Thursday, May 26, 2016

Let It Be - A Note About Transferring Old LaserDiscs

(from the Analog Video department)

Hi everyone,

I'm one of the few people who have a copy of the Beatles movie "Let It Be".  Not a bootleg either - I bought a LaserDisc of it back in 1981, just after it was released to home video for the first time, and just before it went out of print.  It remains out of print up to this day.  

However LaserDiscs from 1981 are not the same as the LaserDiscs you commonly find today.  Discs from this era were designed around Helium/Neon laser technology and can have unique issues that are exacerbated with the later solid-state laser players.

For instance, the second side of my copy of Let It Be is defective - it has a form of inclusion. It's not laser rot per se, but it looks similar. (The major difference is that it doesn't get worse over time.)

My modern, solid-state LaserDisc players render this inclusion with high degrees of precision. I had become accustomed to watching it this way, when I read something interesting.

As you may have guessed, some folks are now watching/transferring these discs using older Helium/Neon players. The Helium/Neon lasers don't focus the same, and can "look past" some of these imperfections.

As it turns out, I do have a Helium/Neon Pioneer LD-660 in my collection - but I hadn't used it in years. After finding it in storage, removing the packing screws, and scanning back and forth across the surface of a disc for a while to re-lubricate the laser tracks, I put in the 2nd side of Let It Be.

I was pleasantly surprised. It's not perfect, but it's watchable - and it was definitely easier to digitize. And the first side looks great.

This still doesn't make up for the generally crappy transfer of the disc itself - nothing can help that. But - if you have one of these, and access to an older working Helium/Neon LD player - give it a shot.


P.S. The article I read was here: