What is the term for video quality that is intentionally edited to make it look older or degraded, even when the original was captured on high quality video? For example, video quality can purposely be made to look grainy, jumpy, scratchy, faded, etc.

  • 2
    There might not be a term. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s just described more specifically, as in “grainy” or “like old film” or “scratched” or whatever. Commented May 22, 2022 at 1:06
  • Agreed. When you look at filters for that kind of effect they tend to call it vintage or aged, or old film look etc Commented May 31, 2022 at 10:31
  • Funny, 'retreaux' is new to me and ive been around a while. We used to say make it look like shit/vhs/old/vintage/oldfilm, etc Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 22:06

3 Answers 3


Image Noise and Film Grain Overlay are two common techniques used to do this. They help to mimic the grain/texture in film, which happens randomly from the silver halide particles that are suspended in the gel emulsion of the film. This doesn’t happen with digital recordings, so it can be mimicked by adding “noise” or by adding an overlay that’s recorded from blank film.


Retraux. Steampunk is also used but involves settings that are false retro, while retraux involves VHS quality, Antiquated linguistics, or Silence is golden. It can also “mimic” according to decade being filmed. So, retraux is your term.

  • Steampunk is about world or setting, resulting in but not necessitating retro visuals, but +1. Retraux is a portmanteau for retro and faux.
    – Joachim
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 10:51
  • Is 'VHS quality' a thing anymore? Asking seriously. Commented May 31, 2022 at 16:58
  • Yes, some people are strongly attached to it, there’s a whole market for this. Commented May 31, 2022 at 17:10
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    @JasonPSallinger apparently there's something called 'Deliberate VHS Quality' tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DeliberateVHSQuality
    – Luciano
    Commented Jun 3, 2022 at 15:01

Depending on the specific video examples and different techniques used, several terms can be used:

  1. H/T to Diéfani Favareto Piovezan for providing Retraux as a starting point. It is a style of making new content with nostalgic elements to evoke certain characteristics associated with earlier time periods:

Media produced in an intentionally old-fashioned style, designed with the intentional appearance of being decades older than is actually the case. The term is a portmanteau of the Latin word "retro," meaning "backwards" (or "in the past") and the French word "faux" (meaning "false.")

  1. Luciano pointed to Deliberate VHS Quality as a technique used to specify the visual aspects that can be introduced to refer to a specific time period and the media that was used at that time:

Deliberate VHS Quality is when, to achieve a certain aesthetic, something is deliberately filmed in grainy VHS quality to make it appear older as a stylistic choice. Often in videos that try to mimic the quality of a VHS tape, you'll see a blue screen at the beginning, with "PLAY" in blocky white letters at the top left corner of the screen, and the ensuing video quality will be grainy and full of tracking lines. Occasionally, even the audio may sound warped or distorted. By definition, a video using this trope will have been created sometime after VHS was supplanted by the DVD, so the mid-2000's at the earliest.

  1. From the broad Retraux to the specific VHS quality technique, there is a trend for a collection of "tricks" that creators/directors/editors use to signal to their audience media is meant to be from a certain time period or refer to it. They are using a Decade Filter

Period pieces from The 20th Century often tint the screen to favor filters because it "evokes the period." Usually, filmmakers and photographers even use the same colors for their respective periods, such as beige and coffee brown for The '90s, dark blue or magenta for the The '80s, bright orange for The '60s, high contrast and shiny for the The '50s, brownish/orange red and sea-foam green for the 1930s, or monochrome and classic for The Roaring '20s.
How these filters "evoke the period" are due to what color schemes were popular to emulate the zeitgeist throughout each decade, how fade-proof and long-lasting the available dyes and pigments were for those colors, and due to the technological advancements of film and camera throughout the past century. Of course, with many recordings of the era inevitably suffering from the passing of time, these imitations usually replicate how said recordings look today in their heavily damaged state, rather than trying to make it look like mint-condition (perhaps out of a fear of invoking Reality Is Unrealistic).

Indeed, the last link indicates how the audio/video can also be distorted (as user95809 suggests in his answer) to mimic how surviving media from the intended time period would be viewed with today's technology.

Thank you for an interesting question and also to the others who answered before. This was an awesome point to research.

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