S-VHS-C (1987 – early 2000s)

S-VHS-C (Super VHS Compact) was the compact version of S-VHS tape for use in analogue consumer camcorders.

It was introduced by JVC in 1987, and offered a horizontal resolution of about 400 lines over VHS-C‘s 240 lines, on tapes that could hold 30 or 45 minutes at standard speed.

The tapes could be placed in an adaptor and played back in an S-VHS deck, but it needed to be an S-VHS adaptor as the adaptor for VHS-C cassettes was differently notched to identify the tape as S-VHS. S-VHS-C tapes cannot be played back in a normal VHS machine even with an adaptor.

S-VHS-C competed with Hi8, which offered a comparable level of quality, but few S-VHS-C camcorder models were available.

No digital version was introduced (unlike full-size VHS with its D-VHS variant, and Hi8 with Digital8) and it was made obsolete by smaller digital formats like MiniDV, and eventually hard-drive recorders.


HDV (2003 – 2011)

HDV was a high-definition digital video format for camcorders. Because of its high quality, it has been used for broadcast television as well as amateur video recording. JVC was the first company to release a HDV camcorder in 2003, with Sony and Canon producing camcorders later.

HDV video can be recorded at 720p and 1080p, sometimes referred to as HDV1 and HDV2 respectively.

Although special HDV tapes are available, their use was not required as the tape formulation (Metal Evaporate) is the same as standard MiniDV cassettes. One Sony camera could also use the large DV cassette format. HDV devices could usually play and record in DV format as well as HDV.

Accessories were available to allow HDV camcorders to record to non-tape media such as CompactFlash cards.

By 2011, Canon, JVC and Sony had discontinued their HDV products, and invested instead in fully tapeless formats such as XDCAM.

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MiniDVD-R (1997 – )

The MiniDVD-R is a smaller (8cm) version of the DVD-R. MiniDVD-R discs can be used in the same way as 12cm DVD-R discs to hold computer data, but their most common use was in DVD-based camcorders from around 2003 to the early 2010s.

A standard MiniDVD-R could hold 30 minutes of video, with double-layer discs offering 60 minutes (with a compatible camcorder).

The use of MiniDVD-R discs in camcorders made it easier to watch the resulting video on standard tray-loading DVD players (providing the disc was ‘finalised’ in the camcorder first).

Many DVD camcorders could also use other types of DVD discs, such as MiniDVD+R, MiniDVD-RW, MiniDVD+RW and MiniDVD-RAM.

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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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MiniDV (1995 – late 2000s)

MiniDV was a digital video tape cassette format, based on the DV standard for storing digital video. It was launched in 1995 through the joint efforts of  leading producers of video camera recorders. MiniDV was a popular format for camcorders, and allowed manufacturers to reduce the size of their video cameras significantly.

DV cassettes came in four different sizes, and MiniDV was the smallest of those. All cassette sizes used ¼-inch wide tape, and MiniDV used metal evaporated (ME) tape. Technically, any DV cassette can record any variant of DV video.

MiniDV cassettes had been intended for amateur use, but become accepted in professional productions as well. The first consumer MiniDV camcorder was available in 1996.

A MiniDV tape could hold up to 120 minutes of digital video when recorded at LP (long-play) speed, but was half the volume of a Digital8 tape (its main digital video tape competitor)

MiniDV cassettes could also have a small 4 KB memory chip referred to as memory in cassette (MIC) that could be used to record a contents list, times and dates of recordings and the camera settings used.

By 2011, no consumer camcorders used video tape.

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Preservation / Migration

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

Video8 (1985 – 2000s)

Video8 was an analogue video tape cassette format using 8mm tape, designed primarily for use in camcorders such as the Sony Handycam line introduced by Sony in 1985.

The horizontal resolution of Video8 was 240 lines, the same as VHS, but in terms of audio quality, Video8 comfortably outperformed non-HiFi VHS or Betamax.

It performed well in the camcorder market, despite competition from VHS-C which had the advantage of being playable on VHS machines with an adaptor. Video8 had an advantage in terms of time, because although VHS-C offered the same ‘palmcorder’ size as Video8, the VHS-C tapes only held up to 60 minutes (in SP mode) compared to Video8’s 120 minutes.

A better quality version of Video8, Hi8, was introduced in 1989, and a digital version, Digital8 was introduced in 1999.

Collectively, Video8 and its successors, and VHS-C dominated the camcorder market for almost two decades before they were eventually crowded out by digital formats, such as MiniDV and 8cm DVD.

Video8 was also used for prerecorded content, and home video recorders using Video8 tapes were available for a time, but it was not successful. Video8 had some success as a format for in-flight movie playback on airlines, and even now some airlines still use Video8 for in-flight movies, but this is being phased out.

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Preservation / Migration

MicroMV (2001 – 2006)

MicroMV was a digital videotape format for camcorders, introduced in 2001 by Sony.

It is the smallest videotape format, being 70% smaller than MiniDV. Despite this, a tape could hold up to 60 minutes of video.

It used MPEG-2 compression, like that used by DVDs.

MicroMV was not a success, and Sony was the only supplier of MicroMV cameras. By 2006, Sony no longer offered any MicroMV camcorder models, switching instead to DVD and hard disk recording. In late 2015, Sony announced that it would cease production of MicroMV tapes in 2016.

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Compact VHS (VHS-C) (1982 – late 2000s)

VHS-C is a smaller version of VHS, and was introduced by JVC in 1982 for use in analogue camcorders.

Because it uses the same tape as VHS, VHS-C cassettes can be played back in a VHS machine by use of an adaptor.

VHS-C’s main competitor was Video8, and a fairly evenly-matched battle took place between then during the 1980s. However while Video8 had capacities up to 120 minutes in SP mode, VHS-C only had up to 60 minutes.

Later, a higher quality version was introduced, S-VHS-C, which was compatible with S-VHS.

No digital version was introduced (unlike VHS with its D-VHS variant, and Video8 with Digital8) and it has been made obsolete by smaller digital formats like MiniDV, and hard-drive recorders.