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Problems & Solutions
Returns & Replacement
Can I return a tape which is damaged
Of course! If a tape you purchased is damaged or defective, return
it to us within 30 days and we will immediately ship you a replacement.
If you receive a defective tape for rental, let us know as soon
as you can and we will do everything possible to get a replacement
to you in time for your showing, or for an alternative date. It's
obviously a good idea to check your tapes as soon as you receive
them, so that any problems can be resolved promptly.
What about a DVD that won't play?
It is important to check a new DVD as soon as possible after you
receive it. At the present time most of our conversions of existing
video program are being done using the DVD-R process. There is a
small possibility that such DVDs may not play in some older players.
If you experience any problems in playing one of our DVDs, we encourage
you to try it in a different player if that is convenient. However,
we will of course gladly replace it with the VHS version, or accept
its return for a full refund of your purchase price and shipping;
it’s your choice. (Note: Our DVDs are not “region-coded.”)
What if a tape or DVD becomes damaged
or worn out later? Can we get a replacement?
Replacement tapes or DVDs are available at 30% off the current catalog
price plus shipping. Please return the damaged copy to us, if possible,
or send us a brief note on your letterhead explaining the circumstances.
Please note that we will not be able to replace films which we no
We currently have a 16mm or 3/4" copy
of one of your programs; can we replace it with a VHS or DVD copy?
VHS or DVD replacements are available at a discount of 30% off the
current catalog price for that title. If for any reason the title
has been withdrawn from distribution, we will do our best to recommend
What about replacing a VHS copy with
The same policy applies with regard to replacing VHS with DVD. However,
since both formats are currently in widespread use, we do require
that you return your VHS copy to us in order to obtain this discount.
Problems in Screening programs
Our DVD won’t play, or it stops
in mid-program, or skips.
If a newly purchased DVD won’t play, it’s possible that
it is incompatible with your player (see above, under “Returns
& Replacements"). At your request, we will gladly replace
it or refund your purchase. If you have been able to play the DVD
before, first make sure that the problem isn’t with your player,
by trying a different disk. If the player seems OK, it’s most
likely that the DVD has become dirty or scratched. You can try wiping
it gently with a soft, dry, clean cloth. You can also try dampening
the cloth with a little clean water, or water plus a bit of mild
dish soap. In either case, wipe straight across the disk, NOT with
a circular motion; this is probably counter-intuitive, but very
important. Be sure the disk is completely dry before putting it
back into your player. There is a lot of good information about
DVD care on the web; here is one brief Care
Guide that may be helpful. There are a number of
commercially available products that claim to be able to repair
or resurface scratched CDs and DVDs. We have heard mixed reports
about these. If a damaged DVD needs to be replaced, we will do so
under the policy stated in the “Returns & Replacements”
section above. Our DVDs are not region coded and therefore should
play in DVD players worldwide.
Some of your programs don't seem as technically
polished as others.
While we strive to provide you with the highest quality video copies
possible, for all our programs, it is also true that the original
quality of the production "masters" of our titles is somewhat variable.
Particularly with some older programs, the original shooting and
editing may have been done with equipment which does not meet today's
higher standards. We have kept some such programs in our collection
because we, and many of our customers, feel that their unique content
makes them still valuable. However, if a program we have sent you
does not meet your expectations, we will be glad to accept its prompt
return for full credit.
Why isn't the picture (or sound) clear
when I show a VHS tape?
Most often when people call us about picture or sound quality problems
with VHS tapes, the difficulty turns out to be with the playback
equipment rather than the videotape. Therefore the first thing to
do when you experience such problems is to check whether a tape
which you know is OK will play properly on the same machine or,
alternatively, check whether the 'suspect' tape will play properly
on a different machine. If the problem is with the tape, give us
a call right away. If we've inadvertently sent you a defective tape
we will of course send you a replacement immediately. If it's an
older tape which has become worn or damaged over time, we can discuss
our replacement policies and costs with you.
...and if the problem is with the VCR, not the tape?
The most common problem we encounter is with what's called the 'tracking' control on customers' VCRs. Tracking aligns the videotape with the control heads on the VCR, correcting for differences between the machine the tape was originally recorded on and the VCR it is being played on. If tracking is out of adjustment, you'll see lines or distortion on the screen.
On older VCRs and on professional models, there will usually be a tracking knob or dial on the control panel. Newer, consumer VCRs supposedly adjust tracking automatically; usually this works well, but not always. On some of these machines, tracking adjustment may be possible via the remote control though, unfortunately, it may not be clearly marked (on many, for example, the up/down channel control can be used to adjust tracking when you are playing a tape. Others may offer an adjustment via the on-screen menu.) You may well have to consult the user's manual to find where the tracking adjustment is. Then, simply adjust the tracking control until you get the best possible picture.
What if a tracking adjustment doesn't help?
The next most likely problem is a dirty head (not yours, the VCR's). The video heads, which record and play back video information, are wafer-thin slivers of metal attached to a metal drum which spins thousands of time a second against the moving videotape. Although new machine technologies and tape formulations have made this less of a problem than it used to be, the heads can become dirty or clogged with bits of flaking tape oxide, room dust, cigarette smoke, or any of a myriad of contaminants. (Particularly dangerous and avoidable are the fibers which leak from the fiber-filled "jiffy bags" sometimes used to ship tapes.) Dirty heads may show up as tape dropouts, picture distortion or even total loss of the picture, loss of sound quality, etc.
The best solution for head-clog problems is a professional cleaning by a trained technician, though this may be expensive. Head-cleaning tapes are also widely available; these are easy to use, and are reasonably effective, though they carry a small risk that you may make the problem worse. Opinions differ on whether the "dry" or "wet" types are preferable. What's most important with either type is to use them properly, and only when needed. The dry tapes are abrasive and can cause head wear; they should not be used longer or more often than suggested in the instructions. With the wet-type cleaning tapes, it's most important to allow sufficient time for the cleaning solvent to dry thoroughly before playing a new tape; if the heads or drum are wet, the videotape may tend to stick and cause further problems.
The most serious of the VCR problems which can cause poor picture quality is heads which have become worn or damaged to the point where they require replacement. In addition to poor playback, such heads will also begin to cause physical damage to tapes played on the machine. Head replacement is expensive; except for high-quality professional VCRs, it may be more economical to replace the entire machine.
Is there anything I can do to avoid problems like that?
The worst enemies of videotapes and equipment are dust, humidity and heat pretty much in that order. Therefore the most important thing you can do to protect your valuable video equipment, and possibly even more valuable tape collection, is to keep both in the most dust-free environment possible, and avoid extremes of temperature and humidity. It's a good idea to cover video equipment when it's not in use, and to keep tapes in their protective sleeves or cases. Don't allow smoking around your equipment.
Regarding heat and humidity, normal office or home conditions are fine (though the ideal would be somewhat cooler and drier). Leaving tapes or equipment in a hot attic, damp basement, or car parked in the sun, on the other hand, is asking for trouble.
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