Sticky Shed Syndrome – we have the cure!

1980s tapes bearing the Ampex brand name are likely to suffer from Sticky Shed Syndrome which requires care and attention to rectify. We have a solution – at £30 per tape!

Image showing four Ampex U-Matic Videocassettes on a table top

A selection of Ampex U-Matic Videocassettes – all suffering from Sticky Shed Syndrome

Thanks to a manufacturing error back in the 1980s and into the early 1990s, many U-Matic videotapes and also audio tapes bearing the Ampex brand name suffer a problem that makes them unplayable when inserted into a videotape recorder or onto an audio tape recorder.

The symptom is a loud squealing heard as the tape passes around transport spindles and across pickup heads and which not only leaves a horrible sticky gunk on the spindles, guides, pinch-rollers and heads but it can also damage the machine itself.

Binder layer hydrolisation

The problem is known throughout the video and audio industry as Sticky Shed Syndrome, which is a reference to the shedding of a sticky compound that results from the chemical agent that binds the magnetic tape layer (the actual recording surface layer contain the magnetic particles) to the polyurethane backing. Due to a fault in the chemical process, the binding agent has moisturised to the point where it rises to the surface of the tape and creates a stickiness which deposits itself on anything that comes into contact with it.

The solution

Those working within the music recording industry and video transfer have discovered that the best way to temporarily resolve this issue is to subject the tape to a constant temperature to the point where the moisture is “baked” out of the tape. Once this is done, it’s usually possible to achieve a good playback of the tape for at least two weeks, after which the process needs to be repeated.

Here at SimplyDV, we’ve been receiving an increasing number of Ampex videotapes (mostly U-Matic lowband, BVU, BVU-SP) and all of them have recently showed identical symptoms. Contracting this “tape baking” process out to third parties is time-consuming and expensive.

That’s why we’ve developed a system for doing it ourselves – with excellent results. Within days of introducing our own method of de-hydrolising video and audio tapes we’ve undertaken transfers of 1980s Ampex archive material originating from MTV, Virgin Atlantic, the Royal Australian Air Force and Marshall Amplification.

The cost

We have decided to set a standard charge for tape baking at £30.00 per item. That’s a lot cheaper than London Soho facility company rates and the results are just as good. We have our own special process that doesn’t damage your recordings and leaves the tapes in better condition than they were when we received them.

Give us a try. Contact Colin now to discuss your requirements.

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Digitising Sir Chay Blyth’s video archive

We’ve been digitising a large part of round-the-world yachtsman Sir Chay Blyth’s video collection in an effort to create a complete digital video archive of his seafaring adventures.

Image of Apple Mac OSX Video Capture and Post-Production at SimplyDV

Capturing Chay Blyth’s video master tapes using SimplyDV’s Apple Mac-based system.

Sir Chay Blyth is perhaps best known for being the first man to row the Atlantic single-handed when still a member of the British Parachute Regiment in 1972. By 1974, he was setting out to sail around the world single-handed – which culminated in massive worldwide publicity. The name of Chay Blyth is one that is familiar to members of the sailing fraternity the world over, so it was with great pleasure that SimplyDV was invited to digitise Sir Chay’s large collection of professional-standard video recordings as part of an effort not only to make the material more easily accessible but also to create some much-needed space at home. Boxes full of bulky analogue videotape recordings take up a lot more space than a couple of hard disk drives, after all.

The BT Global Challenge (among other things)

The BT Global Challenge 2000/2001 was a 23,000-mile global sailing challenge conceived and organised by Sir Chay Blyth, through his company The Challenge Business, and involving 16 identical sailing vessels which were crewed by volunteers (each of whom had raised £25,000 in sponsorship) and a professional skipper. Each of these vessels would have a primary sponsor and a number of secondary sponsors.

Image showing yacht navigating the stormy seas of the south Atlantic on the BT Global Challenge round-the-world yacht race, 2001

Navigating the stormy seas of the south Atlantic on the BT Global Challenge round-the-world yacht race, 2001

In addition to possessing source material and edited programme material for earlier sailing challenges, such as the British Steel Challenge, the collection contains many hours of impressive original footage like aerial shots of the boats under full sail and on-board shots shot by crew members themselves under frightening southern ocean conditions. The range of material is as diverse as it is impressive, and we’re delighted to be playing a role in its long-term preservation.

Creating a broadcast-quality digital video archive on disk

The initial brief from Chay’s friend and colleague Adrian Pearson, who is acting as the video production consultant on the project, was to create a full set of digital video files from which they will be able to select and edit new video sequences that can be used in a variety of ways. Chay gives talks and lectures about his sailing exploits all over the world and there’s an ongoing need to include appropriate and engaging video presentation material. Additionally, he needs some newly-created sequences that can be used in support of fund-raising campaigns for future ventures.

