Digital-S / D-9 (1995 – early 2000s)

Digital-S (or D-9) was a professional digital video tape cassette format introduced by JVC in 1995.

The cassette shell was very similar to JVC’s VHS format, but despite this Digital-S is not compatible with the later consumer D-VHS format as the tape formulation and data format are different.

Digital-S competed with other professional formats such as DVCAM, DVCPRO and Digital Betacam, and was a commercial failure. However, it saw some use in the US, Asia, and Europe, including at the BBC.

Digital-S was given the designation D-9 by the SMPTE in 1999. A high-definition version, D-9 HD, was announced but doesn’t appear to have been launched.

D-9 doesn’t appear to have lasted much beyond the early 2000s.

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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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D-VHS (1998 – 2007)

D-VHS was a later variant of VHS that recorded digitally, and was introduced in 1998. It was developed by the originator of VHS, JVC, along with Hitachi, Matsushita, and Philips.

D-VHS used MPEG recording, and could record in standard or high-definition.  There were several different recording speeds available, so a tape could have a variety of different capacities, for example a DF-300 tape that could hold 300 minutes at standard speed, could hold as much as 2100 minutes (35 hours) at LS7 (low speed, one seventh of the standard speed) if the machine was capable of using the very slowest speed. High-definition recordings reduced the capacity of the tape by half. Standard speed recordings had a higher bandwidth than DVD.

D-VHS tapes had a second hole on their underside that identified them to the recorder as being D-VHS tapes, and to record in D-VHS mode. Where the hole was missing, the machine would record in VHS or S-VHS format. VHS and S-VHS tapes could be played in the machine.

Unfortunately, sales of D-VHS recorders were poor, and so the price of them never fell greatly.

In 2002, a small number of pre-recorded D-VHS tapes were released under the D-Theater brand by four film-studios. However, despite being virtually identical to D-VHS, D-Theater tapes could only be played on D-VHS players with the D-Theater logo. D-Theater did provide much better video quality than DVD, at a time when high-definition formats such as Blu-Ray and HD-DVD were yet to be introduced.

The last D-Theater title was released in 2004, but D-VHS recorders were listed on the JVC website until 2007.

XRCD (1995 – )

XRCD (eXtended Resolution Compact Disc) was introduced by JVC in 1995. XRCD discs conform to Red Book standards and will play on any Compact Disc player, but claim to use much higher quality mastering and manufacturing processes to produce a sound as close as possible to the original master tape.

Subsequent versions of XRCD are called XRCD2 and XRCD24.

All versions of XRCD disc are encoded at 16 bits; the 24 in XRCD24 refers to the use of 24 bit encoding when digitising the original analogue source (XRCD and XRCD2 used 20 bit encoding of the original source).

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Super High Material CD (2007 – )

Super High Material (SHM) CD is a type of Compact Disc that uses an improved transparency polycarbinate resin as its transparent substrate, and this is claimed to provide a clearer medium for the reading of the data and so reduce read errors and improve the sound quality.

The polycarbinate resin was developed by JVC and Universal Music Japan during research into LCD manufacturing, and SHM-CDs began to be released in 2007.

SHM-CDs are fully compliant with the Red Book standards and play in any Compact Disc player.

Almost all of the releases have come from Japan, and have mostly been re-releases.

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Picocassette (1985 – late 1980s)

Picocassette (also know as the Dictasette) was an analogue audio tape format for dictation, introduced by Dictaphone in collaboration with JVC in 1985. It was used in the Dictaphone 4250 Voice Processor.

The tapes were approximately half the size of the older Microcassette, but with a tape speed of just 9 millimetres per second, each cassette could still hold up to 60 minutes of dictation. Only the later digital Sony NT had smaller cassettes.

The Dictaphone 4250 was a high-quality all metal-bodied device that was very expensive and was only produced for a few years.

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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

Video CD (1993 – 2000s)

Video CD (Compact Disc Digital Video or VCD) was a derivative of the Compact Disc, used for playback of video. The standard was created in 1993 by Sony, Philips, Matsushita and JVC, and is referred to as the White Book standard.

Like audio Compact Disc, it uses 120 mm optical discs. Dedicated Video CD player were available, but most DVD and Blu-ray players, personal computers, and some video game consoles will play them.

The older CD Video format could only store analogue video and was limited in its capacity to just 5 minutes of video, but new digital compression techniques allowed 74 minutes of audio and video on a Video CD. Overall quality is similar to VHS.

Video CD had a brief period of success, and some major feature films were released on it (usually as a 2 disc set). However it lacked copy protection so the increasing availability of recordable media such as CD-R meant unauthorised copies could be made, and DVD (which had copy protection and regional coding) became available in 1998. During the 2000s, DVD replaced it.

Video CD made considerable inroads into Asia and developing nations, where it is still in use today.

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D-Theater (2002 – 2004)

D-Theater was a short-lived digital video cassette format for playback of movies in high-definition.

It is based on the D-VHS (Digital VHS) format, and is effectively a pre-recorded version of it. However, D-Theater is incompatible with D-VHS decks without the D-Theater logo. It was introduced in 2002 and supported by four film-studios, as it provided much better video quality than DVD, at a time when Blu-Ray and HD-DVD were yet to be introduced.

The last film available on D-Theater was ‘I, Robot’ in 2004.

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