Cameron Spurrell has been collecting DVDs since 2001 – and even after years of building up his growing inventory, he still remembers the first two he and his family rented.

After buying a brand new DVD player, the family rented The majestic, with Jim Carrey, and Summer catch, with Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jessica Biel.

“My sister and I sat down and we were like, ‘Special features? Behind the scenes? Is that how they make movies?’,” Spurrell recalls. “It was something surreal, because all of a sudden you had more to do with DVD than with VHS.”

DVDs, or digital video discs, were first introduced in Japan in November 1996, which means they have now been in production for 25 years. And while many have moved on – first to Blu-ray discs, and now to streaming accounts – some are sticking with their favorite DVDs.

But will these discs stand the test of time? According to a study published by the Canadian Conservation Institute in 2010 and revised in 2019, the average lifespan of a DVD or Blu-ray is between 10 and 20 years, suggesting that older titles from your library might start to fail.

Keep a collection

Spurrell, who has a particular fondness for teen slasher movies, points out that not all of the titles he collects are available to stream.

“I have DVD movies that don’t even get turned into DVD anymore, and [movies] people often forget, “he said.” A lot of those cult ’90s movies that you maybe once watched in 1997, and have completely forgotten since. “

Cameron Spurrell’s DVD collection leans towards horror, but mixes up a bit of everything. (Submitted by Cameron Spurrell)

When the television series Avatar: The Last Airbender was first taken off a streaming service a few years ago, DVD collector Ram Saund said it made him realize the value of physical media.

“I’m just fed up with the fact that something, even if it’s available anywhere, almost has an expiration date [date] because of the license, “he said.” It made sense to have a physical copy in my hand. “

Ram Saund has upgraded his DVDs to Blu-ray over the years. He can’t wait to share the shows and movies in his collection with his newborn one day. (Submitted by Ram Saund)

DVD as accessible

At the Vancouver Public Library, DVDs are a staple.

Kay Cahill, the library’s director of collections and technology, says they’re on track for around 750,000 DVD prints this year, although she notes that number is about half of what it is. was in 2019, before the pandemic.

Despite the fact that DVDs haven’t fully bounced back, the library plans to maintain a strong collection – as long as the content is available, Cahill said.

“I think there is an interesting element of fairness to DVDs,” she said. “Because we also know they’re popular with people who can’t necessarily afford the paid subscription services or who don’t necessarily have the equipment at home or the Internet connection to be able to stream. “

Kay Cahill featured in the DVD section of the Downtown Vancouver Public Library branch in July 2019. (Maggie MacPherson / CBC)

The most circulating title for the library this year was the Oscar winner Parasite, which has been verified over 950 times.

How long will your collection last?

While DVDs and Blu-rays can have an average lifespan of 10 to 20 years, some manufacturers, such as Sony, claim that DVDs can last between 30 and 100 years. Other formats, such as DVD-R (as opposed to DVD-ROM movies) are “designed to last up to 100 yearsAccording to manufacturer Verbatim, a claim supported by research from the Canadian Conservation Institute.

Joe Iraci is a senior retired conservation scientist who worked with the Canadian Conservation Institute until 2019. He has completed a number of studies on the aging of these discs.

The 10 to 20 year time range for DVDs and Blu-rays is based on how well the discs withstood prolonged exposure to high heat and humidity, he said.

(Fred R. Byers / Council on Library and Information Resources)

To begin with, Iraci looked at studies involving gold-plated CD-Rs, which were an industry standard for data storage in the ’90s and early 2000s, concluding that these drives could last over 100 years. . With that in mind, it ran the same tests on DVDs and Blu-rays and hit the 10-20 year mark.

“It’s still a guess, the type of work we did; it’s the only tool we have to make those predictions,” he said.

Iraci said, however, that if you store your DVDs in a cool, dry place, the 10 to 20 year olds could end up being 40 to 60 years old.

There are a number of reasons why DVD and Blu-ray discs can potentially degrade faster than audio CDs. But one is that DVDs store more information and layers of data, which are usually very compact, leaving a greater possibility of something going wrong.

Ensure the security of the collections

All collectors who wish to safeguard their collections face a dilemma, said Ern Bieman, Information Analyst at the Canadian Heritage Information Network.

It evokes the 2012 Copyright Modernization Act as a challenge when it comes to preserving commercially available material on DVDs and Blu-rays.

The changes introduced in this law include rules against circumvention of technological safeguards – or digital locks that a manufacturer can include on a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray, preventing users from making copies.

“If you wanted to make a backup for archival purposes, there was a rule that allowed you to do that,” Bieman said. But he noted that the rule against breaking those digital locks has effectively eliminated that.

“We no longer have any legal means of extracting this content from these commercial resources.”

To care for your collection, Bieman recommends storing discs vertically in hard plastic cases, not sleeves, and keeping them in a dark, cool and dry place.

He also notes that if you need to clean a record, you should use a lint-free cloth and wipe radially, or side-to-side, as opposed to a circular motion.

And if you have the money and the legal capacity, Bieman said you should try to save your content.

“If money isn’t an issue and you have the time and the energy, I would move it to Flash,” he said. “It would get you through the zombie apocalypse.”