Restoring Open Reel Video

One of the video formats that often presents unique restoration challenges are open reel formats.  Perhaps because of their age, the variety of sub-formats, and certainly because of the unprotected nature of open reels, media archivists have had to develop a toolbox of techniques to tackle  these preservation issues.

Starting with the age of the tape, the most common problem associated with this is ‘sticky’ or ‘shedding tape syndrome’.  During playback, the tape sheds all kinds of sticky residue all over your machine and not only results in poor playback and squealing, but can seriously damage your machine.  There are a couple of techniques used to combat this problem – ‘baking’ and tape cleaning.  Below is a picture of our open reel tape cleaner made by a company called BOW Industries.  This cleaner can be used on both 1/2″ and 1″ width open reel tapes and can be extremely helpful in restoring tapes to playback condition.

Another technique that is often used to combat sticky tape syndrome is “baking”.  According to a patent filed in the United States by Ampex, the standard technique involves heating the tape to 54 degrees Celsius for a minimum of 8 hours (within certain humidity specifications).  The result is the heat drives out the moisture and temporarily softens the tape backing.  It’s best to only use this technique if you know there are no other options as baking will significantly reduce the shelf life of your existing tape.  Also, never use this method on acetate tapes!

As for identifying, the particular format you have, sometimes it’s just trial and error!  Within the 1″ open reel variety, the common broadcast format was type-C but there also existed type-B, type-A, and IVC also had a 1″ video format that was used in the 1970′s and 80′s to name a few.

1/2″ open reel video formats also had their share of sub-formats.  EIAJ was probably the most common with a black and white and later a colour version available.  Shibaden also had their own version along with Sony CV and others.

So if you find yourself with some random open reel video formats on hand, fear not as there may still be some preservation options for your material.

For more information, please contact Flume Media Archiving.