What is the shelf life of a video tape?

A video tape degrades with time because it is made of magnetic media. What you see ten, twenty years later is nowhere as sharp as when the tapes were first created. So, what is the shelf life of a magnetic tape (which includes Betamax, VHS, 8mm and mini-DV)?

If you ask a professional or a photo studio that question, the answer you get can range anywhere between 5 to 10 years. This is because it depends a lot on how 1) you handle it, 2) how you store it and 3) how often you played and rewound it – as opposed to letting it sit for years and years.

How to Handle Your Video Tapes

• Never touch the tape itself. Hold it by the side of the cassette
• Rewind the cassette before storing it.
• Keep away from curious kids, avoid dropping or banging the tapes.
• Keep cassettes away from magnetic fields
• Don’t leave a cassette in the car where it will be exposed to heat and cold
• If using a new cassette and it’s still cold, let it warm up to room temperature first.
• Occasionally fast forward and rewind a tape that’s being stored a long time.

Where to Store Your Video Tapes

The conditions in which magnetic tape is stored and used can extend its shelf life. Observe these video storage tips:

• Store in conditions that are stable, cool and dry.
• Stay away from hot, humid and dusty.
• Store cassettes in the cassette case.
• Store your tapes vertically and not flat (see picture) to distribute the gravity pull equally and stably.

But why wait in the first place? I get asked by customers if we use professional equipment that will ensure the highest quality transfer. The answer is yes, our lab uses only professional-grade equipment, but the real answer is this: the best transfer quality you can get is yesterday. The longer you wait, the more chances you are taking about the tape magnetic media degrading. Not to mention video transfer costs don’t go down, they only increase. Call us today for any questions on your film and video transfer: (617) 901 4564.