Video History

Vintage - Early - Antique - Obsolete

Video Archiving - Restoration - Remastering - Duplication - Transfer - Vintage - Antique

 

This is not a comprehensive - all encompassing in-depth history of every known video format since mankind had emerged from the swamps, but for the most part, is the History of Video comprised of the formats we currently support. As time allows, more will be added. Thus it'll always be perhaps, a work in progress !

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Link Table of the most popular vintage obsolete video formats

Quadruplex * 2" IVC 1 inch  1" EV-300  1 inch 1" 1 inch Type A  1" 1 inch Type C 1" Skip Field CV   1/2" Concord 12 ips 1/2"
Craig 1/2" inch Shibaden 1/2" inch EIAJ-1 1/2" inch EIAJ-2 1/2" inch Pilot Tone 1/2" VX Cartridge ** VCord I & II
Technicolor CVC Funai CVC Akai 1/4" inch * CED Videodisc 3/4-U 3/4 inch 3/4-U-SP 3/4inch PAL 3/4-U 3/4 inch
Beta Betamax 1,2,3 Superbeta ED-Beta M 1/2 inch M-II 1/2inch VHS
VHS-C S-VHS D-VHS 8mm Hi8 Digital8 DV
DVCAM Laserdisc DVD  VCD SVCD  MPEG-1 MPEG-2
 MiniDV MPEG-4  Divx .AVI .M2V DVD-RAM DVD-R / -RW
DVD+R / +R/W Sony Portapack          

 

   * Denotes machines out of service - awaiting parts  

* Denotes Parts Located - To be back on line shortly

** The VX cartridge format is also known as the Quasar VR-1000 or Great Time Machine

We transfer almost any videotape format to another, including video to DVD transfer (known also as video archiving) as well as the newer digital formats.

To date there are over  65 "popular" NTSC video formats that have claimed their place in video history, that have come and gone since the introduction of quadruplex. Include the list of  formats that weren't commercially viable, and the list grows to slightly over 100. Add to that the world standards such as PAL and SECAM and all their variations and the number soars by at least a factor of 5.

This is not a complete video history -  and more will be added as they are acquired. It does however, account for the vast majority !

 

Video History in chronological order

 

Phonovision (1927)

The very first video format.  Never widely adopted - it was for practical purposes, an experimental format that used a record and a stylus to record and play back video.  Experimental or not, it worked !

To learn more about this most interesting format & it's place in history, check out Phonovision at www.tvdawn.com    A great site dedicated to the world's first video !

RCA TR-600 Quad

2 inch Quadruplex (1956)

Ampex AVR-2 2 inch Qaud

Introduced in 1956, 2" quadruplex was the first commercially viable professional broadcast video format to secure it's position in Video History.  Instead of evolving into a broadcast format, Quadruplex was conceived and designed from the very start as being a professional broadcast format.

To achieve a broadcast quality 5mhz bandwidth or 400 lines of resolution, a head to tape speed equivalent to 1500 inches/second was required. In the quadruplex system, this was achieved by a tape speed of 15 inches/sec passing a rotating drum containing 4 heads placed  90 degrees apart.  The drum rotates at 14,400 rpm or 240 revs/sec and the sound it produces when up to speed is un-mistakable !  (Our "Company Cats" run for cover whenever one of the Quads starts to "spool up" !) .....  Anyways, the 4 head arrangement not surprisingly, gave rise to this format's name. 

Most "normal" folk would have a Grandfather's Clock or a hutch in their living rooms to display their prized china.........  Not so here !

Instead, a working Ampex AVR-2 Quadruplex machine occupies and "adorns"  that coveted position  !

 

 

Historical Need for Videotape Recording

Up until the advent of videotape, the west coast would view the broadcast in the late afternoon, while the east coast would view it during the evening.  TV shows were all broadcast live or had to be filmed for later broadcast, which was time consuming and expensive. That all changed in 1953 when the first commercially viable video tape recorder was introduced - the Ampex VR-1000.  Early considerations were that the format had to meet NTSC standards (the very same  video specifications in use today) and had to have full 5mhz bandwidth (400 lines of resolution) as well as the capacity to support color in the future. Quite an impressive achievement back then ! Early pioneering work was done by RCA and Ampex  .  As an interesting aside, Ampex's development team included Ray Dolby (the 4th from the left in the above picture) whose name later went on to become synonymous with sound processing systems.  Most stereo equipment today sports the Dolby logo !

The first commercially sold machines were the Ampex VR-1000 and the RCA TRT-1A.  Both used the same agreed upon format - the 2" Quadruplex system.  The format utilized 2 inch wide tape loaded on a monstrous 4800 ft reel. The machines were gi-normous behemoths ! All vacuum tubes  and weighed in at about  2600 lbs - the weight of a typical compact car !  The VR-1000 sold for $50,000 and could play/record up to 90 minute reels.

History of Technical Challenges

To record a 5 MHz bandwidth, a relative recording/playback head to tape speed of approximately 1500 inches/sec was required with the head technology available at the time ! (1500 ips is not a typo !). This equates to 125 ft/second - or about 85 miles/hour if recording was to be made in a linear fashion like an audio tape recorder !  The very first video tape recorder was in fact just such a device - a linear  recorder that functioned like a mono audio recorder on steroids ! They were engineering prototypes only to prove the feasibility of video recording to magnetic tape. Whatever happened to those early engineering lab machines is unknown.  Anyways, linear recording though possible, was unworkable. A required speed of 1500 ips   would consume 450,000 ft (85 miles worth) of tape every hour by recording video on a single linear track ! Clearly, there had to be a way around this problem.  The solution was to transversely record each field of video across the tape - a method we today call scanning. To achieve a relative head to tape speed of 450,000 ft/hour (85 MPH) , the tape moved at a speed of just 15 inches/second thru the transport. It then passed over a head drum that had 4 recording heads set 90 degrees apart spinning at 14,400 rpm !    Voila ! - an effective head to tape speed of 1500 inches/second ! (do the math !) Not only did it effectively get the head to tape speed up to 1500 ips, it made full use of the magnetic tape by recording the sweeps of video transversely across the tape ! Each head recorded 16 lines of video, or 64 lines for each drum revolution or 4 revolutions/field = 8 revolutions/frame !  A separate control track (the control track is to videotape as are the sprocket holes on film) was recorded on one outside edge of the tape while a single audio track was recorded on the opposite edge. A separate cue track was also recorded for future time code or audio for network instructions & communications.

Head to tape contact was critical, as should the tape lift from the drum by even the smallest amount, then signal would be lost.  The tape was held to the drum by an air vacuum, while inside the spinning drum, compressed air was was blown thru the assembly to provide cooling plus blow the inevitable debris out of the way. The compressed air also supplied the necessary pressure for the head drum air bearings. Air bearings ensured the least amount of friction and stability as the heads spun at an incredible 14,400 rpm.  Huge & cumbersome, the machine required a vacuum pump and an external source of compressed air. Later machines only required compressed air, as the necessary vacuum was obtained from an internal vacuum manifold.1 of 4 heads 90 deg apartThreaded with tape

There was no such thing as interchangeability between machines as we know it today.   Getting a tape to play recorded on another quad machine (even the same exact model) required a bit (read: sometimes a LOT) of tweaking.  Positioning of the vacuum guide and air pressures were critical for the best picture (or sometimes ANY picture for that matter).

The same scanning recording strategy developed for these machines is still used in the consumer as well as broadcast VCR's of today - The only difference is that quad machines recorded transversely across the tape (transverse scanning) while current head scanners record at a much lower angle called helical scanning allowing only one or two heads to do the recording. The concept of employing a rotating scanner came out of those first quad machines. No one's yet come up with anything better, and is a tribute to the engineers who originally conceived and designed it.

 

 

 

Advancements in the Technology of QuadruplexQuad heads in need of replacement (50x Magnification)

As time progressed. the machines became much smaller.  The Ampex AVR-1 was now down to a single console size and used only a fraction of the power. (Now a mere 240 volts at 22 amps ! - still more than most small arc welders  !)

Later in the timeline, RCA's TR-600  and the Ampex AVR-2 were perhaps the most popular and both tiny compared to the first VR-1000.  The TR-600 weighed in at a mere 900 lbs or so (though I never measured it) and the AVR-2 was even less....  a paltry 680 lbs. An even  smaller record-only machine was also developed for field acquisition and saw life in many a broadcast trailer.

Keeping an old quadruplex machine alive and working can be considered nothing short of a labor of love. Video heads are expensive and last an average of only 200 hours. Other parts are difficult and sometimes near impossible to find, resulting in a re-design of some circuits. They're loud, ornery, cantankerous, fickle and not by any stretch of the imagination, "Team Players". They're self centered, very individualistic and oftentimes stubborn...... It's either Their way or No way..... Keeping them operational and tuned, requires a strong knowledge of alchemy as well as a solid grounding in the black arts.

That being said: The 2" quadruplex format was so well conceived that it remained in common use up until the early 80's.

