How Filmmakers Recreate That '90s VHS Look Today

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There are a few markers we instantly associate with the VHS tapes we watched in the 1980s and 1990s: a washed-out picture, bleeding colors, and random lines popping up across the screen. Twenty years ago, these flaws would have been considered annoying, but today some filmmakers are going out of their way to recreate them in digital footage. YouTube personality Tom Scott explains how 21st-century producers do it in his video below.

If you see a modern commercial or music video that channels a VHS vibe, chances are it wasn't recorded on an old-school video camera. The easiest way to make a digital video look retro is to apply a filter.

When Harry Frank, a product and content designer at Red Giant, designed his popular 1990s VHS filter, he knew there were several elements he wanted to capture. On top of making the colors look muted, he added some glitches you normally get only when working with tape. The white, horizontal lines that sometimes flash across an image, for instance, occur when there's dust stuck to the tape, but in this case they're intentional. He also added a "scrolling wrinkle"—something that happens when VHS tape gets bunched up.

Once you know what you're going for, making new footage look old isn't too difficult. There's even a VHS filter iPhone app that allows amateur filmmakers to achieve the effect.

[h/t Tom Scott]