Mending broken dreams
Broken or damaged videotape repair is an everyday occurrence here at Tapes2USB. We know how important these are to our customers so will do whatever is possible to recover the memories they contain. Most of the time this is a free service to customers having their tapes converted, but there are occasions where the work is so substantial that we must make a reasonable charge. We can only assess this once we have seen the tape (see our FAQ video here).
When is a videotape repair required?
Whilst videotapes are robust, and if stored correctly will last a lifetime, they can easily become damaged if handled incorrectly or played back in faulty machinery. This short blog will look at the most common reasons why we end up carrying out a videotape repair for customers.
Camcorder and VCR defects
The number one reason for tapes becoming damaged is playing them back in dirty or malfunctioning camcorders or VCRs. Though videotape is robust, the playing process consists of the tape being pulled through a path of rollers and guides and then passing a spinning drum that contains small, embedded sensors (video heads) which can read the signal recorded on the tape. A large section of tape is constantly in contact with this helical scanning drum which is spinning at around 1,800 revolutions per minute. So, any defects or dirt can damage the tape and the recording it contains.
If the tape path is misaligned this can cause playback errors too – or worst still, damage to the tape. This normally consists of distortion to the edge of the tape which contains what is called the ‘Control Track’. This track is essential for timing information and synchronization of the video signal and its playback speed.
Dirty or faulty pinch rollers can also cause the camcorder or VCR to “chew” the tape. In this instance the tape is pulled from the spool and, instead of following the designed path, is gathered up inside the mechanism. In severe cases this will end up creasing or snapping the tape as it becomes tensioned inside the machine.
When tapes do become wrapped up inside, the camcorder or VCR will normally detect this and go into shut-down mode. Most will display an error or service code – and some will not allow the user to eject the tape whilst it is this state. In some instances, the tape will eject but will leave the tape itself tangled up inside the camcorder or VCR.
Another common problem we come across is tapes stuck inside non-functioning camcorders or VCRs.
This usually occurs when a customer has not used the device for some time and had left a tape inside it when last used. The components, boards and connections inside electronic devices can break down over time if they are not powered up for long periods. Likewise, batteries will stop working and will not recharge and customers misplace mains adapters so are unable to recover the trapped tapes.
Videotape Mould or Fungus
Poorly stored videotape is susceptible to something known as Tape Mould or Tape Fungus. This usually happens when the tapes are stored in outbuildings or lofts where with high humidity and un-regulated temperature. This is a white powdery substance that will build up on the tape spools and can be seen in the cassette’s inspection window.
A severe spore infestation can cause the tape to stick together making it impossible to play. On smaller tape formats, and especially 8mm and DV, tapes can become so gummed up that any attempt to release the tape off the spool will result in it shredding. Of all the tape problems we come across here at Tapes2USB, Tape Mould or Tape Fungus has the greatest potential to cause irrecoverable damage.
If you are not able to get your tapes digitised quite yet we have produced a short film to give customers advice on how to store videotapes safely (see here).
Videotape Repair solutions
As mentioned at the start of this blog, we use our absolute best endeavors to repair and recover as much of the material on damaged tapes as is possible. This sometimes means cutting out minimal sections of tape and either splicing or splitting tapes onto new spools. This might mean you only lose a few seconds of the recording, but this is solely down to the extent of the damage. Customers must therefore accept this when asking us to carry out a videotape repair.
No obligation assessment
If you have a problem with a videotape that you are unable to play, we are more than happy to have a look at this for you to see if we can help. If we can, we will give you a clear indication of costs, if any, in recovering this precious material.
Please call 020 3602 3356 or email info@Tapes2USB.co.uk