 In the history of broadcast video, it's an impressive record that still stands today & is unlikely ever to be broken.

1" Sony EV Format (1964)Sony EV-310  CLP-1B

 

Sony Introduced this format in 1964 with the release of the EV-200. It was the first "portable" machine intended for general use and most found their way into the educational and industrial marketplaces. The term "portable" back in the early 60's meant only that the machine had handles, and in no way was meant to imply that the machine was actually even close to being lightweight or compact. Most machines of this format weighed in at around 90 lbs or so. Of course, compared to Quadruplex, they were indeed "portable" for their day.

The format uses 1" tape and employs a 2 head helical scanning system. Maximum recording time is 1 hour with 2400 ft of tape on an 8 inch reel. Tape speed is 7.8 ips.  The EV-200 was a monochrome machine only, but later models in the EV-200 and 300 series were color capable by use of an external color adapter. 

A small tip off to the tape's format (though not 100% accurate) is that unlike most other 1" formats, the Sony reels did not use NAB style hubs, but rather the common star spindle design.

 

Although all the Sony EV series after the 200 were color capable, none of the VTR's by themselves came with the color processing circuitry built in.   That is where the CLP-1B came in.

For recording, the processor separated the color from the composite signal and recorded it at a lower fm carrier on the tape.  Color resolution was about 240 lines.

On playback, the process was reversed.  The CLP-1B internally processed the color signal and fed it back to the VTR where the composite output was now in color.

The unit connected to the VTR via a standard 10 pin camera cable.

 

 

1/2" Skip Field Recording (1964)Sony CV-2200 Skip Field Recorder - Sony CV Format - Video Rover

Sony introduced the CV-2000 VTR in 1964 and was released in the US in 1965. It was the first reel to reel b/w only VTR introduced for home use, though most found their way into industrial service.  This format only recorded the luminance information. There were no electronics to process or record color information, thus color programming would be recorded only in black and white monochrome.

In the skip field format, video is recorded by only one of the two video heads, resulting in only one field being recorded.  On playback, the second rotating head sweeps the same track as the first, effectively repeating the same field. Since the tape has advanced by the time the second head was coming into position for the second sweep, the "B" head was placed slightly behind and below the "A" head as opposed to 180 degrees apart and on the same horizontal plane as in other schemes. The positioning of the "B" head was critical and set by the factory and thus no provision for field adjustment is possible.

Since there were very few video recorders in the marketplace, there was never the thought of tape/machine interchangeability. Video recorded on your CV machine was meant to be played back only on that machine and would probably not play back reliably on another. There was no tracking control on the CV series of machines for this reason.

Since there is usually little change from field to field, picture quality losses employing this technique were negligible and the resulting quality surprisingly good. Employing this technique allowed efficient use of the tape - effectively, a 2 to1 compression !

The CV-2000 as depicted to the right, used 1/2" reel to reel tape on 7" 2400 ft reels. The unit weighs approximately 70 lbs and originally sold for $695 when it was first introduced.....  Though $695 doesn't sound too bad a price today, consider that $695 in 1965 equates to about $4150 in 2005 dollars !  Only several hundred CV-2000 models were ever sold in the US, though later CV models such as the CV-2100 and CV-2200 were sold in far greater numbers. Though the machines used the same tape stock as the later to come EIAJ machines and were similar in appearance, the format was not compatible with EIAJ.

Video Rover  -  Sony DV-2400

The Sony Video Rover was released in 1967 as a record only machine that recorded in the Skip Field Format.  Every effort was made to keep the machine as light as possible for the sole purpose of recording video and as such, any feature not absolutely required to record video was left out.  That even included a motorized rewind function !  Instead, it came with a hand crank for manually rewinding the tape !

 

To better understand what a skip field format is, requires a basic understanding of video fields and frames and just why we have interlaced video in the first place. The following will simply explain the concepts....

What is Interlaced Video - Fields and Frames Explained

In the NTSC system,  30 separate images (called Frames) are displayed at a rate of 30 frames/second (actually 29.97 fps in color) and consisting of 525 lines.  

Instead of drawing each of the 525 lines in sequence - called progressive scanning) (ie: drawing lines 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 . . . . .  525) then going back & repeating the process 30 times/second), the NTSC specification calls for each frame to be divided into 2 Fields.

Field 1 draws only the odd lines (ie 1,3,5,7,9  . . . . . . 525) while the second field draws & fills in the even lines (2,4,6,8,10 . . . . .  524).  Drawing or scanning first the odd lines then coming back to fill in the even lines is called interlaced scanning.

Why use Interlaced Video ?

For Video to appear "smooth" and without flicker,  images should be refreshed 60 times each second.   So why not just draw lines 1 to 525  sequentially & repeat the process 60 times each second ???    Seems simple enough.....  yet for the limited technology of the day it had one serious limitation.......

In the early days of TV, there was a severe limit as to how many pixels or lines of resolution could be transmitted each millisecond compared with today. Only so much information could be crammed down the "narrow electronic pipe". Today, we define that as having a limited bandwidth.   Vacume tubes and the large capacitor - resistor discreet circuitry of the day, was very slow and was incapable of passing high frequency information...  It simply was incapable of  passing such a huge amount of information in such a short time..... 

The NTSC standard however, specified 30 frames per second refresh rate. In order that moving objects not look smeared, the phosphors on the picture tube had to fade between "visits" by the electron beam. At the agreed on resolution for NTSC for example, the entire picture could be redrawn (repainted; refreshed) a maximum of  30 times a second.  However 30 fps was too slow.... At that rate, the top of the picture began to fade before the bottom was completely drawn - resulting in a "fading flicker", for lack of a better way of describing it. Using a longer persistence phosphor to eliminate the fading flicker would result in smearing of any motion - the "cure" now being worse than the original ill. It was clear that a 30 frames/second refresh rate was simply not going to be fast enough..... 

The obvious solution was to simply double the refresh rate to say 60 frames/sec.  Only problem back then, was that the technology for achieving such a high bandwidth was not yet available with the vacuum tube technology of the day. No way could 525 lines of information be repeated 60 times each second....   Then someone came up with the idea of drawing all the odd scan lines first in 1/60th of a second, then coming back and filling in the even scan lines in the second 1/60th of a second, which virtually eliminated that rolling fading flicker and obtained a much better looking and smoother picture for the same amount of transmitted information.

Effectively, it doubled the refresh rate without any increase in bandwidth, by refreshing only 1/2 the information but twice as fast. 

Pretty clever !

1" Type A (1965)Ampex VR-7000 1 inch Type A

Ampex introduced this format in 1965. This format employed a full wrap, single head design and was the predecessor to 1" Type C.

Initially, it was marketed to the home market though because of the high cost, most found their way into the educational and industrial markets. Most machines of this format (Ampex VR series) weighed in at about 100 lbs. Tape speed was 9.6 ips.

Later development of the format resulted in machines capable of high band color recording and playback such as the Ampex VPR-1, which was he early predecessor to the much higher 1 inch Type C format. In fact Ampex released an upgrade to the VPR-1 effectively converting it to a 1 Inch Type C ! 

Video resolution of the 1 Inch Type A format was an impressive 350 lines !  If not for the standardization and "compromise" between the various manufacturers, which led to the adoption of 1 Inch Type C, 1 inch Type A would undoubtedly have become the broadcast standard format.

However, it was not to be.....  Though very similar to 1 Inch Type C in many respects, 1 Inch Type A  recorded tapes will not play back on 1" Type C equipment.


1" IVC-600 700 800 & 900 Format (1967)IVC-870 1 inch color VTR

IVC-700 1 inch monochrome VTRIVC (International Video Corporation)  introduced this format in 1967 in an attempt to compete with the 1" Type A format.  Tapes were interchangeable between the 6, 7, 8 & 900 series machines and color reproduction was possible via an optional external color adapter. 

The format used a single head with an Alpha Wrap.  The IVC-600 was the low end machine that had manually operated control linkage. The 700 shown on the left and later models used solenoids which allowed for remote operation. Tape speed was 6.9 ips, which yielded 1 hour of record time on an 8 inch reel. The 700 & 800 series machines accepted up to 8 inch reels, while the 900 series accepted up to 12.5 inch reels allowing for up to 3 hrs of continuous recording.

The IVC-870 shown here on the right is a color capable machine...

IVC-900 was introduced, possibly in anticipation that 1" Type A would be adopted as the new broadcast standard to replace Quadruplex. The major selling point to the broadcast industry, was that the 900 could accommodate a huge 12" reel which would allow up to 3 hours of continuous run time...    Just perfect for the broadcast of full length movies !   Though both 1" Type A and IVC 900 series machines were far less expensive to produce than Quadruplex, they could not match the quality standards of Quad.  However, both formats laid the groundwork for development of 1 Inch Type C which finally became a reality in 1978.

