Video Tape

Restoration is the process by which videotape, degraded by age, is temporarily or permanently returned to a playable condition. Deteriorated or obsolete tapes require duplication onto a new contemporary tape format. VidiPax™ has restored over 100,000 tapes in its 17-year history, with a 95% success rate of retrieving the recorded material. Our philosophy and technique is similar to art conservation. The restored master must be as faithful a reproduction of the original as possible.

Tape Arrival
Before work begins on a tape or group of tapes sent to VidiPax™, each is entered into our computer database management system and given a specific job and reel number. These numbers are physically labeled on each tape and all associated packing containers. All documentation provided by the client is also entered into the database to ensure that the specifications for each job are followed throughout the restoration process.

Initial Inspection
A restoration specialist then examines each tape and notes its condition in the database. This includes the presence of dirt, edge damage, irregular tape pack and wind, and excessive oxide shedding in the container. If, at this or any other stage, a problem is detected that indicates that unusual measures will need to be taken in order to attempt a successful playback, the client will be contacted.

Tape Cleaning
We do not use chemicals or heat in our cleaning process. Instead, we employ multiple transports of pellon™ that roll slowly against both sides of the tape. Pellon™ is a nonabrasive, non-lubricant material that was designed specifically for cleaning magnetic media. Our cleaning machines were built or modified by their manufacturers according to our specifications. This equipment is not available anywhere except at VidiPax™. Our process is incremental and non-intrusive. Each pass on the machine is gentle. Its purpose is to remove dirt and other debris while correcting wind at the same time. When the cleaning process liberates no more adhesive or shed, a pass at the cleaning station yields a clean section of pellon™, and a tape is considered clean.

If there is severe tape degeneration, many passes may be necessary. Patience is critical for ensuring optimal results. Care is taken to prevent the buildup of debris on the guides and rollers through periodic cleaning, which preserves the integrity of the cleaning equipment and avoids potential cross-contamination. In cases of severe oxide shedding and stiction or when mold or fungus is present, our technicians may clean the tapes by hand. VidiPax™ has acquired from 3M™ the copyright to the process used to eliminate glue seepage caused by the foam padding used on the flange of some 2-Quad reels. Baking a tape will only be used as a last resort when all other measures have failed. Excessive heat exposure or chemical “washing” can damage the substrate or binder that holds the magnetic oxides in place, resulting in increased dropout and loss of quality.

Playback and Transfer

Our playback system is designed for restoration. It is significantly different from the systems used in videotape editing and duplication establishments. Our aim is to achieve the highest quality of reproduction without any change to the visual quality of the picture. Although we monitor for synchronization and image color quality, we will only use visual enhancements such as digital noise reduction or drop-out compensation upon the client’s request. Since the technology used to enhance picture quality is constantly evolving, applying it to an original recording now may leave artifacts that will prevent improvements in the future.

As the master is being played back, a restoration specialist closely monitors and documents any irregularities that may be present in the original recording. Adjustments are made when necessary.

During playback of material that was originally recorded on older or obsolete equipment, the technician may need to adjust the playback deck. Tape tension and tape-to-head contact is always closely monitored for optimal playback. Our technicians may be required to attempt playback on several different decks before achieving a successful playback.

Our process is designed to respect the integrity of the media information we are restoring. This is one of the major distinctions between preservation work and typical postproduction techniques.

As the master is being played back, a restoration specialist closely monitors and documents any irregularities that may be present in the original recording. Adjustments are made when necessary.

During playback of material that was originally recorded on older or obsolete equipment, the technician may need to adjust the playback deck. Tape tension and tape-to-head contact is always closely monitored for optimal playback. Our technicians may be required to attempt playback on several different decks before achieving a successful playback.

Our process is designed to respect the integrity of the media information we are restoring. This is one of the major distinctions between preservation work and typical postproduction techniques.

In typical duplication facilities, the goal is to make as many copies as possible with one master; generally, copies are made on a lower grade format than the original. With the cost of the restoration, the client has the option of recording to two different formats at no additional charge other than the tape stock. This enables the client to have a high-quality preservation master made as well as a screening copy on a lower-grade format. The higher-grade format is more forgiving of technical imperfections and, if stored correctly, will last well into the near future. As such, we electronically improve the quality of the signal without changing the visual quality of the picture.

Final Check and Shipping
When the restoration is completed and new masters have been made, all materials are labeled, packed and checked against the original shipping manifest. Tape Condition Reports are generated for each tape from the database management system and reviewed by a management-level restoration specialist. Unless the customer specifies otherwise, the original masters will be shipped after the restoration masters, in case of loss or damage during transport