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Meet Your Vintage Video Formats

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By Dillon Wallace

Long before there was Netflix and chill, there was Blockbuster movie night.

Videotapes changed the whole home theater entertainment landscape from Hollywood movie rentals to filming our own family home videos.
With such a significant impact on our past lives, it’s kind of shocking how little we know about tapes and their various video formats throughout the years.

 

So, let’s take a look back in time at the videotapes that made us.

 

Betamax

The story of Betamax is kind of a sad one. As the first home videotape available to the public in 1975, Betamax had a monopoly on the market and its whole life ahead of it. Unfortunately, that “whole life” was only a few short years as it quickly lost the first format war to the VHS when it came out the following year.

 

Bottom line: Betamax was ahead of its time, but it was also too expensive for the mass public’s liking, setting a clear path for the VHS to overtake it.

 

VHS

If Betamax was the first videotape format, then VHS was the most popular and beloved among both its predecessor and all of its successors. What’s there to really say about the VHS that isn’t already known? It ruled the late 70s, all of the 80s and half of the 90s as the home videotape format, bringing us Blockbuster Video and the tagline, “Be Kind, Rewind.”

 

Bottom line: This was the format that gave us the VCR as we know it, and it also pathed way for the VHS-C. Speaking of ...

 

VHS-C

The VHS-C was the compact version of the VHS videotape. It never made a push for overtaking the movie industry as the go-to videotape format, but it was a much easier way to record home videos since VHS-C camcorders drastically downsized from big bulky rigs to smaller, portable cameras. It seemed that as technology increased, the size of videotapes conversely decreased.

 

Bottom line: Dad shoulders everywhere rejoiced at not having to tote around a larger-than-life video camera to record their kids’ soccer games and choir concerts.

 

MiniDV

In the mid-90s, the videotape really started to shrink in size. As the recording technology got better and the storage bigger, the tapes got smaller –– about 20% of the size. There wasn’t anything drastic about the MiniDV. It was just the next iteration in home filmmaking.

 

Bottom line: If you’ve got a box full of old home videotape recordings, there’s a strong chance they’re MiniDV format since it was a hugely popular consumer product.

 

Video 8/Hi8/Digital 8

Although Video8 (1984), Hi8 (1989) and Digital 8 (1999) videotapes came out a several years apart, they’ll forever be linked together as the resurgence of 8mm film. Released by EastmanKodak in the mid-80s, Video8 became a popular videotape format thanks in large part to the Sony Handycam that was released a year later in 1985. On the crest of the 90s, Sony released the Hi8, which offered better resolution and more storage. By the eve of the new millennium, Digital 8 was released, providing consumers with digital recording options and storage versus the analog means of the past 8mm iterations.The future was digital!

 

Bottom line: For the most part, the latest camcorder iterations in this string of 8mm tape formats were backwards compatible. So, you could record your Video 8 tapes on your Hi8 camcorder and you could record Hi8 and other 8mm tapes on your Digital 8 video recorder.

 

MicroMV

Apparently, the MiniDV and all the 8mm videotape formats weren’t small enough, so the MicroMV came out in 2001 and took the award for smallest videotape. Seriously, this thing was tiny. So tiny that it was nearly 70% smaller than the MiniDV.

 

Bottom line: Despite coming in at about the size of two U.S. quarters, the MicroMV was just too late to the scene as digital formatting (particularly the DVD and thumb drive) were the new future.

 

Come one. Come all. Get your videotapes digitized today.

Regardless of what videotape format you may have stashed away in storage, one thing is for sure –– time is not on your side. The longer those tapes sit neglected, and let’s be honest, probably not stored in the most ideal environments, the more the memories they contain degrade. So, stop waiting and get them digitized today –– and we can help! 

 

No VCR, camcorder or messy AV/component cables required for video playback. Just send us your tapes and we’ll convert them to the 21st century via thumb drive or cloud download. It’s that easy!

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