Videotape was first commercially used in broadcasting as a method of time shifting broadcasts for later replay in different time zones. This avoided the problems that always go with “live broadcasting”, allowed for editing for content, time and quality without the costs of film production.
Archiving the productions, especially for something as simple as news broadcast, was seldom considered. Video crews would repeatedly use previously taped segments to tape over for the next day. Long-term storage was looked at as below 3 years. Eventually, more important events began to be documented on videotape as all broadcasters migrated to the new media. No real concern was yet given to shelf life, as the media was so new.
The new media became so poplar that it began a new consumer product field with home VCRs. There original purpose was to allow the consumer to videotape a broadcast program for later playback at a more convenient time (another form of time shifting)?. Seldom was any program longer than 1 hr in length so one of the consumer video formats (Beta)? was made with 1 hr. tape capacities. Videotapes of popular movies were produced shortly after the recorders to expand the commercial usage of them. It was not uncommon for VCR parties to be held where groups of people came together to watch a movie on this new media. The people didn’t even have to like the movie but would show up for the entertainment. This popularity led to host of manufacturers competing for a piece of the action but because of proprietary formats, competition and improvements, new formats were born.
Beta vs. VHS, was one that most consumers are aware of. It was found to be more cost effective to develop a new recording format than to compete directly with an existing format. It became a money tree to sell the rights to competing manufacturers at a reasonable price for the newer format. Still the competition grew, as did the steady procession of obsolete formats and sub-formats. Within the VHS format alone you saw mono, stereo, Dolby stereo, with sub-formats of SP, EP, SLP and time lapse. In recent years, there has been a drive to produce higher quality formats, as consumers were no longer happy with a low end VHS machine in their ENTERTAINMENT CENTERS. 8mm went to Hi8, VHS went to SVHS and exceeding them both, the newer mini-DV.
This trail of planned or evolutionary obsolescence has now left the consumer with a host of memories on tape that they may soon not be able to replay.
With the advent of DVD, most retailers are planning on the elimination of VCR players entirely. To cover the transition period, many will offer a dual DVD/VHS player. This will allow those, with an extensive videotape movie collection, one last chance to play their tapes.
Many video rental stores are converting over to DVDs only. Given the option to rent a tape vs. a high quality DVD for about the same price, the tape loses. This pending equipment and format obsolescence, alone, should prompt a person with taped memories to consider format change. This happened in the period of tape to video and from Beta to VHS. The problem with tape transfer is the loss of quality. This is rarely noticed on DVD and many times with computer corrections, the transfer can actually improve the taped event. With the event now in a digital format, any new format in the future should allow conversion without a degrading of the material.
It’s safe to say that anyone that has ever owned a VCR, has experienced the occasional mechanical malfunction that has either eaten, creased or strung out your tape to the point of ruin. This mechanical contact with rollers, pinchers, loading trays and tape transports is doomed to failure at some point. It seems to get worse when the unit is not played often as the drive wheels turn to goo.
The shelf life of videotapes, once overlooked, is now becoming apparent. Virtually all of the magnetic tape ever recorded older than as little as 10 years may be in jeopardy. The largest threat is chemical in nature, coming from the breakdown of the binder, or glue that holds the magnetic particles to the polyester base of tape. The magnetic material is literally falling off the base and, when played, shows up as sparkles. This will only get worse and sometimes actually forms a sticky mess.
If you have a corporate video that is spread throughout and it is copied from a master tape, keep in mind that the master, no matter how good, will degrade. Even upgrading this master to a digital format that has a life expectancy of 100 to 200 years will keep your master longer than the format or the need.
This brings up the thought that you may want to upgrade the video with current titles, policies, intro by a new CEO, or product line.
Occasionally, the only photograph that you may have of an incident or of a person might be on videotape. Afterthoughts Video can also convert your treasured pictures to CD or DVD. On DVD they can be presented as a fun to watch movie. We can convert any specified frame of video to an actual photograph. This is especially useful in genealogy projects.
Afterthoughts Video editing systems are set up to accommodate the following; Beta, VHS, S-VHS, 8mm, Hi8mm, VHS –C, S-VHSC, Mini-DV, DV MPG discs, DVD, or any CD or DVD that contains the material in a Quicktime Format. Keep in mind that we accept and incorporate footage from any of these formats to be used in a new production such as a wedding, anniversary or life history. We can also convert audio to .aiff, .mov, .wav, .mp3, or the new AAC formats.