How long do tapes and DVDs last? Seems like my VHS collection is going to hell...

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Viper, Dec 26, 2007.

  1. Viper

    Viper Second Unit

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    I popped in a tape today that I bought brand new and only ever watched once or twice before (Days of Thunder). It's just been sitting on a shelf in my room for a good 8-10 years now. The movie played alright, but I kept noticing a video hiccup along the top edge of the screen. I've noticed the same on some other tapes. Do they just start to go after like 10 years or what? Will DVDs have any of the same issues? I think the oldest DVDs I have are maybe 6-7 years old now and they still play fine.

    This is going to be a major problem with my collection, as I have a lot of movies that weren't released on DVD. I've been trying to dub some of them to DVDR myself just to preserve them, but not all of them are in good enough shape to bother (or they were taped off TV). Many of these are difficult to even find a new tape of on ebay/amazon, so it's getting on my nerves.

    I had 1162 tapes in July of 2006. I'm down to about 500 right now from replacing with DVDs, mostly from sales and the Walmart bargain bin. I'm starting to find more and more that I won't be able to replace or won't be able to find easily.
     
  2. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Tape in general has some storage maintenance which most people aren't aware of (or if they are aware don't care enough to follow through on it). This includes storing cassettes vertically so the tape itself is never resting on its edge and doing periodic "unpacking" where you fast forward and then rewind each tape. And of course temperature control.
     
  3. mike kaminski

    mike kaminski Second Unit

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    Just going from experience, tapes usually go about 20 years before there are serious issues, optical disks anywhere from ten years to fifteen or twenty before disk rot starts to happen. Of course CD/DVD-R and the like are made much cheaper and usually only last 5-10 depending, in my experience anyway. I've always been impressed with how long magnetic tapes can last if stored and treated correctly.
     
  4. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Videotape, audio tape, computer diskettes - they're all basically rust on a sticky mylar backing material. Yes, they deteriorate just sitting in you cabinet. The oxide can continue to oxidize, the mylar is subject to temperature and humidity issues and can become stretched or start sticking to itself over time. And that's if you don't play the tape. [​IMG] If you play it your cause wear to both the recording surface and the mylar substrate every time you pop it in the VCR or tape player.

    8 to 10 years is a pretty good average lifespan for a video cassette, as millions of people who transferred their 8mm home movies to tape and then threw the movies away have discovered to their horror.

    DVDs and CDs are digital recording media read by laser beams. There's essentially no wear and tear in playing them and the materials they're made or are more robust. If handled properly and stored in reasonable conditions they should last a good many years. Most discs will probably outlast the formats themselves. ("Looks like I'm gonna have to buy the White Album again.")

    A couple of caveats: A couple of years after the CD was first introduced manufacturers discovered that some of the inks used to silk-screen the labels onto the discs were chemically reacting with the discs themselves and gradually eating straight through the material into the data layer. Some DVDs, like laserdiscs before them, have suffered from "rot", a condition that arises when a manufacturing or materials defect causes the multiple layers of a disc to physically separate. A number of early DVD releases were notorious for becoming unplayable after a couple of years.

    I believe that causes of DVD rot have mostly been discovered and corrected and that most DVDs will last a long time (much longer than any form of tape), but they aren't eternal. You may find yourself needing to rebuy parts of your collection (or transferring it to a new medium) someday. But not soon.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  5. Bryan^H

    Bryan^H Producer

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    I remember reading an article about dvd's lifespan. In the article it said a dvd should last 70 to 100 years, so I think we wil be alright[​IMG]
     
  6. mike kaminski

    mike kaminski Second Unit

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    That figure seems pretty absurd to me. Since a lot of my oldest disks are less than twenty years old and have already begun to rot. Maybe it'll take 70 years before the entire disks data is totally wiped out, but IMO any disk rot is significant.
     
  7. cafink

    cafink Producer

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    As Joseph explained, some early DVDs had manufacturing issues that caused them to "rot" over time, but the problem was not widespread. I've been buying discs since the formate was introduced ten years ago, I still have all of those early discs and not a single one has given me any problems even to this day. I'll buy that a few of your oldest discs might be defective, but if "a lot" of your discs have "rotted," then there is something wrong besides the usual wear and tear or the known "rot" problem.
     
  8. Robbie^Blackmon

    Robbie^Blackmon Stunt Coordinator

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    If you can find a video deck that has a timebase corrector, I think you'll find that the wobblies will disappear!
     
  9. Viper

    Viper Second Unit

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    Like a Datavideo(?) TBC-1000? I have one for dubbing the tapes I can't replace to DVDR. Didn't help Steel any.
     
