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Old January 14th, 2011, 10:13 PM   #1
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Rescuing video tape archives from the floods

I thought I was high and dry in Brisbane with the flooding that we have just had. See this article, etc.

Looks like a heap of video tapes in industrial storage got flood damaged, possibly including 1inch reel to reel video from the 80s of which is a super-rare master.

I'm off to help and given instruction to not throw out any tape as yet. (Hard to rescue something that has been thrown out, if you follow the logic.)

If you have any experience or tips on rescuing tape so that it can be dubbed to something else, I'm all ears. Will check back later tonight.

Thanks in advance.

Andrew
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Old January 14th, 2011, 10:38 PM   #2
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Aust. biggest natural disaster Andrew, the Sydney Morning Herald today headlined it as 'The price of being Australian' Hope you're Ok.

Yrs ago in a storm here, a mates studio magnetic tape library got soaked, 1/4 and 2" tapes. We got the tapes out of their wet boxes and cartons and advice from Ampex was to wipe the reels down and let the tapes dry naturally. The 1/4" dried first and some weeks later, he was able to hand wind them through a loose towel on a machine. Took quite a while working an hour at a time, thankfully the storm water was fairly clean, flood water .. how dirty is it?

As they're wet already, maybe turning a clean water hose on the 1" might remove some flood debris.

Ampex graceously supplied new tape boxes and he was back in business.

Cheers.
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Old January 15th, 2011, 05:05 AM   #3
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River: 1 .... Andrew 0

Still, my losses have been exceptionally minor. Currently getting creative with the use of an oven etc to dry out waterlogged documents from the filing cabinet. So relieved that I had gone through most of the filing cabinet with my scan+shred personal project as this has greatly reduced the load here.

Memo: don't have the oven running too hot or you'll get scorch marks on your documents.

In the meantime, we've heard there is a chemical you can put your tapes in and it will remove all the water present. Waiting for further details as to what this chemical is, and what it would do to the tape itself.

Andrew
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Old January 15th, 2011, 07:46 PM   #4
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Probably a couple of pounds of Silicagel.

Cheers.
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Old January 15th, 2011, 09:28 PM   #5
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Hi, Andrew..............

If it's flood water it will be absolutely filthy and will have capilaried into every single inch of tape that got wet.

My best suggestion, if you're up for a mission and a half, if they're wet, throw 'em into a very large container (bath?) and cover them with clean water till you've sorted a clean and dry system (hope your bath holds water better than mine does!).

If they dry out with all that grunge on them you'll never get them clean, hence the bath.

What you really need to do is rig some sort of reel to reel cleaning machine.

Dirty reel spooled via a (running) clean water bath with a couple of sets of immersed soft brushes for both sides of the tape to remove the grunge and flush it away.

Out of the water bath and then you will need to get creative with the drying as that's gonna be one heck of a lot of tape and it needs to be absolutely bone dry.

You could try twisting the tape so that it is vertical and passing it between two opposing very soft rubber squeegies, angled so that they aren't completely perpendicular to the tape path. If they're perpendicular a trapped bit of sh*t will simply score a very nice groove the entire length of the tape.

After the squeegie you either air dry it naturally (that's a long distance in open air) or pass it through a 5 metre length of pvc pipe with a sodding great fan or fans pumping (preferably hot) air into it.

(A local plumbing company should be able to knock you up just the thing using 110 mm drain pipe with about 6 T's for the fan intakes. Just make sure the pipe is lined with something very soft indeed and has no burs or scarf in the tape path).

None of this has been tried or tested by me so I cannot testify to it's suitability, but If I was in your shoes, it's certainly what I'd do if that tape HAD to be rescued.

You may well be able to come up with something far simpler/ different dependent on available gear, time and, of course, money.

Good luck. I'd be interested in how it pans out and what system you eventually end up using.

Regards,


CS
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Old January 16th, 2011, 12:03 PM   #6
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You might be able to handle the washing and drying sort of like they handle roll film, build a series of chambers through which the tape is pulled, maybe 2 baths followed by a bath with a drying agent (alcohol & water?) then force air dry chamber. Adjust speed to allow sufficient dry time.
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Old January 16th, 2011, 02:39 PM   #7
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Fly in ointment time.............

It has occured to me, subsequent to the above post, that there may well be a small problem brewing with the above cleaning & drying system (or any other system as well).

From my 35 mm film days (yes, I trully am THAT ancient) I know just how well a smooth substrate will adhere to another smooth substrate in the presence of water.

