The risks of not digitising those home videos now

The clock is ticking for those old videotaped recordings. Soon you may never be able to view their precious contents.

Many UK households have a horde of old video cassettes. Some of them are full of off-air TV recordings of Neighbours or Home and Away but many of them might contain precious recordings of family members from years gone by. Did you know that time is running out for these taped recordings? Act quickly or you may never be able to view their contents.

VHS, Betamax, VHS-C and Video-8 Video Cassettes

Time is running out for those precious home video recordings.

It’s been said somewhere recently that we now have a maximum of 15 years to obtain digital copies of all of videocassette-based video recordings. This isn’t necessarily because of the deteriorating condition of the tapes themselves (although that’s certainly a consideration) but the mere fact that the majority of the videocassette recorders themselves will no long be in working order to play the tapes. This obsolescence of playback technology is undoubtedly the biggest threat to your video recordings. That’s why it’s important to act now.

When, like us, you provide a video digitising and archiving service to private and business users you find yourself in a position of having to maintain equipment that is – by any sensible person’s standards – obsolete in order play those old videocassettes reliably. It’s a battle, because the older they are the more likely it is that internal components likely to wear out or, worse still, fail altogether. That’s why machinery dating from the 1970s and 1980s really does need tender loving care and attention to keep running properly. Older machinery requires spare parts to remain functional; an equally big problem is that they require people with the expertise to service them. Both these are already in short supply – and this situation will obviously get worse with each new year. That’s why it’s estimated that we have 15 years to transfer all analogue videocassette recordings into the digital domain.

Image of Sanyo VTC5000 Betamax Recorder/Player

Betamax players are already a rarity

So, how does this impact on you? The chances that you or members of your family have video footage of family members at a young age, weddings, school performances and golden wedding anniversaries that risk being lost if they’re not brought into the digital domain very soon.

Common formats used for home video recordings include VHS (full sized cassettes and the smaller VHS-C cassettes that require an adaptor to fit into a full-sized VCR drive), Betamax, Video-8mm and Hi-8mm. VHS is obviously the most popular, but there’s a surprising number of home video movies on Video-8 cassettes; these have generally required a camcorder to replay the tape cassettes – but how many of these still work reliably? And who has a working model?

Reference to the 15-year window is perhaps slightly misleading because, in reality, the machinery required to replay the tapes will remain in the hands of professional users like us. For users like you it’s possible that the technology will have long disappeared.

Think about it – and contact us now. One day it will be too late.

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