TV/VCR/Stereo Troubleshooting/VCR not recording right



I have a Sony SLV-N750 4-head VCR recorder/player which is hooked into my TV (a 10 year old Insignia IS-TV040920.)  I've got a DVR as well, and my cable (Comcast) comes into the DVR, then out to the VCR and then from the VCR to the TV.  So my VCR is sort of the 'middle man'.

I usually record things off of my DVR (for my sister, who can't get all my channels) and onto VCR tape.  And for the past 10 years it's worked like a charm.

But 2 weeks ago it suddenly wouldn't record right.  I had just made one recording with no problem, but the next one wouldn't work. I never touched anything, so none of my settings or wiring would have changed.  It would actually "record", but when I played it back the picture was black & white and rolling or otherwise distorted.  I tried hitting the record button while watching live TV (instead of from my DVR), and as soon as I hit the VCR record button the TV picture would dim and begin distorting.  And of course, when I played it back, I got the same b&w rolling mess.

I found a new VCR (same exact model) cheap on ebay, and set it up exactly the same way I had the original VCR.  But the same thing happened.  So then I thought it might be a faulty cable.  I replaced the cable that goes from the VCR to the TV.  (I didn't think I should have to replace the one from the DVR to the VCR, since the problem was with the TV and VCR.)  And that didn't work either.  

I'm at a loss as to what could be causing this.  It's obviously not the VCR, since the new one does the same thing.  And it doesn't appear to be the cable (at least not the one from the VCR to the TV).  Is there something I'm overlooking?  I'm hoping that you'll be able to help me!  

Thanks so much for your time!

ANSWER: You were probably recording a program which was formatted for restricted play.

Macrovision scrambling or encryption is used on many copyrighted material to keep it from being illegally copied and distributed or for that matter enjoyed by viewers who have no authority to record or reproduce it.  This encryption makes the picture look like the recorder has gone crazy with rolling and bouncing picture that it totally unviewable.

Here is a technical overview of the status and problems with Macrovision protection circuitry that may be of interest to you.

There needs to be a descrambler in your system in order to view a scrambled program.  They are found on the black market since they are essentially illegal to purchase or own.  The only solution is to purchase the commercial version of the program you cannot view on conventional vcr playback machines.

Let me know if there are other aspects of this dilemma you are facing!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi again,

Thanks for the information on encrypted shows.  But I don't think that's the problem I'm facing.  Only because I tried recording anything off the TV just as a test.  Even the commercials.  It did the same thing whatever program I tried to record.  

I'm wondering if I should change out the second cable after all.  The one that goes from the DVR to the VCR.  I just didn't think that would have any effect on how the VCR recorded from the TV.  But maybe it does....??

Any more ideas??  

Thanks again for your help!

Elizabeth  (Clueless in Seattle)

Nest suggestion:  Try resetting the tv. It may have locked up on the PAL/Secam software detection if you have such a set - which are commonplace in Australia and New Zealand.

And, your suggestion to switch cables is worthwhile but I doubt if that will cause the problem you are facing.

And, finally, make sure the vcr is set for the right format (NTSC vs PAL vx SECAM) recording (if it is a multi-format product).

That's it for today.  Let me know the solution you found.

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