So I've been a busy person this year.
In February I
noticed an odd quirk in a Toshiba RD-XS32. Its a DVD recorder with a
hard drive. I took the hard drive out and put it in a PC and started
looking at the bytes on the hard disk.
Not knowing the
binary editor I was using too well.. and messing up on the unicode
representation.. I found what I thought were "reversed" bytes in the
data stream. Not only that. I didn't understand it at the time but they
were (Not) Big Endian vs Little Endian reversals.
Rather they were a straight forward byte swap every 8 bits.
been looking at a data recovery tool called IsoBuster, and decided to
open a support ticket and see if he could make sense of the data a
In the mean time I found that the Linux DD
tool from ibm UNIX days had acquired a swap bytes while copy option..
and copied the hard disk to another hard disk.. then mounted it as a
UDFS.. it turned out to be readable.
It wasn't readable as in title names for recordings.. but rather in some strange and new VR/VRO format I was not familar with.
the author of IsoBuster was nearly familar with it.. and with a little
prodding and comparing with the VRO format from a Panasonic DVD-RW.. and
some clues left on a website years ago.. he was able to knit the files
and titles back together in a virtual file system which made complete
sense to a newbie like me.
And I thought that was the end of the story... turns out.. not.
then found the same thing worked for all of the Toshiba model DVD
recorders with hard drives.. they had been recently falling in price on
eBay.. so I collected a few of them. Each one worked perfectly.
then noticed you could swap the hard drives back and forth between the
Toshiba models and the recordings previously made on one recorder would
work on the the other model. Super.
found out that an SD card to IDE adapter would also work on the Toshibas
and completely format and replace the hard drives in the recorders.. so
even if I couldn't find an IDE hard drive.. I could use SD cards in
their place and make and play back new recordings.. or eject those SD
cards and read them on a PC with the augmented IsoBuster program.
In previous years I had discovered that
specific hard to get models like the RD-XS54 and RD-XS55 could upload or
copy (that is "dub") their recordings in their original format via a
built-in function based via a kind of FTP using the hand held remote
control to a normal Windows PC, running a python program or Windows Delphi (pascal) program and could in theory to a Mac as well. But directly copying from drive to drive via IsoBuster was far
faster and superior.. and from SD card to hard drive just as
From the Toshiba things kind of spiraled
outwards.. the author of IsoBuster and myself discovered as I collected
DVD/HDD recorders that almost all "were not encrypted" and the
"filesystems" on these devices were actually in some form of very well
understood and published VR/VRO or customized FAT file systems.. there
was a pattern that they seemed to not be able to escape.
think this due to their low power CPUs and using off the shelf "kits"
for capturing and encoding signals from camcorders or tv/cable
broadcasts to their hard disks. They couldn't stray too far from the
intended VR/VRO formats used by camcorders to get them ready for burning
to a DVD+/-R blank.
So by and large the differences
reflected only those changes to support specialized marketing features
like "timeshifting" or "video catchup" or "live replay" modes. This
resulted usually in slightly fragmented or "leader in/out" tags at the
front and rear of a recording on those recorders that had the feature..
but most of the time a simple trimming of the recording would be all
that was necessary if desired to cut it down to exact recording length.
being "Faster" to copy recordings from the original DVD recorder hard
drive to a PC hard drive.. the recordings could be made in different
Picture Quality modes called "speeds". Some even higher that the "speed"
that DVD movies are released in, and of even better quality. So where
burning a DVD typically require "downsizing" and "making the Picture
Quality (worse)" to fit on a DVD.. and making it necessary to "chop up"
DVD recorder recordings so that they could fit on single sided or double
sided DVD media.. you didn't have to sacrifice the Picture Quality.. or
the program length.. no editing (at all) was required to begin copying
the recordings from the DVD recorder hard drive to a PC.
format of the DVD recorder hard drives recordings were invariably in a
type of MPEG2 recording format interleaved with additional program
information.. sometimes as .VOB files. The software playback community
had long ago figured out how to identify and play these back on a PC.
once the recordings were recovered it was merely a matter on a Mac or
PC of getting something like VLC to play them back, convert them to
other formats.. or sometimes Quicktime and Windows Media Player just
played them without any additional problems.
