Quantcast Preparing old tapes for capture - digitalFAQ Forum
  #1  
04-07-2020, 02:16 PM
Sac John Sac John is offline
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A couple of years ago, I bought a time base corrector right here on DigitalFAQ. I thought I would finally start my journey of digitizing some 200 miniDV, Hi8, and VHS tapes - all of which have sat in a box in the closet for twenty years now.

I didn't even get to finish one tape.

The first tape I tried to transfer into my iMac was a miniDV and after transferring in a few minutes, I played back my results and every ten or twenty seconds there was as much as a second or two of blue screen on the finished file before cutting back to my footage. No bueno.

I am assuming for now that the problem is with the age of the tape and it being unwound for the first time (ie played) after sitting in storage for so long.

Is there anything the pros do to first "prepare" a videocassette for encoding? Get it into a warm room? Shake it up by hand? Light candles around it?

Something that will make it play without damaging the tape as its being played for the first time in decades?

(If this has been discussed before, please post a link. I can't find any discussion specifically on preparing old tapes for playback.)

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  #2  
04-07-2020, 02:36 PM
jjdd jjdd is offline
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Hi i did recently transfer minidv on my Sony DSR-11 and i did have problems with sound and it was head alignment issue

i did fix it like this in the youtube video i link itīs like a vcr alignment i have done this to my vcr to but very carefully

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_5LP5NkoVA

maybe you have same problems i do not know but that did fix it for me anyway

can be dirt on the pinch roller and capstan or the head to check does first

Last edited by jjdd; 04-07-2020 at 02:53 PM.
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  #3  
04-07-2020, 02:55 PM
msgohan msgohan is offline
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^ What he said. You shouldn't need to "prepare" a tape.

Many people would say to evenly re-tension the reels by doing a complete FF & RW in a known-good VCR that doesn't abuse the tape with Turbo Speed. Lordsmurf has cautioned against doing this before playing the tape, because you may find that it was an "oxide shedder" and you just destroyed the tape in the process (and gunked up your VCR).
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04-07-2020, 03:28 PM
keaton keaton is offline
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Busy forum today. More have posted since I drafted mine. So some repeat information here.

The only thing I've read that some do with tapes that haven't been played in a long time is to "repack" them by doing a complete Fast Forward and Rewind. Opinions vary on whether it helps anything. If you chose to do this, a tape rewinder (some can also do Fast Forward) may be useful to take the load off your Tape Player motor, as it has a lot of playing left to do for transfer. Although, if tapes are old enough, and the rewinder is quite powerful (as some are) it can cause the tape to break off the reel when it reaches the end, because the tape leader can become a bit frail. I've only dealt with VHS tapes, and a couple 8mm tapes. The 8mm tapes were fine, but they were mid 90s and up. I think I've noticed this most on some VHS that was 80s era. But maybe cheaper tapes made more recently can also do this. To repair, you'd unscrew the tape shell, and simply remove the tab on the reel that holds the tape, refasten the tape to the reel. It can take a bit of force to pop that holder back in place. Youtube would have some how-tos. I've got a player that's got the "gentle" feature that slows way down when it close to either end of the tape forwarding or rewinding. I use a rewinder for most of the job, then do the last bit in the player. Anyway, enough said.

Other things to consider are tape condition. There's a good chance you don't have any of these concerns to worry about, however it's worth being educated about. This is not an attempt to add fear, just a note of caution and education before harming a good player with a bad tape or doing more harm by "repacking" before realizing there is a tape issue. The nastiest thing for tapes can be mold. It can come in different colors, but I've seen mostly white. Searching you'll see mild to severe examples. But if you see some powdery residue or spores on the tape reel or inside the shell, it could be mold. Searching on this forum or on the web, you'll find plenty on that. Many cut their losses with mold, as it can be a health hazard and can infect the player, and therefore your healthy tapes. Some services are out there, but they cost quite a bit. Some go to elaborate lengths to try cleaning the tape on their own.

The other tape condition that is less severe, but can also harm a player is sticky shed syndrome. Tapes can either become sticky and/or shed. This can get messy inside your player, and a lot of cleaning could be involved. You'll likely see a lot of picture dropout if this is happening and ultimately just fuzz because the video heads become clogged with tape shed. Some soldier through and do a lot of video head cleaning for every few minutes of tape, if it's just as simple as a clogged head. But it can also scatter more debris inside the player if severe. Some bake tapes with a food dehydrator to get it to not stick/shed for a few weeks so they can transfer it.

