Pete's VCU-1 (or not) FAQ

Revised: April 18, 2020

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Here is an unedited series of emails where folks have asked me for information about a VCU-1 they just bought or just found. They want to know how to run it or whether or not they should go to the trouble of firing it up. My replies are attached.
Everything I say is only my personal opinion. I don't think this section qualifies as a REAL "FAQ", but I don't know what else to call it!

Jim wrote:
I came across your article on videography while search for info on the videonics vcu-1. I'm just starting out doing the same thing you did with your group. My son bought a vcu-1 years ago when he was in high school. I found it in the basement and I'm now trying to get it to work. I have no documentation on it. Do you have any or do you know where I can get my hands on an instruction book? Thanks for any help you can give me.

Pete's ANSWER #1
Yes, Jim. Videonics used to have a website. It appears that they are now Try their site to see if you can get what you need. If not, you can try their old helpline phone number, 408-866-8300 (Campbell CA). They will want to know the model and s/n of your machine. There are/were a couple of updates available and, if they have a manual available, you will want the right one.
At least, try to get the latest software (a vhs video tape) that you can.
I am using version 3.65. They sent me a later version once (3.79)that didn't work on my VCU-1 DirectED Plus.

Failing all that, get back to me. I have the latest manual and software. I would send you a copy of the software if they don't do it anymore. But the manual is a little different story. I loaned it to a guy in Reno once (to make a copy for himself), (I'm in west central Wisconsin) and it didn't come back for a long time. So, if you REALLY need a copy of mine, I have put it on a CD, so I can make a copy to send to you.

I have recently acquired a non-linear editor system that fits into my PC. You need a fast PC to really make it work, something like 500Mhz. But the hardware (one board) and the software together only costs about $100. It is called Pinnacle Systems Studio DC10+ (for analog video) or Studio DV for digital video cameras.

The reason that I tell you this, is that it is really neat. It digitizes your incoming video and then allows you to do all the editing work at your PC. On the downside, it takes lots of hard disk space to store your "dubs" which are the duplicates of the original video that you make for editing purposes.

So, to compare:
VCU-1: You need 2 VCRS for this system. The VCU-1 is connected in between them and actually takes control of one of those VCRS, commanding it to go forward, play, record and reverse as necessary. You make a "dub" tape copy of your original and then put the original away until you are going to create the final movie output tape. The "dub" gets timing marks put on it as it is created. Then you work with the VCU-1 via its "Remote" to choose the scenes you want. Then you "assemble" your movie. You save the "dubs" forever so you can modify you "assembly" if you ever want to (and soemtimes I do).

The VCU-1 saves the edit list(the information you gave it when you edited the tapes) within the VHS tape that contains its system software. To make the final movie, you just call up the list of videos on the VCU-1, choose the movie you want to make and put the first orignal tape in one VCR and a fresh tape into another VCR.
The VCU-1 instructs you when to change tapes.
On the other hand, the Studio DC10+ only requires one VCR. The "dubs" are made electronically into the computers hard drive and therefore are stored diigitally.
This takes up a LOT of space. I recently bought a 30GByte drive just for video, and I almost filled it up with an 88 minute movie. I will have to make my output tapes right away and then erase all that stuff so I have room for new movies. Since I only inputted the parts of each original video that I knew I would need for further editing, I would have to go thru the WHOLE capture and edit-list procedure again if I ever wanted to recreate this movie.
The Studio DC10+ makes the movies totally from the digitized images stored in the computer and therefore doesn't require the use of the original tapes after the scenes have once been recorded and selected.

As you can probably see, I'm telling you all this so you will have a better chance of deciding which way you will want to go. During the production of the 88 minute movie I just mentioned, I remember wishing that I had used the VCU-1 instead of the DC10+ once or twice. But the final result was very pleasing, I just wish the I had a way to keep the stored video and the edit list.
They both do the job well.
1. Check to see that you have the remote for the VCU-1 and that the batteries haven't corroded the insides.
1.1 Check to see that you have the software. It is a video tape that should be labelled something like "Videonics DirectED Plus Getting StartED".
2. Plug the VCU-1 into the wall.
3.With fresh batteries in the remote, point it at the VCU-1 and push the Power button on the remote. The Green light should come on.
4. Push the power button again and the light should go off (I think)..
If that works:
5.Unplug the VCU-1
6.Connect a modern TV set to the VCU-1's Main VCR, at least the Main VCR OUT section.
7. Plug in the VCU-1 and push Power on the remote. Do whatever you have to to get the TV to switch to the inputs connected to the VCU-1. You should get a screen (yellow, I think) that says "insert tape" or something like that.
Insert the tape in the VCR and push "play".
If, in a little while (a minute or less) , you start seeing a bunch of little bars building in rows across the top of the screen, you are in business, and its, probably working and therefore worth continuing on.
If not, email me with "what happened" and we can go from there.
Good Luck,


Jim wrote:
Thanks for the info. Now for trip back to the basement and search for a videotape. I don't think I'll be making movies, that may come at a later date. Right now I would like to get a title, maybe some music dubbed in various places in the video, and maybe some credits at the end. With that in mind, do you think the vcu-1 or software would be best?

Pete's ANSWER #2
The term "make a movie is loosely applied to whatever you do on the machine that ends up in an output tape. I assume that your comments relate to adding a title and some music to some video that you already have shot or intend to shoot. If so, all my previous comments still apply.
As for which way to go: If you already have a fairly fast computer with at least 20 or 30 Gbytes of hard disk available and if you won't be producing videos any longer than an hour or so. I'd go with the Studio DC10+.
It is much easier to add music. In fact, it even comes with a few dozen prerecorded selections on a CD that you can use. And when you use that music, the system automatically builds appropriate beginnings and endings to match the time you've allotted!
Just a reminder: The Studio DC10+ system is composed of both software and a circuit board, so you have to have room in your computer for it. And once it is installed, a simple change of plugs allows you to copy still frames from either the TV or from any video tape source. You can even make little movie clips that you can email to folks, as well as the still pictures.
And I am still not covering all the features. When I got mine, it was sort of like a candy store! There are even several help sites available.
Hope this helps,