As MPEG2 even high bit rate non-DVD standard video files.. editing does have a few challenges.
it wasn't until "end point" healing or re-encoding only on "cut points"
came about in programs like VideoRedo.. that people could venture back
and cut out bad scenes, commercials or other unwanted clips.. to save
storage space, improve pplayback continuity and make things better for
sitting down and watching a program.
programs can "edit" out clips in a long MPEG2 video and even re-encode
it to a DVD standard that can be burned to DVD or Blu-Ray blanks.
stumbling along blindly.. we ended up adding support for the Toshiba,
all of the Pioneer DVD recorders, most of the Panasonic DVD recorders
and some of the Panasonic Blu-Ray recorders, Maganavox, Philips and a
few others. It was a massive effort.. but my role was mostly in that of a
clean white-room style "testing" of updated versions of IsoBuster..
while providing feedback to the author "didn't work.. or almost worked".
was located over 7000 miles away in a foreign country.. and we have
never met in person. I was simply a customer who bought a copy of his
software and inquired about supporting a particular DVD recorder hard
disk format.. it kind of grew from there.
bit for bit identical video capture is preferred if your trying to
correct or "fix" video capture from a VHS recorder. The truth of the
matter however is it still produces very large capture files which few
people have the time or money to store and then fix large files. So while its
coming down in costs.. its still a very difficult thing to achieve here
in mid 2019.
And monitoring and course correcting VHS
playback requires an enormous amount of personal time, when most people
would rather toss in a tape, play it back and go to the gym and come
back to a completed capture. Some won't even look at the capture for
years.. long after the tape is destroyed or thrown away. For these
situations using a DVD/HDD recorder is ideal.. and being able to offload
or export the recordings to a PC more so.
even the United Nations had many historical interviews they wanted to
convert from aging video tape to a digital format accessible from a PC
in some sort of databank. Using DVD / HDD recorders that IsoBuster
currently supports would be ideal for this.
months ago Verbatim announced it would be selling its brand name and all
assets to CMC, a competitor who made DVD and Blu-Ray blanks of
questionable quality. And not known for making blanks that could be
recorded on by older DVD / HDD recorders.. so the end of that media
format seems near. It may be possible to continue with PC DVD or Blu-Ray
burners in the near term.. but the time to think abut ripping things
stored on DVD and Blu-Ray media is here.. ripping back to magenetic
storage like PC hard drives.
We never successfully
figured out how to "copy" from the hard drive of a JVC - DVD / HDD
recorder to a PC drive with IsoBuster. We sort of ran out of time or
motivation, and it was somewhat different.. yet another custom file
A lot of interest and motivation in the project
has fallen by the wayside and not a lot of "good" commentary has
followed.. more apathy, or complaints that this should have been done
ten years ago.
Hindsight may be foresight.. but in my
case.. I was too young, broke or in some countries "poor" to afford
touching a DVD recorder.. let along own one.. so it might have been a
good idea to do it that long ago. But I simply can't imagine any
scenario in which I would have been involved.
also a lot of negativity about the idea that it was possible.. many,
many people said it was all encrypted and dreamed up conspiracy theories
about how hollywood was driving the tech industry and directing what
they did. I'm not sure of that.. and don't mean to knock any of that
ornate and elegant storytelling down.. but we never found encryption on
anything.. technically the CPUs back then just didn't have the power.
sort of suspect encryption in one or two models and immediately ceased
investigating them.. our guiding rule was not to infringe or aide in any
violations of laws. Its the plain truth however that this was mostly a
data recovery effort of whatever the previous owners had stored on
their hard drive. Macrovision and other schemes were not circumvented
and the recorders were not modified to enable violations.. this was
simple data recovery.
So that occupied most of my time until mid July.
I'm not sure of what I'm doing.. I've been engaged in a lot of
Raspberry Pi 3+ efforts with a lightning detector to automate safe
guarding the power supply and DSL lines to my Moms rural home. DockerPi
has played a large part in that.. I really like their Pi "Hats" which
offer pass-thrus for all of the GPIO pins.. and a fan module.
Apple Mac Vintage Video capture devices from Grass Valley have caught
my eye.. since they capture in 4:2:2 mode as Motion Jpeg, Apple
Intermediate Codec and Uncompressed.. and still work all the way up to
OS X 10.12 Sierra.