Can you record MIDI data to a VHS

For playback where it could send visuals, audio and midi Data to different modules?

give it a shot
I would seriously doubt that you would be able to get audio/video/midi all on the same tape but it never hurts to try.

I’ll see if I’ve got stuff that I could test just MIDI > VHS with

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It seems possible… just need to work on it a lot, but I think it is possible

ArVid - Wikipedia

I was just going to reference ArVid. You beat me to it.

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I suppose if your VCR is stereo, you could just record the audio track to one mono channel and the MIDI to another. Then you’d have a dedicated RCA output for all three signals.

The only thing I’m not sure about is exactly how MIDI data gets converted through an RCA or 3.5mm adapter so that it can be processed by the modules. If the MIDI signal needs to be sent as two-channel stereo then it might require a more creative solution. Depending on how fancy your VCR is, it may also be possible to record separately onto the linear stereo and ‘Hi-Fi’ tracks of the tape. Idk how one would go about isolating/splitting those individual outputs from the VCR when it comes to playback in that scenario, though.

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By using a modem, of course!

A modem (‘modulator-demodulator’) can convert data into an audio stream and back again. Remember those late 90’s, early 2000’s screaming modem sounds from dialing into AOL? It was just a data stream ‘converted’ to audio to play nice with the phone system. Same way fax machines work, too.

Just modulate your MIDI data, at 31250mbps, to an audio stream and record it on the right channel of audio of the VHS cassette. (Left is usually reserved for MONO audio.)

Play it back through your modem to demodulate it back to a data stream.


Seriously though, this is pretty much how you would do this.


so interesting ! never heard of ArVid before :heart_eyes:

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You might be able to pick up a (discontinued) Expert Sleepers Usamo secondhand. It uses a plugin to convert MIDI from a DAW to audio, and then that’s converted back to MIDI by the USAMO hardware (the idea is to avoid the USB subsystem entirely, since it’s the reason MIDI timing ranges from poor to terrible under EVERY multitasking OS sinc e USB was invented, but that’s a whole other issue). You could use the plugin to generate your MIDI-as-audio but record it to the tape instead of sending it to the USAMO hardware, then play back from tape to USAMO to decode back to MIDI.

The thing is, the USAMO is really picky and won’t even work with a lot of modern audio interfaces, much less a signal from tape, so it would be a risk. A better option would be to find an old 80s or 90s hardware sequencer that has SMPTE support, stripe your tape with SMTE, and use the sequencer for te actual MIDI data. I don’t know what the market for old sequencers is like since the pandemic, but before that you could easily find most of them for $50-$100, and they’re usually very good.

The first hit I got on Google was a Roland MC50 for $110, so it looks like they’re still very affordable (considering that modern hardware with comparable sequencing power is rarely under $1000). I don’t know if its tape sync is actually SMPTE, MIDI Time Code, or some lower resolution type, but it would work in any case.

SMPTE and a sequencer is what I’d do if I were you, since it’s literally designed to work with tape and would open up all kinds of creative possibilities. Definitely better than a USAMO, even if it’s no longer cheaper.


For your audio, you could get an old Android smartphone cheap on eBay, a suitable MIDI interface (I’d go with something like an Arturia Keystep, since it would give you DIN MIDI to USB MIDI conversion, a keyboard to make programming data into the sequencer a bit faster, and some MIDI to CV i you need that, for a good price), and run something like Sunvox on the phone. Even if you didn’t use much of the Sunvox feature set, it would still work as a simple audio player controlled by the hardware sequencer. And it’s free.

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Thinking about it more, I bet you could use Puredata decode SMPTE (or just come up with yout own simple time code and use that) and use one of the cheaper Raspberry Pi models as a sync box.

PD can do just about anything
my first programming language that I really felt at home with!

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@zawa!! I love the way you think! You have some really great ideas thank you for helping!

@bsom modems sound like a cool thing to use! I love this idea… I need to use more modems in my life!! Thanks for the help!

@TubularCorporation OH MY GOSH!! I love PureData!! That’s a great idea as well.

I’ll keep working on it! I can’t wait to pop in a VHS and have it produce audio and visuals from prerecorded data!

You all are so cool!!

Yeah it’s pretty powerful. I never looked specifically in to whether it can decode SMPTE but if it can’t yet then a programmer should be able to write a new object for that.

I learned CSound before I ever touched Max/MSP or PD, so for th the whole node-graph systems seems slow and confusing for more complex stuff, but I do like it for some things, and it’s definitely better if you need a UI.

I don’t really do much of that stuff really, since I never found myself actually using it for anything I was happy with and it was mostly just a sort of endless pit of learning new stuff for the sake of learning it in my case, but even as a tool to pull out occasionally to solve a specific, simple problem it’s still useful.

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