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Protecting VHS Tapes, DVDs, and Film From Airport Security

Protect VHS Tapes and Other Media from X-Rays in Airport Security

Travelling with Legacy Media: Video Tapes, Film, etc

When you take your Video Tapes, Audio Cassettes, Negatives, or Film with you when you travel, stick to a few guidelines. That’ll ensure the safe passage of your media through the X-Ray scanners and luggage screening. There are magnetic fields and radiation which are capable of damaging magnetically recorded material. Luckily, the danger isn’t as great as you might think. And, for those pieces of media which may be in real danger, systems exist to protect them.

Can VHS Tapes Go Through Airport Security?

Yes. With your VHS tapes, you’ve got basically nothing to worry about when it comes to airport security. We recommend keeping your tapes out of your checked baggage, and in your carry-on when you go through airport security. The data on VHS tapes exists in the form of tiny magnetic particles arranged in a pattern that allows your VCR to read it into image and sound. While the force holding the particles in place on a VHS is significantly less strong than it would be on, say Betacam, it’s still very strong. X-Rays aren’t inherently magnetic, and while there’s some magnetic energy as a byproduct of X-Rays, it’s not enough to damage your VHS. When it comes to digitally formatted media, like video tapes or audio cassettes, there’s no danger at all, if you carry-on your media. Keep them out of your checked bags! We’ve heard anecdotes about tapes getting erased while going through checked baggage security. If you’re going to prioritize, put the older formats of tapes in your carry ons first – they’ve got a lower threshold for magnetic damage than the newer formats.

VHS Tape

What About Analog Media?

Okay, this is where you might encounter a problem. Whilst we record digital media using magnetic fields or lasers, analog media is trickier. Photographs, negatives, and slides are created using a chemical reaction. Light and radiation are capable of doing great damage to the information recorded on those formats. When light hits film, it changes the actual chemical composition of the emulsion. Chemical changes are irreversible – you can’t turn ashes back into a log, and you can’t un-bleach a reel of film. Luckily, digital software exists. Part of our premium film transfer service is scene-by-scene color correction, and we offer the same for photos, slides, and negatives. For the purpose of travel, make sure you check ahead of time if you can ask for manual inspection. Some airports offer it, and we recommend using that option if you can. If that option isn’t offered, check the ISO Rating of your film. If it’s under 800, it’s probably safe. Either way, allow yourself an extra half hour to hour to get through security if you’re going to go the manual screening route.

Film Tapes

Can DVDs Go Through Airport Security?

Absolutely. Airport security scanners pose even less of a threat to your DVDs then to your video tapes. DVDs are made by directly imprinting data on the disc itself. No magnetic particles, chemical emulsions, or danger of bleaching here. Realistically, the only thing that’s going to damage your DVDs in the airport is careless handling. If you keep them in your carry-on and in their cases rather than in your devices (per the TSA’s recommendation), airport security isn’t going to damage them.

archival dvd

Making Backups and Other Precautions

Another thing we always recommend is making a backup of your media. Whether it’s video tapes, audio cassettes, or photos, make sure you’ve got backups of them somewhere that aren’t going to go through airport security. Make sure to package your legacy media separately from the rest of the contents of your carry-on and label it as something you want manually inspected. Always try to get your media into your carry on, rather than in your checked luggage.

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