 

 

 

Concord 12 ips  1/2" Helical Format (1967)Panasonic NV-8100 - Concord 12ips format VTR

Concord released this machine as a significant improvement over the skip field format machines sold by Sony.  Part of the better quality as compared to Sony's Skip Field Format, was attributable to it's faster tape speed of 12 inches/second plus the full recording of both fields. The head drum was also larger, which enabled faster writing speeds which translated into slightly higher video bandwidth.  This allowed approximately 40 minutes of video to be recorded on a standard 7" 2400 ft reel.

Panasonic also tried their hand with this format with the release of the NV-8000 and NV-8100 machines.   The format never caught on - probably due to it's limited recording time of only 40 minutes on a full 7" reel.  Panasonic saw the writing on the wall and quickly abandoned the format and made no other machines I'm aware of that supported it.  Concord stuck with it to the bitter end with the 600 and 700 series machines, but even Concord eventually threw in the towel and adopted the new EIAJ standard.

The format though superior to Sony's Skip Field Format, never made wide market penetration. Today, this format is considered very rare.  The only commonality, is that Concord, like all the other half inch open reel formats, used the very same 1/2 inch tape stock.

Shown here is the Panasonic 8100 torn down with the skins removed, in  the process of receiving a complete overhaul.

 

 

 

Shibaden 1/2 " Helical  (1967) - (Also re-badged as Apeco and Bell & Howell)

Shibaden released this format in 1967.  The format was the only other one that used the skip field recording technique much like the Sony CV series, but it was however incompatible with the Sony CV's, or any other 1/2" helical format for that matter.  The recording media was standard 1/2 inch open reel tape.

The format was also sold under the Apeco and Bell & Howell labels, though all came off the same Shibaden production line....  Thus Apeco and Bell & Howell's are simply re-badged Shibaden's.

The primary difference between Sony's Skip Field format  and Shibaden's, was the much larger diameter of the Shibaden head drum.  EIAJ, Skip Field, & Pilot Tone formats all used a 4.5" diameter head drum, whereas Shibaden employed a much larger 5.8" diameter drum. Tape speed was the same at 7.5 ips, however due to the larger head drum diameter,  the Shibaden format employed a faster head to tape writing speed as well as at a reduced helical azimuth angle. The increased writing speed resulted in slightly superior image quality over Sony's Skip Field Format.  Because of different azimuth and write speed of the video tracks, the Shibaden format, though conceptually very similar to Sony's Skip Field Format, is not compatible.

Though technically superior to the Skip field format, Sony simply out-marketed and out-outsold the Shibaden format machines. Thus, the Shibaden format is quite rare, never having made significant market penetration.

Shown here is the Apeco Teletape with the top skin removed. Of all the half inch open reel formats, it had the largest head drum... If it looks identical to the Shibaden machine, it's because it is !  It came off the same Shibaden assembly line and was re-badged as an Apeco.  Many of the older generation  may recall Apeco photocopiers.  Yes....   it's the same company !   They had a brief foray into video.

CBS/Motorola EVR Teleplayer (1967)CBS/Motorola EVR Teleplayer

Dubbed the EVR for Electronic Video Recorder, it was actually manufactured by CBS and sold under the Motorola Brand name.

Whether this system belongs as part of a video history reference might be debatable as it is somewhat of a hybrid...  It's somewhat of a cross between a film recorder and a video machine.

It uses 8.75 mm black & white film (sprocket-less) on 7" reels to record the monochromatic images and then used a magnetic strip to encode the color information electronically. On playback, the color information is in effect superimposed on top of the scanned black & white images.

Two other magnetic strips allowed for stereo audio...

The plan was to offer cameras to allow recording capability,  since the home consumer machines were playback only.  One would send off the film back to the factory to have it processed... 

Operation was simple:  "Drop a film cartridge on the spindle, close the the lid - push the play button, and the film automatically threads".

Color cartridges played for 25 minutes, while Black & White cartridges played for 50 minutes.....

It was also one of the first machines to offer accurate frame by frame slow motion and stop action and stereo all in one unit.

It could be successfully argued that the system was more of a film unit.   The B/W film was scanned by what amounted to a "flying spot scanner" that converted the film image to video. The chroma information from the magnetic strip was then added to create a color composite video signal that was then RF modulated for connecting to one's home TV...   It was really more a telecine than a video Tape Player...

 

Thanks to Michael Muderick who supplied the picture and a brochure of the unit.

 

Philips LDL 1/2" VTRPhilips LDL-1000 (1968)

The LDL-1000 is a 1/2" b/w helical Reel to Reel machine & was the predecessor to the N1500. Both NTSC and PAL machines were manufactured.

The drum takes a 1/2 wrap of tape and scans with two heads very similar to the EIAJ format. Tape speed is 6.63 ips or 18.84 cm/sec.

An interesting feature of the machine is that the take-up and supply reels are not driven by any belts or rubber idler wheels. Instead, both reels are driven from a magnetic disc that couples the rotating magnetic flux force to the take-up and supply reel discs.  The only belts in the machine are thus belts for the head drum, capstan and tape counter. The mechanical system is the ultimate in simplicity and works amazingly well.

Why this technology  wasn't more widely adopted is somewhat of a mystery.

 

Craig 1/2" Format (1968)Craig Model 6401

Released in 1968, the Craig half inch open reel format is unique to all the half inch open reel formats in many ways.   It is also the rarest of all the half inch open reel machines. 

It uses a two head half wrap scanning system as used by the other half inch open reel formats, but most of the similarities end there.  It is also only a monochrome capable format.

First; it supports reels up to 8 and a half inches in diameter. Although not clear in the image to the right, the Craig reel is slightly larger than the Sony reel...  It is the only format machine that accepts reels up to 8.5 inches in diameter.

The next unique thing about this format is the tape recording speed of 9.5 inches per second. All the other half inch open reel formats with the exception of the Concord 12ips format, used a tape speed of 7.5 inches per second.  Thus when playing a Craig format tape on an EIAJ machine (assuming the reel fits) the first thing you will notice is that the audio will play at a 26% slower tempo and pitch. 

The head drum diameter is also a bit larger than the EIAJ, Skip Field and Pilot Tone Formats, resulting in slightly higher write speeds..

The closest other format to the Craig is the Concord 12ips format.  When a Craig format recorded tape is played on a Concord 12ips machine, you will be able to make out a video image, but there will be severe mis-tracking across numerous fields owing to the radically different azimuth angle due to the different tape speed.  What you might find surprising is that the image (or what you can make of it)  will be upside down !   The Craig is the ONLY half inch open reel format machine that reverse scans the tape !

Very few of these machines were ever made and they are quite rare to find in any condition, much less one in working condition.

With that said, they were built like "tanks" -  the mechanical design was over killed...

The Craig machines with their superior mechanical design should have captured a much larger market share than they did, but they were simply out marketed by the likes of Sony and Panasonic.
 

Akai 1/4" Format (1969)

What's peculiar to this format was it's use of 1/4" tape. Even standard audio tape could be used, though naturally, better image quality was obtained using Akai's video tape.

The machines used 2 heads in an Omega wrap. Tape speed was 11.25 ips which yielded a 20 minute recording time on 5 inch reels. The machines were monochrome and were capable of only monophonic audio. 

Their strong selling point was their amazing compactness and light weight, though studio machines were also available.  Image quality was just fair and no match for 1", but neither was their price nor their weight - making them truly portable.

Dropouts are a common problem to this format as well as other small format tapes.  A small imperfection in the oxide represents a larger picture area than would a similar size imperfection in say any of the 1/2 inch formats.

But compared to the much larger other format machines, it was indeed lightweight and truly portable !

 

Pilot Tone System - Sony AV-5000 (1970)Sony AV-5000A Pilot Tone - AV-5000A (1970) Non EIAJ Color

Sony introduced the AV-5000 1/2" reel to reel VTR in 1970. It met the EIAJ-1 standard for black & white but was released 4 years before the EIAJ-2 color standard was agreed upon.

Sony apparently thought this machine would be the adopted basis for the new EIAJ-2 color standard, but marketing "jumped the gun" so to speak, and it was not to be.  The EIAJ-2 standard did not adopt Sony's approach to the way the color information would be processed...    Sony used instead what's known as a non standard Pilot Tone signal system instead. After shipping but a very limited number of the AV-5000's, Sony decided to improve on the quality and raise the pilot tone carrier frequency to achieve better color bandwidth.  This model was named the AV-5000A. The reality was that this in itself became yet another format as it was not color compatible with the former. Both machines are considered rare and the format in danger of immediate extinction.

Though both AV-5000 series VTR's were EIAJ-1 compatible for monochrome, neither  was EIAJ-2 color compatible. Both machines are similar in appearance to the Sony AV-8600.

The only difference between EIAJ-2 and Pilot Tone and the two variants of Pilot Tone format, is the way the color information is encoded and processed.  In fact Pilot Tone tapes will play back on EIAJ equipment fine. It will just be in black & white monochrome.

