How Should Videotape be Archived?

Archive Questions

What is the archival quality of videotape when stored properly (e.g. away from EMI, temperature extremes,
humidity extremes)? Is there a difference between the brands? How about between the formats (VHS, S-
VHS, 8mm, Hi8, DV, etc.)? What is the best method to archive video?

Gary Maple

For all brands and formats of analog videotape, the problem is essentially the same: how is it possible
to retain the original shape of a complex analog waveform over time using minute amounts of magnetized
particles? Unfortunately, the prognosis is pretty bleak, with around eight to ten years being the upper limit for decent-quality analog tape storage. Quality will begin to deteriorate after only a few years; eventually, the whole production will break up, roll across the screen, and become otherwise

The solution: digital archiving. DV, the first digital consumer videotape format, offers an excellent way to archive images for ten or more years; at the end of that time, it’s easy enough to run off another perfect digital dub and store it for another decade or so. Theoretically, a digital videotape signal could be maintained for over a century in this way without serious degradation.


Right now, the best data rate I can get out of my nonlinear editing computer is 2.7 megabytes per
second, so I’m thinking of upgrading my digital storage to a RAID system.

You have talked briefly in the past about running your system with a RAID to increase
performance. Now, the big question: How do I set up a RAID system?

Kevin Porter

Fortunately, setting up a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Drives) can be as easy as installing a
SCSI hard drive: just give the external RAID device an ID number that doesn’t conflict with any others in
your system, and you should be able to treat the RAID similarly to any other SCSI drive.

Most RAID manufacturers (including MicroNet, Big Ed and others) sell their products
complete with the hard drives already installed. Some, however, will sell you just the RAID enclosure, so
you can set up your own system. If you’re not familiar with all of the ins and outs of SCSI hard drive
systems, it’s best to avoid this approach and go with a RAID that has the drives pre-installed.

Jittery Copies and Mangled Tape

I have a video studio with a lot of equipment to edit birthdays, weddings, etc. My problem is, when I make
copies, the video on some of the copied cassettes jitters and jumps around, and I can’t find the reason.
Please let me know the solution for this problem.

Angel Mendoza
Puerto Rico

I have a VHS-C tape that had been partly mangled, creased and stretched by a malfunctioning tape rewind machine. When playing the mutilated portion of the tape, the picture would jitter and jump up and down as if some of the synchronization signal were missing or misplaced. I would like to find a way to
stabilize the video and restore the picture to its original form. I heard that the Videonics MX-1 Video
Mixer is capable of replacing the old sync signal with a new one. Will the MX-1 do the job? Or even
reduce the jitters? If that won’t work, I would appreciate any suggestions that you may have.

King Lue

The kind of device needed to fix these problems is a time base corrector (TBC). A TBC strips the old sync signal off a video source and replaces it with an entirely new one.

For someone like Mr. Mendoza who does lots of editing and duplication, it would
definitely be worthwhile to buy a stand-alone TBC. They range in price from about $600 to several
thousand dollars. Mr. Lue, who only needs to play a single tape, might do better to contact a post-
production house or video editing studio in his area to see about renting the use of their TBC equipment
(either a stand-alone TBC or a professional VCR that has a built-in TBC). Using the TBC in the MX-1 is
probably not a good choice because it wasn’t made to correct a damaged signal; its purpose is to
synchronize two video sources for A/B-roll transitions.

There is a chance, of course, that Mr. Lue’s mangled tape is too damaged even for a
broadcast-quality TBC to handle. Time base correctors are capable of performing wonders, but there are
limits. If this is the case, chalk it up to experience and the vicissitudes of an imperfect storage

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