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Home /Memories Matter / How long is my tape? What is the format?

How long is my tape? What is the format?

By Dillon Wallace

If you’re like most people, you probably have a box or trunk full of old tapes and films stashed somewhere in storage.


You might even be in the process of digitizing them. If you are, that’s a smart move and we applaud you. But in that pile of old VHS tapes and spooled film, how do you know the length of some of your tapes? Or the size and type of film? And probably most importantly, is all that even important in the digitizing process.


Simple answer: no, it’s not. Companies like Southtree can digitize your tapes and film regardless of length. That’s right, the whole kit and caboodle. All of it. And for one, consistent price.


But, if you are still curious about the lengths and types of tapes in your storage stash, there are some things you can do to put those mysteries to rest.


Tape length vs playback time

For starters, video tapes are marked in playing time as opposed to tape length. In the United States, the system used for tape speeds is NTSC, which has a higher running rate at 6.6 feet/minute than European (PAL) or French (SECAM) systems that run at 4.69 feet/minute. That means the same tape played on a PAL VCR will give you longer playback time.


So if it’s made in the U.S., you’ve got a pretty good basis on which to guess your tape’s system – most likely NTSC. And if it is a NTSC VHS (which if it’s from the U.S. it probably is), it’s more than likely a standard T-120 tape, which typically have a total length of about 812 feet with a total run time of approx. 2 hours.


Available recording times for VHS

When it comes to recording times on your VHS tapes, it depends on what your VCR’s record speed is set at. There are three record speeds on your VHS deck – SP/LP/EP modes. A T-120 VHS tap at Standard Play (SP) equals about 2 hours, as stated previously. If it’s a Long Play (LP) mode, it could be a recording of up to 4 hours, and if it’s in Extended Play (EP), you could be in for the long haul with a recorded time of 6 hours.


Other VHS tape formats like T-160 and T-180 simply increase record time based on this simple math = the bigger the number the more time you have.


Bottom line

The length of your tape or film, both in feet and time, is irrelevant to your digitizing needs. Long or short? No matter. Tape format? No matter. If you send your tapes off to Southtree, we’ll convert every second, every centimeter to digital – no problem. 


Happy viewing!

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