I've been wondering what generation of tapes (I assume Betacam SP in most cases in the 90s) TV stations would typically use for the actual broadcasts. And if they did use second, third, forth, etc. generation tapes, how noticeable would the differences be between those and the master copies?
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Usually, they'd make the master and at least one backup copy. Then they'd make a couple of working dub tapes (usually from the master) which they'd re-use until they wore out. For commercials/psas they'd often put those on 3/4" U-matic instead of BetaSP. So the master usually only had 1 record pass & <10 play passes on it.
So how many passes/years would it typically take before Beta SP showed signs of wear?
I don't remember. 25? 50? probably somewhere in between there, depending upon the quality of the tape and the state-of-repair of the deck(s) in use. Years? For storage, top quality tapes should last 25-50 years or more if well stored (assuming you still have a great quality deck with which to play them on). Combine use/passes & storage/time and I'd bet they wouldn't last that long.