway the shifted picture looks like this:

If you use a widescreen TV but it doesn't let you shift the picture in zoom mode, then you might want to consider trying to find a closed captions decoder that lets you adjust the drawable area (good luck with that, I don't know if such a thing exists!)

As for LD-G, I'm afraid that I know very little. I don't have too many Japanese releases and even fewer have LD-G so for me it just isn't worth the cost of a decoder right now.

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 Post subject: Re: Doctor Who
Posted: 21 Jan 2021, 15:39 

I know this is an old thread, but I happened to see it, and as an original die hard Who fan since the late 70's when it came to America on PBS, I thought i'd throw my comments in. The only LD I have is The Five Doctors, which is really nice aside from a few very slight edits. The picture quality beats any DVD digitized remaster (especially the modern era redo with the "new effects", which I hate) or original VHS, and it looks exactly as I remember seeing it on TV in the 80's.

Have been curious about "Day Of The Daleks" (the only other US LD I believe), but every time I came across one, it was way too pricey. It wasn't one of the best stories of the Pertwee era, but cause i'm a fan would love to own it on LD just to have it.
I don't know which particular version you own but it's worth pointing out that The Five Doctors was the first DVD release done by the Doctor Who Restoration Team, and they've had both a lot more experience and a lot better technology since then. Their 25th Anniversary Edition rerelease of it, which includes both the originally aired and 'special edition' versions, makes use of these newer techniques, including the use of the "Transform PAL decoder" which is documented here (I wonder if someone could use these techniques these days to make a good software-defined comb filter for Laserdisc watching purposes!), and the many location shots (shot on film, remember) transferred using the Philips SDC-2000 'Spirit' Datacine. Frankly with all this care and attention put into maximising the quality of the newer DVD releases of Doctor Who in particular, if you still think the Laserdisc looks better I suspect there's something wrong with your DVD-playing setup!

See some side-by-side comparisons between the broadcast version and the newly remastered version here

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 Post subject: Re: Teletext
Posted: 24 Jan 2021, 03:10 

Teletext is almost dead in the UK. However it's still used in standard definition channels on digital satellite (specifically channels on the Sky platform which is... pretty much all of them) to carry subtitles only, as early Sky boxes couldn't decode DVB subtitles so Teletext subtitles were used. Also had the added bonus that the box would insert the Teletext data into the VBI as usual, so if you recorded to S-VHS (in pre-PVR days) you would still have soft subtitles you could see using Teletext on your TV. Incidentally off-air S-VHS recordings are where much of the modern archives of Teletext pages in the 90s and 2000s come from.

Digital terrestrial broadcasts have never carried Teletext in the UK (instead preferring the MHEG-based digital text system; and this too now is rarely used any more, at least compared to its heyday a decade and a half ago), and I honestly don't know about digital cable as I've never received TV through it. So Teletext as a service used for actually delivering information died here shortly before the end of analogue broadcasts (the commercial broadcasts of it died a little earlier, but the BBC switched off their Teletext service, Ceefax, I think when the majority of the country had undergone digital switchover).

Teletext was long used here as a good way of getting information through your TV - in the days before home internet access was commonplace it must have been pretty cool to be able to receive news, weather, and a bunch more such information through your TV. The BBC had Ceefax, ITV and Channel 4 had ORACLE at first, later being confusingly branded just Teletext when it was taken over by Teletext Ltd, and Channel 5 had 5 Text. Each service had different information available, and sometimes for technical reasons (capacity limitations of the Teletext signal) the things you could get would be different depending on channel. Teletext pages had a three-digit number (internally these were hex digits I believe but the public could obviously only use decimal digits), and each page could have subpages. Cheap receivers wouldn't bother to store more than one Teletext page at a time, so when you typed a number you would have to wait several seconds for that page to be broadcast - commonly-used pages could be broadcast more often than uncommonly used ones. If it were a multi-page news article, again on cheap receivers you would then have to wait for the first subpage to come around in the broadcast, and make sure you read the page before waiting for the next one to load (I tended to find they were timed well so that you would have time to read a whole page before the next subpage came, but equally this meant if there were say five subpages and you loaded the page on subpage 2, that's quite a long wait to get round to the start). More sophisticated receivers (mostly in mid-2000s TVs) would store every page it received so could instantly access any page, and also allowed you to choose which subpage you wanted to see.

