Answerman – What Were VHS Fansubs Like?

Original Source

Michael asks:

Every once in a while, I’ll stumble across old VHS fansubs; the unique quirks (like Kodocha’s purple tapes) are absolutely fascinating. Were things like custom labels or tapes and fancy splashscreens common back then?

Man, did this question make me feel old. Mostly because I WAS one of the main members behind Kodocha Anime back in the day. It’s like having traces of your adolescence unearthed in an archeological dig.

It’s hard to comprehend today just how janky early fansubs actually looked, and how technically challenging they were to produce. Computers and video were two completely separate worlds, and almost everything involving the production of video required technical expertise and expensive equipment that most people didn’t have access to. Computers in the early 90s were often not fast enough to render text with a black outline and/or a drop-shadow instantaneously. Adding text to a video signal required a piece of hardware called a “character generator”, which only supported timed scripts in their most expensive models. And indeed, video captioning was restricted to specialized video production houses for many years.

Video overlay cards, or genlock cards, started coming out in the early 90s. These were peripheral cards that

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