Shelf life of videotape

Thomas Loades

Does anyone know how long analog videotape will last before it starts to deteriorate?

And just what goes "wrong" with video if it does deteriorate? I imagine it would be unviewable, ultimately, but is there some kind of progression to it?
I know there are whole articles on this subject. Personally, I have video tape from the mid to late 80's that has some increased noise or specks on the video. I think tapes eventually become more likely to stretch or break especially with frequent usage.

Bill Hark
It all depends on how much it's viewed. A lot of my heavily viewed tapes from the mid to late 90s are showing a lot of wear - they have that horizontal gray line going across the middle. But I also have some tapes from the mid to late 80s that I look at maybe once every year or two that are still in good shape.
All magnetic recording tape be it Video, or Audio will deteriate over time. Hence the lines on a screen. If the tape has been played alot the oxide starts to shed, usually noticed by the fact that the replay heads need frequent cleaning. Another factor can be where the tapes have been stored. If they get damp and are played before they have dried out and reaclimatised to the room temperature the tapes will shed oxide much quicker. Also Remember keep them away from magnetic devices like speakers and TV tubes, this can have the same effect as running them through a tape eraser.
The problem also can affect floppy discs.

The only reason I know this is I spent 5 years working in the R & D department of a magnetic tape manufacturer.
When I have a video tape that I really like or want to be sure to save, I make a couple of copies and watch them and keep the original stored away. That way if a tape starts to go bad, I can make a new copy and watch it without the lines and static.
Tape is cheap, memories are priceless!!!
I keep all my analog masters in a locked briefcase, stored at room temperature. Some of the oldest ones from 1996-97 (VHSc) were heavily watched during those years, but since then I've only watched them once, in 2001, when I did VHS transfers. My 1999 masters are all VHS, and have only been watched a handful of times each, when I made the first copies. After that, I made all copies from those first copies. I'm most concerned about the May 3, 1999 stuff. I have only watched that master three times since that day, so I'm hoping it's stood the test of time. I'll be transfering all those analog masters to digital in the coming months, as I start my 1996-1998 & 1999 DVDs.

I've treated them like eggs, so I fully expect them to perform well.