So last Wednesday night, I had my three videos ready. I had my first tape ready to record Star Trek: The Next Generation on TNN at 7:00 PM. I had my second tape ready to record The Job‘s return to Wednesday nights on ABC at 8:30 PM. And I had my third tape ready to record Enterprise on the local WB station which is kind enough to carry UPN programming. However, while the first two recording appointments went off without a hitch, when I turned to the local WB, I was shocked to learn it was now a Univision station. Univision is of course the all-Spanish channel. I flipped frantically from channel to channel, hitting another Univision channel in the process. I couldn’t find Enterprise. I hit the TV Guide website to see where it was, and I discovered that I was right about my original presumption – I was on the correct channel number from several weeks earlier when there was a new episode of Enterprise, but that channel is now one of two different Univision networks.
I at first got flustered with how retarded the notion of two Univision networks on one cable rotation is, but at work the next day I got the scoop: the WB Cox was carrying locally got sold to Univision, and that channel did not see fit to warn Cox about it. Cox is trying to get another WB channel, but until or unless they do, I’m without Enterprise. Worse yet, the only reason I could see Enterprise is because that particular WB was nice enough to carry some UPN programming – no word on if the next one will.
So what do you do when you’re now one of the unlucky bastards unable to see your own show? Simple – download it. I hit up the newsgroups alt.binaries.multimedia.startrek and alt.binaries.startrek and lo and behold, there it was, “Silent Enemy”, episode 12, which was available for download prior to airtime, it would appear. I queued it up, and sometime the next day the downloads were done. I fired it up as a VCD and watched it using my APEX player. In some ways it was better than if I had taped it – there were no commercials, no logos, perfect editing, no problems with the signal, the end credits were intact, no tracking problems, no fear of the tape wearing out or breaking over time. It was nice. However, the picture did appear to “jump” just a little bit, plus there was the pixellation and artifacting that naturally come with an MPEG-1 file. Whereas DVD-Video uses a DVD disc and an MPEG-2 video file (amongst other things), a VideoCD or VCD uses a compact disc and an MPEG-1. Call it “DVD Lite” if you will.
So is what I did illegal and wrong? Well, technically it’s illegal – copyrighted material and all. But it’s not as if I could actually watch it – no WB and all. If I had the WB or UPN I would have happily watched it, and you could reason it out to say that downloading it isn’t all that different from recording it, in the grander scheme of things. Therefore I plan to make it a regular routine – making a VCD out of the Enterprise episodes – the durability is there, the neato factor is there, and since I have all this bandwidth and CPU cycles doing nothing useful overnight and all say, I figure why not. I didn’t want to do this originally, since I was afraid it was going to make me a slave to downloading from newsgroups, but one hour-long show a week isn’t going to kill me.