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What is Tape Tracking?

By Dillon Wallace

According to Wikipedia, video tape tracking is a calibration adjustment which ensures that the spinning playback head is properly aligned with the helical scan signal written onto the tape.

Umm. What?

For the rest of us non-tech geek speaking video enthusiasts, tracking basically ensures that your video plays back at optimal quality and speed. While it may not look it, your VHS and other videotapes have a lot of moving parts working together to make sure that the image you see on TV is the image you’re supposed to see.

Back in the day, if your tape was suffering from tracking issues – looking extra fuzzy at the bottom of the screen or scrambling white static noise across the picture – you could adjust your VCR’s tracking knobs and settings until the picture sharpened up. But that was then and this is now.

And now, there’s just one (big) problem. The tracking on your old tapes is getting worse with time and other factors, like improper storage. You see, videotapes only have about a 30-year shelf life and that 30 year mark is knocking on the door. After all, the magnetic media within your tapes has been degrading over nearly three decades, losing its charge in a process called remanence decay. It’s just one of the many ways your VHS tapes can fade over time, and the most common problem with remanence decay is seen through tracking issues, such as loss of lubrication in the binder or stripped layers on the tape from several recordings of recordings.

Luckily, the tracking on your tapes can be saved through digitization. And our team of professional memory preservationists can even pay closer attention to certain tapes that you’ve marked as having tracking issues. After all, time isn’t stopping or even slowing down, which means your tracking is only going to continue to get worse through remanence decay. So, don’t delay any longer! Digitize today and put your tracking issues to rest with a digital copy of your favorite old videotapes.

You want to remember your memories the way they were experienced. Not with a bunch of white fuzz all over the picture.

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