Tagged: ½ inch

MPEG IMX (2001 – 2016)

MPEG IMX (also known as D10) was a standard-definition digital video cassette format introduced by Sony in 2001 and was part of the Betacam family of professional video formats. It was priced between Sony’s Betacam SX and the more expensive Digital Betacam, and was intended to compete with the Panasonic DVCPRO 50 system. As the name suggests, MPEG IMX recorded in MPEG video format, in case MPEG-2 using only I-frames and 8 channel audio.

Like other Betacam formats, tape width was ½ inch and cassettes were available in small or large form factors, with the S size holding up to 60 minutes of video, and the L size up to 184 minutes. To distinguish MPEG IMX tapes from other Betacam formats, the shells were coloured green. Metal particle tape was used.

All IMX video recorders could playback Betacam SX tapes, and some could playback Digital Betacam as well as analogue Betacam and Betacam SP tapes, the video from which could be encoded into MPEG-2 format. Only IMX tapes could be used for recording in IMX video recorders.

Like all Betacam formats, no new MPEG IMX video recorders are being made, having been discontinued in 2016.

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HDCAM SR (2003 – 2016)

HDCAM SR (Superior Resolution) was a professional high-definition digital video cassette format, introduced by Sony in 2003 as a higher quality variant of its existing HDCAM system.

Like other Betacam-related formats, HDCAM SR cassettes were available in large and small sizes, and had the same tape lengths as Digital Betacam (up to 40 minutes for S and 124 minutes for L tapes).

It used higher particle density tape allowing an increased bit rate (a choice or 440 or 880 Mbps). Like HDCAM, it was commonly used in high-definition television production.

Sony HDCAM SR tapes were black with a cyan lid and contained a 1K memory chip to store metadata about the tape.

In 2016, Sony announced that it was ceasing production of its remaining ½-inch video tape recorders and players, including those for the HDCAM SR format.

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ADAT (Alesis Digital Audio Tape) (1992 – 2003)

ADAT was a digital audio recording format, and was aimed at the professional studio market. It was introduced by Alesis and the first recorders were shipped in 1992.

ADAT could record up to 8 tracks, but multiple machines could be connected and synchronised to create recordings with up to 128 tracks. At the time, the only alternatives were 2 track DAT machines or very expensive digital open reel (DTRS was introduced a year later). ADAT was very sucessful, partly due to its affordability, and over 110,000 ADAT recorders were sold worldwide.

The recorder used S-VHS cassettes as the recording medium. Although intended for analogue video recording, these tapes were ideal for ADAT, with their width allowing for 8 tracks, good quality, and easy availability at the time. Although specially made S-VHS cassettes were available for the ADAT format, any premium-quality S-VHS video cassette could be used, though it was recommended to be no more than 120 minutes long (when used for ADAT, up to 40 minutes per tape was possible).

The first generation of ADAT recorders (also known as ‘Blackface’) recorded at 16 bits per sample (ADAT Type I). Later generations supported 20 bits per sample (ADAT Type II) but were backward compatible with recordings from the first generation.

ADAT was discontinued in 2003, but the name lived on in the ADAT HD24, a hard-drive based recorder.

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StorageTek 9840 (1998 – 2009)

The StorageTek 9840 was a magnetic tape system for data backup, primarily for mainframe use. The series was first introduced in 1998 with the T9840A, which had an uncompressed capacity of 20 GB. The final incarnation was the T9840D which had a capacity of 75 GB.

The StorageTek 9840 was unusual compared to its competitors such LTO and Super DLT, and to other StorageTek formats such the T10000, as the cartridges contained two reels, reducing the amount of tape that was stored in the cartridge but making loading of the tape very fast. Like many other backup tape cartridges, it used serpentine recording and ½-inch tape.

The T9840B doubled the data transfer rate of the T9840A model, making it the fastest tape drive at the time, though it was considered expensive compared to rivals, especially as its capacity was lower.

The final 9840 drives were shipped in 2009.

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VX (1975 – 1977)

VX was an early analogue video cassette format aimed at the consumer market. It was launched by Matsushita in Japan in 1975, and was also sold in the US under the Quasar brand. The only machine using the VX format in the US was the VR-1000, marketed under the name ‘The Great Time Machine’ as it could be programmed to record at specific times. In Japan, only two models of video recorder were made.

The tape in a VX cassette was ½-inch wide, and was wound on two coaxial reels (like the VCR and Cartrivision formats). The tape was pre-formed in a loop to go around the video head, which was inserted into the cassette after a protective plug was removed by the machine. The video head itself could be unscrewed and removed for cleaning or replacement.

Tape lengths of up to two hours (120 minutes, or 1200 feet) were available, but the cassettes were much larger than cassettes for the Betamax or VHS systems that pulled the tape out of the cassette to loop around the video head.

Matsushita later went on to support JVC in its introduction of VHS and by 1977 had started producing VHS video recorders.

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StorageTek T10000 / T10000 T2 (2006 – )

StorageTek T10000 is a line of magnetic tape formats for high-capacity data storage, typically used with large computer systems and often with a robotic tape library. The T10000 line was first introduced in 2006.