The original pilot tone format is quite rare....   Only 100 machines were ever sold into the US market.    Having one of these machines back in the period between 1970 to 1974, would have been considered very "cutting edge" in the consumer/industrial market place...   Sony's only other color equivalent at the time would have been the one inch EV series of machines that required a separate color processor called the CLP-1....   The EV series were very heavy and much more costly than the half inch pilot tone format...

.

EIAJ - EIAJ-1 (1970) & EIAJ-2 Sony AV-3650 EIAJ-1(1974)


Introduced in 1969 but not widely adopted until the following year, EIAJ (
Electronic Industries Association of Japan)  was the first actual standardized format agreed upon by the Japanese manufacturers.  Up to that point, manufacturers were left to their own creative devices as to format and as a result, the marketplace was a confused nightmare of totally incompatible formats - even across the same manufacturer's own product lines. The adoption of EIAJ solved all that !

The machines utilized 1/2 inch reel to reel tape on 30 minute 5 inch reels or 60 minute 7 inch reels. However, a few machines were manufactured by Sony and Panasonic that were cassette based machines. The EIAJ cassette was one of the first cassette based machines ! However, those first  cassettes were prone to mis-loads and jams, and were never widely accepted. (They are also quite rare - for that very reason !). The cassettes measured 5x5x1 inches. The picture on the left depicts the bottom of the cassette.

 

 

 

 The EIAJ format was designed with low-band specifications or about 240 lines of resolution. With the Sony AV-3400 Portapackadvent of EIAJ that recorded both fields, the skip field formats were quickly abandoned.  EIAJ-1 was the spec. for black & white, while EIAJ-2 was the color specification.  Note that EIAJ-2 was the color specification, and was not released until 1974.  Chroma bandwidth was quite poor by today's standards - even  poorer than VHS...  But it did record and playback in full color..   Quite an achievement for it's day in an relatively affordable consumer grade format..  Though billed as a consumer VTR, color recorders were still very "pricey" and color cameras also very expensive...  As a result, most were sold into the commercial/industrial marketplace.

Up until this time, interchangeability between machines was pretty much a hit or miss affair (mostly misses actually.....). Not a broadcast quality format, it was mostly used in the industrial and consumer marketplaces.  EIAJ-1 is by far the most popular of the half inch open reel video formats.  A lot of early family and industrial videos were recorded on this format in the 1970's and EIAJ machines were becoming quite popular.

Perhaps the earliest popular portable VTR to make significant market penetration was the Sony AV-3400, also better known as the Portapack as shown here on the left.

Until EIAJ's slow demise beginning in the late 70's when Betamax and VHS were first introduced, EIAJ open reel was by far the most popular consumer/industrial tape format of its time.

 

3/4 U-matic (1971)

Introduced in 1971, it initially became a standard for early news gathering that was rapidly replacing 16mm film at the time.  Image quality and particularly signal to noise ratio was superior to either Vhs or Beta.  With only a 3 MHz bandwidth, it was capable of only 240 lines of resolution.  Though a color under low-band format and definitely not "hi res", it was comparatively clean and would survive better the multi generation losses incurred during editing - - -  much better than VHS or even Beta could ever hope to match. 

With the advent of BetaCam, it was relegated to the higher end industrial marketplace. Using a quality verses price metric, the 3/4 U format was perhaps the most successful format of all time.

Capacitance Electronic Disc CED (1973)RCA CED player

The Capacitance Electronic Disc also known as the CED, was developed by RCA in 1973.  The early prototype was limited to 10 minutes play time per side, so it was not ready for the marketplace. But by 1981 the technology evolved to allow viable play times when RCA released the first CED player in the US.

Metric

Spec  
Playback Time 63 Minutes/side
Disc Diameter 12 inches
Resolution 250 Lines
Luminance/Chroma S/N 46/40 dB
Unlike all the videotape formats, the CED is much more similar to a phonograph record.  The discs are pressed much like any other record and a diamond stylus tracks the undulations of the groove.  Unlike a conventional audio stylus however, the the modulated signal is sensed by a varying capacitance instead of a moving coil as is common in audio cartridges.  Since there is no hysteresis concerns by varying the capacitance, the high frequency response as required by video was achievable. As the stylus rides up & down the hill and dale of the groove, the distance between the two "plates" similarly varies.  This varying capacitance is then used to create an amplitude modulated waveform - in this case, both video and stereo audio, and hence it's name.

The technology was quite simple compared to video tape machines and became somewhat popular due to the low price point. When VCR's became less expensive to manufacture however, that sealed the fate of the Videodisc.  RCA ceased production in 1986.

Like any other record, dirt - scratches - and inevitable groove wear from repeated playing, did not make it a robust format. But for a stylus based video machine that was only several technological leaps away from Edison's first phonograph, the system actually makes acceptable color pictures ! (Quality wise; very similar to a VHS tape recorded in LP mode)

Unlike video tape with all it's "chemistry problems", CED discs will perhaps still be playable in another 100 years !    (assuming of course, one can locate a working CED player)

 For more in depth information on CED players, check out CED Magic  www.cedmagic.com

VCord I & II  (1974)VTC-8200 VCord

Introduced by Sanyo in 1974, the first VCord format (VCord I) basically took 1/2 " reel to reel tape and repackaged it in a cassette.  In fact, it was the first commercially successful video cassette format !

The first type I machines could record and play 30 & 60 minute cassettes, while the later type II machines such as the VTC-8200 shown here, could accept the slightly larger 120 minute cassettes. The type II machines were backwards compatible with the type 1 (one)  30 & 60 minute tapes.

What is interesting to note is how the tape is pulled out the left side of the cartridge and then loaded around the head drum.

Sanyo and Toshiba were the key players in this market.  Also interesting to note in the video history timeline, is that this was the very first consumer vcr to offer two recording speeds !

Had it not been for the release of Betamax and VHS a year or two later, the format might have gained much wider market penetration.

VCord cartridges look very similar to the Quasar VX cartridges shown below.

Today the format is considered quite rare.

VCord  VTC-7100  (1976)

This machine is also a VCord format machine, but is not compatible with the VCord I or II which were color machines.  Though it records on the same half inch tape, the recording format is monochrome only.  Also, the tape speed is twice that of VCord I speed.  This combined with a 4 head system, allowed smooth slow motion and noiseless still frames by use of a separate slow motion tracking control. Though taken for granted today, slow motion playback was not possible in small portable machines during that time period. The VCord 7100 was one of the first !

Tapes recorded on this machine are even more rare than VCord I or II...

(I listed it here which is a little out of the time line sequence, so that it might be more closely compared  with the VCord I & II machines directly above.

 

VX Cartridge Format (1975)Quasar VR-1000PW VX Format - VR-1000  The Quasar Great Time Machine

Introduced in the US in 1974, the Quasar VR-1000 was one of the first "cassette" type machines introduced. The VX tape cartridge was specifically designed for this machine and is about the same size as a 3/4-U cassette - - - (5.75 x 8.3 x 1.75 inches).  The tape is 1/2 inch wide, spooled on 2 reels inside the cartridge that sit atop one another. The cartridge was available in several lengths and was capable of recording up to 2 hrs of color video with a VC120.  VC20 & VC60 sizes were also popular. Image quality is surprisingly good !

What is unique about this machine is the way the tape is "threaded".  Instead of the tape being pulled out of the cassette and threaded around the drum, the drum as well as audio/control track & erase heads are effectively inserted into the cartridge !  The cartridge actually "drops" into position with the partial pre-formed loop dropping around the head drum. No auto-threading here.....  After inserting the cartridge and pushing down to seat it,  a manually operated, long throw lever opens the cartridge, unlocks the loop and finishes the loading sequence. To eject, the lever is slid to the far left whereby the cartridge lock screw is re-tightened, thus securing the loop in the cartridge. Pushing the lever to the extreme left and down, ejects the cartridge.  Perhaps one of the craziest loading/cartridge systems ever devised.

Say what you may about it being a "Rube Goldberg" design - but it works reliably and I've yet too witness a jam or mis-load  !

 

 

Unlike the soon to come Beta format,  the VX format used only one helical scan head with a full head wrap design.  An innovative feature of the VR-1000, is that the head drum assembly is held in by a single thumb screw.  Head changes require no tools - simply unscrew the entire assembly - lift it out - drop in the replacement and tighten down the knurl nut using only finger pressure. No tools whatsoever required ! A 6 year old could easily perform a head replacement  !  .......  Truly a great innovation that was sadly forgotten by all the manufacturer's to date.

Another  innovation that did find it's way into future machines, was a dehumidifier or drum heater to overcome the condensation or "dew" formation on the head drum.  The machine had a dew sensor that would place the transport into a shutdown mode as indicated by a front panel lamp. The dehumidifier was then turned on manually by a switch behind the front control panel cover. In many respects, the VR-1000 was ahead of it's time.

The VX format is very rare today and was considered a commercial flop, despite the excellent quality of video produced for a consumer format machine of that era.  If not for the introduction of Beta at nearly the same exact time, there's little doubt the format would have been much more successful.

