Text Box: Video Alphabet Soup
 VCR = Video Cassette Recorder. For consumers this generally means 1/2" VHS, but other VCR types include Beta, S-VHS, VHS-C, 8mm, Hi-8, Mini-DV, 3/4" U-Matic, Betacam, M-II, etc. The cassette eliminates the need for handling, threading and thus damaging the fragile Saran Wrap-like tape inside. When the cassette is loaded, the mechanism opens the cassette flap and pulls out the tape and threads it around the various guides, heads, spinning video head drum, etc.
 VHS = Vertical Helical Scan originally, later changed to the more friendly sounding Video Home System. Developed by JVC for consumer use. The #1 home video tape format today, which isn’t saying much as it is virtually dead.
 VHF = Very High Frequency. TV channels 2 through 13. (Sometimes confused with VHS.)
 Beta = Named after a Japanese word for “the whole thing” because it recorded video on tape without guard bands, to eliminate wasted area. Developed by Sony, it lost the Beta vs. VHS home format war.
 Betacam = The more successful version of Beta for broadcasters, using a Beta type cassette but with better tape and running through several times as fast. Later versions included Beta SP, Digibeta, etc.
 VHS-C = Compact VHS cassette for portable use, holds 20 minutes of tape. Being made obsolete by Mini-DV. Its sole advantage is that the relatively poor quality tapes, with an adapter, will play in your full-size VHS machine.
 S-VHS = Super VHS, which has 60% better sharpness and will not play on an ordinary VHS machine. Some newer VHS machines with “quasi-S” can play but not record S-VHS tapes, but with only regular VHS quality. S-VHS used expensive tape and is now deader than VHS.
 SVHS ET = Super VHS Expansion Technology, which has near S-VHS definition but is recorded on regular VHS EHG tape. About 60% better sharpness, but a noisy (snowy) video signal and will not play on an ordinary VHS machine.
 8mm and Hi-8 = Uses exotic 8mm (5/16") wide tape in a small cassette, for portable camcorders. 8mm is better than VHS, and Hi-8 is better than S-VHS. Will likely be made obsolete by Mini-DV.
 Mini-DV = Digital Video tape, 1/4" wide. Used in the best quality tape-using consumer camcorders. Now being replaced by contactless and more reliable media such as SD (Secure Digital) memory cards or built-in memory with no moving parts, direct to DVD recording, and hard drives (which are microscopically contactless unless you drop them!)
 Digital8 = The same recording quality as Mini-DV but using an 8mm wide tape. Not interchangeable with DV.
 DVD = Originally stood for Digital Video Disc, someone decided it should stand for Digital Versatile Disc. DVD-R and DVD+R are the Recordable versions, which will play on most DVD players, allowing your personal films and tapes to be preserved, and not just blockbuster movies. Should last a long time unless your dog or baby gnaws on them.
 VCD = Video Compact Disc. This is a low-cost system of making video discs, recording on regular audio or computer type blank CDs. Developed in China, it records only 80 minutes (not long enough for most movies) of highly compressed digital audio and video of about VHS quality. It will play on many modern DVD players. Now obsolete since blank DVDs are now so cheap.

 NTSC = National Television Systems Committee. Came up with the USA system of color TV. Frequent problems with color constancy has led to the nickname “Never Twice the Same Color.”
 PAL = Phase Alternating Line. The main European system of color TV. Unlike NTSC where technical problems give purple or green faces, PAL color gets washed out instead. (An improvement??) Sometimes nicknamed “Problems Are Lurking.” PAL-M is a hybrid used only in Brazil, combining NTSC-like scanning rates with a variation on PAL color. PAL-N, used elsewhere in South America, records and plays normal PAL tapes, however the VCRs put out different color signals to the TV set, to suit the local broadcasting system. The latter two versions cost more with no particular advantage over regular PAL.
 SECAM = Sequential Color Avec (With) Memory. Promoted by France, which evidently wanted a more complex and expensive system than either NTSC or PAL. Sometimes nicknamed “Something Essentially Contrary to the American Method.” We are told that studio equipment is PAL but the signal is converted to SECAM for broadcast.

 Hi-Fi = High Fidelity. A sound recording method used in 8mm, Hi-8, VHS Hi-Fi and S-VHS machines where the audio becomes an FM signal (something like an FM radio broadcast) that is recorded and played with extra heads on the spinning video head drum. This yields excellent sound fidelity, with low noise and other defects. In VHS and S-VHS, a conventional linear low-fidelity track is also recorded, for playback on ordinary VCRs.

 SP = Standard Play speed on VHS tapes. Should normally be used for the best (least worst?) quality and reliability, and ability to be played on various other brand or model VCRs. (In Betacam and 3/4" professional tape formats, SP means instead “Superior Performance” and the speed does not change.)

 EP, LP, SLP = Extended Play, Long Play, Super Long Play. Slower tape running speeds used when greater economy from longer playing time outweighs the desire for maximum quality. The narrower video track results in higher video noise, more problems with signal dropouts, and a reduced chance of success when playing on another machine, or if the tape stretches or shrinks slightly. VHS at SP is bad enough, but these are worse.

Film to video transfer FAQ   			© 2001-2013 C. H. Tobin and used by permission

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