Excuse Me, but your Webcam is Effecting the Tracking on my VCR

Well, I’ll be spending much of this weekend and the coming week trying to keep up with the blog. I’ve found myself back in a pretty fun groove with ds106radio and ds106tv, and I think I finally dialed in my streaming setup for both platforms to a place I’m pretty comfortable with. I’ll be writing more about this throughout the week, but I ran into an interesting issue last night that was probably niche enough to be completely irrelevant to most anyone reading this, but all the more reason to blog it 🙂

So, I have been wanting to get my hands on a webcam for a while now, I ordered a higher-end Logitech webcam during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown here in Italy, but it never arrived given Logictech’s inventory issues here in Europe. I decided to do some shopping yesterday in an actual store and it was Slim Pickens.

So, in the end, I opted to invest in a play drone for some more Reclaim R&D instead, and picked up the C615 Portable HD Webcam from Logictech. At $100 bucks here in Italy,I would classify it within the decent range at best. The autofocus is not all that great, but it does the job for conference calls and my very low quality barrier for live streaming. That said, if the drivers for the Canon DSLR I have are ever available for Catalina on the Mac, I may be better off going that route.

Anyway, I needed the webcam because the new Macbook Pro I got a couple of months back gets really loud when connected to my external monitors. And if I’m doing anything at all with the laptop lid open and built-in camera on (say a video call), it’s like a factory in my office. So, the webcam was a “quick fix” to an issue 2 months in the making. I felt the added pressure these days because Wednesday we have the karaOERoke for ALT’s Summer Summit, and I did not want anything competing with my singing voice 🙂 Now I can keep the lid shut when doing video, which has led to a huge improvement in fan noise (along with turning off the MBP’s Turbo Boost using this app). So, with the noise under control I decided to do another stream last night discussing my method of archiving VHS tapes using Elgato Video Capture. I archived The Matrix the evening prior with no issues,  but last night when archiving True Romance I ran into some serious tracking issues.* In fact, it was bordering on unwatchable, and about an hour and 15 minutes into the film the tape stopped. It was frustrating the hell out of me, and I could not figure out why the VCR was now on the fritz. I cleaned the heads multiple times, tried various tapes,  and even pulled out my backup VCR (which just happens to be the same make and model) and it had the very same issues. The following video traces these issues in excruciating, head cleaner detail

I was about to give up, but then had an idea—like a diamond through my forehead: the only thing I changed about my setup from last night was I added the new USB webcam I purchased early that day. The Elgato video capture device also runs via USB though a USB-C dongle I purchased to re-introduce 3 USB ports. Based on a hunch, I decided to plug the Elgato video convertor directly into a free USB-C port using the appropriate USB convertor, and the tracking issues disappeared. Can you believe it? The webcam was interfering with my VHS tape tracking on the USB hub dongle? How crazy is that? Probably not to crazy for folks who understand this better for me, but eye-opening for this hack. Anyway, below is the video where I finally figure this out at 4 AM in the morning 🙂


*These tapes are part of a collection the great Laura Ritchie brought to me in a large, orange suitcase during OER19 that I have been methodically archiving since.

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One Response to Excuse Me, but your Webcam is Effecting the Tracking on my VCR

  1. I’ll bet your webcam USB wire was acting like a small but unintentional antenna transmitter. Sometimes you see some USB cables with a cylinder-shaped object near the end. Those cylinders are a ferromagnetic dampening device meant to reduce EMF interference. Cheaper USB devices don’t have those cylinders. Evidently, moving your cable further away solved your interference problem.

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