The VR-1000 initially sold under Panasonic's Quasar label, though LabGuy's World reports others being sold under the Matsushita and Panasonic divisions. All however, came off the same assembly line. Quasar marketing dept. dubbed it as "The Great Time Machine".

Many of the machines found their way into corporate environments where the simplicity of dropping in a cartridge without  having to manually thread reel to reel tape (and then having to call the "A/V guy"  for help)  was a major selling point. 

Though quite rare today,  there are still family as well as corporate videos still residing on VX cartridges hidden away in the dark depths of corporate archives or home closets.

 

Sony Beta/BetaMax 1,2,3 (1975)Sony SL-2500 Beta

Introduced in 1975, Beta was the first successful consumer cassette format that put an end to the reel to reel era.

Later in the video history timeline, Beta 2 and 3 were introduced (synonymous with lp and slp in Vhs "jargon" respectively). The success was short lived however. 

Though vastly superior to Vhs in picture quality, it lost market acceptance mostly  through a series of marketing blunders by Sony when JVC introduced the Vhs format a year later. In a side to side comparison of Beta vs Vhs , Beta was the obvious winner - hands down - no contest ! So good was the quality that some broadcasters used it for news gathering as an inexpensive alternative to 3/4" U-matic.   Though not true broadcast quality, it was the technically superior consumer format of the time, that should have succeeded much better than it ever did. 

 

Development of a cassette Based Consumer Video Format

Sony had been working on a new cassette based vcr which they hoped would revolutionize the home video market and literally change the way we watch TV. In that respect, they were 100% successful !

A year before Betamax release (1974), Sony had approached Matsushita and JVC (its two partners for the 3/4" U Format) about unifying product specifications for better compatibility across product lines. At that time, Sony had disclosed information regarding the Betamax specifications and technology to the two companies, apparently thinking they would continue to be partners in a harmonious business relationship. Nothing much came out of that meeting as Matsushita (The parent of Panasonic) and JVC delayed any decisions about unifying standards for that year.

In 1975 Sony released the Betamax. It was an overnight hit !  Success was short lived however as JVC in 1976 released the first VHS machine,  and took Sony by surprise.  When Sony engineers got their hands on the first units, they were aghast to find out that the early technology they developed and so freely given away to Matsushita and JVC in their earlier meetings , was incorporated into that machine.  (Guess hard lessons were learned and Sony never made THAT mistake again !).

Oh well.....  not to fear......  it was obvious to "anyone in the know" that Sony by far had the technically superior format and had already penetrated the home marketplace. VHS didn't stand a chance.....  (famous last words as it ironically turned out).

Both Sony and JVC each courted a group of companies throughout 1976 to produce Beta and Vhs machines in large volumes - the home video revolution was underway !  Sony visited Matsushita, at the company's head office in Osaka to receive a final decision on whether Matsushita would produce the Betamax. Samples of both Sony and JVC products with their covers removed, were placed on the desk. In a side by side comparison, it was clear that the VHS machine would be easier and less expensive to produce.  Alas, quality was tossed aside in favor of economics for assembly.

In the end, Sony Toshiba, Sanyo Electric, NEC, Aiwa, and Pioneer supported Sony's Beta format, while  Matsushita, Hitachi, Mitsubishi Electric, Sharp, and Akai Electric accepted JVC's VHS format. The home electronics industry was thus divided into two warring camps and a bitter fight for market dominance was about to ensue.

Betamax vs. VHS

Of course, Sony had complete confidence in its Beta format for home-use Vcr's. Although the recording time was only one hour, the cassette size was smaller and the image quality was clearly superior. Moreover, technology that enabled two-hour recording while maintaining high picture quality had already been developed.  Too little, too late, as Vhs now offered SP LP & SLP recording times in each machine. On a standard T-120, up to 6 hours of video could be recorded (albeit at poor quality) while Sony had yet to make any single machine that would both play & record all 3 beta speeds - Beta 1, 2 and 3.

Though the picture quality of the Beta format was clearly superior to the Vhs, the home consumer was driven by one machine that could not only "do it all" (Vhs sp, lp & slp), but also could put a full length movie on just one cassette. To the home consumer at the time, quality wasn't an issue. Video was new to them and the ability of an inexpensive, easy to operate machine to record and playback anything at all, was fantastic enough in itself and simply good enough.

Through a series of marketing blunders, Beta lost out to Vhs in the end.  Vhs simply offered longer recording times and was much better marketed.

Sony tried a technical coup with the introduction of ED-Beta in 1988. Though not compatible with the original beta formats, it was a format that was far ahead of its time. The format never gained wide market acceptance however, and although not obsolete, it is relatively rare and tapes are getting harder to find..

Though the Beta formats are effectively dead today, there remains a loyal group of Beta users - almost a cult following (and I mean this in the kindest way !). There's a number of sites and clubs dedicated to the Beta format. Be sure to check out   www.palsite.com


Brief technical differences between VHS and Beta

The head drum on Beta machines was 21% larger than that of Vhs. Since they both spin at 29.97 revs/second, Beta's larger diameter head drum results in a 21% higher video head writing speed. (5.832meters/sec compared to 4.86m/s for vhs)  This translates into a larger video bandwidth and higher fidelity recording.

Wider video tracks than VHS resulting in less crosstalk between tracks and in higher Signal-to-Noise ratios.

Chroma (color) signal is heterodyned from 3.58MHz (NTSC) down to 688kHz (The same as 3/4" U-matic) compared to just 629kHz for VHS, resulting in larger chroma bandwidth and superior color for Beta.

Comparing ED-Beta to S-Vhs and Beta wins hands down again.....  ED Beta's have a peak of 9.3MHz and deviation of 2.5MHz compared to Super-VHS's measly 7.0MHz and 1.6MHz respectively. This results in 520-line horizontal resolution for ED Beta compared to only 400-lines for S-VHS.

 

How Beta and VHS Technically Compare..... (bigger is better !)

Format Sync Tip Freq (MHz) Peak White Freq (MHz) FM Deciation (MHz) Luminance Resolution (lines)
VHS 3.4 4.4 1.0 240
Beta 1 3.5 4.8 1.3 250
Beta 2/3 3.6 4.8 1.2 240
Super Beta 4.4 5.6 1.2 285
S-VHS 5.4 7.0 1.6 400
ED-Beta 6.8 9.3 2.5 520

 

How to interpret the chart:
(since no one ever seems to explain what the numbers mean....)

Video information is recorded on tape as an FM (frequency modulated) signal. As it relates to video, the lower the frequency recorded, the darker the picture element and the higher the frequency, the brighter the picture element. Though somewhat more involved, that's the simple gist of it anyways....

FM Deviation is the difference between the frequency at sync tip (The FM carrier frequency below absolute black level) and the the Peak White Frequency (The FM carrier frequency at the peak white level). Since the video signal is FM modulated, the greater the amount of FM deviation, the greater amount of information that can "carried" on it.  The amount of deviation available, primarily determines maximum resolution that may be obtained.

 

Betamax Tape Speeds & Recording Time Chart

 

Tape B1 B2 B3
L125 :15 :30 :45
L-250 :30 1:00 1:30
L-500 1:00 2:00 3:00
L-750 1:30 3:00 4:30
L-830 N/A 3:30 5:00


 

Tape length: tape numbers like L-500 means there is 500 feet of tape
ED Beta tapes are specified as "EL-###." ie: An EL-500 tape is the same length and recording time as an L-500 tape.

 

VHS/VHS-C (1976)

JVC introduced the VHS format in 1976 to go head to head with Sony's successful Betamax.  Although inferior in image quality to BetaMax, it offered 2 hour recording time on a larger T-120 cassette, which was a major factor to the cost conscious home consumer - - - plus, an entire movie could be recorded onto one cassette.  Ironically, much of the technology and engineering concepts for this format were originally developed by Sony, and offered for free to JVC. Guess hard lessons were learned, as Sony never made that mistake again !

Using sheer numbers as the sole metric, VHS is by far the winner and quickly became the premiere consumer format and another major landmark in video history !

VHS-C was nothing more than a smaller physical cassette size to allow for more compact camcorder design which came along somewhat later in the timeline. A simple adapter allows Vhs-C cassettes to be played back or recorded in any standard full size Vhs machine.

LaserDisc (1977)

The Laserdisc made it's US debut in 1977.  The 12" discs look much like an overgrown DVD on steroids. It might make one believe that it's a completely digital format. But instead, video is recorded in an analog format while audio is recorded in separate digital tracks adjacent to the video. Video resolution was an amazing 425 lines and incredibly clean. Compare that to VHS which is only 240 lines and nothing short of "filthy".  What might seem surprising, is that In a side to side comparison between Laserdisc and today's state of the art DVD, the difference in picture quality albeit, is noticeable but only very slight. Unless you see them literally side by side on a high quality monitors, you probably won't notice the difference ! Pioneer CLD-D503 Laserdisc Player

The audio is a different story however.....  What might seem surprising, is that listening in 2-channel stereo, laserdisc audio always sounds richer and fuller than its much newer DVD counterpart. You would not imagining it.... the LaserDisc DOES have much better audio than a modern DVD ! ...... The reason: DVD audio is highly compressed whereas laserdisc audio is not compressed at all ! 

