Polaroid Polavision (1977 – 1979)

Polavision was a home movie film system launched by Polaroid in 1977. What set it apart from other home movie formats like Super 8 was that Polavision offered quick developing at home in just a few minutes.

The film was contained in a cartridge for easy loading in the handheld camera, and this had two reels for the film as well as a small lens and prism for projection as the film remained in the cartridge when projected. Unfortunately, the cartridge only held enough film for around two and a half minutes of recording.

The film was in colour (using the additive process), but there was no sound, and the images were criticised for being murky. The film was not very sensitive, and required a lot of light to film successfully.

Developing and projecting the film required the Polavision tabletop projector that projected the images onto a translucent screen. Developed film however can be extracted from the cartridge for use on a Super 8 projector.

The Polavision system was a commercial failure and lost Polaroid a considerable amount of money. As well as having to compete with Super 8, Betamax and VHS home video cameras were becoming available (though at this stage still very expensive and requiring a separate portable recorder).

It was withdrawn in 1979.

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DTRS (Digital Tape Recording System) / DA-88 (1993 – 2012)

DTRS (Digital Tape Recording System) was a magnetic tape format for professional digital audio recording. It was introduced by TASCAM in 1993 for use in the DA-88 digital multitrack recorder.

The DA-88 and later models could record up to eight tracks, but devices could be combined to record 16, 24 or more tracks. The first models in the range recorded at 16-bit resolution, with later models recording at 24-bit resolution. Sony also produced a DTRS recorder.

The tape itself was simply Hi8 video tape (an analogue video format) that was used to store audio in the digital DTRS format, and it allowed long continuous recording times. The format was considered to be affordable and reliable.

DTRS was discontinued in 2012, as recording studios have moved to hard-drive recording.

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Movie Viewer (1971 – 1985, 2014 – )

The Movie Viewer was a children’s toy for viewing Super 8 film clips. Originally introduced in 1971 by Disney, it was redesigned and rebranded as the Fisher Price Movie Viewer in 1973 but was also sold under various brand names over its lifetime including Action Films, Fisher Price, Corgi/Mettoy, Mothercare, World Wildlife Fund, Red Cross, Disney, Mupi and Bandai.

The cartridges contained a loop of colour Super 8 film (without sound) so no rewinding was necessary, and the Movie Viewer was hand-cranked allowing the user to rewind the film, or play it faster or slower. A small window in the side of the Movie Viewer let in light, and no batteries were required.

A large selection of cartridge titles were available, including clips from Disney, Warner Brothers, Peanuts, and Sesame Street.

In 1978, Fisher Price introduced a Theater Viewer with a backlit screen so the film could be seen by several people.

The Movie Viewer was a popular toy and continued to be made until 1985. It was relaunched in 2014 by Fisher Price with a choice of three films (old cartridges are still compatible).

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Single-8 (1965 – 2012)

Single-8 was an 8mm motion picture film format for amateur use, introduced by Fujifilm in 1965 as an alternative to Kodak Super 8.

Single-8 and Super 8 are not interchangeable in cameras, but as the sprocket holes and soundtrack are in the same position, it is interchangeable in projectors. The Single-8 cartridge is shaped differently due to the use of two separate spools rather than Super 8’s coaxial system, and this means Single-8 can be rewound in the camera for double exposure.

Unexposed film sits in the upper chamber, and passes over the camera’s metal film gate (Super 8 used a plastic pressure plate built into the cartridge instead) into the lower chamber. On the back of the cartridge is a circular slot, the length of which tells the camera the film’s speed (25, 50, 100, 200 or 400 ISO) by the use of pins in the camera.

Single-8 was most widely available in Japan, but was also available in the US and Europe where it never achieved the popularity of Super 8 despite being regarded as technically superior.

Fujifilm ceased manuafacture of all types of Single-8 in 2012, although is still available from some specialists.

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Americom 8mm Home Movies (1965 – late-1960s)

Americom 8mm Home Movies were first released in 1965 and consisted of a 200 or 400 foot reel of standard 8mm film and an accompanying soundtrack on an 8-inch flexi disc.

The idea was that this enabled viewers with silent 8mm film projectors to play the accompanying soundtrack on a record player. Synchronising the film and soundtrack was tricky, and the instructions explained how to do this which involved threading the film until a frame with black dots appeared, starting the record and waiting for the instruction to ‘start projector on tone’.

