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Old 29th Jan 2019, 4:25 pm   #1
electronicskip
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Default Baking an old video tape???

Was reading an article of news today that involves the restoration of an old videotape recording of David Bowie from 1972 that was recorded on a consumer video recorder ,that needs restoration by slow baking?

Not really sure what that means, but here is the article.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-47040202

Im assuming the recording was done on a Umatic or a Philips N1500?
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Old 29th Jan 2019, 4:32 pm   #2
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

Probably one of those sony EIAJ reel to reel ones, they had SSS

I must say, the story about the loss of footage makes little sense. Why would someone entrusted with digitizing tapes decide to wipe them instead of just leaving them be? There'd be nothing at all to be gained from erasing 40 year old tapes which nobody would want to tape over and reuse these days anyway.
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Old 29th Jan 2019, 4:37 pm   #3
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sticky-shed_syndrome

The irony is, that it tends to be the more expensive "pro" formulations that are affected.
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Old 29th Jan 2019, 4:49 pm   #4
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

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Originally Posted by ben View Post
Why would someone entrusted with digitizing tapes decide to wipe them instead of just leaving them be?
That may have been what the contract said should happen to the old tapes. The company paying for the transfers may have been concerned about the IP aspects of what was on some other tapes in the batch/similar batches being digitised, so a default of "shred the old media once you've digitised them and we've QA'd the results" would be easy to understand.
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Old 29th Jan 2019, 5:39 pm   #5
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

Thanks for posting ESkip. Whatever the truth of the matter it's almost unbelievable that more care wasn't taken at either end of the process-not exactly an unknown performer is it plus [despite the deterioration mentioned here] recording tape has, generally, a proven long life.

I wouldn't have said "just wipe it all" whatever the issue. As for the baking process, it's fairly well known for reviving damaged recordings but most of the threads about it here relate to Audio Masters I think. In common with the latest digital techniques and computer algorithms, really miraculous things can now be achieved.

As an aside [I first noticed a mention of this several years ago] I clipped a piece in the weekend paper confirming computer techniques for going "into" a photo and around the corner-first shown as fiction in the film Blade Runner. It uses some kind of reflected sub-atomic "wave" apparently!

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Old 29th Jan 2019, 6:44 pm   #6
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

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Originally Posted by G6Tanuki View Post

That may have been what the contract said should happen to the old tapes. The company paying for the transfers may have been concerned about the IP aspects of what was on some other tapes in the batch/similar batches being digitised, so a default of "shred the old media once you've digitised them and we've QA'd the results" would be easy to understand.
I still fail to see any good reason why the originals wouldn't have been put back in the vaults or elsewhere after transfer. That seems to me to be the usual practice. As we all know, formats and standards change over time. Who knows what format you will need to put the material into in future?

Think of those who transferred 8mm cine to Betamax and VHS in the 1980s. When DVD and MPEG files came along, and those videotape formats and spares stopped being made, it would make more sense to go back to the cine films rather than the second gen video tape. Not looking after the original recording of any unique material is pure shortsightedness IMO.
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Old 29th Jan 2019, 7:27 pm   #7
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

The originals may well not have been put back in the vaults because the purpose of the transfer was to free-up congested vault-space!

I had just this issue a couple of decades ago, with Government research scientists: we were migrating/compacting all the data from their old 9-track 1600BPI open-reel magtapes onto a storage-array-with-robotic-archive/backup. This was the only way to fit the existing-and-future data into the available data-centre space. Plenty of the scientists wanted us to still keep their old magtapes (and sometimes DECTapes and fabfold-printouts and filing-cabinets full of dusty FORTRAN punched-card decks...) for them after the compaction/migration. I'd go along with this in the project meetings, then at the end ask them for the cost-centre/project-code so we could build a new extension to the data-centre to house their legacy media.

Professionally managed/secured "Archive vaults" are not cheap to run properly!
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Old 29th Jan 2019, 8:10 pm   #8
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

True, but computer data is not the same as analogue audiovisuals. Converting these is complicated, one has to deal with the possible conversion artefacts and by products of the limitations of the software and hardware of the time of conversion, which are immediately noticeable in the programme material. Then the end video-audio format can turn out to be rapidly obsolete. Data transfer OTOH, whilst undoubtedly bringing its own set of problems, is arguably one set of ones and zeroes to another, it is already in that form. One canīt really compare that process to one involving analogue PAL video.
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Old 29th Jan 2019, 8:45 pm   #9
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

I was so taken aback by this story that I'd forgotten an earlier synchronicity of the type I'm so interested in. I had to refuse my next issue of the Radio Times at the Newsagents this morning. They had three copies [Bowie on the cover] all wrinkled and battered. The very nice chap in the shop was apologetic [he knows I collect them] and gestured "Nobody Cares!" I said "Yes, that's exactly the problem". At least it wasn't the Beeb this time. I dislike criticising our PSB but they don't make it any easier eg BBC Sound!

