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  1. Member
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    Hi everyone, newbie here looking for some expert advice. Apologies in advance if this is not the best spot to be posting!

    Recently I found some old (1990's) 8mm cassette tapes of home videos that I was going through with my family. We are happily watching the tapes on the TV by playing it off the original camcorder we recorded the videos on, and connecting it to the TV. However, on some tapes, as I rewind them, they seem to get stuck/snag. Most of the time during the rewind, it will manage to push through and continue rewinding successfully. Other times, the tapes will actually tear, resulting in a long (several inches) diagonal tear through the tape that I then need to repair.

    My question is, what is the best way to rewind and play these tapes without tearing them? I'm not sure if it's a matter of the rewinding on the camcorder being too aggressive, as when I manually rewind the tapes very lightly (they are treasured home videos after all) they also seem to tear. Is there some kind of special way to rewind these tapes, or perhaps a special solution that can be used to treat the tapes, or perhaps heating / cooling the tapes before playing?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
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  2. Member darkknight145's Avatar
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    Time to get your precious videos off the tape and into a digital format, the tapes are obviously past their useful life. Even if the tapes were not sticking, this magnetic media is past it's useful life, and the recorded information will be fading.
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    Hi darkknight, thanks for your message. That is definitely the goal. I'm sorry if I'm wrong, but I thought the conversion process involves rewinding these tapes as well though?

    Would there not be a risk of tearing at that time as well?
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  4. This from Wikipedia: 'Tapes more than 15 years old may start to show signs of degradation. Among other problems, they can become sticky, jamming playback units, or become brittle and snap. Such problems will normally require professional attention.'
    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence -Carl Sagan
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  5. Member
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    Originally Posted by TreeTops View Post
    This from Wikipedia: 'Tapes more than 15 years old may start to show signs of degradation. Among other problems, they can become sticky, jamming playback units, or become brittle and snap. Such problems will normally require professional attention.'
    Darn, thanks for the information. I was hoping there would be some kind of DIY solution...
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  6. The only thing I can think of for DIY is to find or build some sort of manual rewinder, where you could slow down the rewinding speed, to allow the tape to go more slowly. Along those same lines, you might also look on eBay to see if you can get an 8mm deck or camcorder that is partially operating (and therefore cheap) which doesn't play video, but where the mechanism still works. With that sort of a deck, you could put the deck in the reverse play mode, which is far slower than a rewind operation and therefore less likely to tear the tape because it has more time to un-stick itself. You could do this with your existing camera as well, but you can't be capturing and doing the fast play at the same time, and rewinding a tape at normal speed is going to take hours per tape.

    I would not advise trying to do any sort of baking or lubrication, unless you get desperate.

    Finally, you could contact some of the commercial transfer operations (e.g., "Legacy Box") and ask them what services they offer for such tapes.
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  7. The same thing happened to Ampex audio recording tape from the late 80's and 90's Shedding. The glue breaks down and the tape is ruined.
    I had one chance at my studio tapes which suffered, but audio tape is far easier to work with than 8mm video cassettes.

    SSS. Sticky Sed Syndrome. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sticky-shed_syndrome

    Fortunatley 10" reels of audio tape could be baked for one last run through the machine to digitise the reels.

    Baking is not an option for 8mm video tape, the holder, or pancake base for the tape is plastic, so even if you removed the tape from the cassette, you would still be at a dead end. Audio tape could be wound on to metal reels for baking. The tape also needs to perfectly wound on the to reel, evenly and neatly, with an even tension through out the reel for it to have a chance of working, so highly unlikely with a camcorder to achieve.

    http://www.josephson.com/bake_tape.html

    You get one last shot to digitise your tapes, that is not easy, as you will need to prepare some kind of capture set up and be able to test it with an input signal of some kind. Probably the live output from the camcorder, and do plenty of captures to master the dark art, before you try it with a tape. Save the tape until you capture one last time.

    I would investigate how to clean your playback machine heads with Iso Propol. You tube may have tutorials, but it is risky.

    You mention damage to your tapes already, so I would give up, more damage will occur and then the contents will be gone forever.
    you shouldn't risk trying to repair such video tapes with a splice either, that will likely damage the helical scan heads.

    you would need to clean the tape heads frequently, possibly several times mid way during a capture and fix the break in the video edit.
    Cleaning video heads is not without risk/problems if you have never done it before.
    Not an easy task if you have no experience in maintenance of tape heads, then capture video tape and edit.

    If they are really treasured memories, then get a quote to have a pro convert them for you, pointing out the state the tapes are in when you get a quote, as that may affect the cost.. anywhere from $25 upwards, per hour for, SD video.
    Last edited by super8rescue; 5th Jun 2020 at 16:42.
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  8. From that "Sticky-shed syndrome" Wikipedia page:
    "Blank cassettes from the 70s-90s are unaffected because the hygroscopic binder was not used in cassette formulations."
    I've seen these discussions before, and fortunately for those dealing with video (not audio) tapes, and those dealing with consumer (not broadcast or commercial) tapes, the binder in question that degraded and got stick is probably not used on those tapes.

    However, there are lots of other reasons for tapes to bind, most often because of a warping of the cheap shells used to house the tape. Dirt, mold, and other contaminants can also be a problem. For these other problems, simply slowing down the rewinding may be all that is needed, as long as there isn't so much friction that the pinch rollers can't move the tape through smoothly while playing.
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  9. Dinosaur Supervisor KarMa's Avatar
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    I know recently I bought a discovery tape off ebay from around 1990. I ended up having to dehydrate it (bake) for 4 or so hours to get it to even play. I've probably had to bake 5-10 tapes in my collection of 100s to get proper playback in recent years. All but one tape seems to be permanently unplayable besides in fast forward mode (no idea what the problem is). I would take that Wikipedia article with a grain of salt, but for the most part I don't have to do anything to old VHS tapes as they simply work in 2020(usually).
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