Dizzying Array of Video Recording Formats


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Jul 19, 2012
Based on a discussion of video recording formats in this thread:

I have compiled a (probably incomplete) list of video tape recording formats. This does not go into non-tape based digital recording (with one optical disc exception). And you think surround has a problem with standardization? This also does not address legacy scan line systems like NTSC, PAL, SECAM, MESCAM and others. This is just the tape hardware:

Open Reel Formats:

1/4" Open Reel Video - Consumer only, never gained broad popularity

1/2" Open Reel Video - Early consumer grade recorders, some black & white only

2" Quadruplex Video - The original professional grade format - huge monster machines with heavy tape reels

1" Type C Open Reel Video - The early successor and for a time the defacto broadcast standard, even as Umatic was introduced

1" Type B Open Reel Video - In Europe Type B machines (also known as BCN) use the same 1" tape as Type C but they lacked C's shuttle and slow-motion options.

1st Professional Cassette Format:

3/4″ U-Matic -Developed by Sony, released in 1971 as a professional video tape format. -It was among the first video formats to contain the videotape inside a cassette, as opposed to the various open-reel formats of the time. Consumer U-Matic recorders with built-in TV tuners did exist.

Consumer Cassette Formats

Betamax -Developed by Sony, released on May 10, 1975. -Although generally considered the superior quality tape, Betamax lost the format war to VHS in the 80s.

Betamax HiFi - The same video with an audio track that was recorded with the spinning heads rather than a stationary audio head.

VHS -Developed by JVC and introduced in 1976. -During the late part of the 1970s and the early 1980s, the home video industry was involved in the VHS vs. Betamax war, which VHS would eventually win.

VHS-C -Released by JVC in 1982 as VHS in a small cassette. -The format is based on the same videotape as is used in VHS, and can be played back in a standard VHS VCR with an adapter.

VHS HiFi - The same video with an audio track that was recorded with the spinning heads rather than a stationary audio head.

S-VHS - Enhanced VHS Format

S-VHS C - Small cassette version of enhanced VHS Format

Video8, Hi8, Digital8 - Three small cassette formats developed through the 80s and 90s -Most popular consumer camcorder tapes through the 90s due to small form factor and higher quality than that of the VHS.

MiniDV -Released in 1998 as part of joint efforts of leading producers of video camera recorders. -Recorded in digital (DV) same as Digital8 -Tapes could hold 1hr SP, 90min EP

MicroMV -MicroMVwas a proprietary videotape format introduced in 2001 by Sony. -Physically the smallest of all video tape formats, 70% smaller than a MiniDV cassette

MiniDVD - Optical DVD disc having 8 cm (3 in.) in diameter. -Recordable 8 cm discs are commonly used in DVD-based camcorders. Depending on variant, these discs can offer up to 5.2 GB of storage space.

Professional Cassette Formats

Betacam -Developed by Sony in 1982. -The format supplanted the three-quarter inch U-Matic format, which Sony had introduced in 1971

Betacam SP (Sony)

DigiBeta aka Digital Betacam (Sony)

Betacam SX (Sony)

DVCAM (Sony)

DVCPRO (Panasonic)

D9/Digital-S (JVC)

HDCAM (Sony) - Switch to High Definition

HDV (Sony) - The "pro-sumer" HD version

D-1 (Sony) - uncompressed digital component recording.

D2 Cassette (Sony) - Composite digital video with a "pre-read" feature that allowed dissolves between video sources using only a player and this recorder.

D-3 (Panasonic) - Composite digital video

DCT (Ampex) - Digital compressed component recording

D-5 (Panasonic) - Digital uncompressed video, but much more affordable.

You will note that by the end I got lazy with the descriptions. They were all variations on the same flavor of recording at the time.

Feel free to add and correct as necessary. Most of these only had stereo audio!
And UHD4K discs which IMO, are the BEST OF THE LOT are 'trickling' out of the gate with relatively SCANT few titles and most of them are RUBBISH 'titles.' Seems the major studios are wary of PHYSICAL DISCS, as of late, and prefer to stream their wares and if you read any of the reviews on the various websites, the streaming services pale in comparison to the ACTUAL PHYSICAL 4K DISCS both in the video and audio department.

And 3D which was FINALLY perfected with the introduction of OLED sets is non~existent save for a few titles. A REAL shame since on a well calibrated 3D TV, the image is ASTOUNDING !

And while JAPAN, Inc. is broadcasting in 8K and current 8K sets are mostly upsamples of 4K, doubtful it will ever catch on in the U.S.A. or Europe. Just a guesstimate!
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