You mentioned Hi8. I did transfer of a few Video8 (same tape, but different recording format) tapes a while back, and was fortunate. But when doing that I came to learn that there is a certain window of time where Sony made 8mm tapes that have become quite well known now for shedding. A couple links are on this forum http://www.digitalfaq.com/forum/vide...ing-tapes.html, and a former video repairman who shows a demonstration of this Sony tape issue. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qJJyxwxly8 I had a couple Sony 8mm tapes, but they were fine. I think they were from the mid 90s. So I was fortunate. Maybe the tape formulation changed for those I had, or I just got lucky. If you do have Sony 8mm tapes from a certain era, you may want to investigate those first, in case there is a chance you can still transfer them before they turn bad on you. Not sure if this holds true for every tape made from whatever that era was, but it's just a word to the wise.

I also experienced a VHS that I thought was sticky at first, because it would start to squeal at a certain point in the tape and stop playing. A classic symptom of tape that is sticking, and so the tape tension becomes too high and hence these symptoms. However, it can also be a symptom of a tape that is in a warped shell. The tape was dirty, and after playing it, it did make my video heads a bit dirty. A video head cleaning discovered this. So I was convinced it was sticky. However, after learning of warped shells. I found a newer tape of no value and swapped the tape reels into that shell, and now the squealing and stopping no longer occurred. So, I was fortunate in that case. It may not always be true, but before swapping to a better shell, I had completely "repacked" the tape and it successfully went all the way in both directions. In hindsight, if I had a sticky/shedding tape, that may not have been the best advice. I haven't experienced this, but I thought perhaps the tape might snap if it were not able to unwind properly and too much tension was on one reel. Or if it was shedding, it would have scattered a lot of tape debris in the shell and shed a lot of tape that may have been salvageable with a proper baking first.

Best of luck to you. Hope you don't encounter any of these issues. But if you do, I hope you are now better informed about what is going on.
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  #5  
04-07-2020, 05:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keaton View Post
"repack" them by doing a complete Fast Forward and Rewind.
This can be extremely dangerous advice that ruins tapes.

Certain tapes, like early 80s BASF, can be a one-shot capture chance. You have only one chance to capture properly, as the tape is flaking as it plays. The 2nd play of the tape is severely degraded. It's not quite "oxide shedding" (total/near-total loss data), but it will be seriously destroyed. I have samples of this from projects in the past year, both clients and from our family collection.

It can be a rough situation when the tapes won't track. You must keep retrying a small section of tape, and it degrades further and further to the point of being 50%+ snow with garbled audio. I hate those projects, but I always try to keep loss to a minimum.

The FF/REW "trick" would completely destroy such a tape.

This is therefore bad "general" advice, and should never be done unless required. Even then, only do so ona short test clip, eject, and verify presence/absence of shedding.

Tapes in need of this "trick" are equally at risk of the shedding issue.

This can be a heartbreaking loss. It's really bad when the tape was stored incorrectly, tape halted in the middle, and must be REW to even be captured. Even handwinding the tape doesn't resolve the flaking. The one aspect that is true, in this advice, is the tape rewinder. You don't want to make a bigger mess in the VCR.

After every tape play, sometimes in the middle of a longer LP and EP/SLP tape, you must clean the heads and path. It can get excessive gunk buildup.

Ugly, ugly situation.

So beware.

I have never liked the REW/FF advice, all the way back to hearing it the late 90s (or early 00s). I've never suggested it, rarely done it myself.

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  #6  
04-07-2020, 08:07 PM
Sac John Sac John is offline
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Whoa. Potent and informative replies. THANK YOU, gentlemen.

Takeaways: Never do the FF/RW thing ... and learn how to clean the tape head and rollers, preferably after every tape pass.

I don't know anything about alignment, but I imagine that link from jjdd will get me started.

Thank you again, guys.
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04-07-2020, 11:31 PM
msgohan msgohan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sac John View Post
Takeaways: Never do the FF/RW thing ... and learn how to clean the tape head and rollers, preferably after every tape pass.
I think you mistook a complaint for advice. This statement was describing the "one-shot capture chance" tapes, not suggesting "you must" as a statement of general practice:
Quote:
Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
After every tape play, sometimes in the middle of a longer LP and EP/SLP tape, you must clean the heads and path. It can get excessive gunk buildup.
Unless I'm the one who's misinterpreting.
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  #8  
04-08-2020, 12:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by msgohan View Post
I think you mistook a complaint for advice. This statement was describing the "one-shot capture chance" tapes, not suggesting "you must" as a statement of general practice:

Unless I'm the one who's misinterpreting.
Correct = clean heads frequently, with "one-shot" tapes that are semi-shedding in the VCR.
Wrong = clean heads frequently, in general.

You never want to over-clean VCR heads. That's just as bad as under-cleaning. Most VCRs can withstand a several hundred tapes without issues, without needing a cleaning job.

Furthermore, only clean properly, with proper chemicals (91% IPA) and swabs (not cotton!!!).

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