During mid-August 2013 we set about capturing the first of the videotapes to full, uncompressed 10-bit YUV 4:2:2 Quicktime video files using one of two broadcast-format Sony Betacam-SP videotape playback VTR machines, a G2 MSTC (Multi Standard Timebase Corrector) and Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro analogue-to-digital video conversion hardware. The mixed stereo audio tracks were fed to a Soundtrack EPM-8 mixer desk, sweetened and levels balanced (either to twin-track mono or split stereo as approproate to the source material) before being captured to Quicktime files using Blackmagic’s Media Express video capture application on an Apple Mac running OSX. The 10Gbps Thunderbolt-connected Blackmagic Intensity supplies both analogue as well as digital video and audio monitoring during capture and playback, thus enabling us to keep an eye and ear on the pre-capture and post-capture signals.

Having performed the main capture of each videotape or recorded segment, sequences were written out to the client’s own USB 2.0 hard disk drive in addition to our own backup drive system.

Increasing demand for digital video archiving using uncompressed file formats

Over the last 18 months or so, SimplyDV has seen a marked increase in demand from professional video production houses, independent producer/directors and film/video libraries who realise that if their precious videotape collections aren’t digitally preserved now, it might just be too late. That’s why we’re ready to discuss your needs right now. If you have specific needs then please don’t hesitate to contact Colin using the Contact Page.

For more info on Sir Chay Blyth see Wikipedia.

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Transferring MICROMV – the last videocassette format

Back in 2001, when I was a freelance writer for camcorder magazines like Camcorder User and Video Camera, I reviewed the first of a revolutionary new digital tape format called MICROMV called the Sony DCR-IP1.

Image of a Sony DCR-IP45E MICROMV Camcorder and tape connected for transfer

Transferring a client’s recording using a Sony DCR-IP45E MICROMV Camcorder

Brand logo for Sony MICROMV format

Sony MICROMV logo

This was one of the first to arrive in the UK and, to be honest, my Camcorder User review wasn’t that complimentary! The format, which was the last (and the smallest) tape-based video format ever launched, used a very similar form of digital compression as used for video DVD called MPEG-2 but it never established itself in a fast-evolving market. In 2006, Sony abandoned it in favour of DVD and Hard Disc formats.

How strange that what was once a brand new format is now very much an obsolete legacy format, and that clients should now be asking me to help them transfer their MICROMV recordings into something that they can access digitally! It seems like only yesterday that an IP45E was flying with me to Spain for a “real-world” camcorder test!

For more information about MICROMV see Wikipedia

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Betamax to DVD transfers

SimplyDV is pleased to tell you that we’re now able to offer transfers from Betamax video-cassettes once again. Price £15.00 per tape!

We’re pleased to announce that following the complete refurbishment of the first of our ageing Sanyo VTC-5000 Betamax recorders dating from the early 1980s we’re now back in the business of transferring your Betamax video tapes to DVD or to digital file formats.

Image of Sanyo VTC5000 Betamax Recorder/Player

Restored Sanyo VTC-5000 Betamax player producing superb pictures and sound

These old machines are, understandably, highly temperamental and over the past few months they’ve been causing more than a few problems, so we decided to bite the bullet and splash out for a complete overhaul on our No. 1 machine. We’re delighted we did because the result is a VCR that has been all but rebuilt by a former Sanyo UK production engineer who has done a fabulous job.

Although Betamax, first developed by Sony and subsequently licensed to other manufacturers such as Sanyo, lost in the battle of the giants that were the Matsushita Company (Panasonic and JVC) and the Sony Corporation who were locked in a battle to gain dominance for their respective VHS and Betamax formats.

A fight to the bitter end

Matsushita won the bitter fight and VHS became the dominant format. However, many people considered Betamax to be the technically superior format.

In Britain, the take-up of VHS was greater and faster than Betamax even from the earliest days of the battle, and for that reason the number of home video recordings that survive on Betamax video-cassettes is miniscule compared to the ubiquitous VHS format. Despite that, we do receive enquiries from hopeful (not to say desperate!) customers seeking a transfer of precious recordings to a more accessible digital video format.

As such, we’re pleased to offer this service to you at the same basic cost as other common home video formats such as VHS.

Basic price for Betamax transfer to DVD

The basic price of Betamax to DVD transfer is a crazy £15.00!

The price includes:

  • the DVD disc (single-sided, single-layer)
  • title text (printed on to the white face of the disc)
  • black slimline DVD library case
  • printed DVD case title inlay insert.

Note also that the off-tape signals are electronically processed by a broadcast TV grade Timebase Corrector in order to stabilise the recordings during playback and to restore their wobbly sync pulses. We’ll also adjust the colour, luminance, black level and sound levels as required too. A lot of work for a bargain price, we think you’ll agree!

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