In the run up to the 40th anniversary of YSTV in Summer 2007, renewed attention was paid to the problem of trying to play and copy the various formats held in the YSTV Archive. For the more modern formats this was mostly a matter of time and patience to transfer material from VHS and M/Umatic to digital formats, although as neither of the station's betamax recorders works properly and one seems to shred bits of the edges of tapes, this posed a slight problem.
The main challenge was the various open reel formats, for which machines were not available in the station. The two biggest sets of reels seemed to be the 24 IVC reels (which had survived the 23 years since their machine's demise) and the Sony Rover reels (which had been dead even longer). Some enquiries round NaSTA revealed that GTV in Birmingham have a working IVC711P, and Stoic have a non-working Sony Rover.
Given that Birmingham is nearer than London, the machine was known too work, and edit tapes are normally more interesting than field recordings (the primary purpose of the Sony Rover), the IVC reels were the first line of attack. Luckily all the 1" IVC machines are supposed to be compatible in terms of on-tape format, so we didn't need to know which was used to record them in order to play them back. An expedition was organised, and Rowan de Pomerai, Richard Ash, Matthew Tole and Rick Selby (as driver) set out to take a set of tapes, DV capture unit and laptop down to the machine, and see what could be done.
The answer proved to be very little. Disappointingly, as only one of the 13 tapes taken had anything that could be played back. This sole playable tape turned out to be an off-air recording of a BBC programme ("War Games") and so worthless in any case. This was not due to the state of the tapes, but rather the information on them. Whilst mechanically they fitted onto the machine fine, and a good (in fact too high) video level came of tape, the field scan viewed on a waveform monitor was considerably too quick to display on a monitor or capture, and there was no sound. This strongly suggests that the tapes were most recently recorded on a different machine with a different head to tape velocity (not hard, there being no real standard for these machines).
The waveform was definitely one of a video picture however, proving that the tapes were neither worn out nor demagnetised by their long storage, and mechanically fit to play. In the case of the War Games tape, the playable recording was underneath an unplayable recording at the start of the tape, supporting the theory that the tapes have been re-recorded on another machine since the demise of the YSTV IVC machine. The question is now what model machine this might have been, and how to find one to play them with.
Archive Digitisation Project
At the beginning of 2011, the decision was taken to begin converting the shelf of assorted VHS tapes in the corridor between the control room and studio into easier to handle digital formats. As a result the Archive Server was born and a significant number of tapes have been copied using the two VHS decks (the JVC SVHS and the JVC SVHS/DV), with the intention to copy them onto a more durable, high-density storage medium and use them in future shows, such as YSTV Archives.