If the projector or record player were not running at the correct speed (18 frames per second for the projector, 33⅓ rpm for the record player) then they would gradually become out of sync.

Titles included various Popeye cartoons, and excerpts from Laurel and Hardy films, as well as excerpts from films such as Horror Of Dracula and Curse Of Frankenstein.

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Technicolor Sound Movie Cartridge (1968 – 1970s)

The Technicolor Sound Movie Cartridge (also known as the TK Cassette) was an endless loop cartridge system for Super 8 film, introduced by Technicolor in 1968 to be played in the new 1000-A projector system that contained its own built in speaker. Being cartridge-based meant no threading of film, and was similar in concept to audio tape cartridge systems like 8-Track. At the end of the film, a notch indicated to the projector to switch off.

The Technicolor Sound Movie Cartridge is a larger (but incompatible) version of Technicolor’s earlier Magi-Cartridge.

The Sound Movie Cartridge could hold up to 30 minutes of colour sound film (600 foot in length) in the largest size cartridge, and some full-length movies were available on the format, split across up to four cartridges. The system also saw use in education and training, such as distributing information about new car models to dealers.

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Sony Ruvi (1998 – 1999)

The Sony Ruvi (short for ‘Recording Unit by Video’) was an analogue video and still camera released in 1998. It contained a small video cartridge holding 30 minutes of Hi8 video tape as well as the video head drum that the tape was permanently wrapped around so that no loading mechanism was required. This helped make it the smallest camcorder ever produced at the time of its release.

Up to 350 still images could be recorded onto the cartridge, each with 5 seconds of audio, or 30 minutes of video.

Only one model was produced (the CCD-CR1). It was never released in the US, and was discontinued in 1999 after achieving only mild success.

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DAT 160 / 320 (2007 – )

DAT 160 and DAT 320 are later generations of Digital Data Storage (DDS), itself derived from Digital Audio Tape (DAT).

DAT 160 was launched in 2007 by HP and stored 80 GB of uncompressed data. This increase in storage was through an increase in the width of tape used, to 8mm over the previous 3.81mm used in DDS. To accomodate the wider tape, the shell is also thicker, but DAT 160 drives can still read later generations of DDS tape.

DAT 320 was launched in 2009 and can store 160 GB uncompressed.

Digital8 (1999 – 2007)

Digital8 (also called D8) was a digital video cassette format for camcorders, introduced by Sony in 1999.

The cassette itself was the same as the Hi8 format, but the information was stored using the DV codec, used by other formats such MiniDV.

Hi8 metal-particle tapes could be used in Digital8 camcorders, but the drum in a Digital8 camcorder spins faster than Hi8, so a 60 minute Hi8 cassette will store just 40 minutes of digital video.

Digital8 remained a consumer format and was little used for broadcast. Most, though not all, Digital8 camcorders can play back analogue Video8 and Hi8 tapes.

The last Digital8 camcorder, the Sony DCR-TRV285, was discontinued in 2007.

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Preservation / Migration

Hi8 (1989 – 2007)

Hi8 (high-band Video8) was an analogue 8mm video format for camcorders, based on the older Video8 format. It was introduced by Sony in 1989 to counter the introduction of S-VHS-C (the compact version of S-VHS).

Hi8 used a combination of higher-grade tape and improved recording mechanisms to increase bandwidth. Both Hi8 and the competing S-VHS-C were officially rated at a luminance resolution of 400 lines, roughly equal to LaserDisc quality and putting them in the lower broadcast-quality range. Recording lengths were 30, 60 and 120 minutes.

Hi8 camcorders were popular with amateur enthusiasts and were also used in television productions which required lightweight portable equipment.

All Hi8 equipment can record and play in the legacy Video8 format.

In 1998, the XR (extended resolution) capability was added to both Hi8 and the older Video8 format to enhance luminance by a modest 10%. XR equipment replays non-XR recordings well, and XR recordings are fully playable on non-XR equipment, though without the benefits of XR.

Although superseded by Digital8, Hi8 camcorders were available until 2007, the same year that Digital8 camcorders were discontinued.

Hi8 did live on a bit longer (until 2012), as the tape used in the professional digital audio DTRS recording system.

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Preservation / Migration