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Old 30th Jan 2019, 3:32 pm   #10
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

Ive copied 8mm and super8 to dvds a few times but I always go back to the original master for extra copies .
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Old 30th Jan 2019, 4:20 pm   #11
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

Quote:
Originally Posted by ben View Post
Probably one of those sony EIAJ reel to reel ones, they had SSS

I must say, the story about the loss of footage makes little sense. Why would someone entrusted with digitizing tapes decide to wipe them instead of just leaving them be? There'd be nothing at all to be gained from erasing 40 year old tapes which nobody would want to tape over and reuse these days anyway.
Yes it's difficult to understand why anybody would bother erasing master tapes, as a producer making a new production would probably not want to entrust his baby to an old used tape anyway?
However it did happen and possibly for a couple of reasons? - in the 60s it was due to cost that tape was re-used., Ampex had the rights to it's Vtape for 10 years..so only Ampex could supply it until the rights expired, after expiry other tape manufacturers could make their own tapes making it cheaper and easier to obtain.
In the 1990s TV broadcasters started to digitize their archives.The original masters were now over 20 years old and when they showed up faults the outside contractors used in the 1990s did not have the knowledge or the technology of today to deal with them.. so if they came across a tape that was say stuck together, it may have been binned as of no further use?

Apparently this David Bowie find came from a collector who had a vast amount of recorded shows from his reel to reel domestic machine..the reason he had such a large collection was that he had access to computer tape from where he worked, which he used in his video tape machine and obviously saved himself a fortune in buying proper videotapes.
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Old 30th Jan 2019, 4:40 pm   #12
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

Quote:
Originally Posted by ben View Post
I still fail to see any good reason why the originals wouldn't have been put back in the vaults or elsewhere after transfer. That seems to me to be the usual practice. As we all know, formats and standards change over time. Who knows what format you will need to put the material into in future?

Think of those who transferred 8mm cine to Betamax and VHS in the 1980s. When DVD and MPEG files came along, and those videotape formats and spares stopped being made, it would make more sense to go back to the cine films rather than the second gen video tape. Not looking after the original recording of any unique material is pure shortsightedness IMO.

Often the average person doesn't understand this. A customer once brought to me their family colour slide collection - all dubbed onto Betamax videotape, and badly transferred at that. I asked the obvious question: "Do you still have those slides?" You can guess the answer.

Another brought me an audio cassette of their deceased mother singing operatic arias back in the 1940's. It was a dreadful copy of the original 78 RPM discs. Sung words barely intelligible. The customer knew it sounded pretty terrible and said they would pay me good money if I could "restore" the performances. Again I asked the obvious question...
The answer came: " No, all the original discs were long ago thrown out after they had been transferred to the cassette"...

In both cases at least a result but far short of the original picture or sound quality.

A while ago someone brought me family videos mostly on VHS. I transferred them all but could see some of them were inferior quality duplicate tapes. Then they came back with more tapes they'd found, including originals of the dubs I had just transferred. In this case, cost was not a problem so I transferred these tapes as well, and the family could see for themselves the improvement in picture and sound, but especially picture on the original tapes.
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Old 30th Jan 2019, 8:46 pm   #13
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

Some friends of mine got married in about 1986, and a "professional" took a video.
The inverted comas denote he was a pro with his Rolaflex, but perhaps not so much with his video camera and shoulder-strap VHS recorder. The issue was not so much the picture, but the sound was very poor, lacking in "top".

Some years later the bride asked me if I could retrieve the contents of the (only) tape as it had become damaged.

As I had suspected, the sound-head azimuth on the original recording was out, so when I did an A-B dub as well as omitting the short damaged section I also misaligned the "A" machine sound head to match. The result was a copy with better audio than the original!

Another thing I had learned by this time is it is essential to attenuate the audio going into the "B" machine, so as not to get a double dose of Automatic Level Control, which will destroy the dynamic range, I used a 10k pot in the patch lead. Makes a massive difference.
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Old 31st Jan 2019, 12:32 am   #14
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

Ah yes, azimuth errors especially on slow speed videotapes like VHS and Beta. It's almost the case that you only have to look at the audio/control head and it will go slightly out of alignment. At least the 1986 VHS wedding tape was the original so all the audio information was still there, but not picked up when played "correctly".

The bigger problem is when all we have is a copy of an original that was not played back optimally. Generational loss is bad enough but on top of that an azimuth error - even just a slightly dirty or worn play head - can mean nothing can be done to retrieve what was already lost when the copy was made. "Original tapes, films and discs if at all possible, please."

On the other hand, something can be a whole lot better than nothing...

https://youtu.be/YwqtWgFb_mE

Last edited by TIMTAPE; 31st Jan 2019 at 12:47 am. Reason: additional thought
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Old 31st Jan 2019, 2:14 pm   #15
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

I think that people tend to assume that more modern media is always better than an original older "master". So many people who had their cine film transferred to VHS threw out the film because "it's video, so it's better...right? And besides I cannot be bothered to faff around with a ruddy projector". I've transferred films to VHS and DVD for people and instructed them to keep the film...and every time had to explain why.

