Archive Your UMATIC's On Tape

Archiving Your 3/4" UMATIC Tapes

 Are you editing a documentary and you need to use footage from 3/4" UMATIC tapes?  But you are going to need to re-watch and re-use these tapes quite a bit, and you are not sure if the tapes will hold up to the repeated playbacks in the machines, much less whether your UMATIC deck will last for your project.

Suffice it to say, footage on UMATIC tapes can be close to 50 years old, as the format was launched in 1971.  And over the past 50 years tape has definitely proven to be a top contender for the best archival method, however, that comes with some "trial & error" moments.  For while we are still able to still access the material on UMATICS, some of the materials that were used to make UMATIC tape are proving to have not lived up to surviving for decades.  Not to mention but UMATIC is an analog format, and when you are editing in the digital domain, analog simply does not work.  One problem with UMATIC tape is that every tape manufacturer used a different formulation for the binder (or "glue" for a simpler term) that held the oxide particles to the plastic backing.  Today AMPEX branded UMATIC tapes are known to have a high rate of failure due to the company's binder formula turning into a very brittle substance as the decades and years wear on.  A lot of times people will have VHS copies of these AMPEX tapes, and even though this sounds painful, most of the time the VHS copy is the only copy that still works, as the AMPEX tape will shed it's oxide particles very freely.

So what can you do to archive your footage?  One option is to put the footage onto DVD, however DVD is a very compressed format and would not be the best place to archive your videos (also as a DATA DVD the vast majority of blank DVD's are of the 4.7GB variety, whereas to digitize U-Matic into DV you need 13GB for 1 hour of video).  Also many DVD-R's in the 6 years and up range are starting to show signs of being inoperable as the chemical layer will have started to rot away, or it was burnt at too fast a speed, and now due to scratches from normal use is no longer playable without skipping.

Hard Drive.  Hard Drive's are good for short term archiving and use, such as while you are working on your project, but as they do contain mechanical parts, if they are  left for years on end without being accessed, then they can seize up and no longer work, or even end up getting bad sectors, resulting in files that are inaccessible..

Mini DV tape.  As UMATICS have proved tape can last for decades, a lot longer than Hard Drive or DVD-R.  And with Mini DV you can store the UMATIC video on a device that will allow you archive your video for years to come, and the footage will be in digital.  And Trevor Thurlow Productions can do this for you:  transfer your UMATIC footage to Mini DV video tape.