Archive for the ‘BetaSP’ Category

AAKK! My master tape snapped! How to deal with very old videotapes

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Here’s an important tip about playing back very old videotapes, be they BetaSP, BetaMax, 3/4″ U-Matic, digibeta, BetaSX, DVCAM, etc.

For whatever reason, some people don’t rewind their master tapes after working with them. Perhaps they are worried about additional tape wear. Or maybe they just got distracted or… are just plain lazy. If you are worried about tape wear, then at least fast-forward the videotape to the very end so that it is spooled tightly on the take-up reel in side the cassette shell.

If a tape has slack and is set on a shelf for 5-10 years,  the loose part of the tape will harden and become brittle in the air. Then then next time it is played, the tape will snap in two upon insert into the video deck. People often come to us with this problem.

The leaders on the tape at the head and tail are made of a sturdier plastic that can stand up to air, gravity, and the distress of time. But the actual oxide-covered videotape is much more sensitive and can deteriorate rapidly in the wrong conditions.

So if you do come upon an old tape, NEVER pop it right into the machine. Instead, first hand-wind the tape all the way to the end, even if it takes you forever and you have to sit down to watch the big game with the cassette in your hand.  (Just don’t eat Doritos until you’re done because salt and grease from your hands isn’t the best for the tape either.)  Once the tape is rewound, pop it in the deck and DON’T HIT PLAY. Instead, shuttle the tape all the way to the end using fast-forward and then rewind it to the very top. Now eject the tape and reinsert it so it gets a fresh spooling in the system.

Now, you’re all set to play the tape for duplication, digitizing or plain old entertainment.

Your feature film won’t fit on a BetaSP. Sorry. Really, it won’t.

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

We get a lot of calls from filmmakers wanting to submit their film to a tv station or film festival on BetaSP. This work-horse professional tape format is also known as Betacam SP. It’s the analogue little brother to DigiBeta.

Unfortunately, BetaSP has a maximum running time of 90 minutes. Maybe 92 if the tape has been over-spooled at the factory. But basically, most feature films won’t fit on a single BetaSP videocassette.

The solutions to the problem can be…

1) See if you can deliver on another, longer-running, more expensive tape format such as digibeta or DVCAM.

2) Split your show into two reels (old school though it may sound) and have the tv engineer or the festival projectionist tie them together. Sometimes this is done live, and so you will need to provide the exact timecode of the change-over. The projectionist will probably have two decks and slave the timecodes together for a seamless transistion. The tv station engineer will probably dump the movie to a hard drive and tie the two reels together electronically.

3) See if they’ll allow you to send a hard drive with a GIANT quicktime movie on it.

4) Make a shorter film. Trust me, I’m a professional editor and I can take a three hour movie and make it rock at 90 mins. So you can certainly cut down your 102 minute film to 90 mins. Just take the best, most killer stuff and leave the rest on the cutting room floor. You’d be amazed how little you miss that extra footage!

And by the way, not to just rant here, but I can’t stand when directors make a movie longer than 2 hours. C’mon people! It ain’t that precious. Audiences lose patience and have a limited attention span. Plus, the babysitter costs a hell of a lot more. Oh, and the parking, too. Why is it that cinematic films have always been shorter than 2 1/2 hours? “Wizard of Oz” is 101 minutes. “Citizen Kane” is 119 minutes. “Star Wars” is 121 minutes. “Jaws”, 124. So what changed everything in the 1990’s? For crying out loud, some people gotta pee.