NEWS FROM THE PRESERVATION OFFICE
his holiday season an ominous and nearly unexpected event will take
place. The Earth will be invaded by visitors from outer space: my sister
and members of the Jupiter Mob. (You may remember them from last
year's December news.) And, this year, unlike last year, they'll be armed with
more than instamatic and single lens reflex cameras with built-in computers on
board. Yes, this year, when they come to snap up your soul, they'll suck up
your motion and heart as well with the latest in video-recording devices.
It'll be worse than exploring the human body at Epcot Center. Part of you will
be captured, forever, on what my sister will tell you is videotape. "You'll be a
star." She'll promise, "You'll never grow old. Ever. Now, smile, and wave."
"Sure. A star," I'll think sarcastically, "...just like David Bowie in The Hunger, un-
til one day my image wears away." She and the Jupiter Mob are as sinister as
ever. And as ever, intent upon letting your pictorial memories wear and fade
Be careful, or your video will end up shelved between A Boy and His Dog and
The Repo Man, and lost in a video library that could fill a space ship to the Sun. I
know better. I escaped from a video of My Favorite Martian in 1959. Once on
tape, you'll never be seen again. Or, if seen, it'll be with the mute button on, or
dubbed over saying incredulous things like, "The Preservation Office is over-
staffed." Don't let this happen to you. Protect yourself and your videoss.
1. Store your videos in an air conditioned space, away from magnetic fields.
A video is no more than a bunch of magnetized particles hanging onto a
piece of polyester. These particles begin to fly the coop or fall out of the nest
somewhere above 680F. Relative humidity during storage is best between
45% and 55%.
2. Also store videos away from dust, direct sunlight, heat sources and mois-
ture. If climate control is a problem, store them in a paper rather than plas-
tic box. Plastic boxes, like those used by video rental stores to prevent tran-
sit damage, may trap in moisture. If moisture condensation does occur,
allow the video to warm up to room temperature before playing it. Also
avoid smoking cigarettes and burning incense around stored videos; both
contain particulates which damage videotape.
3. Shelve videos standing up rather than laying down. Gravity may cause
the videotape to drag along and be damaged by the videocassette after it
has been stored laying down.
4. Try not to drop the video. The shock of impact could cause the videocas-
sette to malfunction.
5. Do not touch the videotape with your fingers. Even the cleanest fingers
carry oils which can damage the tape.
6. Never leave a video in a machine longer than its playing time. Machines
hold heat even when not in use.
7. Check the video regularly (at least once a year). If it shows any sign of
wear, try to get a copy made using machines with as many play-back and
recording heads as possible. This will allow optimal image transfer.
8. Play videos as little as possible, and try to avoid use of slow-motion and
pause controls. Spinning heads are in contact with the videotape during
play-back. This mechanical action eventually wears the image off the tape.
Also avoid rewinding or fast-forwarding with the video image whizzing by
for this reason.
9. If you stop, pause, rewind, slow or fast forward while viewing a video,
rewind it after use. This will ensure that the videotape is being stored with
even tension throughout the reel. Uneven tension could result in uneven
stretching and distortion of the tape during storage and subsequent use. If
you play the video through, without any disturbance, do not rewind it af-
ter use. Tension of the tape is better after undisturbed playback than it is af-
10. When recording, try to use only one recording speed. Videotape will
stretch resulting in greater play-back distortion over time. Also try to
avoid stop-and-start rewind and fast-forward action, which causes the tape
to move at varying speeds, for this reason.
11. If your visitors from outer space, like my sister, are going to fly out again
with your pictorial memories on their video, request a copy. Two heads
are better than one. Ask anyone from Saturn.::
S -Erich Kesse