From memory we/ I used to add some sort of wetting agent to the mix somewhere to lower the surface tension of the water to make things "let go".

Magnetic tape, having an infinately more fragile substrate than 35 mm film will, in all likelyhood, adhere to itself like, well, words fail me.

The problem, as I see it, is finding a wetting agent that will do the necessary to allow the tape to be run off the reel without lifting the coating, without, in itself, softening said coating in the process.

A good squeeze of washing up liquid into the water bath may be OK, but I'd sure hate to recommend it without some feedback from anyone who knows about reel to reel tape coatings and their reaction to detergents and the like.

Then again, I may just be paranoid!

Anyone care to hazard an opinion, scientific or otherwise?


CS
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Old January 16th, 2011, 08:42 PM   #8
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Just to add to your woes............

Found this after a great deal of trawling, the bit about water and flood damaged tapes makes for interesting reading, as does the rest...........


Video Recovery


Not quite mission impossible but getting up there..........


CS
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Old January 17th, 2011, 08:03 AM   #9
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Actually the good news is that the tapes aren't mine. :-) The bad news is that the filing cabinet, audio mixer and Nakamichi 582 professional cassette deck were.

As far as we can tell, the 1 inch documentary master wasn't in the stuff that got wet.

Some pics attached to help visualise the scene.

Andrew
Attached Thumbnails
Rescuing video tape archives from the floods-muddy-tapes-1.jpg   Rescuing video tape archives from the floods-muddy-tapes-2.jpg  

Rescuing video tape archives from the floods-muddy-tapes-3.jpg   Rescuing video tape archives from the floods-muddy-tapes-4.jpg  

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Old January 17th, 2011, 02:28 PM   #10
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Sadly those are DV tapes and some are covered in brown silt, funny how some are not .. maybe the owner just threw them all in together in that drawer, after the water receded.

Hopefully they've all been captured to (dry) hard drives and the programs completed.

The DV cases would have kept some mud out, if he wants to keep them, just take the tapes out and let them dry out in the hot Qld sun. Turn them over every hour or so .. don't bake them tho. When they are thought to have dried out, wipe any silt off and open one up by lifting the front cover, see if the tape is OK inside. Good luck. Open up the Nakamichi and wipe the silt off, be careful putting power on it.

This reinforces the notion to keep all your tapes in resealable waterproof plastic fridge containers with some fresh silicagel. mmm maybe they would have floated off.

Andrew, I know that doesn't help the owner, please pass our condolences and wish them all the best, and props to you and all the others for helping out up there.

Cheers.
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Old January 17th, 2011, 07:53 PM   #11
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Thinking of washing the Nak out with distilled water and then giving it a really good dry out.

Andrew
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Old January 18th, 2011, 03:57 PM   #12
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May as well .. then leave the cover off and put it in an oven at about 100 degrees for 2 hrs to dry the transformers out.

You'll need some parts, like any belts and a new pinch roller. Is there a Naka agent in Brisbane? Good luck.

nakamichi items - Get great deals on Cassette Decks items on eBay.com!

Cheers.
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Old January 18th, 2011, 11:58 PM   #13
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I talked to a couple of my friends in Japan who have been media engineers for decades. They said that the problem is not the water, which won't usually penetrate very far if at all into the wound tape as there is a lot more wrap tension than you might imagine, and in any case typical mag tape is not particularly affected by water.

They had a customer in Japan whose data center was flooded a few years ago and the tape recovery was achieved by first washing off the dirt and then carefully opening the cartridges and washing with clean water until all the crud (not what they call it in Japan!) was cleaned off, then slowly spooling the tape while wiping it gently with a lint free cloth to dry off any water. This was successful on all the tapes they cleaned. They also talked to one of their contacts at Imation and he said there were a couple of service companies in Australia that were competent to perform this kind of recovery. He mentioned Kroll Ontrack (located in Brisbane interestingly enough)

Re the sensitivity of tape compared to film, tape does not have a water soluble emulsion like film so there is no inherent tendency for the coating to absorb water and swell/soften/stick. Depending on the tape technology there may be mutually immiscible front and back coatings specifically to prevent the tape wraps sticking together after years sitting on the shelf tightly wound, but again they felt that clean water would not harm the tape even if it could penetrate into the wrapped reel. Which as mentioned above they considered pretty unlikely.

Anyhow, long story short, clean off the crud CAREFULLY and you should be good to go.
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