Giving our heads a good clean!

The big problem with any reliance upon so many obsolete and temperamental video recorders and players is that they require constant maintenance if they’re to continue to function at their best.

Image of a head drum and tape transport mechanism is a Sony U-Matic recorder

The head drum and tape transport mechanism in a Sony U-Matic recorder during cleaning

Next time you’re having problems playing back full-HD video on your smartphone, tablet or flash memory card spare some thought for the problems we face getting 1980s videotape recordings to play according to spec.

In this case, a Sony VO-9850P 3/4″ U-Matic SP videotape recorder/player was receiving heavy deposits of gunk on its tape transport guides and spindles, necessitating a thorough deep clean on every pass of a tape that was (is) suffering from the dreaded “Sticky Shed Syndrome”. This is a condition resulting from the oxidation of the adhesive that binds the magnetic brown layer of the tape (the bit that stores the video recording) and the acetate backing. Over the years, this can oxidise – resulting on a sticky mess being deposited around the innards of the machines.

Thankfully, this tape wasn’t badly affected (it’s a Sony KCA rather than the real culprit, which are Ampex tapes) and it was still playable. It took three passes to get a decent result as the signals were Timebase Corrected and then passed to a Blackmagic Designs analogue-to-digital video and audio converter prior to being captured to Apple Mac as a ProRes422 Quicktime file, which the client requires for editing in Final Cut Pro.

Image of our G2 MSTC Multi-standard Timebase Corrector stabilises off-tape signals and provides image correction

Our G2 MSTC Multi-standard Timebase Corrector stabilises off-tape signals and provides image correction

Despite the heated atmosphere when things aren’t going right, and despite the fact that it took a lot longer to complete the job than it should have done, we do have at least have a job that we’re happy with – so let’s hope the client will be too!

Our customers are very special to us, so it’s worth the effort to get it right. Of course.

This entry was posted in Digitising, Technology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply