Even with the best of efforts, you probably won't be able to do much to preserve your beloved video tape library the way that it is. Keeping your audio and video tapes in good working order requires constant attention. It does not just involve leaving tapes in labeled boxes or a cassette rack until you decide that you want to view them later. A video tape's average lifespan reaches only up to ten years at most, even if you clean them periodically and keep your cassettes in protective cases. A tape would also be subject to wear and tear depending on how you frequently use it.
Tape decks and other replacement parts, new players and cassette duplicators, even blank VHS tapes, are also becoming very hard to come by, and it has become equally hard to find people with the proper expertise to help you if you want to do repair work. The only thing to be done in the arena of cassette storage, therefore, to be able to preserve your video library for probably another generation, is to move forward with the rest of the world and go digital. This is what you will need to do:
- Decide what you want to do with your library. You can probably still find someone who can do cassette duplication for you, or you can even manage this on your own, but it is ultimately better to settle on having your tapes converted instead. You probably want to keep everything from your old library. If you don't have the equipment for it, you can send them to a shop, which will convert your tapes for you. But if money is an issue, you can get your tapes converted in batches and leave the others in their rack until you're ready to send out another batch.
- Find out the quality of your tapes. When you convert your tapes to another format, the quality of the source material will determine the quality of the copied file that you get in the end. This means that converting your tapes to even the highest frequency available won't raise the original quality of your tape and would just increase the storage you need for it. An AVI file should be sufficient for Betacam, and MPEG-2 files for VHS.
- Check if your files have been properly converted. If you're converting your tapes yourself, once you're done, play your files to check that they are working. You might want to keep a back-up in your hard drive and one in a separate flash disk, or burn VCD or DVD copies, which you can easily store in CD storage drawers for later viewing.
You can also just hand your tapes over to a shop that can do it for you. Convergence Corporation.com is one such shop, and can handle large amounts of data for you for easy shot access. This will also ensure that your tapes are converted more professionally than you might be able to if you're a beginner and don't know what exactly to do.