Each 12 inch disc can store 1 hour of analog video per side in CLV mode, or only 30 minutes (36 min for PAL) in CAV mode. Audio is recorded  as a stereo PCM digital audio track (or occasionally DTS), and in the case of NTSC discs, include two additional mono analog audio tracks, though most producers never took advantage of them. There was no Macrovision® or region encoding of the Laserdiscs as is sadly the case in DVD's.

Discs came in two "flavors".... Those recorded in CLV mode where CLV is the mnemonic for Constant Linear Velocity. The gist of CLV is that the angular velocity varies as you read from different parts of the disc, so that the data passes the laser pickup at a constant rate. Thus the disc rpm changes to keep a constant bit rate in CLV mode.  CAV (Constant Angular Velocity) recorded discs by comparison, spin at a constant rpm , meaning the data on the outer edge of the disk goes by the laser pickup detector faster than the data on the inner tracks.  All but the very earliest Laserdisc players supported both formats. CAV recorded disks allowed slo-motion as well as freeze frame and also offered slightly better picture quality, though the improvement in image quality was barely noticeable over CLV discs.

The Legacy of the Laserdisc

The introduction of DVD has effectively destroyed the market for laserdiscs in the United States. This is a sad end to a format that was technically many years ahead of it's time. The Laserdisc never achieved the market penetration it should have, owing to the high cost of a movie (Typically $35 - - - and that was in 1980 dollars !)  Part of the reason for the high cost was the media itself. Laserdiscs are heavy !  Though higher manufacturing costs were partly to blame, most of the high cost however was actually attributable to the short sightedness of the recording industry itself. The industry kept the price artificially high to make up for their anticipated losses at the box office. In retrospect, they ended up shooting themselves in the foot .....  (reminds me of the hilarious 60's rock tune "The Ballad of Irving" with the lyrics:

"He was sittin' there twirlin' his gun around,
And butterfingers Irving gunned himself down!".....           The hundred forty second fastest gun in the West !.....

Even so, laserdisc was the definitive collector's medium of choice for high resolution video. There are approximately 15,000 movie titles recorded on Laserdisc, and some of the finest archive editions of classic movies reside only on LD, many of which may never be reproduced on DVD due to rights issues and limited potential market.  Plus, unlike the current region-blocked DVD players, any laserdisc player purchased in the United States will be compatible with NTSC discs imported from Japan or Hong Kong, both of which also had very active laserdisc markets.

Think that clunky Laserdisc player &  those old 12" laserdiscs you have kicking around collecting dust are obsolete and best tossed in the local landfill ?  ........... Well, think again !.....  Though new titles are no longer being released on LD, there is a growing group of Laserdisc enthusiasts and collectors who are keeping this wonderful old format alive.....  it's far from dead, and is actually making something of a re-birth !


Not bad for a commercial product released in 1977 !

Note:  Many firms are boasting digital transfer of LaserDisc Video to DVD. It's nothing much more than marketing "hype", or they simply have no clue as to how the video is actually recorded on a LaserDisc. Sounds great, but is completely misleading, as the video on a LaserDisc is recorded solely as an analog signal ! 

1 inch Type C (1978)Sony BVH-3100 One Inch Type C - 1" Type C


Ampex VPR-2B 1inch Type CIn 1978 the 1" Type C format was a crucial landmark in broadcast video history.  This was a high end broadcast format that evolved from 1" Type A, and ended up replacing 2" Quadruplex.

Instead of 4 heads used for reading/writing in the Quad machines, only one head was used to read/write the video in one full helical sweep. The design encompassed an  Omega wrap, where the tape wrapped nearly around the head drum...This made it possible to obtain smooth slow motion, picture shuttle and a viewable still frame, none of which were possible in the Quadruplex systems.

1 inch Type C quickly became the de-facto standard in the broadcast and high end production markets. All network feeds were soon coming off 1" type C, and all but the smallest TV stations had at least several. The ideal editing format of its time; it would withstand multiple generations incurred in creating multi-layered effects. 

Evolving technology plus high cost of its tape stock resulted in it's demise.  (A 1 hr reel of Ampex  tape cost approx. $120 (and that was in 1980 dollars !).   This format was widely used by the broadcast industry into the early 1990's

BetaCam ultimately replaced 1 inch type C due to its' low media costs and lightweight compact design, which made it ideally suited for ENG and EFP applications.

To this day, 1" inch Type C by far, offered the highest image quality of all the analog formats.

 


Sony Mavica - Mavipak  (1981)

Though not in  the strictest sense a video camera, the Mavica  with it's own unique format, was the first camera to employ a CCD.  It was dubbed the MVC (Magnetic Video Camera).   It represented the very first commercially successful CCD (Charge Coupled Device) camera to break away from traditional film cameras.

The first generation Mavica's  recorded off to a 2 inch floppy disc (not a standard 3" common today) to record the images...   This was well before the days of flash memory, so images were recorded on a built in floppy drive...  This 2 inch floppy disc later came to be known as the Video Floppy  - (VF).

Although the first generation Mavica's had a CCD sensor, they were not entirely digital.  In fact; other than the CCD sensor, there was nothing "digital" about them !  The output of the CCD was immediately converted to an analog signal, or more accurately; a composite video signal.  The saved pictures were viewed on a television screen.  There was nothing digital about the way the images were stored on the floppy disc either.   In that sense, the early Mavica's were something unique and were more similar to a single frame video camera than what one consider to be a digital picture camera of today...   Thus, it's mention here as a part of video history.

The Mavica was quite the rage.   No waiting for the film to be processed nor expensive Polaroid film to purchase !   Course the resolution paled in comparison to any film camera of the day, but the Mavica was "cutting edge stuff" and a must have to any technoid...

A single VF Mavipak 2 inch disc could hold up to 50 images.  Each image was recorded on it's own dedicated concentric track on the floppy drive as an analog composite video signal. Resolution of the CCD was 570x490 pixels. Shutter speed was fixed at 1/60th of a second.

The next generation increased the pixel resolution to 720,000 pixels; up from 280,000 pixels in the first models... The new floppy format was known as Hi-VF...   It  was also backwards compatible with the original VF discs

For whatever reason, Sony clung to the Mavica name for many years even although future generations of the Mavica went completely digital and did not resemble the first generation Mavica's in the least...

(Picture forthcoming)

M Format (1982)

Panasonic AU-100 M FormatThe M format introduced by RCA and Panasonic, was the first true component system and RCA responsible for much of it's design won an Emmy Award for technical achievement.  Despite that, the M format later dubbed the MI format, never caught on...  The timing was just plain bad as RCA decided just after to product  was released to get out of the broadcast business.   In the meantime, Panasonic made little effort to market it...

The M format later dubbed the MI format, used standard VHS cassettes, but unlike a T-120 VHS cassette that would record for 2 hrs in SP mode on a VHS deck, the MI format only recorded for 20 minutes using that same tape. It really moved tape at 8 inches per second !

Though of the same quality as that of BetaCam and less expensive, the format never caught on and is considered quite rare and on the verge of extinction. 

The M format tapes looks at first appearance as a standard VHS tape (that's because it is !) and much footage was lost by trying to play them in a VHS machine. Naturally, the tape wouldn't play and was sadly discarded in the mistaken belief it was a bad tape.

The AU-100 pictured here on the left, is a camera dockable VCR.  It was record only...  Playback required an AU-300 or the RCA HR-2 editing machine..

Pictured to the right is the RCA HR-2 player/editing deck.  It was designed and
manufactured by RCA. Panasonic also re-branded the HR-2 and sold it under their name as the AU-300.  Other than the logo, that was the only difference..   All machines came off RCA manufacturing line.

By 1985, dramatic improvements were made to the format including the use of metal particle tape. The improvements resulted in the introduction of MII (M-2) which was far more successful than MI.  But even that's not saying much, as MII was never all that successful either !

Today the MI format is extremely rare..
 

BetaCam (1982)

A professional format widely adopted by the broadcast industry. It's claim to fame so to speak was it's true component video recording technique that offered substantial improvement in bandwidth,  signal to noise ratios and the virtual elimination of "chroma crawl" found in the earlier "color under" heterodyne formats such as 3/4-U. 

It quickly became the standard news gathering format of choice among professionals.

The BetaCam format led to the demise of One Inch Type C.

Funai - Technicolor CVC (1984)

Funai CVC Technicolor

Funai introduced the Compact Video Cassette (CVC) format in 1984. The small cassette size enabled a compact portable deck design. The format however was initially limited to a 30 minute recording time and used V30 CVC cassettes which was adequate for field recording but somewhat limited for situations not requiring portability. The cassettes used 1/4" tape, which was more prone to dropouts than wider tape formats.  Lower head writing speeds owing to a smaller head drum, resulted in lower signal to noise ratios. Even so, picture quality was similar to that of early VHS machines .