  10. mike kaminski

    mike kaminski Second Unit

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    I'm not just talking DVD, I'm talking about disks in general. DVD-wise, I've only had one case of rot, which makes sense since the formats only ten years old and most people have disks from 1999 onward, but my oldest CD's (from 15-20 years ago) just started going in the last year or two, probably a good half-dozen of them, and a Laserdisk collection a friend of mine just inherited had a good ten percent of them deteriorating. So in my experience, disks have a lifespan of 15-20 years for most. I really do hope its 70 years like that article claimed, but if its even half of that I'd be totally shocked. I guess its still too early to tell on properly-pressed DVD's, but I'm assuming that CD's can be used as an accurate parallel.
     
  11. Bryan^H

    Bryan^H Producer

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    I guess there is no exact way to tell, but the article(which I'm now trying to find) stated the dvd discs are very resilliant and don't succumb to the errors that were laserdisc(rot) and if cared for properly should last a lifetime. IT was very thorough, and if I find it, I'll post it here!
     
  12. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    My Boogie Nights DVD, which was the 3rd DVD I ever bought, suddenly became unplayable when I checked it a few weeks ago. I've never had any VHS or Beta tapes go bad from the ones I've checked, though I've been transferring the irreplaceable ones to DVD just in case, and making multiple copies in case one of those goes bad.
     
  13. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    You're assuming CDs from 20 years ago when the format was brand new can be used as an accurate parallel. That's like assuming that cars from the late 80s can be used to evaluate the crash safety of cars from 2007. You see the problem? [​IMG]

    As I already noted laser rot and DVD rot were problems - and they discovered the causes and came up with solutions. Manufacturing process have been continously improved since CDs were introduced around 20 years ago and DVDs a decade ago. Discs produced today are much more robust than those early efforts. So you can't even compare DVDs now to DVDs then, much less to CDs and LDs. There is no such thing as "discs in general".

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  14. Jon Martin

    Jon Martin Cinematographer

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    For everyone upgrading your VHS to DVD-R, you might want to be careful and not throw out the original VHS.

    I have a DVD burner (a standalone Panasonic, high end model) and have been using name brand DVD-Rs. Yet, I've had quite a few of the first few that I've burned die on me. Glad I've held on to the VHS.

    It is one thing to have a VHS with some dropouts on it. It is far more frustrating to put in a DVD-R only to get a "Can not read disc" error. You can at least see the VHS tape, and know it is there. But, to not read a DVD, you just end up with a coaster of sorts.
     
  15. mylan

    mylan Screenwriter

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    Good to know. I just had our eleven year old VHS tapes of our wedding transfered over to DVD for my wife for Christmas. The amatuer tape looked fine but the pro tape had banding along the top edges that stopped about halfway in. I still have the S-VHS master that I want to get done, maybe the banding will not have affected this copy. All tapes have been stored on their sides and in a temp/humidity controlled environment.
    I think I will also go ahead and burn an image to an external HD, thanks for the ideas everyone[​IMG]
     
  16. Derek Miner

    Derek Miner Screenwriter

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    As someone who works in broadcast and deals with a lot of video quality issues, I am extremely sensitive to issues like this. Just looking at the difference in an image from uncompressed video converted to DV format gives me pause, but then to consider that DVD is compressed a lot more over this convinced me to consider very carefully how to archive extremely important materials. In many cases, a DVD recorder copy of something will suffice, but for those who are quality conscious, I would consider copying to mini DV tape or recording DV to a hard drive and making a backup. These are much more stable options than DVD-R and higher quality, too.
     
  17. Viper

    Viper Second Unit

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    I don't see how DVD-R transfer would have any quality issues other than the quality of the original tape. DVD is recorded at higher resolution than the original tape, so how does compression affect the picture quality?
     
  18. Bryan^H

    Bryan^H Producer

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    That's Depressing. I have over a hundred burned dvd-r's(from a panasonic model) most with rare never to be seen on tv again type material. Oh well. I just hope there will be a way to transfer them to a new medium before they go bad[​IMG]

    Jon, how old are your dvd-r's that have gone bad? Have you tried different types of dvd-r's since?
     
  19. mike kaminski

    mike kaminski Second Unit

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    DVD is SD, just like VHS, 8mm video and DVcam. It has no inherant resolution advantage, and compression is lossy, so in an ideal scenario though it might be indistinguishable to most people but there is definite loss depending on how its compressed, so therefore uncompressed formats would be preferrable.

    DVD-R 's are really dodgy--some of my disks from barely even five or six years ago, from major brands like Sony, have rot. I recopied them and it seems theres been no damage, but for anything that is precious or has no backup, re-copy them every few years I would say.
     
  20. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    The new DVD may have more pixels than the VHS, but the encoding process is still likely going to try and do some potentially-lossy compression on it; that's what MPEG-2 does.

    Basically, it's not possible to gain data converting from one medium/resolution, but there's almost always a way to lose it, even when going to a higher resolution.
     

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