Just last year I was asked by a retiring work colleague to transfer around 200 mostly Kodachrome slides from her childhood in the 60s. These had been kept in pristine condition in a purpose made case and were all as clear as the day they were shot. I scanned them and produced nice but lossy JPEG files she could view on her computer screen and email to relatives. And I implored her to keep the original slides, explaining that as lovely as my scans look they only contain a fraction of the detail the slides do.

1/2 inch EIAJ video tape is sometimes prone to squealing though I've not encountered any with SSS. That said, I've only got 13 reels. Wasn't much of the tape Sony brand which certainly can suffer from binder breakdown. Sony audio tape from the 70s is a bit of a crap shoot depending on the chemicals used in manufacture. The EIAJ video tape could well be similar.
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Old 31st Jan 2019, 3:48 pm   #16
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

There was a loss of quality in videotape manufacture when whale oil became scarce. It took a while for a substitute to be found.
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Old 1st Feb 2019, 12:00 am   #17
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

I didn't know that Brigham-presumably when restrictions on Whale Hunting came in? The same thing happened re BSE in a way as the scarcity of gelatine [extracted from animal bones] meant that the ubiquitous "cow-gum" beloved of Art Schools was replaced with an expensive petroleum based alternative!

Re the mention of cine-film originals being destroyed [post 15] it's reported today [The Guardian] that all the 55 hours of footage [+ 140 hours audio] filmed 18 months before the Beatles separated is to be a second archive project for Peter Jackson who made the "They Shall Not Grow Old" WW1 Documentary. The Let It Be Doc of 1970 was less than adequate to say the least, for a variety of reasons, as many of us will know. This is professionally filmed high quality material that has been looked after and will be increasingly invaluable as the years go on. It's not on VT so the problems discussed here are avoided and [as Beatles history] is unlikely to be destroyed. It's quite poignant now that "They Shall Not Grow Old" suits both films while Let It Be doesn't fit either!

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Old 1st Feb 2019, 11:45 am   #18
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

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There was a loss of quality in videotape manufacture when whale oil became scarce. It took a while for a substitute to be found.
Indeed, and when whale hunting was (quite correctly) curtailed. Some solutions to this proved more long lived than others....but all worked for a few years so it took time for squealing and SSS to become apparent, and time to figure out methods such as baking.

A lot of Ampex audio tape was affected in recording studios, and Ampex would have made a lot of pro video tape too. Unfortunately about half of Sony audio tape (and I assume video but I do not know) in the mid 70s is also affected. And most EIAJ 1/2 inch video tape was Sony.

The last time I played my EIAJ open reel tapes in the early 2000s they were fine but I admit I haven't attempted it in about 15 years. They might now be affected for all I know.

It's all left a lot of historic audio and video recordings in a precarious situation. I've heard reports of some VT of historic events/programmes physically falling apart as a digital transfer was attempted....of oxide being cleared from heads in real time as tape passed through.
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Old 1st Feb 2019, 12:32 pm   #19
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...It's all left a lot of historic audio and video recordings in a precarious situation. I've heard reports of some VT of historic events/programmes physically falling apart as a digital transfer was attempted....of oxide being cleared from heads in real time as tape passed through.

I think a lot depends on the skill and knowledge of the people entrusted with handling and playing the affected audio and video tapes.

The rule I follow with supected-to-be-affected tapes is: do not attempt a play, or even a direct reel wind off the heads unless they are baked first. If a first play shows the slightest sign of shedding, it's back in the oven for more time to drive out the remaining moisture.

Yesterday a tape machine was delivered to me for repair. I asked, "What seems to be the main problem with this machine?" Customer; "It's started to slow down as it plays. It never did that before."

I checked the tape path guides and heads. Covered in SSS gunk.

Cleaned the entire tape path of the characteristic sticky gunk, which took maybe 20 minutes to do thoroughly, using tools like IPA soaked cotton string and even a sharp wood skewer. Then played a known-to-be-good tape right through to the end. Not a sign of slowing down. I could even place extra load on the supply reel with my finger and still it powered through.

I strongly suspect a SSS affected tape had been played on it. It's a familiar story, especially with people who are more collectors of gear than active and regular users. I've told many people of the problems of SSS and even given them lists of tapes to avoid. I'm sure they understood at the time but being infrequent users of their machines, by the time they've got the machine out again and fired it up, it might be months or years later, by which time they must have forgotten the information and cautions they were once given.

Here's the web page of a company apparently at the forefront of tape knowledge and treatment including tape disaster recovery.

http://www.specsbros.com/
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Old 1st Feb 2019, 2:23 pm   #20
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Default Re: Baking an old video tape???

I've heard of some of the early colour video tapes of Doctor Who returned from Canada in the 1980s were shedding oxide, & had to be carefully transferred & converted back to PAL as the returns were NTSC conversions.

I'm guessing these tapes would have been made in the mid 1970s, around the time of the whale oil ban, & used a formulation that only lasted a few years before deteriorating.
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