The tape cassettes for the day were wonderfully small: measuring about  4.124"  x 2.625" x .5" high - or roughly the same size as a standard day compact audio cassette. Thus at first glance, the cassettes are sometimes confused with standard audio compact cassettes as they are of similar size and appearance.

All CVC machines were manufactured by Funai.  Many models were re-badged and sold under the Technicolor label.

Specs:

Twin Rotary Head Helical Scan

Tape speed:                     1.26 ips (32.1 mm/sec)
Video S/N:                        43 dB (Y channel)
Resolution:                       240 lines
Audio S/N:                        40 dB
Audio Freq Response:      100Hz to 8 kHz

8mm also known as Video8 (1984)

 

Sony introduced this format in 1984. It was a low bandwidth consumer format having 240 lines of resolution - the same as VHS.

The big advantage of this format was it's compact size - only 2 1/2 x 3 3/4 inches - less than half the size of a standard VHS cassette. This made possible the development of highly compact camcorders.  

Sony apparently also decided to capitalize on the name recognition of 8mm which sounded much like the much older 8mm movie film familiar to consumers. Unfortunately, this led to mass confusion in the marketplace that lingers to this day. 8mm film and 8mm video are two completely different animals...

 Development of this compact format paved the way for the small lightweight camcorders soon to follow.

Unlike VHS or Beta, the 8mm analog format had no separate linear control track. Instead, there is a low frequency Tracking Pilot signal interleaved on the video tracks.

The plus side of this, is that the Control Pilot is integrally locked to the video tracks and thus no tracking control is provided or necessary.  (as long as the tape hasn't been deformed).

The downside to this scheme is that should the tape have sustained damaged for example in a mis-aligned deck, then the Pilot Tracking reference relative to the actual position on tape is lost, and proper tracking can never again be realized without specialized recovery techniques. 

 Video8 laid the groundwork for later to come, the much improved Hi8 format.

SuperBeta (1985)

Sony introduced SuperBeta at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show with the "new high-end SL-HF900".  It offered a marginal increase in resolution to 285 lines, but at the time was superior to anything else in the low end consumer marketplace.

Interesting to note that the SL-HF900 was the very first consumer VCR with a jog/shuttle knob !

M-II (1985)Panasonic AU-60 MII Editor

This format was introduced in 1985 by Panasonic Broadcast Systems to go head to head with Sony in the professional broadcast marketplace. 

The M-II format was an enhancement to the M format, by using 1/2 inch metal particle tape - the same size as today's VHS cassettes. In fact, the cassettes themselves had the identical dimensions to that of standard VHS, though the similarities ended there.

It was used extensively at NBC but never garnered wide acceptance due to fierce competition from Sony with their established and highly successful  BetaCam line. 

Sony had pulled off a marketing coup by instilling the idea into prospective buyers (the post-production houses) that if you didn't have BetaCam, that somehow you were not a professional.  It was pure  unadulterated marketing BS...   but it worked !

Identical to BetaCam in many ways, since it also was a professional analog component format...  Ironically, image quality specs were actually slightly superior to that of BetaCam SP. An excellent quality broadcast format that simply came along a little too late and was never properly marketed to gain wide market share.

Once most of the production houses went with BetaCam, that was the final nail in the coffin for MII.

Sad in a way....  Panasonic never lost the battle because of poor price/performance reasons...  in fact; they actually excelled using that metric... 

Bottom line is that they were simply out marketed...   (seems to be a recurring theme....)

BetaCam-SP (1986)

An enhancement to the original BetaCam format, It offered increased bandwidth and the ability to record on metal particle tape compared to the oxide tape used by the standard BetaCam format. The format was used in virtually all TV stations and was popular right up to the end of the 90's when digital formats were introduced. SP machines were backwards compatible with standard BetaCam.  Ampex also marketed BetaCam-SP machines with the CVR designation. They were actually re-badged Sony machines.

Today's digital formats - DVCAM for example, offers better quality at a much reduced price. Even so, well used (read: half dead) BetaCam SP machines are commanding nothing short of outrageous prices even on eBay.  From a technical as well as cost - benefit standpoint, It almost defies logic....

Several factors account for the format successfully clinging on ....Ampex CVR-22 BetaCam-SP Player

Many post production houses are locked in to the BetaCam SP format and can't afford to take the expensive plunge of going all digital all at once. 

Ad agencies (who "butter the production house's bread")  have historically been slow as molasses to adopt and accept any new technology - especially (and ironically) even if it is less expensive. Agencies tend to judge quality by it's price tag and "snob appeal" rather than by any measure of technical merit.   Agencies resisted the switch from quad to the superior 1 inch Type C format for as long as possible - and equally so, with the transition from 1" Type C to BetaCam.

Today, nothing much has changed....  They are still digging in their heels - kicking , screaming and bemoaning the new vastly superior DV formats. They're a nervous lot, and quite unwilling to tamper with anything that's worked well in the past.  I have little doubt that some are still lamenting the downfall of the vacuum tube....

Also, Sony® has no intention of killing off it's highly lucrative "cash cow" - and who could blame them ! BetaCam SP has a huge installed base plus "snob appeal" - a winning combination and a marketing department's dream come true.  Even so,  Sony sees the ensuing inevitable. To keep BetaCam alive, Sony introduced Digital BetaCam also called DigiBeta) which (despite the name) isn't a variation of BetaCam at all, but rather a new compressed digital format.  In reality, the new format is much closer and akin to DVCAM or DVCPRO than it is to BetaCam, but anything that has a BetaCam badge will command a much higher price due solely to the "snob appeal" factor.

Video companies being themselves deeply involved in the "Image Business", are acutely sensitive to having the most recognized name in professional hardware (sometimes at the expense of not embracing superior technology).

The writing is on the wall however.  With advances in technology already resulting in vastly superior performance and price considerations, it's merely a matter of time before BetaCam SP goes the way of 1 inch Type C.

Don't read this wrong however: BetaCam-SP was in my opinion, (and rightfully so)....  Sony's most successful professional broadcast format to date.

3/4 U-matic SP (1986)Sony VO9600 3/4-U-SP Recorder

Sony® in 1986 introduced the SP (Superior Performance) enhancements to the 3/4" U-matic format in an attempt to keep the highly successful, long running format alive.

Resolution was increased by extending the FM carrier and using a higher energy tape that resulted in 330 lines as opposed to the original 240 lines. Though S-Vhs had greater resolution (400 lines) the 3/4-U format was technically the superior format, having a greater s/n ratio particularly in the chroma channel. 

3/4-U-SP became the format of choice for the professional Industrial user.

Though not anywhere's near high end broadcast standards,  the 3/4-Umatic format was perhaps the most successful format of all time, considering the relatively narrow video market in that period...  When video was first starting to "explode", 3/4" U-matic owing to it's relatively low cost / high performance ratio, became the most coveted of formats other than broadcast Quad or the later 1" Type C...  No other format  considering the potential market, ever garnered such a deep penetration.

U-Matic captured nearly 100% of the industrial market and initially a solid  70% of the broadcast ENG market for News acquisition.   It even made it's way down to the high end consumer market who preferred something better than VHS. Though VHS far surpassed 3/4 U-matic in terms of raw numbers sold,  3/4 U-Matic remains the undisputed champ in terms of penetration of its' potential market !

S-VHS was soon to follow..  But S-VHS though offering superior resolution, could not compete with 3/4-Umatic's superior signal to noise ratios - especially in the chroma channel.  In simple terms: 3rd generation 3/4 U-matic, simply held up better & looked cleaner than 3rd generation S-VHS.  (There's more to video specs to be considered, than just raw resolution).  Despite 3/4-Umatic initially being 2 to 3 times the price of S-VHS, the technical savvy broadcast and industrial users "voted with their wallets " and stayed with 3/4-U until BetaCam came along.

S-VHS (1987)JVC BR-S811U S-VHS Editor

As an enhancement to the VHS format, JVC introduced the S-VHS format in 1987. It offered increased bandwidth both by expanding the FM carrier frequency and thru the use of metal particle tape.

Though "hyped" by overzealous marketing types as a true component system, it was in fact only a "quasi" component format. The video signal was was separated into only two components: Y (luminance) and C (chrominance). BetaCam & MII by comparison, were true component recording systems. Signals in both those truly professional component formats, were separated & recorded as Y, R-Y and B-Y.

Though resolution was increased to 400 lines, the signal to noise ratio, especially in the chroma channel was deplorable by professional standards. Thus, it was marketed and forever relegated to being a high end consumer format. Though S-VHS editing systems came along, they were never accepted by the professional community, due to the poor signal to noise ratios with resulting high multi-generation losses.

Nevertheless, S-VHS editors were downright inexpensive compared to 3/4" (3/4" tape stock alone was $34/hr by comparison - and that being in 1977 dollars) and S-VHS found it's niche in the low end industrial and home based business markets.  It was very popular for wedding videographers.

