The VHS Aesthetic

Yes, we are in the Digital Age; that much is certain. Movies look cleaner with digital restorations, new sound mixes, and bonus features on the DVD (either one or two with just the standard disc instead of a three-disc combo but that’s for another day or hours worth). However there are times where if I want to watch a movie and the DVD version is somehow unavailable, I need to settle for the VHS.

I usually don’t have a problem with it. After all, I grew up with VHS and was a little late to the DVD revolution (started getting DVDs in 2003). However, the only places I can find tapes are in thrift stores or garage sales usually under fifty cents. My logic is that I can pay cheap for a movie now with an outdated format then later buy a decent DVD copy for my video library. It’s not the greatest line of thought but it works for now.

The price I pay is, well, the loss of quality in both the print and how I view the print. I don’t see the movie in widescreen like I usually prefer. I have to constantly adjust the volume because the audio fluctuates from barely audible to obnoxiously loud. To put it in perspective, the standard level of volume on my preferred television is at 40 on a 100 level scale. I have to dial the volume down to about 20 when watching a tape because it’s that loud at times. On top of that, the one TV that I use the most has the strangest tendency to not register my remote’s actions to change the volume. I have to physically get up and change the volume, like in the early days. It’s not a matter of just getting a remote, it’s one where I would need to replace the TV (a boxy 40″), something I cannot do at this time.

The tape itself deteriorates over time. I can’t really change that. It annoying to watch a mostly decent print and then have the image flicker like a strobe light for two minutes before it magically restores itself. My eyes adjust as the image goes from color to black and white in the same manner like Natural Born Killers, except it’s not that consistent or warranted. At that point, I either try watching the movie as is or stop and wait until I find a better print.

Now there are times where I will actually grab a tape from my basement and watch it just because I feel nostalgic. However I need to keep in mind the payoff for watching it on tape.