Beta videocassette player FAQs

White horizontal flashes in the video:                                           
Most Beta format tapes are now almost 40 years old. Because of their age, many of the beta tapes exhibit some loss of oxide particles. When played back this looks like small white horizontal flashes on the TV screen, known as "dropout". The beginning of videotapes often suffer additional damage from continual loading and unloading, so the dropout will often look worse at the start of a tape.

Techniques for playing back an old tape:
If you haven't recently played a particular beta tape, it's best to load it, then immediately fast-forward all the way to the end. Then, rewind the tape all the way back to the beginning. This helps to get rid of many loose particles on the tape.

Sticky tapes:
This is a known condition where some old tapes become "sticky". During storage, the binder holding the oxide to the tape base loses it's hold. Tapes with sticky shed syndrome deposit a tar-like substance on the tape path, causing the tape to jam up. Any tapes played following this will also stick inside the machine. You can often remove the stickiness by carefully baking a tape following the instructions here  Note: Never bake a tape in a conventional oven. Be sure to carefully clean the tape path using 90% isopropyl alcohol. Note: never touch video heads with a cotton swab. Follow our "Cleaning Video Heads" article here   More info about sticky shed syndrome in video tapes here

Moldy tapes:
It's possible that mold spores can grow inside an old tape. You'll often see them through the window on the videocassette. I recommend first baking the tape following our instructions in our Help Articles at  After the tape has cooled to room temperature, fast-forward all the way to the end of the tape. Then rewind all the way to the start.

When there's no tape in the VCR you get snow in the video and noise in the audio
When a beta  tape is removed, or placed in STOP, the VCR switches to access the built-in TV tuner. If you don't have an analog TV signal connected to the VCR, you'll hear audio noise and see a snowy picture (fondly called "black and white ants fighting") On most Beta VCRs, this noise can be muted by plugging a dummy audio plug into the "audio input" socket of the VCR.

Removing the Cover on your Sony Betamax
Most Betamax VCRs have a similar sort of metal cover. Removing the cover to clean the VCR isn't too hard if you carefully follow these instructions:
Don't force anything. Remove the two large bolts on each side of the cover. Slowly tip up the back of the VCR cover (you way have to slightly pull out on each side of the cover to free it).
Lift up on the back of the cover slowly, to about a 45 degree angle. At this point it should be possible to slide the lip of the cover back and out from under the front plastic faceplate.
Once you're inside, always use 91% isopropyl alcohol to clean the tape path and rollers. Never touch the video heads with a cotton swab. Follow our Head Cleaning Instructions here


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