Later, it went on to become a popular consumer format for those that desired something better than standard VHS.

The development of the consumer digital formats such as Digital8 and MiniDV spelled it's slow demise.  But like all 1/2" analog formats, it is quite robust..... far more so than it's newer digital counterparts.  Most S-VHS tapes like it's VHS "brothers", survived even the ravages of "Katrina".  

Amazingly, we are still able to recover most VHS & S-VHS  even today - more than a year later......   Most MiniDV and Digital8 Katrina damaged tapes are now unrecoverable.  To say that VHS/S-VHS is a robust format, is perhaps a gross understatement...

ED-Beta (1988)Sony EDW-30F ED-Beta Editor

Sony demonstrated it's new ED (Extended definition) Beta format in a last ditch effort to salvage the original "Betamax" format.

It was a half hearted attempt however (at least from a marketing perspective), as should it have been too successful, the sales could potentially bite into their professional markets..    (the format was that good !)

This format was years if not a full decade ahead of it's time - offering 520 lines of video resolution using metal particle tape. In the video history timeline, NOTHING from that period could even come close !  Though named ED-Beta, the ED format however, is not compatible with Beta or SuperBeta. In reality, it's so different than Betamax, that It really should be considered a different format.  ED Beta was targeted at the high end of the consumer/semi-pro  format markets, though just as easily could have been targeted at the broadcast ENG marketplace. Though no longer in use, it offered superb quality. The format never made wide in-roads into the marketplace and is considered relatively rare today.

So far advanced was the format, that it took another 7 years until the introduction of MiniDV before anything better in the consumer marketplace came along to technically surpass it.

The only weakness (if it could be called that) to the ED Beta System was not the format itself, but rather for the first time, the resolution capability of the recorder, surpassed the resolution of the consumer video cameras of the day !  The weakest link was the quality that could be output from the video camera used !

It's failure was due to in large part to Sony's not wanting it to compete with it's lucrative broadcast ENG acquisition formats, all the while being positioned out of the price range of the general consumer.

My personal opinion is that it could have easily become the S-VHS "Dragon Slayer" - not only of S-VHS, but also Sony's later 8mm and even Hi8 formats .  Alas, Sony management apparently decided it was far more important to protect it's own lucrative "turf" , than to widely promote or price position ED Beta .

Perhaps a general commentary, but history has shown that consumers will always opt  for smaller size and "wiz-bang" useless features over image quality.

Or as H L Menckin ( a world renowned economist) always stated:  " No one has EVER gone broke by underestimating the taste of the American public"

In light of today's infomercials and advertising in general,  I have little doubt to suspect the validity of his observation.........

Hi8 (1989) Sony EVO-9850 Hi8 Editor

1989 marked the year in history that Sony introduced the Hi8 format.

Compared to it's 8mm predecessor, the Hi8 format achieved 400 lines of resolution. Hi8 machines were backwards compatible with the 8mm format and had slightly better image quality than S-VHS which soon led to the development of Hi8 editing systems.

The Hi8 Metal Particle cassettes were almost 1/2 the size of VHS, measuring a paltry 2.5 by 3.75 inches and even smaller than the VHS-C cassettes.  This paved the way for high quality yet extremely compact and light weight camcorders, where the attributes of small size and light weight, far outweighed 

Though not the quality of today's DV or Digital8, the quality is perfectly acceptable for all but the most discriminating home video consumer. Sony subsequently manufactured a long list of quality Hi8 camcorders that are still common today.

The Hi8 Format is very similar to standard 8. The main difference being that the FM deviation was increased in the Hi8 format in order that more resolution could be realized in the luminance channel.

 

 

DV  (1995)

Sony DSR-25 DV/DVCAM

Also known as the DVC format, this was the first widely accepted digital format to make in-roads into the home market.

The format uses 1/4" tape and records video at a standard 5:1 compression ratio. This technology formed the basis for the MiniDV, DVCAM and DVCPRO formats used by both consumers & professionals.

It boasts 500 lines of resolution with true digital image quality.

The term "DV",  merely identifies the form structure of the data stream.......  In fact: MiniDV and DVCAM have identical video data steams.   How they are laid out on tape however, are quite different.


MiniDV (1995)

MiniDV uses the same exact DV format, but simply records on a smaller cassette using a smaller 10 micron track pitch (in essence: the distance between tracks) when recorded in standard SP mode. 

In fact; there is little difference between the consumer MiniDV format and the professional DVCAM format.   In fact; the video data streams themselves, are identical !

Read more on the DVCAM format below......

Sony DSR-11 DVCam Recorder

DVCAM (1996)

The professional user required slightly better specs and a more reliable format than did the consumer using the DV or MiniDV format. To better handle the rigors of editing, track width was increased to 15 microns as compared to MiniDV's 10 microns, resulting in more precise editing.

Unlike DV genre to which  MiniDV belongs, MiniDV supports only audio unlock mode, DVCAM instead, employs lock mode audio sampling where the the audio sampling frequency is synchronized or "locked"  to the video sampling clock. Lock mode maintains high compatibility with the higher formats and yields smoother transitions during audio editing. (Click here to learn more about Lock Mode)....    Most DVCAM decks are backwards compatible with MiniDV but only in the SP mode.

This format is marketed and regarded as a true professional format.

DVCAM machines are backward compatible with MiniDV SP tapes, but not those recorded in LP (Long Play) mode.  Note however, that there are some critical differences between MiniDV and DVCAM. Click Here  to read more.....
 

Sony GV-D800 Digital8 WalkmanDigital8 (1999)

This format records the same data stream as MiniDV and DVCAM, and for practical purposes the video DataStream is technically the same as the DV or MiniDV formats. 

The only real difference is that Sony does this on less expensive 8mm tape. A 120 min 8mm cassette will hold up to 1 hour of Digital8 video.

A major benefit to selecting the Digital8 format, is that in addition to offering identical quality to that of MiniDV, most Digital8 camcorders or decks offer full backwards playback compatibility with the earlier Video8 (8mm) or Hi8 formats. One machine will playback all three 8mm formats ! 

(Quite versatile ! -  & apparently Sony learned an important lesson after it's Betamax debacle).

 

Digital VHS D-VHS (2001)

JVC (the company that developed the original VHS format) introduced Digital VHS (D-VHS).  Unlike many other digital formats, D-VHS is totally uncompressed - yielding superb High Definition images twice the resolution of DVD.  Being uncompressed, motion artifacts and mosaic banding will be things of the past.   File sizes aren't small however....   A 60 minute program will eat up 150 Gigabytes of hard drive space.  The huge file sizes will make "movie swapping" over the net impractical - even with high bandwidth connections (at least here in the US).

To thwart machine to machine copies being made, a new Macrovision copy protection scheme known as  High Definition Copy Protection (HDCP) system was developed by JVC, which is similar in function to the Content Scrambling System (CSS) on a DVD.

As a side benefit, D-VHS machines will also be backwards compatible with standard VHS decks, so you'll still be able to play your old VHS tapes (at least til they eventually disintegrate).

Like any other tape based format, magnetic tape is not an archival format.  However, perfect digital copies can be made every 5 years or so onto new media.

D-VHS may give the reigning DVD and even emerging Blue Ray DVD technology a run for its' money, as pure uncompressed High Definition Digital Video has to be seen to be fully appreciated.  The battle lines are drawn !   However, until High Definition TV's become the "norm",  D-VHS might be a late comer in the bloody format wars.

Since originally writing this, D-VHS has clearly lost out to the likes of Blue-Ray.  D-VHS is far the superior format in terms of image quality, but as usual, that was not enough to make it a winner in the eyes of the consumer. Part of the problem in my opinion was the VHS name that carried with it the connotation of it being old technology. It really was a modern digital format on par with the latest DV formats, and using half inch video tape made it a very robust format.  Close to the quality and robustness of DigiBeta, but for much - much less.... 

Image Updates - behind the scenes

Here it is towards the end of June, 2003 and we're finally "getting around" to updating some of our equipment images. The wildflowers here in Maine are in full swing (along with the black flies) and what better "studio" to serve as a backdrop - black flies notwithstanding.....

All the hard drives were loaded with video and everything is now tied up for the day doing DVD burns. Alas, an unexpected  "free" day to get it all done.

So, got out the garden tractor - hooked up the cart and drove off to the back pasture with equipment riding in tow behind.  Haying begins in another 3 weeks up here, so it's either do it now or wait til early next summer again.....  (and I've been putting this off for too long already).

So got done what we could get done in the one day allotted, but still have more to get.  Naturally, everything seems to take much longer than planned.

If anyone is expecting images of the Quads, VPR-1 and VPR-2B 1" machines against a wildflower backdrop, then you'll have to do it yourself  !    I am NOT dragging those back there !

 

A vast wealth of priceless video resides especially on the old historical formats. 

The history of video continues to evolve now with  Blu- Ray, Hard Disk Drive & Solid State Camcorders

I suppose this page will always be a work in progress..

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