Last time I checked (and this was several years ago) there were a few stragglers on satellite which still had stubs of Teletext services, but only a very small handful and usually just in the form of an index page telling you to visit their website instead (one memorable example actually encoded a QR code with teletext graphics, something I never thought I'd see!).

Teletext played a notable part in the British home computer industry of the early 1980s, as when the BBC were running a computer literacy programme and wanted an official computer to be partnered with it, they decided it'd be useful for it to have a Teletext chip in it. So when Acorn won that contract and produced the BBC Micro, sure enough along with the more usual bitmap graphics chip in the system, there was another chip, accessible by requesting graphics mode 7, that was simply a Teletext chip as you would expect to find in any TV of the era. This provided a very nice to use text mode with quite nice fonts (especially compared with the bitmap mode) and low memory usage, and of course the ability to draw crude Teletext style graphics, which were all made in text mode (basically Teletext has some graphics characters which draw blocks in certain combinations, along with some special characters which do things like changing the foreground and background colour, or toggling various behaviour like what character to print when one of these control characters is received - bearing in mind that each character still takes up a "space" on screen even if it's doing something like changing colour, which helps explain the very characteristic look that Teletext graphics have). Anyway thanks to this Teletext chip Acorn were easily able to produce a Teletext Adaptor which allowed you to connect your BBC Micro to an aerial and receive Teletext pages through it, including most notably computer programs broadcast over the air. I also have in my possession, and probably the real reason the BBC wanted a Teletext chip in their machine, a BBC Master computer that was adapted to serve as an authoring device for Ceefax pages - it works and comes complete with software to write pages and send them off presumably around the BBC's internal network. Obviously the network is long gone but the software still works; having in my collection a device which the BBC actually used to create Teletext pages is cool beyond words, speaking as someone who has always had a soft spot for Teletext.

Anyway, hopefully this braindump of mine about Teletext was interesting for you. There are a bunch of websites out there that document and preserve examples of Teletext pages through the ages, and one particularly interesting site written by a guy who built their own receiver and recorded some very early Teletext broadcasts, along with going into more technical details about it, which is a pretty amazing resource to have now.

And the "TEXT" option on Closed Captions decoders is sadly not Teletext. I believe it was intended to be a similar system for the US though basically using the Closed Caption standard, but it was never actually a thing as far as i know. I don't think it could possibly have been as interactive as Teletext though; it sounds like there would have been just three or four pages available, rather than the up to 800 publicly-accessible pages with Teletext.

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Posted: 27 Jan 2021, 18:36 

It's an evaluation board, designed to show off the capabilities of their chip to people who are looking at building hardware with that chip. As such it probably has small production runs and might well be made at a loss (on the expectation that the orders they receive for the thousands of chips will make up for it). It certainly won't have been intended to be an end-user product.

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Posted: 10 Aug 2022, 13:56 

Are you specifically wedded to the elephant condom style? Because if not, some inner sleeves designed for vinyl collectors are also suitable for LaserDiscs. "poly-lined LP sleeves" is a good thing to search on Amazon. But of course these tend to be the paper sleeves with the plastic insides, like you'd get with many American/European laserdiscs.

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 Post subject: Re: Subtitles help
Posted: 02 Sep 2022, 19:10 

Just thought I'd mention, I recently upgraded my TV to a Sony A95K. It has a composite video input (albeit behind an irritating 3.5mm jack plug that I had to find the right adaptor for) and will decode teletext — confirmed with my PAL Jurassic Park release. It also allows for repositioning the image so I can use it with my closed captions decoder, but obviously it was too much to ask for the TV to be able to decode closed captions natively!
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