The first two tape drives in the line, the T10000 and T10000B, offered a capacity of 500 GB and 1 TB respectively on the same cartridge. A later version of the cartridge introduced in 2011, the T10000 T2, allowed for capacities of 5 TB and 8.5 TB in the T10000C and T10000D drives.

The T10000 is a cartridge format, containing a single-reel of ½-inch tape, similar to formats such IBM 3480 and Digital Linear Tape. The T10000 uses serpentine recording and the cartridges contain an RFID tag for information such as volume serial numbers.

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HDCAM (1997 -2016)

HDCAM was a professional high-definition digital video cassette format, introduced by Sony in 1997. No other tape-based HD broadcast format was around at the time, and it quickly became clear that one was needed for high-definition television to succeed.

Like other Betacam-related formats, HDCAM cassettes were available in large and small sizes with the same tape lengths as Digital Betacam (up to 40 minutes for S and 124 minutes for L tapes). Sony HDCAM tapes were black with an orange lid. HDCAM had a bit rate of 144 Mbps, which was a 50% increase over Digital Betacam.

Its main competitor was Panasonic’s DVCPRO HD that uses a similar compression scheme.

HDCAM SR (Superior Resolution) was introduced in 2003 and used higher particle density tape allowing an increased bit rate (a choice or 440 or 880 Mbps).

In 2016, Sony announced that it was ceasing production of its remaining ½-inch video tape recorders and players, including those for the HDCAM and HDCAM SR formats.

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V-Cord (1972 – late 1970s)

V-Cord was a consumer analogue video cassette format introduced by Sanyo in 1972.

V-Cord I used tapes holding 20 or 30 minutes of black and white video, whereas V-Cord II (introduced in 1976) could record up to 120 minutes on a V-120 cassette by using thinner tape and a smaller cassette hub. The V-Cord II system also offered colour and two recording speeds (standard and long-play).

The cassettes themselves looked similar to audio 8-Track cartridges, and were loaded with the narrow end in first, with the ½-inch tape being pulled out of the side of the cassette.

VCRs using the V-Cord system were produced by Sanyo and Toshiba, but by 1977 Sanyo had switched to Betamax though it called its line of machines Betacord to continue the V-Cord name.

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VHS (Video Home System) (1977 – late 2000s)

VHS (Video Home System) was a video tape cassette format developed by JVC, and was the most successful of the video tape formats for consumers, outlasting formats such as Betamax and Video 2000.

JVC began development of VHS in 1971, with 12 objectives in building a home video recording unit. In 1974, the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry wanted to standardise on one consumer video format, and the preferred choice was Sony’s proprietary Betamax format, but pressure from JVC and Matsushita persuaded them to drop the push to standardise on a single format. JVC believed that an open standard, with the format shared among competitors without licensing the technology, was better for the consumer.

The first VHS recorder was available in Japan in 1976, and reached the UK in 1977.

A VHS cassette includes a flip-up cover that protects the ½-inch tape, and an anti-de spooling mechanism. Clear tape at both ends of the tape provide an optical auto-stop for the VCR transport mechanism. VHS machines pull the tape from the cassette shell and wrap it around the inclined head drum, using M-lacing, where the tape is drawn out by two threading posts and wrapped around more than 180 degrees of the head drum in a shape roughly approximating the letter M. The cassette can hold a maximum of around 430 m of tape, giving up to five hours playing time at standard play (SP) quality.

A smaller variant of VHS, VHS-C was introduced for use in camcorders. VHS-C tapes could be played in VHS machines with an adaptor.

In 1987, JVC introduced S-VHS, yielding 400 lines (compared to 240 for standard VHS), but this only had limited success. W-VHS was introduced in Japan in 1989, and allowed the recording of high-definition television, while D-VHS, which was the first digital variant of VHS, was introduced in 1998, but by this time DVD was available and after 2000, became the preferred method for pre-recorded video. The last major film to be released on VHS (‘A History of Violence’) was in 2006, and the last JVC VHS-only unit was produced in 2008.

VHS machines continued to be produced in Japan until 2016 by Funai Electric (who introduced the Compact Video Cassette format before switching to VHS in 1983) under brands such as Sanyo. Declining sales, and difficulties in obtaining components prompted Funai Electric to end production.

Although VHS was a popular format for long-play content such as films and television series, it was also used to deliver short-play content, such as music videos (sometimes in the form of Video singles), in-store videos and tutorials. VHS was also commonly included with various consumer products and services for demonstration purposes, or sent by manufacturers to service centres to demonstrate how to repair a new product.

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Preservation / Migration


Digital Betacam (1993 – 2016)

Digital Betacam (also commonly known as DigiBeta) is a digital video tape format that was launched in 1993 by Sony, superseding both Betacam and Betacam SP. It gave superior performance to DVCAM and DVCPRO, while costing significantly less than the D1 digital video format.

S-size tapes are available with up to 40 minutes running time, and L-size tapes with up to 124 minutes, and Digital Betamax tapes are generally light blue.

It was a popular digital video cassette format for broadcast television use, but although it attracted a fair amount of professional support, it didn’t go as far as to become an industry standard like it’s predecessor, Betacam SP.

Some Digital Betcam equipment is backwards-compatible with Betacam and Betacam SP.

In 2016, Sony announced that it was ceasing production of its remaining ½-inch video tape recorders and players, including those for the Digital Betacam format.

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Preservation / Migration