Video tapes including Betamax, VHS, 8mm and mini-DV, have a shelf life. What you saw fifteen or twenty years ago was much sharper and smoother then they are now.
Although there have been many studies about tape longevity and stability that have produced valuable information, there is no accurate way of estimating the life expectancy of a video tape. As you might expect, it varies greatly depending on the brand, the way the tape is handled and stored.
Most video experts agree though the life span is between 8 to 12 years and they recommend transferring them into digital media within the first 5 years.
However with all the best intentions, life happens. We are busy and often let our video tapes gather and collect dust. If you just can’t find the time now to digitize your tapes, follow these tips below on handling and storing your tapes to slow down that degradation process.
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 cassettes away from magnetic fields
• Don’t leave a cassette in the car where it will be exposed to heat and cold
• Occasionally fast forward and rewind a tape that’s being stored a long time
Where to Store Your Video Tapes
• 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 to distribute the gravity pull equally and stably.