Hand holding a variety of video tapesIn this informative post we will be sharing some facts about why it may be time to transfer your old VHS, and other home videos, to either a DVD or USB device.

A little bit of history

The first VCR machines were developed by JVC in 1970 and were released in Japan in late 1976, and in the United States in 1977. Sony joined the video-recorder race by developing the Betamax format video machine which was released in Japan in May 1975 and in the USA in November 1975. Then VHS became the format of choice, making the Sony Betamax format obsolete.

Home video tape formats evolved into Video 8, Digital Video 8, Hi8, VHS-C and MiniDV. The invention of the digital optical disc (DVD) storage format, developed by Panasonic, Philips, Sony and Toshiba in 1995, as well as hard-drive technology, slowly made filming home-videos and recordings on these formats a thing of the past.

Japan's Funai Electric is reported to have stopped the production of VCRs in July 2016, thus becoming the world's last VCR manufacturer.

Why should I convert and transfer?

Camcorder and VHS tapes are old, analog recordings, affected by temperature, sunlight, magnetic fields and humidity changes. They begin to deteriorate after about a decade, depending on how they were stored and other factors.

VHS and other video tapes work by reading or recording a magnetized strip of tape that runs across the heads of a VCR machine or a video camera. The binder layer of tape that contacts the playback heads can suffer damage, such as tearing, sticking to the heads, mould infection, heat and humidity, which can hinder or even prevent proper playback. No video tape format lasts forever and will certainly degrade and become unwatchable over time.

Video tapes can last for various lengths of time depending on how they were stored and used. The generally acceptable time for VHS and other video tape formats to start to deteriorate and degrade is 10 to 20 percent over the course of 10 to 25 years.

Can I do the conversion myself using a cheap USB capturing device?

Yes, you can if you are not concerned about the final quality. There are a variety of options available, ranging from very cheap and to very expensive. These range from cheap, imported USB capturing devices to high-end transfer and conversion machines.

The cheap, imported USB capturing devices are mostly from China and have poor reputations. They have mixed reviews about resolution quality, sound problems, difficult operating instructions and sometimes faulty operating software. You can google the reviews and judge for yourself. A lot of these devices have been cloned and are sometimes not even worth the packaging they are sold in. We tested a few with extremely poor results.

Perhaps your camcorder or VCR has died and you need to get it fixed or replaced? You could try buying replacements from secondhand shops, Amazon or eBay and hope that when they arrive they still work and will last the distance. It’s a minefield out there. You most definitely will have to have plenty of time to do the job, and in some cases be prepared to spend a lot of money trying something that you might not have enough knowledge about. Then you will need to decide on editing software, DVD burning and file conversion formats etc. There is always the possibility of damaging your original tape with your family memories on it.

Or you could just let us handle all the stress and do it professionally for you. We don’t compress the videos or use cheap USB capturing devices - all our transfers are done with high quality equipment at maximum resolution. We do our editing with professional, industry editing software. You will get the best possible image quality that the tape will allow us to extract from it. Will you take the chance and wait longer to have them converted?

Please join us again in the following weeks and months when we will be talking about:

The main causes of tape decay and other problems

  • Mould and humidity
  • Colour distortion
  • VCR and camera faults
  • Broken tapes and cassettes
  • Tape formats
  • Magnetic particles
  • The VCR machine tape heads
  • Sticky-shed (sticky-tape) syndrome
  • The lubricant in the binder layer
  • Multiple recording and re-recordings
  • Multiple rewinding
  • Tracking problems
  • Sound distortion and drop-off

Until then…