DreamTime Productions

End of Time

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A brief historical perspective of the evolution of video technology and all the different formats and standards that have evolved will show just how even fairly recent videos have become almost impossible to view. Usually there is a distinction between video technology that was designed for broadcast (Large Format) and all others (small format) systems designed for independent, home and documentary productions. A few formats were used both for broadcast and independent productions.A brief timeline of technology:

1965 - Was the year Sony introduced 1/2” reel-to-reel decks for home use (CV-2000). Of course like the portable units to follow there was severe compatibility problems. In the late 1990’s while I was working at a post production facility a client had a request to transfer his 1967 wedding video tape to VHS tape so he could view it. We eventually connected it to a TBC (Time Based Corrector) and an editing deck and made a pristine copy. He said since that’s all I needed it for, the CV-2200 deck, you can keep it. It still works today along with several others (CV-2600, etc) and are extremely rare. Since than we have save many pre EIJA tapes from oblivion even upscaling a few to HD (1080p) for future proofing this precious footage.

.sonycv2600_1


1967 - The first portable 1/2’’ Portapaks arrived from Sony. These were heavy and could only record 20 minutes on one 5” open reel tape. There was no common compatibility at the time so often these tapes would only playback on the actual machine that recorded it, let alone on a different manufacturers.
portapak 1
1969 - Now most of the manufacturers agreed upon a standard for open-reel or reel-to-reel format: EIJA (Electronic Industries Association of Japan) which improved compatibility for all those productions. This was the first format to really open up video production to the masses and thousands of schools, industry, video groups finally were able to produce their visions. So far all of these different VTRs were recording only in b&w.

1971 - Sony introduced 3/4” U-MATIC cassette format VTRs. These were huge and heavy and were mainly used for broadcast TV production but started to be used by smaller producers especially in the later 70’s as prices came down. Often they were used to edit 1/2” footage obtained from Sony portable PORTAPAKS. The best ever deck made for U-Matic SP playback came from the Sony broadcast line was the BVU-950 which is our premier playback deck.

sony_bvu_950p_umatic

1972 - Color portable and non-portable 1/2” VTRs were introduced by mainly Sony and Panasonic. So soon independent video producers could finally do what film was doing for decades but a fraction of the total costs associated with film production, use color.

1972 - 1974 Many different formats were introduced by AKAI, etc. most of them were highly propriety and had extremely limited appeal/lifespan

1974 - The state-of-the-art Sony AV-8650 1/2” color editing deck was introduced. For all practical purposes it was and still is the best VTR of it’s kind. We still have an operational deck in our studio, professionally maintained and offers the absolute best playback of these open-reel tapes. Only after tapes are thoroughly cleaned and prepared for playback do they get a chance for playback on this deck.

sonyav8650

1975 - Betamax (Sony) which was 1/2” tape in a cassette (similar to 3/4” U-MATIC) but was designed for home use offering 1 hour recording times in the beginning. The first units were confined to consoles with TV tuners than longer recording times. Eventually portable units were made and used for numerous documentaries and home movies. Among the best and last decks made for professional playback was the Sony GCS-50 which we have a few in our studio.
gcs-50
1977 - VHS (JVC) which also was 1/2” tape in a cassette, similar to Betamax but offered 2/4 hour recording times and was completely incompatible with the Betamax format. Eventually completely dominating the home video market. The last standalone JVC VHS-only unit was produced on October 28, 2008. JVC and other manufacturers, continued to make combination DVD+VHS units even after the decline of VHS. We have many different professional decks in our studios. Often different tapes require an array of different VTRs some with 4 or 5 heads and also with the rare LP playback speed only available on a few decks.

1985 - Video8 (Sony) With a small size cassette 2 hour recording time and generally superior audio to portable VHS/Betamax camcorders 8mm soon followed by Hi8 (240 vs. 400 lines resolution) became one of the most popular portable compact video formats. Many different consumer grade camcorders were made as well several professional grade camcorders that were used whenever high quality images were needed in a compact form. Eventually discontinued in 2007 lasting for 22 years! The finest ever frame accurate Hi8 deck was the Sony EVO-9850 which resides in our studio offering the absolute best quality playback of Hi8 tapes especially important if the material is being unconverted to High Definition using the Teranex Processor.

EVO-9850

1995 - DV First launched by numerous different companies to come up with an international standard for digital video acquisition. Shortly after, Panasonic than Sony created propriety incompatible versions, DVCPRO/DVCAM. Many other variants followed including HD (High Definition) and even Progressive formats. We have numerous decks in our studio to transfer footage.

1982 - 2001 - Betacam - Betacam SP - Digital Betacam - Betacam SX - MPEG IMX

1982 - Betacam was introduced in as one of the first true broadcast quality analog component video formats. While the same tape could be used as the 1975 consumer Betamax decks the recordings were completely incompatible. Betacam quickly became the most popular news acquisition format and many different record only portable camcorders as well advanced studio editing decks were introduced.
1986 - Betacam SP was developed with a slight increase in resolution (300-340 lines) and the introduction of a much larger cassette increasing recording times from 30 to 90 (108 PAL) minutes. Different formulated tape was used and was only partially compatible with the earlier Betacam. This format was extremely popular with many different portable/studio systems manufactured. The format survived into the 2000s in many post-production studios and TV stations.
1993 - Digital Betacam finally introduce digital component recording to the Betacam format. Recording times were either 40 or 124 minutes depending on what size tape cassette was used.
1996 - Betacam SX was introduced as a less expensive alternative version to Digital Betacam. Typically having long recording times of 62 and 194 minutes with the larger cassettes. Many of the players that were available at the time could play all the variants of Betacam, both analog and digital. Thus further extending the eco system on Betacam allowing previous recordings to be useable as well as the latest (at the time) Betacam SX recordings.
2001 - MPEG IMX is a further development of the Digital Betacam format with a slightly higher bitrate than Betacam SX. This format could include 8 channels of audio and other improvements over the earlier Betacam formats.

With so many different Betacam formats used over several decades finding the proper playback deck was always a challenge. Often just looking at the cassette you really couldn't tell the format used although thru the various versions the color of the cassette would change (Betacam SX were yellow). Often we had to borrow a deck if the particular variant of Betacam wasn't compatible with one of our decks. Finally settling on the Sony J-30 Deck, which plays all the various Betacam versions and works wonderfully with upscaling all the footage to HD 1080p format using the Teranex processor.
sony-j30 player