About U-Matic tapes

One of the earliest formats to hold videotape inside a cassette, making a break from the most popular reel-to-reel formats of the time, the release of U-matic video cassettes in 1971 signposted a video-recording revolution in the TV and film industry that helped pave the way for more the more widely used Betamax and VHS videocassettes, and the explosive popularity of home-video entertainment. There were, however, many issues with U-matic tapes. As well as being easily prone to damage and producing distorted images, U-matics also had trouble reproducing the colour red. The colour issue was so renowned that TV and film studios often discouraged on screen talent from wearing red clothing.

Despite its issues, lack of mainstream consumer appeal and eventual obsolescence, many long-running TV and film studios still have stacks of U-matic tapes along with their recorders to replay footage from their hayday. Judging by the hundreds of U-matic tapes converted to digital and DVD by EachMoment every year, we too can testify for there being huge numbers of the tapes taking up space around production studios and households alike. In modern times, U-matic tapes are a high preservation risk. Although their tapes are slightly more durable than some of their successors like VHS and Betamax, U-matic tapes can and will degrade – some by as much as 10% every 20 years. What’s more, mould can grow on the sides of the tapes which puts the footage at risk of being lost forever.

How can I preserve my U-Matic memories?

If you have old U-matic tapes lying around, you will quite rightly want to preserve and protect any memories that are locked inside. There is therefore no better time than now to convert your U-matic tapes to digital and DVD. Transferring U-matic to digital and DVD will shield your buried memories that are trapped in your deteriorating tapes from the sands of time. As well as freeing up tonnes of storage space, you can put your trust into a format that will never degrade and won’t put your treasured memories at risk. Converting your U-matic tapes to digital and DVD allows you to revive your old footage by re-watching on your computer, laptop or your mobile, so you can take your memories with you on the go.

The best way to convert U-Matic tapes to Digital and DVD

Digitising your old U-Matic tapes individually can be demanding – we know full well that scraping mould off your old tapes probably isn’t how you want to spend your free time. Converting your U-Matics or old photos with each moment removes all the bother for you – it’s too easy to pass up. If you have any U-Matic tapes or any old formats like VHS that you’d like preserved on DVD or digital which are accessible on your smartphone, TV and computer, we will collect your old photos and tapes from your doorstep, convert them to digital and return them to you in one of our Memory Boxes.

Cleaning the tapes

Before converting the tape to digital, it is essential to deep clean U-Matic tapes using a two pass wet/dry method. As U-Matic tapes are one of the oldest video cassette formats, most have had more than enough time to gather dust and mould. While there are dedicated machines for cleaning U-Matic tapes, they are incredibly difficult to come by and are increasingly unreliable due to their old age. At EachMoment, every single tape is assessed and cleaned on a case by case basis using bespoke tape cleaning machinery.

Equipment

When converting U-Matic to digital, it’s essential to use regularly-serviced, broadcast-quality Video Cassette Recorders (VCRs). U-Matic players are rare, expensive and are likely to chew up your tapes if they have not been given close attention and care over the years. Nonetheless, even regularly-serviced VCRs are not perfect and are susceptible to mechanical faults. These problems can cause the scan lines of a video to not sync correctly with the rest of the frame, resulting in a distorted image. You may have experienced this issue for yourself if you have ever tried to copy a tape from one consumer-grade VCR to another, which may result in a marked drop in picture quality. This is known as ‘flagging’, with the top 10% – 20% of the image being most affected.

EachMoment corrects syncing issues by only using broadcast quality VCR’s that are equipped with Time Base Correction. A time base corrector (TBC) amends a U-Matic tape’s signal and image quality by inputting the video into a buffer, correcting the image before it is subsequently output again and formatted digitally.

Editing and Post-Processing

Once digitised, the digital file can now be edited to bring the digitised U-Matic tape to modern standards. Colour correction is applied where necessary and contrast and saturation are adjusted accordingly.
As much U-Matic footage was recorded between the 70s and 80s, you won’t be surprised to hear that U-Matic audio levels are very low compared to modern domestic recording equipment . To improve audio levels, we use enhancement and loudness improvement to produce clearer sound, bringing your footage into the 21st Century.

Why wait? Convert your tapes to digital now!

Once these steps are complete, your U-Matic tape is fully converted to digital and DVD, giving your footage a new lease of life. It’s now time to relive your newly restored footage. Preserving your precious memories and gifting an EachMoment Memory Box to a friend or family member is an especially touching way to remind those closest to you how much you care about them. Whether it be a birthday, Valentine’s Day or Mother’s or Father’s Day, the memories enclosed in an EachMoment Memory Box always make the most thoughtful gift. 

What our customers think

Why 10,000+ prefer high quality, exceptional customer service and an industry leading turnaround

Link to view EachMoment's Trustpilot reviews

Contact Us

Or call 01603 291 552