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What is a MicroMV?

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By Dillon Wallace

Technology has an interesting sense of humor.

 

During film’s ascent to become one of the most popular industries in the world, we witnessed technology slowly but surely catching up to itself, especially from the 70s to the 2000s.

It can be easily traced by the dwindling size of videotapes over that three decade lifetime  – the big and bulky VHS, the more compact VHS-C, the digital and smaller MiniDV and finally the itsy bitsy MicroMV.
This same progression in decreasing size was seen in the cell phone industry … that is until people realized that a 3” viewing screen just wasn’t acceptable. That the tablet was too big for true mobile use but the phone screen was too small; hence, the phablet was born. Now, we’re all walking around with 6” flat bricks in our pocket.

 

Funny how smaller is better until it isn’t. But, let’s take a moment to honor the MicroMV and its achievement for reign as the smallest videotape to ever exist.

 

MicroMV: The beginning

The world was only a year removed from ushering in the millennium, and with the 2000s came a fresh start … along with some very questionable fashion choices. Women were wearing dresses over jeans, the bigger the logo on your shirt the better, flared pants were all the rage and the boy band craze had reached peak craziness. 

 

But among all the low-rise pants and future fetch-inspired Mean Girls aesthetic, the MicroMV videotape was released in October 2001 by Sony. And micro it was – the smallest of any videotape format measuring in at 70% smaller than the MiniDV (an already tiny videotape format in its own right). In fact, the MicroMV was so teeny that it was about the size of two U.S. quarters.

 

Did size matter?

So, the MicroMV was tiny. Big deal, right? You want to know what made it special? Well, turns out that it was the first helical scan tape system. In other words, it was able to record high-frequency signals on its magnetic tape. And for being as small as it was, the tapes were able to pack up to 60 minutes of video – not as much as some of the competing formats but still impressive for its size and novelty.

 

Sadly, that’s what the MicroMV will always be remembered for, it’s novelty. It was a cute attempt by Sony to recapture some of the fading videotape market. Unfortunately, it never took off, which is evidenced in the fact that no other company other than Sony produced MicroMV cameras. It wasn’t backwards compatible with any videotape predecessors and the footage captured on MicroMV couldn’t even be edited initially with current market leading software like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro. Nope. The only way to edit the tape right out of the gate was to buy Sony’s own video editing software, MovieShaker. By 2006, only 5 short years after its release, Sony stopped making new MicroMV camera models. And by 2015, Sony announced that shipments of MicroMV would be officially discontinued in 2016 – the final nail in the micro coffin.

 

Rise from its grave

Let’s face it, the MicroMV was cute and no one likes to watch cute things die. So, if you’re still mourning the death of the MicroMV, don’t fret. Gather up all your MicroMV tapes and send them to us at Legacybox and we’ll make sure that every millimeter of that itsy bitsy totally cutesy tape is digitized and ready to be re-lived. Let’s just hope that some of the fashions captured on those micro tapes doesn’t make a revival.

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