Invisible Damage

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I take great pride in the services we provide and the quality we work hard to attain. But sometimes, there are circumstances we are faced with that prevent us from delivering the clearest or sharpest images from the tapes tendered to us.

Recently, I had to deal with some “damaged” tapes that appeared outwardly to be perfectly fine.  It was part of a large order from a client. She presented me with VHS tapes, VHS-C tapes, digital-8 tapes, and mini dv tapes. Over the years, she would continually upgrade to the newest camera models as they were released so she had a large supply of different videotape formats none of which she could watch because the various cameras that recorded and played those formats were no longer available to her. She asked me to convert them all to digital files in order to preserve and protect them.

Her VHS, digital-8 and mini-dv tapes are transferring with no issues. Beautiful results. But almost all of her VHS-C tapes are giving me fits. They just don’t want to track properly on my equipment, causing the picture to “jump” or static lines to display on the screen. After working with the tapes for a while, I believe I know the cause. It is not my equipment. It is functioning properly because other tapes I play on them transmit clear and crisp images. And yet her tapes, regardless of which of my machines I use to play them, do not track properly even though the tapes themselves show no signs of external damage.

What I figure is that her original VHS-C camera that recorded the footage on these particular tapes, at some point, must have been dropped, resulting in its video heads being knocked out of alignment. The camera continued to record but with a misaligned head. This misalignment would be responsible for the tracking issues experienced during playback as the camera’s recording head and my players’ playback head would not be in sync according to the industry’s universally accepted calibration settings.

Because my equipment has the ability to adjust to some degree the alignment of its heads to match the variance of the source tapes, I feel confident that I will be able to capture and preserve the majority of her memories with a minimum of distortion. Just one more reason why it is a good idea to bring your most treasured possessions… your memories… to a professional for safe-keeping.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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