Sex, Lies, and Videotape Longevity

EXCERPTED FROM FORTUNE MAGAZINE OCTOBER 18,1993


The life expectancy of VHS videotape may be as short as ten years. Technical reports by Sony, Ampex, Agfa, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers suggest that magnetic tapes must be carefully stored and maintained or their lives may be relatively short.

It’s a question of chemistry. Videotape is made from a base of polyester which is coated with polyurethane. The coating is a binder which holds the magnetic oxide particles. These oxide particles carry the magnetically encoded information within the tape. This plastic binding is sensitive to temperature and humidity. These conditions can cause the urethane particles in the coating to react with water. They will break free and can migrate to the surface of the tape. When the tape is played, the oxide particles which are no longer held by the binder can drop off and the video signal information drops with them.

Tape manufacturers recommend:

  • Store the tapes at 59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit and at a relative humidity of 40% to 60%.
  • Fast forward and rewind your tapes at least once every three years. This helps keep the polyurethane binder from sticking to adjacent layers of a tightly wound tape and possibly tearing the oxide particles from the base.
  • Before storing your videotapes, rewind them from end to end.
  • Buy the highest quality tape. It is coated more evenly and, therefore, lasts longer.
  • Keep tapes away from strong electromagnetic fields such as stereo speakers and television sets.
  • Store tapes vertically with the tape wound onto to the bottom of the spool.
  • If a tape has been in the heat or cold, let it reach room temperature before playing it.
  • For special tapes, it’s wise to keep them in plastic bags to protect them from dust and moisture.

If a tape is of great value, you might want to transfer it to film which could add 50 to 100 years to its life.

Keep Reading...

Unusual, Interesting Things To Do With Your Go Pro

Interesting things to do with a small video camera.

Read More
iPhone 5s shoots 120 fps slow motion

iPhone 5s Slow Motion Video At 120fps

Slow motion makes nearly everything look better. Apple’s new iPhone 5s can do something no other smart phone cannot do – shoot 120 fps. The Canon 7D, the Panasonic GH3 and G5, Sony NEX 5, 6, 7, as well as my own Sony Ea50 all shoot 50p/60p. Straight out of the camera it looks pretty […]

Read More
ChromeCast brings YouTube videos to your TV.

Chromecast – Internet Video and Music in Your Living Room

Google's new tiny digital video Internet receiver is called

Read More

Best Shared Videos 2015 That Could Have Been Produced On Low Budgets

These are some of the most shared video ads in 2015. I did not include movie trailers, music videos for popular artists or any videos that are not possible without a large budget. I’ve tried to include only those that could be produced by a videographer like you or me. Most of the Best Shared […]

Read More


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Forbes Magazine calls VideoUniversity one of the best business-to-business sites for digital video production.
  • WINNER
    Videography Magazine's
    "Website of the Month" Award
  • WINNER
    PC Magazine Online "Best Desktop Video Site" Award
  • WINNER
    CyberFilm School's "FOUR STAR" Award